22 June 2023

LEGO® Disney™ review: 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell

Posted by Tim Johnson

The LEGO Group are showering a plethora of products upon us in 2023 to celebrate 100 years of Disney™, and there's also a live-action version of the classic animation The Little Mermaid which was  released in May. 

Satisfying both these events, set 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell is a large display piece featuring three of the movie's underwater scenes, all ensconced in a giant shell. Let's take a look at the minifigures, interesting parts and techniques it has to offer, with some additional insight from two LEGO® employees who worked on the set: design master Marcos Bessa and senior graphic designer Niken "Nikki" Ayumurti Hartomo.

Products in this article were provided by LEGO®; the author's opinions are their own.
LEGO® Disney™ 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell
US$159.99/ £139.99/ 159.99€/ AU$249.99
1808 parts
1 May 2023
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There are no new moulds in the set, which surprised me - I thought some of the minifigure elements must be new, but no. There are, however, many exciting recoloured and printed pieces. Let's start by examining those.

Characters in set 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell

Perhaps the initial thing to mention about the figures is that they are not minidolls, like so many earlier LEGO Disney products. Marcos explained that this is because the set falls within The LEGO Group's adult strategy, which to date has not used minidolls. 
Marcos: Minifigures are what they grew up with and they recognise. Ten years from now, we might start to see adults who have grown up with the minidoll, so perhaps there is an opportunity in the future for the adult-driven products to expand their offering in that direction.
The set comes with five minifigures and two animals, and there's not a pair of legs between them!

All the Royal Clamshell minifigures feature newly-printed heads, torsos and lower bodies. The heads are all dual-printed apart from King Triton, who is a special case. 

No, I did not accidentally rotate Karina's head (the blue mermaid) for the rear shot - her two expressions are incredibly similar, which seems a waste. 

Let's go in for some close-ups, because these minifigures are spectacular - the elementary highlights of the set! It's no wonder, given the love the design team have for the original material.

Nikki: The Little Mermaid was like my Disney "first love", and I keep watching the VHS over and over again!

Indira minifigure

Only two of Ariel's many sisters were able to be featured. Indira has a skin tone in one of the colours introduced last year: Colour ID 370 Medium Brown. 

  • Hair Mid-length with Side Part, Wavy in Medium Nougat (6433521 | 23187), a new recolour.
  • Head in Medium Brown with double-sided face print with Gold Metallic eyeshadow and Dark Red lips (6445993).
  • Torso in Medium Brown with one-shouldered crop-top print in Bright Ligh t Orange and Gold Metallic (6446157).
  • Tail, Mermaid Curved Right with Copper Metallic stripes, Bright Light Yellow fins print (6446124 | 75648) – to be honest I'm not 100% sure if the metallic ink here is Copper; it's possibly Magenta.
As with all three mermaids, the fins are a different colour to the tail. The delineation between the two colours is so precise, I assumed these were dual-moulded, but Nikki explained that the existing mould is for a single colour only, and that the other colour is sprayed on. 

Karina minifigure

Another of Ariel's many sisters, Karina uses the most metallic ink.

  • Hair Ponytail Long Straight with Tie in Lavender (6446161 | 17347), only the fourth colour for this mould.
  • Head in Light Nougat with double-sided face print with Cyan Metallic eyeshadow and Magenta Metallic lips (6445993).
  • Torso in Light Nougat with bodice with straps print in Cyan Metallic and Blue (6446571)
  • Tail, Mermaid Curved Right with Cyan Metallic and Blue stripes, Medium Azure fins print (6446573  | 75648)

Another thing that Nikki explained is why there has to be a thin, unprinted line at the base of every minifigure torso.

Nikki: We have what's called a max deco area. Our production standards require us to print some distance from the edge on each printable surface. It's to keep our printing consistently perfect; to prevent the ink from spilling onto the side of the element, and also to give our printing pads a longer lifespan.

Ariel minifigure

The lead character does not share the shiny metallic makeup of her sisters, but her torso and tail do.

  • Hair Long and Textured, Hole on Top and Side in Dark Red (6426063 | 35182) is a new recolour of the common Dark Brown version. It also appears in set 43213 Little Mermaid Story Book.
  • Head in Medium Nougat with double-sided face print with Dark Red eyeshadow and lips (6445993). 
  • Torso in Medium Nougat with Magenta Metallic/Blue/Dark Turquoise Scaled Bikini print (6445609 | 76382).
  • Tail, Mermaid Curved Right in Dark Turquoise with Magenta Metallic/Cyan Metallic, Lavender Fins print (6422787 | 75648).

King Triton minifigure

The surprise with Triton is that his crown, hair and beard are not the "mask" you may have expected: his face is part of the mould too! An even greater surprise is that this is not a new mould.

  • Mask, Hair and Beard in Tan, Crown Print in Gold, with King Triton face in Medium Tan (6446117 | 84358).
  • Minifig Head Plain [Hollow Stud] in Medium Tan (6406395 | 3626c).
  • Torso, Gold Armour print, Warm Tan Arms and Hands in Flat Silver (6445986 | 76382).
  • Tail, Merman / Mermaid with Gold Belt, Tan Shell print in Green (6445898 | 51345).
His head mould originally appeared in 2022 in set 43207 Ariel's Underwater Palace which includes minidolls, not minifigures. It had White hair and Light Nougat skin (6380364) and the face print was, of course, the design of a minidoll's face.
©2022 The LEGO Group
Marcos: He's such an iconic character that we knew we were going to revisit him in both minidoll and minifigure form at some point, so when designing the element, it was thought from the get-go, let's make the face surface ready so that we could bring both the minidoll style and the minifigure style.
A head that bridges both types of figures! Marcos went on to explain that there were some internal discussions needed around how to achieve this.
Marcos: Obviously a minidoll does have a bit more detailing in the face, they have a little nose. So we had to accept that the minidoll version of Triton does have a simplified surface, but we designed it in a way that it doesn't look foreign to either one of the platforms. It fits both well, and it's the graphics that define this.
It's another exciting touch that the minifigure head below the mask comes unprinted for the first time in 371 Warm Tan (Medium Tan on BrickLink), which was the other new colour of 2022. We received heads in this colour in 21337 Table Football, but all printed, of course.

Ursula minifigure

The Joker's hair is recoloured for this sneaky sea witch, and her legs are the same mould as the 2016 LEGO® Minifigures version, but with a subtle spotted print added.

  • Hair Bushy Swept Back in White (6442684 | 28551), which now also appears in 43213 Little Mermaid Story Book. 
  • Head in Lavender with double-sided face print with Green eyeshadow and Red lips (6445993).
  • Torso in Black with Dress, Lavender Neckline, Dark Purple Spots, Gold Shell Necklace print, Lavender Hands (6445888).
  • Lower Body Sea Witch with Tentacles in Black with Dark Purple spots print (6422788 | 24793).

Animal characters

Ariel has three animal friends, but Scuttle the seagull is not included in this set.
Marcos: I couldn't find a way of naturally bringing him into this environment underwater. At some point I thought, could I hint at the water surface at the top of the shell and place Scuttle there, but it just felt awkward and forced. 

Let's ignore the crab in the room for a moment, and discuss Flounder. His 2014 mould (15679) which came in Yellow has been colour-changed to White with a new Black and Bright Light Orange print (6440861), to match the new movie version.

Sebastian the crab had his own mould back then too, but it is not re-used here. He is instead represented by the standard LEGO crab in Red (6253363|33121) which was introduced by the LEGO® Belville theme in 1998. I asked Marcos why this decision was made.
Marcos: We got to see the reference of what he was going to look like: nothing like the animated version. Flounder did have the same overall silhouette; through a new decoration, we figured we could depict the character closely enough. With Sebastian, the immediate reaction was, he looks like LEGO crab! It started as a little bit of a joke internally, that "it's just a LEGO crab"... but then we fell in love with it. Having such an iconic character represented by a LEGO crab is special to us! We honestly felt that it is an honour for our LEGO crab to be Sebastian!
I'm in full agreement that when the correctly shaped LEGO element already exists, it's a shame to introduce a new one for the sake of it. The downside is that these two characters don't feel equal in stature to my eye. Because of the way we "read" LEGO elements, the lack of printing on Sebastian makes him feel like scenery rather than a character. Even the little fishes are more prominent in the final tableaux. 

I asked Marcos if printing on this element for the first time was an option, but his honest answer was that it was out of budget.
Marcos: We didn't have the printing setup for it in place. That's hard for us to justify for a single character, to make that equipment and then maybe having to compromise on other things to come together within a certain budget.

Recoloured elements

With no other new printed parts and no stickers, all that remains for me to tell you about on the new element front are the set's 6 recolours, which were exclusive at time of release. 

  • 3x Brick Arch 1 x 5 x 4 Inverted in Dark Tan (6434893 | 30099).
  • 13x Hair Small Tuft in Dark Turquoise (6434882 | 68212), with several spares - there are 16 in the picture but I think I found at least one more once I started building! This recolour was new for this set, but is now available in another five June 2023 sets.
  • 3x Animal, Fish [Anti-Stud Mouth] in Magenta (6445351 | 64648), the ninth colour of this classic element.
  • 4x Bar 1L with 3 Sprouts/Prongs in Bright Green (6434871 | 68211) and a spare. This is the fifth colour of this element, but remarkably, the first in a shade of green. Already you can find it in three June sets.
  • 5x Wedge Plate 6 x 2 Left in Light Aqua (6434892 | 78443).
  • 5x Wedge Plate 6 x 2 Right in Light Aqua (6434881 | 78444).

I hadn't noticed the hair tuft previously, as I'm not much of a minifigure guy, but it's a cool element for detailing – or creating delicious teal-coloured jelly for minifigures! I like how it appears to be symmetrical from the top, but the side profile reveals wide variety in its height. It has previously come in Black in seven sets.

Rare elements

There are also host of parts that have only appeared in a few sets to date.

At time of release these only appeared in 1 other set, all relatively recent:
  • 1 x Plate Special 4 x 4 with Curved Cutout in Sand Green (6401016 | 35044) first seen in 76218 Sanctum Sanctorum which contains 4.
  • 1 x Technic Disk 3 x 3 in Dark Orange (6404642 | 2723);  71411 The Mighty Bowser has 2
  • 2 x Brick Arch 1 x 3 x 2 Inverted [Inside Bow] in Light Royal Blue/ Bright Light Blue.
  • (6383076 | 18653) and there are 6 in 10298 Vespa 125.
  • 5 x Brick Arch 1 x 5 x 4 Inverted in Bright Light Blue (6383078 | 30099) whereas 10298 Vespa 125 only contains 2.
  • 1 x Brick Curved 6 x 1 in Bright Light Blue (6383083 | 42022), while there were 2 in 10298 Vespa 125.
  • 6 x Plate Special 2 x 2 with Only 2 studs in Sand Green (6423384 | 33909). You get 11 in 10317 Land Rover Classic Defender 90.
Appearing in 2 other sets to date we have:
  • 4 x Brick Arch 1 x 3 x 3 [Gothic] in Bright Light Blue (6387467, previously 6285272 | 13965) which is in 10298 Vespa 125 and back in 2019, 75958 Beauxbatons' Carriage: Arrival at Hogwarts.
  • 1 x Brick Special 1 x 1 with Clip Horizontal in Bright Light Blue (6413261 | 65459) also in 75574 Toruk Makto & Tree of Souls and 75573 Floating Mountains: Site 26 & RDA Samson.
  • 3 x Animal / Plant, Coral / Sea Weed in Bright Green (6336855 | 49577) which comes in 11018 Creative Ocean Fun and the unbeaten 24 found in 21326 Winnie the Pooh from 2021.
  • 4 x Brick Arch 1 x 4 x 3 in Medium Stone Grey/ Light Bluish Gray (6403585 | 80543) which is 2 more than you get in 10316 Lord of the Rings: Rivendell, but a far cry from the 16 in 10305 Lion Knights' Castle.
  • 3 x Wedge Sloped 65° 2 x 2 x 2 Corner in Trans-Light Blue (6354153 | 78886), also in 71417 Fliprus Snow Adventure Expansion Set and 43197 The Ice Castle from 2021 which has 16.
  • 2 x Bracket 1 x 1 - 1 x 1 Inverted in Bright Light Blue (6383095 | 36840); found in 41731 Heartlake International School and 10298 Vespa 125.
  • 1 x Slope Curved 3 x 1 No Studs in Bright Light Blue (6383112 | 50950) which also comes in 31137 Adorable Dogs and, you guessed it, 10298 Vespa 125.
  • 10 x Brick Round Corner 4 x 4 x 3 Dome Top in White (6337516 | 49612) which is the highest quantity to date; 80032 Chang’e Moon Cake Factory has 4 and 21056 Taj Mahal has 8. Yup, this clamshell has more domes than the Taj Mahal!
  • 2 x Brick Arch 1 x 4 x 3 in Dark Stone Grey / Dark Bluish Gray (6369791 | 80543), also in 75577 Mako Submarine​ and 10305 Lion Knights' Castle.
  • 3 x Brick Arch 1 x 3 x 2 Curved Top in Bright Light Blue (6366708 | 92903) which is 1 more than 10298 Vespa 125 and 40516 Everyone Is Awesome.
  • 1 x Tile 1 x 8 with Groove in Olive Green (6278091 | 4162) also in 10306 Atari 2600 and 42110 Land Rover Defender from 2019.
Let's also check out the elements coming in 3 sets previously, as there are some cool ones here too:
  • 1 x Plate 4 x 12 in Dark Azure (6343650, previously 6227258 | 3029) also in 41732 Downtown Flower and Design Stores, 31120 Medieval Castle from 2021 and 41454 Dr. Fox Laboratory back in 2018.
  • 2 x Wedge Plate 12 x 3 Left in Dark Azure (6259086 | 47397) and Right (6259087 | 47398), both also found in 76832 XL-15 Spaceship, 41430 Summer Fun Water Park from 2020 and 70673 ShuriCopter from 2019.
  • 1 x Brick 1 x 2 without Bottom Tube in Transparent Blue with Opalescence/ Satin Trans-Light Blue (6343877 | 35743) which appeared in 3 sets in 2021: 43194, Anna and Elsa's Frozen Wonderland, 8x in 43197 The Ice Castle and 40514 Winter Wonderland VIP Add On Pack - which contained 12!
  • 1 x Brick 2 x 3 in Light Royal Blue/ Bright Light Blue (6366706, previously 6014085 & 6014475 | 3002) also in 41718 Pet Day-Care Center, 11020 Build Together and 40516 Everyone Is Awesome.
  • 3 x Plate Special 2 x 6 x 2/3 with 4 Studs on Side, Three Support Walls on Bottom in Medium Stone Grey/ Light Bluish Gray (6430550 | 72132) - this is a new version; the very common old mould has only one support underneath. There's no functional difference.
  • 1 x Plate 8 x 8 Round in Light Bluish Gray (6353794 | 74611) also available in 71419 Peach's Garden Balloon Ride Expansion Set, 40588 Flowerpot and 75331 The Razor Crest which provides 10.
  • 1 x Slope 33° 2 x 4 Double in Dark Bluish Gray (6189120 | 3299) also in 80035 Monkie Kid's Galactic Explorer, 60307 Wildlife Rescue Camp and 71363 Desert Pokey Expansion Set.
  • 3 x Brick Arch 1 x 5 x 4 [Continuous Bow, Raised Underside Cross Supports] in Sand Yellow/ Dark Tan
  • (6337778 | 14395); a higher quantity than found in 75577 Mako Submarine​, 10316 Lord of the Rings: Rivendell or 76388 Hogsmeade Village Visit.
  • 2 x Brick Arch 1 x 5 x 4 Inverted in  Light Bluish Gray (6310881 | 30099) is also in 80044 Monkie Kid's Team Hideout, 80039 The Heavenly Realms, 75291 Death Star Final Duel and 80024 The Legendary Flower Fruit Mountain - which has 13!
  • 3 x Tile Round 2 x 2 with Bottom Stud Holder in Dark Azure (6346764 | 14769) also in 41732 Downtown Flower and Design Stores, 21331 Sonic the Hedgehog – Green Hill Zone and 10305 Lion Knights' Castle.
  • 1 x Equipment Hourglass with Tan Sand Pattern in Trans-Clear (6353089 | 23945) is a beautiful part, and can also be found 1x in 43206 Cinderella and Prince Charming’s Castle, 43197 The Ice Castle and 76185 Spider-Man at the Sanctum Workshop. 

Building 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell

We commence by building King Triton's throne area which, you may have noticed, actually sits on the very top of the diorama in the completed model. 

Rather sweetly, having built this first, it simply sits to one side for the rest of the building process, watching over your progress. It was a clever move (on behalf of the set's Building Instructions Specialist, apparently) to build this first, as it means you get straight into some pretty stuff before commencing the interior structure of the shell base in Bag 3.

The sprawling internal structure feels incredibly random as you construct it, but it turns out everything has its purpose. Here it is midway through Bag 5; the point at which we begin creating curved white sub-builds to attach.

I love this use of Road Sign Clip-on 2.2 x 2.667 Triangular (65676). It's terribly satisfying to clip them into the structure, and to then realise their purpose is simply to help fill the gap between the plates which will be put on top. In the second picture above you can see other parts achieving the same thing: the grey brackets, tan corner panel and red tile.

The angled side sections are satisfying to attach. A stable structure is achieved with four points of connection, including an ingenious bar-to-clip connection. Upon this completed surface, a series of wedge plates are attached to create a platform for the scenery.

Marcos: I did the first sketch digitally, so I didn't need to worry about where things were connected. Parts of the shell were just floating around the structure, in the places where I intended them to be eventually, but I had no clue how I was going to get them there! Having to reverse-engineer to get the shape that I wanted was the challenging part for me, from a modelling point of view.

From this point, the seemingly random structure all makes perfect sense as wedge plates are added. 

The wedge plates align perfectly to create a radiating platform, and white scalloped curves are added on top. Unavoidably there are small gaps where the curves meet. 

Here they are prior to being attached. I love using LEGO arches and bows to create unusual, beautiful organic shapes, so this was an absolute treat.

The two lower scenes of the model - Ursula's lair and Ariel's Secret Grotto - are then built simultaneously. Again, I love the use of arched pieces; different curves in two colours are staggered to create the organic rock formation. It's also fun to see how elements are carefully positioned to avoid the changes in grid direction caused by the fanning platform. 

This is Ursula's lair, with her cauldron outside the cave. The arches placed upon the angled platform create an excellent shape for the cave mouth. I shot this before adding the roof, so you can better see the shelf of ingredients and potions.

We then return to completing the shell, shown above ready to be pinned to the rear of the model. Creating this symmetrical form is another change in style after the organic form of the scenery, where there's no repetition in the build process. I asked Marcos if that contrast was a deliberate decision.

Marcos: The nature of the core of the build is so organic, so colourful, so rich in its textures and details, that the 'frame for this painting' needed to be calmer. That's also why we chose to go with a more sober colour scheme. It brings your eye to the centre, which is what this is all about. The shell is not there to steal the spotlight, it's there to bring things together and give it a context. If you picture the model without the shell, it could still look like a nice diorama, but we wanted to give it a proper honourable place to stand, and a model that looked as iconic as a Disney Castle can look on a shelf.

Before I built the set, I thought the shell seemed a bit oversized relative to the scenery within. Having built it, it actually looks great. Nevertheless, I did ask Marcos about how the scale had been decided.

Marcos: There was some play around how many segments the shell was going to have. I had at one point five, I played with seven, and then I landed on six. So there was a bit of variation, but the scale itself didn't change much. The core of the structure was what defined the size of the model to begin with, and then I needed a shell that was big enough to give me the footprint to hold that structure, and to give me some floor to build on. When creating those arched segments on the top of the shell, the choice of the elements dictated the scale. Because I liked how it started to look, I never took a different direction. 

Finally, the very first thing you built - Triton's kingdom - is added to complete the model. Various transparent bar pieces hold the fishes and mermaids, who can be placed at angles.

Ariel's grotto is brimming with colourful details, including her collection of human trinkets, and a lovely little shipwreck presumably referencing the scene when she and Flounder are attacked by a shark.

Other than her cauldron, the area outside Ursula's lair is bare by comparison. This is more noticeable when you display the model on a low table or shelf. It's a bit of a shame to have dead space in a LEGO model, but of course they have to match the source material, where everything does indeed look very dead, no doubt thanks to Ursula's wickedness and/or poor gardening skills.

That darker empty space also serves a purpose...

Seen from the left side, you can see how busy the model looks.

From the right side, things are calmer overall and areas are well-defined by the use of colour blocking. I prefer this side myself, and from this lower angle you don't notice the barren area so much.

Straight on, it's a masterful balance of light and shade, drawing the eye to different sections of the build.


If you're building something for display at a LEGO show, my advice is to have elements that grab the viewer's attention, with details that then hold that attention. Set 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell is a great example of this: is an eye-grabbing, unusual display piece with plenty of detail and movie references to spot. 

Marcos discussed the development of this unusual concept during the roundtable interview.

Marcos: In my head, it started to look like how you put together an aquarium, where you bring some stones to put together some sort of environment that you fill up the gaps with sand. Because I couldn't really sell an aquarium inside a LEGO box, I figured that the clamshell was the perfect 'stage'. Clamshells are a strong icon that we typically use in our LEGO® Disney™ products featuring Ariel. They're just something that speaks of the character.

I think Marcos is spot on, this set does indeed look like an aquarium piece; and if you're prepared to submerge your LEGO in a giant fish tank, we'd love to see that! If not, it would still look brilliant alongside.

Contrary to Marcos' hopes, the shell does indeed steal the spotlight from the scenery for me, and that's no bad thing. It's a thrilling shape to replicate in LEGO form, and highly original too. While I enjoyed building the scenery, especially the layered use of arches and bows with varying curves, it was the shell construction I found most interesting. The finished shell is so bright and sparkly, like a Busby Berkeley dance routine is about to take place on it, the best word I can use to describe it is "Hollywooood!"  In fact it would be fun to remove the scenery altogether and use the stage for something else. LEGO Botticelli's Birth of Venus, perhaps?

With so many colours involved, I would not say this was a 'parts pack', however the volume of white arches and quarter-domes may tempt you. The mermaids contain the most exciting elements in the set thanks to their stunning printing. Monofig collectors and third-party minifigure customisers will certainly be wanting to get hold of King Triton's unprinted Medium Tan head.

Far from being disappointed by the lack of new moulds, I applaud the successful creation of this set with existing elements. As I said at the beginning, it fooled me into thinking there were new moulds involved!

While the reasons for Sebastian's simplistic appearance make complete sense, I am still left feeling his personality is missing from the final model. I wish there had been enough budget to print on the crab element for the first time, but appreciate this would have meant too many compromises were needed elsewhere. Fans of the original animated version can, of course, replace Sebastian and any other minifigures with the earlier versions.

Some have complained that the rear of the model is unattractive; I find this a strange criticism as I can't imagine a situation where you would choose to display this set without its back facing the wall.

I've saved the best news of all about this set for last: if you're short of a Mardi Gras costume, it's quite simple to remove the top half of the shell.

Our Medium Azure and Vibrant Coral patrons can read more of the LEGO designer interview with design master Marcos Bessa and senior graphic designer Niken Ayumurti Hartomo.

READ MORE: Sail back in time with LEGO® ICONS™ 10320 Eldorado Fortress

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  1. Speaking of Mardi Gras, the mermaids' upper parts would work well for a carnival float...

  2. Good review!

    Every time there's a Little Mermaid set I'm reminded how sad I am that the Lego Elves theme didn't ever get a mermaid-focused season with some of the lovely mini-doll mermaid molds there have been. Karina's hair color even reminds me of Aira's lovely Lavender hair.

    This set does seem to make for a very creative display piece, but I do think the interior detailing isn't the most impressive underwater scenery we've seen (especially releasing alongside the amazing Dragon of the East Palace in Monkie Kid). The organic shelf-like forms of the rocks in this set look good, but I feel like it'd look even better if there were more manmade (er, mer-made) architecture for it to contrast with.