As James mentioned, sets always used to come with alternate models pictured on the back of the box and I loved these as a kid. But I don't recall building them... I like to imagine that I tried now and then, but if I did, I doubt it was ever very successful! In modern parlance this is judged to be a 'poor play experience' and so, sad as it is that the practice of showing alternates stopped, the good thing is that when we do get alternate models, we're supplied with instructions as well. Best known are the Creator line's "3-in-1" sets but there have been alternate instructions offered online in recent years for themes as varied as Technic, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and the Bricks and More range for youngsters. (Counter-productively, these PDFs were sometimes incredibly hard to locate.)
The buildsBefore we come to the rebuildable models, let's look at instruction booklet #1 which in all of these three sets is a Micro Manager. These seem to be the robotic minions of Lord Business, with a penchant for grabbing things and shooting flick-fire missiles. In essence they're black boxes with bits; how boring does that sound. But these little guys are great! In these 2-in-1 sets the Micro Managers' bodies are 4X4X4 cubes (you get larger ones in larger sets, and there's wee ones in a polybag and in this month's in-store Mini Build). The builds whilst short are very interesting, with SNOT and Technic parts.
Each Micro Manager has their own little functions and appendages; my favourite of these three (shown on the left) comes with 70811 Flying Flusher and has hinged legs that fold up into the body. 70805 Trash Chomper's is pretty cool too though and is arguably the most intricate build; the sides of the cube flip up like bug wings to reveal the flick-fires. (Shown on the right... but stupidly, I've photographed him facing away from the camera!) I've not even seen the film but already I think the creation of these mindless henchmen was a masterstroke; surely kids will get the idea and create their own weird and wonderful Micro Managers? They're small, made of relatively common parts, full of personality and fun to play with.
Naturally most people would move onto instruction booklet #2 at this point, but that's the 'wacky' build which surely appears second in the film and is, ipso facto, the second build? So let's start with the other instruction booklet (which is unnumbered).
These three 'normal' vehicles are marvellous. You'll see I haven't attached any of the stickers as usual, but it was sorely tempting as they're all great and add a lot to the models. But I just couldn't bear to sacrifice the parts. I'm sure I'll use some of them in future models of my own.
The ice cream van is my favourite of the three, thanks to the subject matter and the delightful design. It has a real retro vibe to it, especially the slopes at the rear. The crowning glory is the giant ice cream sign; an inspired use of the large drill part from Power Miners. My only negative observation is that the vehicle seems a little too tall. We can all remember the difficulty of stretching up to get your ice cream when we were kids, but in this set it seems the adult minifigures are having a bit of trouble too! I figured this additional height might be an issue for those of you using this model alongside other vehicles.
The plumbers' van is the most straightforward of the three and probably wouldn't cut it as a City set, but it's cute. You actually get an extra model to go with it; a portaloo! What a hilarious idea. Those lucky Friends sets seem to get toilets all the time so it's fun to see one in a City setting and it'd look great on a construction site. For what's essentially a small box, the build is very complex and full of details. The walls are made with the new notched aeroplane wing plates to add slightly curved edges. The lid of the toilet actually recesses into the wall thanks to an arched brick. There's even a roll of loo paper in there!
Now back to instruction booklet #2; the alternate/second/wacky models.
The Trash Chomper build is pretty dull. To summarise, you build a large hollow box and stick things on it. Admittedly the box is quite complex, as far as boxes go, partly because some SNOT is required to attach later sections but mostly because you're using up complex or small parts needed for more interesting purposes in the other build. The Flying Flusher is a nice build; there's plenty of variety and some very nice touches, especially the rear cockpit fashioned from sideways wheel rims. Ice Cream Machine is a pretty standard bottom-to-top build. The wings were the surprising part for me; they're built with a lot of small parts and you're flipping the build upside-down more often than in a regular set.
The completed Flying Flusher looks closest to a 'real world' object to me; the other two are far more fanciful. My favourite, however, is Ice Cream Machine. Although it has an odd shape, there's a 'Heath Robinson' look to it which is the right feel for these crazy models, in my opinion. Trash Chomper is an ugly beast, which is no doubt partly the intention, but it's an unsuccessful design for me. Its different sections (solid body, big mouth, puny wings, stumpy feet) vary wildly in scale leaving it resembling the green offspring of a turkey and Mater from Cars.
Swooshability is the primary aspect of play with these aircraft. The Trash Chomper certainly has the most exciting play feature as far as I'm concerned; a massive chomping mouth. Flying Flusher takes my award in the comedy category; a flick-fire missile armed with giant plungers is a total winner. They are fired from a cool quite-new Technic piece, the weapon barrel (Element ID 6039505 | Design ID 98585). It looks like it should be completely loaded up with plungers and be able to rotate around for rapid firing, but it is just fixed in place in this model and takes one plunger at a time. Ice Cream Machine is a poor cousin by comparison with its icey pole flick-fires, but that's nevertheless still a fun idea. The more successful weapons on this vehicle have no actual firing mechanism: the giant ice cream sign now points its cone aggressively forwards, and the cylinders at the front are fed by hoses pumping Lime and Dark Azure ice cream. I like to think that the sound they make when firing is "nomnomnomnom".
I'm limiting what parts I discuss today as this is a long post! So I'll exclude minifigures (although almost all of them are very good indeed) and only look at elements currently exclusive to these sets. By these criteria, 70805 Trash Chomper has nothing of interest but 70804 Ice Cream Machine is positively brimming with colourful excitement. The new green hue, Yellowish-Green [BL]/Spring Yellowish-Green [TLG], is used here for the 2X2 domes (Element ID 6056416 | Design ID 30367) that make the van's loudspeakers. In the slightly darker shade of Lime [BL]/Bright Yellowish-Green [TLG] we have ice cream (Element ID 6061678 | Design ID 6254) and the 1X4 plate (or tile, if you prefer) with two studs (Element ID 6058127 | Design ID 92593). Dark Pink [BL]/Bright Purple [TLG] does best of all, with tiles in 1X2 (Element ID 6056381 | Design ID 3069) and 1X6 (Element ID 4649764 | Design ID 6636), left and right 2X4 wedge plates (Element IDs 6056394 & 6056399 | Design IDs 41770 & 41769) and some less useful parts - the 4X6 vehicle roof/bonnet (Element ID 6056389 | Design ID 52031) and 4X6X1 train front (Element ID 6056386 | Design ID 87619). As mentioned already the large drill part appears in Tan [BL]/Brick Yellow [TLG] (Element ID 6058126 | Design ID 64713) but if all these parts are a tad too exotic for your tastes, you may like to know that the very useful 4X4 plate with 2X2 square hole appears in this set in Black (Element ID 6058118 | Design ID 64799) for the first time.
ConclusionI'm really pleased TLG decided to release these. It's encouraging to see a major new theme with alternate models, with instructions delivered within the actual set boxes instead of being buried online. If these 2-in-1 sets are successful compared to others in The LEGO Movie theme, maybe it’s something TLG will consider for other future lines; but the investment must be high for TLG. There is of course the cost of an extra booklet, but I would guess that the greater costs are in the development of the instructions and the design of the models themselves; "2-in-1" is not an easy brief, and I'm terribly impressed at the achievements of the Designers. Getting two models out of the same inventory (give or take a dozen or so elements) is REALLY REALLY HARD. Try it yourself. As a consequence, the results in these official sets aren't the most amazing LEGO models ever, but they're wonderful. I think kids will enjoy them greatly and (with hefty additional impetus from the film itself) they'll be encouraged to get MOCing. Will they pull apart those Star Wars ships they've had on their shelves ever since they first built them and turn them into something only a mother could love? I hope so.
Those alternates pictured on boxes from my childhood, whilst unattainable, inspired me to pursue a very central tenet of the LEGO System; to rebuild with imagination. Don't follow the rules; do something no-one has ever done before. Experiment and make mistakes and pull it apart and make it better.
My thanks to LEGO's Community and Events Engagement Team for providing these sets.
70805 Trash Chomper, 70811 The Flying Flusher and 70804 Ice Cream Machine all retail at US$29.99/GB£24.99.
|Trash Chomper ||The Flying Flusher ||Ice Cream Machine|