For such small sets (about 110 pieces) there's quite a bit to say, so today I'm focusing exclusively on the new ball and cup connectors and will discuss the sets (which have yet more new elements!) in more detail in a separate post very soon. Before we examine them in detail, let's quickly look at their history.
The new ball and cup connectors also share much in common with Constraction joints, also pictured here, including the shape of the cup. Although those are much larger - 10.2mm diameter balls - they have the advantages of strong friction and allowing a wide range of movement, making them perfect for building poseable figures.
The new ball and cup connectors take the best of both - they're small and they have friction. So, here they are:
the box art, the Lion looks as equally bountiful as the Wolf. More element designs are to come too; the Gorilla features a 1X2 plate with a ball at one end and a cup at the other, which you can also spot in the Mixels set shown at the top of this post.
read Dr Dave's post about maxifigs over on his excellent blog, Gimme LEGO. As you see here, a maxifig hand is essentially a ball on a 1X1 hollow-studded round plate. Being that small and having a hole through it, this part offers us some extra possibilities. They are easy and cheap to buy on secondary market sites like BrickLink and Brick Owl. Wouldn't it be wonderful if TLG brought it out of retirement? That's not unprecedented - it did make a reappearance in the '90s and was included in sets as recently as 2004; it was not used for maxifigs in these instances.
You can see clearly in the Light Bluish Gray element above how the new ball is a little different; there's a tiny recess where the shaft connects to the ball. This feature seems to be what holds the part in place when you connect it to a cup and push it to an extremity. The old-style ball connectors, with their tapered shape, slip out of the cup at this point. [EDIT Jan 2014: I'm possibly incorrect about the benefit of the recess, as it has been noted that there are versions of the same ball joint parts that have and do not have the recess. Thanks to Philo at LDraw for bringing this to my attention.]
As I said, I'll be examining the two Legend Beast sets in more detail very soon, but for now, just think of all the fun you can have with a ball and a cup.