16 October 2019

LEGO® Ideas review: 21320 Dinosaur Fossils

Posted by Elspeth De Montes
Back in early 2017, Fan Designer Jonathan Brunn launched his idea "Dinosaurs Fossils Skeletons - Natural History Collection" on the LEGO® Ideas platform. Some two and a half years later, two dinosaur skeletons and a pterosaur reptile have made it to the final product, with a little extra surprise or two included.

Announced today, 21320 Dinosaur Fossils has 910 pieces and is priced at US$59.99/ €59.99/ UK£54.99 and will be available from 1 November, 2019. So let's brush off the dirt and uncover the bones of this latest Ideas set.

In the Box 

There are six numbered bags of parts, three instruction booklets (one for each of the main skeleton models) and a small sticker sheet.

The skeletons are 1:32 in scale, with Tyrannosaurus Rex and Triceratops Horridus as the two dinosaurs and Pteranodon Logiceps, a pterosaurs reptile. For those who were hoping for minifigure scale, it seems about right: the accepted scale for minifigures can be anything from 1:25 to 1:48 depending on what you read, as minifigures are so disproportionate between height and width.

There is also the comedy addition that dinosaur and fossil-mad LEGO designer Niels Milan Pedersen presumably added: LEGO Sapiens, of course.

(I decided to build this set on a rainy afternoon when we had a few visitors and only remembered to take a photo of the sticker sheet after most of the stickers had already been applied.)

New Elements

These are skeletons from millions of years ago! There are no new elements, just very very old bones. On a serious note, there are actually no new elements in this set.

New Colours

These are skeletons from millions... ok, there are no new colours of existing elements in this set either.

Any interesting elements?

Horse Hitch in Brick Yellow/ Tan (Thill for Gig - 6287596|2397) has only been in one set in this colour; one was provided in 7258 Wookiee Attack back in 2005. So it's a return after a 14 year hiatus for this particular element.

In addition, Angle Plate 1X2/2X2 in Sand Yellow/ Dark Tan (6275485|21712) only recently arrived on the LEGO scene in Stranger Things 75810 The Upside Down. There are three included in the set.


There is one minifigure in the set whose torso also came in 60202 People Pack - Outdoor Adventures plus a minifigure skeleton on a stand for a bit of humour. The most interesting addition is a Lipstick in Black (6221606|25866) as these are still relatively rare, appearing in only three sets and they are subsequently costly in the secondary market; two are supplied. The other sticker is used to add a bone image into the paleontologist's notebook.

Bones, Bones, Bones 

There are a lot of White elements in this set and as someone who loves colours, a bit of snow blindness did start to hamper my enjoyment.  It is completely understandable why, although perhaps fossil bones may have been better in Brick Yellow and Sand Yellow but it is worth bearing in mind that this is predominately a White parts pack (not quite up there with the legendary 10256 Taj Mahal of course).

The original submission was Brick Yellow in colour but White bones dominate the final product, with a smattering of Brick Yellow and the inevitable greys of the Mixel joints.  How amazing would it have been to have Brick Yellow, Sand Yellow or even White Mixel joints appear in this set? Unfortunately it seems the production difficulties of moulding these parts in non-grey colours must still exist.

As it stands, there are quite a few interesting elements used to depict the skeletons including some nice parts use. For example T. rex's head uses the 2x3 Rock finger plate (6181319|27261) at the nose and 1x1 Window Arch in White (6278396|38583) for the facial structure.

The Build Experience

One rainy Sunday afternoon, we had some friends round to visit when I had planned to build this set.  I decided to utilise the handy three-booklet arrangement and gave a plastic box with the instructions and parts to two friends and they built the set along with me.

I thought it might be fun to tell you the three people involved and take a photograph of the three builds after one hour of building:
  1. 'V' is a 40-something year old female who is a highly intelligent doctor that enjoyed a couple of glasses of red wine during lunch.
  2. 'J' is an 11 year old boy who is starting to feel he might be a bit grown-up for LEGO.
  3. I am a 40 year old mummy who had her 3-year old twins crawling over her 'helping' during the building period.

So, after one hour of building: can you guess which build matches which profile?

Final Models

The final models are quite impressive looking,  especially the T.rex and Triceratops but I was less enthralled by Pteranodon Logiceps. Let's take a closer look at each one.

 Pteranodon Logiceps

It could be because all I could see during the building process was a skydiver wearing a winged suit but I thought this was the weakest of the three skeletons.

Images of the final skeleton model next to the Pteranodon from  Jurassic World 75926 Pteranodon Chase allows a comparison of two LEGO versions of the same creature. The skeletal version can move its lower limbs and has two hinge articulations at the wings for positioning. Its lower jaw can open and close, and the rear pointed portion of its skull can also move.

Triceratops Horridus

Triceratops was one of the five original models submitted by fan builder Jonathan, so those who voted will be pleased to see it in the set too.

Triceratops Horridus has articulations at the neck/head with a Mixel joint and then a similar tail to T. rex but all four limbs are fixed in position to the display stand. This is where the bulk of the Technic is used for both Triceratops and T. rex.

I found Triceratops had quite a few single stud connections which makes it a little more fragile to move – definitely one to pick up by the base rather than the body! You can see the Horse Hitch is used for the spine and to connect the ribs for both Triceratops and T. rex. I thought this was very effective.

A Triceratops also appears in another set that came out in the summer that we will be taking a look at soon, Jurassic World 75937 Triceratops Rampage.

Tyrannosaurus Rex

The largest of the three models is the T. rex measuring about 20cm tall and 40cm long depending on his position.  The T. rex was not among the initial five skeletons in the original submission but Jonathan added it during one of his updates along with a few other fossils.

The T. rex's head and neck attachments are interesting as it has a click hinge attachment to the main body and then a simple clip at the back of the head that is maintained in position by the 1x1 downwards Bracket in Medium Stone Grey/ Light Bluish Gray (6248078|36841) and the weight of the headThere's a lot of information around on neck and head positioning in dinosaurs and it seems that Niels was keen to ensure that the T. rex was able to be positioned correctly.

The tail of the T. rex and Triceratops are similar in structure although the bony spurs are different for each one but there's plenty of articulations to allow posing but just watch out for those boney spurs popping off...

A comparison of both the skeletal and the Jurassic World T. rex is also possible as there are lots of LEGO T. rex to chose from – I guess it was inevitable that this would make it into the set and be the first teaser LEGO used.

Why now?

© 2014 The LEGO Group
Interestingly this is not the first dinosaur fossil set to hit 10,000 votes and enter the LEGO Ideas review stage. Back in 2014 'whatpumpkin' designed a project called Fossil Museum that also reached 10,000 votes and was reviewed in 2016 by the Review Panel. This was a smaller-scale dinosaur fossil set that was mainly constructed from LEGO System elements.  It was not approved and so received the standard rejection response.

© 2017 LEGO Ideas

Some months later in April 2017, Jonathan Brunn (aka Mukkinn) uploaded his idea called Dinosaurs Fossils Skeletons - Natural History Collection. This project included models of Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Dilophosaurus, Brachiosaurus, and Plesiosaurus Skeletons, each standing on an exhibition base.

Further updates were made to include other dinosaurs and Jurassic fossils including the fan favourite, Tyrannosaurus Rex.

Jonathan's original models were actually much larger and used far more elements.  For example, his Triceratops used 1163 elements, compared to the 910 elements used to make the entire final set of three main skeletons and bases.

Another contrast is Jonathan's use of Technic elements in the main, but the final product uses a much greater number of System elements and a small percentage of Technic, mainly within the lower legs for support.

LEGO Designer Niels mentions this in the beginning of the instruction booklet, saying, "I really liked the overall look of the original builds, but there were just too many special elements. So I had to redesign it in a rather different way..."

So why now? Maybe the LEGO Ideas review team just decided that with his archeology and paleontology expertise, Niels could make this idea a reality. It is actually the first set he has designed in about 12 years so perhaps there is something in this theory. Maybe it is simply that some of the elements in the set that were relatively new in 2015/2016 or not even available, yet allow the models to reach LEGO standards.


This is a set for dinosaur and natural history fans and also those who buy it as an educational gift or a display gift for someone who is not a dedicated LEGO fan. As ever, there will a proportion of buyers for whom this will be their first LEGO set but it is interesting to note that LEGO's press release includes the reassuring tone "New to LEGO® building? Don’t worry. This palaeontologist kit comes with a booklet featuring easy-to-follow building instructions..."

While cost obviously comes into it, I can't help but wonder if the use of System elements also widens the potential market. I personally prefer the final models and their use of System elements compared to the original submission's Technic based models.

Niels has done a great job of depicting the skeletons in 1:32 scale and transferring the general feel of the fossils to a marketable set.  There will be some who are disappointed with the selection of dinosaurs but T. rex is a fan favourite, Triceratops looks cool and the flying reptile adds a bit of contrast and interest – and all formed part of the original submission at some point in its 10k journey.

With no new elements, no new colours and lots of parts that are easily purchased on the secondary market, I would not recommend this as a parts pack to MOC builders unless you like the kind of White elements offered. This is a build and display set although I imagine quite a few LEGO Natural History Museums will be under construction soon to house these fine specimens.

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  1. Thanks for the review. I see this Ideas Set suddenly has stickers which is a big turn off. Not sure if I will buy this. Stickers already ruined the new Land Rover set for me... It seems Lego does no longer want my money.

  2. But the stickers here aren't even used in the build or detailing ... just leave off the stickers from the bases and you can still tell it's a T-Rex and a Triceratops!

  3. Oh my god! They killed Indy! YOU BASTARDS!

    Sorry, just had to get that out of my system (been sitting on it for nearly ten hours now).

    Brickset noted that they didn't use tan for the main color scheme because, as I had suspected, there just aren't enough of these parts being made in tan right now, and it would have burned through too many "frames" to make it in tan.

    Someone in the comments section mentioned that the Mixel joints have the highest tolerance of any parts they've ever made, to the point that even the color of the plastic can affect the fit (never mind the issues we've seen with colors like reddish-brown, dark-red, and "brittle blue" breaking so easily). The commenter suggested that making these parts in a different color would require extensive tolerance testing before they could approve their use, and that it could potentially require cutting new molds on a color-by-color basis. What I've heard about the existing joints is that Marvel/Disney objected to having one specific Mixel joint used in light-bley for the Giantman model, which is why it's the only one that has been produced in both shades of bley. And as long as it was available for that set, it looks like other designers took advantage and slipped it into a few other sets.

    1. I'm sure it helped that the basic ball cup design had already been tested in Dark Stone Grey thanks to its use on the 1x2 plate with ball and ball cup: https://brickset.com/parts/design-14419

      So presumably, the only thing they needed to make sure of before releasing https://brickset.com/parts/design-14704 in the same color was whether or not small differences in things like where the plastic gets injected into the mold altered the ball cup's performance in any way.

      Similarly, I would not be surprised at all if parts that have a ball but no ball cup are some of the first we begin to see in a wider array of colors, since the basic towball design has been in use in numerous colors for decades at this point.

      So it's mostly those molding nuances (and potentially, past changes in the dyes and granulates that LEGO uses) that would be reason enough to worry about whether a Mixel joint with no ball cup would perform as reliably in those other colors as in grey.

    2. Right, I was wondering much the same thing. There were five true Mixel joints created for the theme. Originally, there were two with towballs that only came in dark-bley, two with sockets that only came in light-bley, and one with both (which you cited) that also only came in dark-bley. One of the socket joints got released in dark-bley in four sets because of Giantman, which is the only time they've allowed a Mixel joint to be produced in an alternate color. However, there are tons of towball parts, and one of them (#15456, 2x2 plate w/ towball and hole) has been used extensively in the Mixels theme. In fact, it appears more often in black than it does in light-bley within the Mixels theme. Both colors were used in 2014, 2015, and 2016, so it's not like they suddenly switched from one color to the other, which suggests that either it really is the Mixel socket that's the critical part of the equation, or that they actually made a point of testing one Mixel-compatible part in two colors.

      One key thing to remember is that the socket is subjected to more stress than the towball. The towball is under compression force, applied from points directly opposite each other. It takes a _LOT_ of force to crush solid ABS, so there's not much chance of failure on the towball. The socket is subjected to expansion force. The towball fits tightly inside the socket, pressing outward from the center. If the socket is too small, the amount of force will be dramatically higher. If they use a color of plastic that, for whatever reason, has strength issues, the socket will be far more likely to burst. The socket is so much more likely to be the point of failure that it's really surprising that they didn't mandate that part 14419 only be released in light-bley like the two socket-only Mixel joints.

    3. I find it interesting that TLG is using pre-coloured plastic for the Mixel joints. I wonder if there's a colour difference between these parts and normal bley parts (that often can be somewhat transparent)?

    4. I don't think it's pre-colored (at least, not if you mean pre-colored granulate like Lego used to purchase and use). It's still dyed in-house to the best of my knowledge. That said, if I remember correctly Mixel joints do use Polycarbonate (the type of plastic usually used for transparent colors or Technic parts) rather than the ABS used for most other System parts.

    5. Are you sure? PC inserted into PC usually gets stuck real hard. These parts could indeeed be pre-dyed thus making them much more expensive and that might be why TLG is not to keen on re-colouring them

    6. They are definitely PC, the part designer confirmed this to me when they were originally released.

    7. @Anonymous:
      It's not the fact that they're two polycarbonate pieces that causes the problem. It's the fact that they're produced on molds made for ABS. ABS has twice as much shrink factor as PC, so PC parts fit tighter. There may also be an issue with how much the material can compress when two pieces are attached.

  4. So, which person built builds A, B, and C????

    1. My guess is that 'V' built A, 'J' built B and 'I' built C, or possibly that 'V' built B and 'J' built A ...

  5. If you liked Mukkinn's set "Les fossiles de Dinosaures" you will also like his new project 20,000 leagues under the sea which you can discover and possibly support by following the link: