9 February 2014

6-in-3-in-1

Following James Pegrum's look at 70806 Castle Cavalry, today I'm reviewing all three of the other "2-in-1" sets from The LEGO® Movie series; 70805 Trash Chomper, 70811 The Flying Flusher and 70804 Ice Cream Machine.


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 builds

Before 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.

Now, I'm no aficionado of the City theme but I think the trash van is superb and would stand up as an excellent regular City set on its own. It's a realistic design and the grey bows on the sides really lift the design. The simple Technic function to open the compactor at the rear is great fun and quite hypnotic.

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".

Parts

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.

70811 Flying Flusher offers much less in the new and exclusive department but what it does have are very useful. There's a brand new design for the ladder, here in White (Element ID 6045722 | Design ID 15118), which has grooved rails that must allow you to connect several of the same element together to create an extending ladder. Those hilarious plungers are made from the new 2X2 inverted dome (the 'hanging basket' from Parisian Restaurant) which exclusively comes here in Red [BL]/Bright Red [TLG] (Element ID 6065839 | Design ID 15395). New in Light Bluish Gray [BL]/Medium Stone Grey [TLG] are the door (Element ID 6065151 | Design ID 60616) and door frame (Element ID 6064030 | Design ID 60596) seen in the portaloo.

Conclusion

I'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.

Affiliate links:
Lego.com:
Trash Chomper
The Flying Flusher
Ice Cream Machine
Amazon US:
Amazon UK:
Amazon FR:

12 comments:

  1. Great review, but you make it sound like you still haven't seen the movie! Are you in a country where it isn't out yet? If not, what's taking you? :P

    Regarding the lack of pictures of alternate models on the back of the boxes these days, I think I read an explanation from a Lego designer at one point saying that rather than inspiring creativity from kids, they often caused kids to limit themselves to trying to make the model on the box (and frustrating them if they couldn't manage to do it properly). Those sorts of alternate models also had a tendency to use finicky connections that made for less stable models than the core model that was tested extensively. I do appreciate a set with alternate builds, though, especially when those builds are as cool as these ones!

    These sets are all great, and the only reason I don't know for sure whether I'll get them yet is that while all of them feature exclusive figs, none of them feature main characters. While initially the Trash Chomper and Ice Cream Machine appealed to me most, currently the Flying Flusher seems like the most appealing of the three. The "normal" and "zany" versions of the model are both superb, and the figs are also excellent (Dr. McScrubs in particular seems like maybe the best doctor fig of all time!).

    The ladder is similar to past ladder pieces from Lego City, but longer, matching the length of the "ladder with rails" from last year's fire sets as well as this year's Rescue Reinforcements. The inverse dome in red is a great color for this new piece. And solid colors for that door element are always a treat, since all other doors for that frame have windows, and you don't want that for things like bedrooms and bathrooms!

    The new parts in the Ice Cream Machine are great, but many are somewhat limited in their application until more parts show up in those colors (particularly the Spring Yellowish Green parts). I do think the Power Miners drill element in Brick Yellow could be an awesome roof for a large-scale sand castle.

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  2. I actually saw a review of the LEGO Movie yesterday that commented on the "irony" of the LEGO Movie's emphasis on creativity when so many sets today are based on specialized pieces only designed to build the model on the box, and when there is a whole line of LEGO Movie sets that are just as specialized.

    This kind of thing really speaks to the idiocy of some people in the media when it comes to understanding LEGO, since while it's true that the LEGO Movie sets are loaded with specialized pieces, most of those pieces are intended for models entirely unlike what the LEGO Movie sets use them for. Pirate ship and fire engine parts are used for mecha. Western parts are used for a hang glider and a helicopter. Castle and garbage truck parts are used for flying machines. If anything, the LEGO Movie sets are proof that specialized parts don't hinder but enhance the creative potential of the LEGO brand. Sadly, reviews like that are likewise proof that nothing will ever be enough to convince a person who's not a LEGO fan that you can be imaginative with anything but basic bricks and plates.

    Of the flying machines, the Flying Flusher is my favorite, while of the City-style models, I have a hard time choosing whether I prefer the plumber's van or ice cream truck.

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    1. Well said, Aanchir!

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    2. People like that don't have the creativity within them to see how a specialized part could be used a different way. To them a cone is a cone, a wheel a wheel. They can't see a pointy hat or a cannon barrel. Its like my dad says all the time "You see a pile of lego and you see your next MOC, I see a pile of lego and its a pile of lego." He simply can't fathom how we take these chaotic masses of preformed parts and turn them into something cohesive orderly and in cases of recreating something accuracy.

      The thing I thought was funny about "NPU" in the movie is the scene where Emmet is taking a shower and they used icecream to make soap suds. If you run across more of these people, try point that one out, see if maybe that hits them..."Ice cream as soap suds." I think that's a fairly simply striaght forward example they can visually comprehend. I just watched that FX video about the behind the scenes stuff, I love what he said about context. That's so true. Maybe that's another part of what those people lack, knowing any of the context. We all look at the ice cream machine and go "oh neat a rock raiders drill as an icecream cone." We have both those contexts to look at and see the brilliance of the part use. Non fans don't.

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  3. For Heath Robinson, apparently the American equivalent is Rube Goldberg. His name might be more familiar to some readers.

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  4. I wish they had used the ACTUAL PLUNGER PIECE instead of that tall-as-a-minifig thing. Especially since they used the ACTUAL PLUNGER PIECE in the movie.

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    1. Maybe. But then they couldn't be fired as a play feature, and what's more, we might not have gotten the inverse dome piece in red. The ACTUAL PLUNGER PIECE is already available through other channels, so if you feel so strongly about it it's easy enough to get a few extras from Bricklink.

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  5. but.. but.. where are YOUR alternate models??

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    1. I've been too busy Nicola, sorry :o( I hoped the official alternates might distract you ;O)

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  6. Yes, I too was looking forward to alternative alternative builds.

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  7. Awesome reviews as usual Caper. Man I love reading your posts, even when I'm not wholly interested in the subject you still make them interesting.

    I know the series/theme isn't over yet, there's still wave 2 of the series. But of wave one if you had to recommend one set to someone debating on whether they should get a TLM set, which one might it be? After I saw the movie I was "so pumped up" to get some lego and rushed right over to Toys R Us. I wanted a TLM set but I wasn't sure if one of the higher price point sets were worth the price, and the only lower pricepoint set they had at the time was the Saloon Glider. I almost got that one but I wasn't sure So I just opted for a couple HF sets from the BreakOut series that I didn't have.

    Also, will you be doing any kind of review or post about the movie itself?

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    1. Set purchase decisions are largely personal taste

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