15 September 2020

LEGO® Harry Potter 75978 Diagon Alley: the build

Before I hand over to Jonas Kramm for his superb LEGO® Harry Potter review, I need to mention an unrelated-and-yet-related subject: New Elementary supports transgender people. We do not support the heedless views now being broadcast by the original writer of Harry Potter. Many of you may prefer we just stuck to the LEGO escapism but I feel it's essential for anyone purchasing this product to consider their own standpoint. The product in this article was provided for free by LEGO; the author's opinions are not biased by this. Okay: now over to Jonas for the LEGO fun, and it's a corker!


We already posted about the reveal and the new parts of LEGO® Harry Potter 75978 Diagon Alley, so today it’s time to take a look at the actual build and its most interesting building techniques. With 5544 pieces the set is the second biggest Harry Potter set to this day; only 71043 Hogwarts Castle has more. As expected, such a huge build comes with many things to explore, so without further ado, let’s get started!



First the box: it’s massive! I tend to forget how big LEGO sets can be, but when you remember that 75978 Diagon Alley sells for £369.99 / US$399.99, it better be big.


After pouring the content into a crate and onto my building table, a pile of bricks worthy of the size of the box is revealed. The small box with the ‘21’ on the front caught my attention immediately but it says “Silencio! Keep it between us”, so we won’t spoil the inside for anyone who wants to find out themselves until the very end of this review.

The set comes with four instruction books: one for each of the four baseplates, so you could split up the build between you and your friends or decide to build them in a different order. I took the LEGO-intended way of going from left to right.


Included with the instructions are the stickers and I can’t remember opening a set that has more of them. In total there are four sheets and I decided not to apply them, as we’re going to focus on the building techniques in this set for the most part.


Of course the set comes with some new pieces, that we already mentioned in my last post in collaboration with Tobias. Now I have the new moulds in hand, I will analyse and write in detail about them in an upcoming article!

Ollivanders Wand Shop and Scribbulus Writing Implements


First instruction book, first baseplate: the shops of Ollivander and Scribbulus. We start with the street and the first layers of the house. In front of each building in Diagon Alley is a narrow Sand Yellow/ Dark Tan pavement and a glimpse of brick-built cobblestone.


The showcases of Ollivander’s and Scribbulus have some lovely details that will get covered up by the bay windows later, which is really unfortunate. I like the way Technic bricks get used to make a sturdy connection to the black columns that are sitting on jumpers.


The colours of the inner structure here might seem random, unless you know that Harry Potter design lead Marcos Bessa is Portuguese and likes to hide the national flag in the sets he works on. The curve that gets achieved with this technique is really smooth.


To make the bay windows of Ollivanders, some of the window frames are just placed on one stud and then turned. This is a solid technique that does the job, even though it doesn’t come close to the perfect execution of a bay window in the last modular building I reviewed, 10270 Bookshop.

The shop selling writing implements has a Dark Blue window which reminded me a bit of a Tardis but my problem is rather the roof, which seems a bit unfinished with all the visible studs.


The interior gets filled with a Dark Green/ Green carpet and a little counter.


Different techniques, like using SNOT bricks and jumpers, make the wand shelf with all the offsets a convincing recreation of the shelves in the movie. One spot is left free to fit the new mould for the wand box.


Making the stairs turnable is a great idea to keep the maximum of space in the room usable. Only a few houses in LEGO Diagon Alley have stairs and this won’t be the last time we see a clever mechanism to hide them. In the movie, Ollivander surprises Harry when he slides in on a ladder, so you could recreate that scene in a similar way with the turnable staircase here.


The second floor features another wand shelf and a ladder. In general the LEGO version of Ollivanders feels a lot more friendly than the one in the movie, where the shop has a dark mood with darker colours and lots of dust. The dust issue will probably resolve itself with time.


In the room above Scribbulus stands a really comfy looking sofa, but with the new unprinted skull added, the room gets a mysterious atmosphere.


On the roof we find a crooked chimney and an owl that’s carrying a newspaper. It’s a great way to capitalise on the new mould of the flying owl that came with many of September’s Harry Potter sets.


The first shops look spot on! Ollivanders is of course the highlight, but Scribbulus looks good too. Differing techniques for the bay windows and the interiors is what make this an interesting start.

Quality Quidditch Supplies and the Daily Prophet


The second building starts with a cobblestone street and a pavement too, but something is different here. There is no sign where we will build the entrance of Quality Quidditch Supplies; instead the baseplate is mostly covered with tiles.


Finally it’s coming together and we construct the entrance section. It’s a beautifully designed segment with well-thought-through structures, colours and building techniques. But we’re still curious why it’s a submodel of its own and not connected to the rest of the shop yet.


A highlight are of course the new printed window elements (6315044). They look very good and come in excellent condition, with perfectly aligned decorations.


Another highlight is the little Sand Green roof sitting above the entrance. I like the ridge made with 1x1 bricks; changing the Technic element to the right colour would have made it even better.


Connecting the ready-built entrance section with the main building was a mindblowing moment for me. As soon as the Technic bricks were added to the construction I had an idea what would happen, but putting it in place felt more than satisfying. The whole frontage is not only very detailed, but also angled. So perfect!


The technique couldn’t be any easier: Technic bricks allow the rotation and because the frontage is slightly shorter than the wall, the windows will naturally fall into an angled position.


The entrance to the Daily Prophet is another well-built arch that makes great use of 1x2 tiles that are offset by half a module. I found it interesting to see that both entrances to this building, one for Quality Quidditch Supplies and the one for the Daily Prophet, look very different, but use the same techniques such as the combination of the ornament brick with grill tiles and the angled roofs.


Compared to how spectacular the ground floor of this shop was, the facades of the upper floors are much less interesting. The few sections where the plastering is crumbling are an attempt to add some detail, but the very bright wall catches the attention without delivering on detail, because it is missing texture. The third floor is even worse in my opinion and has nothing of the love and cleverness injected into the build of this set so far.


What lifts the mood is the interior as there is once again a lot to discover, such as a variety of different bats, brooms and shelves.


This building is missing a staircase to the second floor, but who wants to take them anyway, when you have flying brooms?


It is good that the inside of the Daily Prophet is described so well by the spider web, because there isn’t anything else going on here. I feel like the space could have been used better to give Quality Quidditch Supplies a staircase.


Overall the build of this second house in the row is a bit of a rollercoaster. I love the entrance sections of both shops and was surprised with clever techniques there, but the rest falls a bit short and without much love given to detail.

The pink wall is also something to discuss. I checked, and the colour of the building is indeed pink in the movie, but a lot more subtle and washed out than the Light Purple/ Bright Pink used for the LEGO version. The current LEGO colour palette unfortunately has its issues when it comes to representing desaturated red or pink. Taking a look back at retired LEGO colours, maybe the previous Light Reddish Violet/ Pink or the rare Sand Red would have been a better fit.

Florean Fortescue’s Ice Cream Parlour and Flourish & Blotts


In the bag for Flourish & Blotts we find the other new printed window element (6315047). This one is printed on a Panel 1 x 6 x 5, which makes it look a bit better from the interior, but provides less flexibility than the one used for Quality Quidditch Supplies. I also want to highlight that each little window is exactly the size of a Brick 1x1, so the printing makes a perfect grid!


Together with other Earth Green/ Dark Green elements, the entrance section of the bookshop looks really good.


Throughout the whole set the designers prove several times that they are capable of building convincing shelves and filling them with stuff. Of course a shelf with actual books that you could take out would have been even better here, but the effect created here with plates and tiles works perfectly for the interior and avoids the problem of books falling out.


In general the shop features brick-built books made from brackets, plates and tiles. Their built nature allows them to stack securely. The orange book on top is placed on the Posing Element (6285587), which shows this part has now made the step of getting used in normal sets as well as Collectable Minifigures.


The upper floor of Flourish & Blotts features more books and shelves.


Building-wise, the exterior is more interesting: for example the section above the entrance features a great structure that continues along the 45° angles of the wall. To connect it, headlights, brackets and clips get used in a very effective way.


On top comes the bay window, which comes together in a really pleasing fashion.


Left and right of the window are little dragon statues making use of the Black Weapon Sword Hilt with Dragon Head (6315915). I like the idea that the elements are used out of their original purpose, but I feel like it would have looked better completely in black.


On the same baseplate is the ice cream parlour of Florean Fortescue. It’s the only building that has a tiled floor. At  the back is a shelf with ice cream cups that incldue the new mould of the sundae glass. The vitrine is a clever little build that uses a lipstick; an element which on one side is slightly thinner than a bar, so the dome can get lifted easily without breaking anything.


The exterior of the building is made in Cool Yellow/ Bright Light Yellow, which harmonises wonderfully with the green shop next to it. Lipsticks get used again here for the bars below the awning.


The inside of the second floor of the parlour shows a little living room.


As with the other shops featuring prominent scenes from the movies, Flourish & Blotts also gets a staircase. It is movable and can be folded vertically inside the building.


Once finished, this section of the Diagon Alley is a true beauty. I love the two smaller shops, which are filled with lovely details and clever techniques. Moreover it’s the colours that work exceptionally well here. A detail I want to point out is the decoration on the parlour’s roof showing two little green chairs. When you rewatch the first Harry Potter movie, this detail is actually visible for a split second.

Knockturn Alley and Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes 

Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes is the biggest shop in Diagon Alley, covering not only most of the fourth plate but also extending over three floors. It’s built mostly in the colours Medium Lavender and Bright Orange/ Orange, a bright colour scheme that fits the nature of the shop.


An important part of the architecture are the orange windows. Once again 2x2 Frames get used, but the technique to make the curve is slightly different, so it remains an interesting build.


A noteworthy technique are the 2x2 Round Bricks that get used to continue the round shape in a clever way.


Inside the bay windows the big mannequin (the promotional figure and key visual of the shop) takes shape with the arms actually going through the window frames.


Another lipstick gets used here, for the loose shoulder joint of its left arm. An unusual way to connect LEGO System with Technic System.


The building continues with a 45° angled wall behind the head of the mannequin, which gets held in place very securely with arms.


The head itself starts with a construction that reminds more of the Terminator, but then turns step by step into a face and red hair.


By moving a lever on top of the building you can bring the figure to life and recreate how it lifts the hat in the movie. Unfortunately the set couldn't also include the white rabbit underneath that gets revealed in the original.


The interior of the Weasleys’ shop is overall very colourful, not just because of the orange windows and the colour of the walls. Many of the details, such as what exact joke products they sell here, would be added with the stickers I chose not to apply but even without them, the playful atmosphere is conveyed.


The size of the building also allows an actual staircase in the interior for first time, without any mechanism required to hide it. Overall, the density of detail on the three floors is great; no spectecular techniques but lots of colourful items to discover.


The finished building captures Weasleys’ Wizard Wheezes very well, especially with the big orange windows and the iconic figure. Adding the entrance to Knockturn Alley is a good idea as it gives the joke shop enough space to remain the focus of this baseplate.


Formed by placing all four plates next to each other, Diagon Alley is massive! I really had trouble photographing it on my desk as you can see and you will need a wide shelf to display it in one piece. Of course you can also show each building on its own, or rearrange the alley like I did for the main picture. Another idea suggested in the instruction is placing the buildings with their backs to each other; that way you get complete buildings, even though not completely true to the nature of the alley. That also explains the unnecessary third floor on Quality Quidditch Supplies, which covers the tall Weasley shop if displayed in that mode.

Colourwise, I feel Quality Quidditch Supplies sticks a bit too much out and even steals the show a bit from the joke shop.

Conclusion

Diagon Alley is a great set. I had a lot of fun while building. The shops are often just bricks on bricks, but with enough details and interesting techniques sprinkled in to make it an entertaining build. Especially if you are into Harry Potter, the shops bring back the memories from the movies and the scenes that werw played there. Here and there the set has minor flaws, but I feel like there are also exceptionally good sections to make up for it. Whether it’s worth the £369.99 / US$399.99 is hard to say. That’s just a lot of money, but you will also get a lot of bricks in return.

Concerning the minifigures, there are a few exclusive to this set, but only characters that a true Harry Potter collector would miss in his collection. With more special characters and new prints it would have been more desirable for sure.

As teased at the beginning I will now finish this review with the reveal of what’s in the mysterious “21” box coming with this set. If you want to discover it for yourself, don’t read any further.

Keep it between us!

Making a big fuss about the secret of the box is probably a bit too much, but out of fairness everyone should have the chance to discover it themselves, even if it’s just a little extra.


The box contains two additional minifigures and a little stand to place them on, with a printed 6x6 tile quoting what Hagrid said to Harry in the first movie when they visited Diagon Alley for the first time. The Harry figure is also special, which shows him in the clothes that are a few sizes too large for him.

Even though it’s nothing too spectacular, I was genuinely happy to find something in the set that wasn’t covered in the press release!




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6 comments:

  1. Love the review. I think I'll get this for myself for Christmas :)

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  2. Speaking to the size of the box, I stopped by my local LEGO Store the weekend after this set launched, and commented on how they were already sold out. The store manager pointed halfway across the store from the Harry Potter section, which was the closest they could find a space where the box would fit on the shelves! That far distanced from the rest of the theme (and with the solid black background rather than the Wizarding World graphics), it looked more like a Modular set than Diagon Alley if you only saw it out of the corner of your eye.

    I'd heard a few years ago from a LEGO set designer who visited Brickworld Chicago that many designers like to work the colors of their national flag into their sets, but that's definitely the most overt instance I've seen. Including the same part in two different colors, neither of which appear to be necessary for any of the aesthetic of the set itself, is a clear indulgence, since it increases the effort required to pack these sets. I think it's possible to produce a very similar curve using a less complicated technique, though I'd have to actually do a side-by-side to verify this.

    For those who simply can't wait for the "dust issue" to resolve itself naturally, you can always vacuum all your other sets and dump the bag over Olivanders.

    The sneaky trick about the Daily Prophet is revealed if you put the sections back-to-back with each other (hence the ability to fold the two staircases away as well). The DP door can be lined up with the entrance to Knocturn Alley, so it serves double duty in that regard. Can't very well have the archway open right into a store interior.

    And the DCS peg has also appeared in a Friends set (41432 Alpaca Mountain Jungle Rescue). I'm going to have to throw that on the next round of LUGBulk...

    Something about that orange chair bugs me. I think maybe it needs a white 1x3x1 car door hanging next to it.

    Without the windows in place, the WWW torso looks like the start of a Terrance & Philip MOC.

    Now _that_ is a very interesting technique with the black skeleton arms. I'm going to have to remember that one.

    They sell little orange Hot Wheels cars! No? Not Hot Wheels cars? Too bad they didn't make stickers that would make that a little more clear...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Valid point about the placing in the store!
      About the flag and the 3x1 slope in the different colors: this was probalbly done to easily distinguish the left and right sections of the facade in the instructions, it does matter how you place them. ;)

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  3. I never put the stickers on, so thank you for doing the review without them so we can see what it looks like that way

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  4. Thank you for acknowledging the author's mess and recognizing the questions this places upon consuming her work now. It's been frustrating seeing it completely ignored, but the response is ultimately an individual choice that can't be dictated, so I think this is the best way to address it. Thanks for looking out.

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  5. Quality Quidditch Supplies in Sand Red...of all the wishful pipe dreams I have for that wonderful color this would have been an incredible piece to bring it back. I would be very interested in a render of the set with Sand Red subbed in place of that pink color.

    ReplyDelete

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