31 December 2023

LEGO® Friends build review and interview: 42639 Andrea's Modern Mansion

Posted by tobymac

With 2275 parts, 42639 Andrea’s Modern Mansion is the largest LEGO® Friends set to date. These parts include a lot of interesting new elements which we’ve already taken a look at, but now it’s time to start building!

Products in this article were gifted by The LEGO Group; the author's opinions are their own. This article contains affiliate links to LEGO.com; we may get a small commission if you purchase.
42639 Andrea's Modern Mansion
US$199.99/ £169.99/ 199.99€/ AU$349.99
2275 parts
1 January 2024
Set 42639 on LEGO.com

In addition to receiving a preview copy, I was invited on behalf of New Elementary to a roundtable discussion with the set's designer Wes Talbott and the creative lead for LEGO Friends, Fenella Charity. We discussed the design process, the completed set, and its new elements and some insights from them are included throughout this article.

The set

The mansion is the first LEGO Friends set to carry a 14+ age mark. Wes Talbott explains the reason behind that label:

LEGO Friends is typically more kind of 7+, and so you have to make things a lot simpler, for younger children to handle. Because this one is high, we can just go a bit more wild. It's about the same level of complexity as you could get with the Modular Buildings, things like that. Once you get 14+, it's not that far from 18+.

- Wes Talbott 

After the 10th anniversary of the theme, the LEGO Friends Universe got a reboot. The first children to play with the theme have grown up; so too have the characters. The original group of 5 friends have become adults, and a new generation have taken their place. But the reboot is not limited to just the characters.

When we relaunched the brand, we really took a look inside; what are we about? How do we want to represent children and people around the world? By doing that, we've become much clearer on our purpose, and also what makes us unique within The LEGO Group amongst other themes.

Before, we were sort of targeting one audience. Now, we want to welcome anyone that wants to get to know LEGO Friends and to build the sets. I think that resonates with people from different walks of life, and all sorts of diversity and ages.

Fenella Charity 

The mansion is not based upon a single architecture style or area, but a mix of styles made to fit within the LEGO Friends lineup:

I myself am not a huge modern architecture fan… but I did a lot of research and looked at types of these big modern mansion style homes. A lot of it is based around simple geometric shapes, so it lends itself really well to LEGO building.

And then, how do we get it to be 'LEGO Friends'? I mean, obviously color is a huge part of the appeal, but also not to overdo it just because it has a higher age mark. So we honed in on this kind of accent gradient stripe to be the primary eye catching ingredient. That is just enough to make it feel like it's rooted in LEGO Friends, along with all the interior and all those layers and layers of details that we always put in LEGO Friends models.

- Wes Talbott

I got a direct Miami or L.A. vibe from the mansion, like it was taken from the slopes of the Beverly Hills. 

We never actually explicitly made Heartlake City in a specific country. When we meet children, they're like: "Oh my gosh, it's a nice city". So in that regard, we've been inspired by architecture that exists around the world.

When we were designing the packaging we were talking about having a city in the background but we really felt like having this sea view. On this cliff, it just makes it feel that much more epic. 

- Fenella Charity 

The mini-dolls

With a set aimed at the original generation of fans, it is no surprise to find the original friends present. 

From left to right we get: Andrea, Mia, Emma, Stephanie and Olivia, all in adult form. Adult Mia has been seen before as the mother of Autumn in the reboot, and in the summer of 2023, Stephanie was introduced as the mayor of Heartlake City. Andrea is returning in 2024 as a judge in 42616 Heartlake City Music Talent Show, sparking the inspiration for the mansion.

The downtown design store is about building your furniture into your apartment; that interior design passion. The botanical gardens is about learning about flowers; we had that in the building instructions. And then the amusement park is really the functionality; the technical aspect to it. All of those sets had an aspect to them that was new. So we thought, "what's the extra factor to this brief?" and it was that we want to appeal to this older audience.

We know that they want mastery and challenge; we then decided it could be a 'LEGO memory' that is exclusive. Then we thought, what about Andrea's mansion? She has grown up and become this megastar and businesswoman, an amazing entrepreneur who has this mansion together with her family.

- Fenella Charity

But wait, according to set 42605 Mars Space Base and Rocket, Olivia is currently in space!?

We caught that kind of early and we're like, oooh, wait. 

- Wes Talbott

Yeah, we were like, should Olivia be on video message? And we thought; that's not good. There is an episode in the show about this. So I can't say a lot about the whole story, but yeah, we definitely have those conversations about the continuity of everything. And at the same time, though, we are definitely sometimes having that reality with a twist perspective.
So in in terms of the event, the occasion, it's actually up to the kids to decide that. I think the the idea that we wanted to bring in the set was the old generation meets the new generation. So it's a reunion in the sense that they've not seen each other for ages, and mainly because Olivia was on Mars and and the new generation is there because Mia has brought Autumn along and she's brought her new friends there. So that's really where we combined the two worlds.

- Fenella Charity

The new generation has not been forgotten though, as 3 characters from the new group make an appearance as well. It’s no surprise to see Autumn, as she is Mia’s daughter. In the TV series, Leo and Paisley organize the music for the opening of the community center, so I assume they will run the talent show as well. Although, seeing as she is performing in the talent show as her alter ego Ley La, Paisley might really have come along to learn from Andrea’s experience. 

There are also 2 new characters: Imani is the daughter of Andrea and her husband Ji-Won, a retired K-pop star. 

Aside from the mini-dolls and a newly printed bird, all decorations are handled by a sticker sheet which includes a lot of photo portraits.

The build

Enough talk, time to start building! We start with a car, designed with the funky colors you would expect from a K-pop star.

I’ve built my fair share of cars in LEGO Friends sets, but this one feels different. I’m not familiar with car brands, but if you told me this was a LEGO® Speed Champions from the 6-stud width era, I would have believed you. 

OK, she's got this mansion; she's gonna have a cool car of some sort! It's only the second car I've ever made. The first one was a grocery store truck [found in 41729 Organic Grocery Store]. I'm not a car person at all, so was basically looking at supercars and being a bit inspired by what LEGO Speed Champions do. But how do we do something awesome like that with LEGO Friends? The tinted glass and color is, like, way out there but it's just too fun to not do!

- Wes Talbott 

 The car gives us multiple recolors:

  • Wheel Arch, Mudguard 4 x 2 x 2 in Dark Turquoise (6465251 | 3387)
  • Windscreen 4 x 6 x 1 1/3 in Trans-Dark Pink (6480901 | 3384)
  • Slope Curved 3 x 2 with Stud Notch Right in Dark Turquoise (6472883 | 80178)
  • Slope Curved 3 x 2 with Stud Notch Left in Dark Turquoise (6472884 | 80177)
  • Wheel 18 x 12 with Pin Hole and Stud in Coral (6472888 | 66727)
  • Slope Curved 2 x 1 No Studs [1/2 Bow] in Trans-Red (6468878 | 11477)

The Trans-Red is of particular interest to car builders.

A car needs a garage, and here we move from LEGO Speed Champions to LEGO Technic: a clever mechanism opens the door and tilts the floor to roll out the car. The mechanism works great once all parts are in place, but I did notice the front of the car tends to scrape the floor.

A sidenote: Slope 10° 6 x 8 has received an update during 2022 which I don't think we have reported to you yet. The new variation 3292 (on the right) is slightly different on its underside compared to 4515 (left).

The front of the garage shows the first use in the build of the new color Reddish Orange, within a colorful gradient. To one side we find the start of an elevator shaft. 

In the front of the mansion is a rock formation with flowers I haven’t seen before, shown below. The rock is a separate build put in place in its entirety. The empty space behind would have been perfect for an Easter egg:

The ground floor also features a music studio, which hides a foldout bed. It’s a fun detail, but I’m surprised a mansion of this class is running out of room so fast. 

On the edge of the mansion we find the new Brick Round Corner 3 x 3 Macaroni Wide (6472905 | 5152) used as walls for the garden.

While other LEGO Friends sets are often built in modules, the finished mansion floor is a single, sturdy section that can be moved around easily. 

The next floor features a terrace with a jacuzzi. I read some comments online that the jacuzzi has quite a few holes in it, but that is just the outside decoration. The inside is glass, created with the new Panel 3 x 3 x 2 (more details on that part here). 

On the table we find Trans-Clear saucers, a recent recolor found in 10321 Corvette, as well as the recently revived sundae glasses which came back in 2 sets in 2023 after a single initial appearance in 2020. 

On the back of the terrace, Jo-Win treats us to a performance on a cute piano.

On the other side of the mansion we find a pool, where a transparent panel cleverly suggests a floating floatation ring. In between is a (very) small kitchen and the elevator shaft. The curved wall behind the shaft looks great but is constructed in a surprisingly easy way: it’s a stack of SNOT bricks holding arched bricks. I do hope the mansion is located in a warm climate, as those gaps will get drafty.

Onto the top floor, where we find Imani’s bedroom with an adjacent bathroom. This room has the biggest LEGO Friends vibe for me, including all the little details like a toilet that make the house feel real. Imani's blanket is space-themed; a reference to Olivia, who became an astronaut.

We wanted to make that connection. Olivia is kind of a hero to Andrea’s daughter and we thought that would be a really cool little detail.

- Fenella Charity 

On the outside of the room a black frame gives a modern look to the mansion, with the Reddish Orange fitting in with the color gradient wonderfully. The garage door sections use as window louvres look great as well, providing shade to the room as well as complimenting the gradient on the frame. The pins on the garage door sections stick out a bit, requiring some creative solutions to make them fit inside the frame.

The other room on the top floor is set at an angle, adding to the modern look of the mansion. Within, we create a lounge area with a lime green bird. Andrea had a pet parrot named Pepper who, as far as I can find, was always magenta, so it looks like Pepper didn’t make it through the time jump. Or maybe it stayed with Andrea’s parents while she was on tour?

In between the rooms is a hallway showing a lot of portraits, telling Andrea’s life. One of these photos can also be found in an other set. I’m not certain, but the stickered tiles (which I applied crookedly) could represent programs of the shows she performed in, or maybe diplomas or rewards?

On the roof we find another terrace, as well as a tranquil area for yoga and meditation. I love the waterfall pouring over the side of the mansion. I just hope the koi know to keep clear, otherwise they are in for a thrilling ride.

I mentioned the elevator shaft earlier, so let’s have a closer look. 

The shaft is made up out of Door Frame 3 x 6 x 6 with Inside Grooves in White (6427520 | 3417), first seen earlier this year in 10788 Gabby’s Dollhouse. Inside this frame we find the first unprinted appearance of Brick Special 6 x 6 x 5 with Gear Hole, 3 x 4 Plate in Black (6472889 | 3863), a mold also first seen in set 10788. This elevator piece can be lifted using the new worm gear introduced in LEGO® City early in 2023. I’ve already taken a closer look at this gear and its family, so I’ll skip describing the function here.

Unlike Gabby’s Dollhouse, the frames are combined with Brick 1 x 2 with Groove, allowing for a more secure anchoring of the frames into the structure of the house. In the top we find another bit of LEGO Technic, where a knob controls the lifting and lowering. 

The finished structure is a nice circle, created by the new Brick Curved 1 x 4 x 1 2/3 in White (6433643 | 3573). We’ve examined this brick in our review of 10321 Corvette.

The platform of the elevator does not fit snugly inside the shaft, instead leaving a gap for the characters to step over, but I assume that fitting it tighter resulted in jams.

The final touches are added by the palm trees, which introduce the new Plant, Fern 3 x 4 x 3 in Lime (6460334 | 5151). The notch in the base plate allows for the addition of an axle to make the tree more sturdy. 

I love the look of these trees, and I’m looking forward to the other uses the designers can come up with for this great new mold.

Conclusion

Andrea’s Mansion is certainly worth the 14+ label, as it features the most intriguing build I’ve experienced within the LEGO Friends theme so far. The techniques that are used, combined with the overall size, will make it too complicated for most children in the 7 to 9 year old range. The build is perfect for teenagers who grew up with the theme and are now getting bored with the regular sets, but for whom sets like Modulars are still a bit too far away. All this, while still staying a true LEGO Friends experience!

So the label is spot on, but does the same goes for the set itself? Well, there is a lot to love. 

The color scheme looks beautiful with that gradient prominently featured on the front. The rooms are decorated nicely as well, with enough personal details to make it feel like a home, despite my dislike of modern architecture in general. 

I’m more a function-over-form type of guy; I'd prefer to live in a gray cube that includes a hobby room rather than a staircase that looks beautiful but takes up space! But that is a personal issue, and nothing the set is at fault for. 

For the type of building we get, the designer did a great job creating a mansion that is not too ‘Friendsy’ but still can fit in that universe. I especially appreciate the mansion being in one piece rahter than modular sections. Furthermore, the build is self-contained, without any side builds that need to be placed outside of the mansion. That is not an issue with a set that is purely meant to be played with, but this one will probably be used as a display piece in many cases.

I really love the wall of pictures, telling a story across the time jump without using words; a great feat by the graphic designer. The mini-dolls look excellent as well, with the original group being a true representation of their adult form. I wish I had aged this well…

A minor issue for me is the elevator shaft in the basement. It looks a bit messy with the transparent round panel in the back showing the underside of the rock in the front. I would have chosen either a solid color or some form of decoration in the empty space. Granted, this is all the way in the back of the basement, so don’t take it as a serious issue. As I mentioned the platform doesn't fit snugly inside the shaft which is understandable, but I would have preferred a bit of a better fit with at least a rounded corner to flow with the walls. All this doesn't mean I don’t love the elevator itself, as it’s a great play feature of the set.

For the perspective on new elements, be sure to check my parts review of this set if you haven't already. If you're buying this once it's released on 1 January 2024, please consider buying set 42639 on LEGO.com using our affiliate link. We may earn a small fee which really helps us continue our work!

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6 comments:

  1. largest LEGO Friends set to date*

    ReplyDelete
  2. Nice review! I love the interview. I met Fenella many years ago at BrickFair VA, and Wes has been one of my favorite Lego designers since his work on Lego Elves.

    The garage function is really neat, especially given how it activates the opening door and tilting floor in sequence (instead of at the same time, which could cause the car to collide into the door and would complicate "reloading" the car into the garage).

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great point!I bet they went through a few rounds.

      Delete
  3. Concerning Olivia, haven't you seen the movie "Moon"?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Phillip Thorne2 Jan 2024, 20:52:00

    Given its location adjoining the indoor/outdoor lounge with a table full of drinks, I surmise the "(very) small kitchen" is meant to be a wet bar. The full kitchen and other features of any self-respecting mansion (master bedroom, master bath, entryway powder room, home theater, etc.) aren't depicted.

    ReplyDelete