15 June 2024

LEGO® Icons review: 10338 Bumblebee

Posted by Alex Campos

I was highly sceptical when the rumours of a LEGO® Optimus Prime first surfaced: two of the largest toy-making rivals cooperating? I'd certainly get hit in the face by a flying pig before that! It turned out set 10302 Optimus Prime was very real and I need to be on the lookout for airborne swine. Now lightning strikes twice and another famous Transformers character gets the LEGO treatment, namely 10338 Bumblebee. This means plenty of yellow elements to play with.

Products in this article were gifted by The LEGO Group; the author's opinions are their own.
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10338 Bumblebee
US$89.99/ £79.99/ 89.99€/ AU$149.99
950 parts
Released 1 July 2024

Set 10338 on LEGO.com

New moulds

Two new moulds were designed specifically for this set, but I believe both are very useful and suspect we haven't seen the last of them.

While these may at first sight look like good ol' Brick Round Corner 3 x 3 x 1 (65617), in fact this is a new, larger mould:

These are Brick Round Corner 4 x 4 x 1 with Bottom Cut Outs [No Studs] [1/4 Arch] in Bright Yellow / Yellow (6481578 | 5651). This mould was created to give Bumblebee's fenders his characteristic round look, and this set comes with 8 of these.

 

I apologise for not having the 3x3 version of the round corner brick on hand for comparison, but here are other elements it can be used with. The new brick matches the radii of Brick Round Corner 4 x 4 Macaroni Wide with 3 Studs (48092) and the profile of elements such as Brick Curved 1 x 2 x 1 1/3 with Curved Top (6091). Round parts with a 6-module diameter fit inside, as expected. This mould is a great addition to the portfolio of round LEGO parts.


This is Technic Double Rotation Joint Disk with 3L Beam Thick, in Dark Stone Grey / Dark Bluish Gray (6481578 | 5652), and two of these come in the set.

This mould was also created specifically for 10338. It can be considered a "dog bone" (or a Super Nintendo controller) created by joining two Technic Rotation Joint Disks with Pin and 3L Beam Thick (44225) together.

 

This is how the part is used in the set, forming the "spine" that connects the figure's legs to its upper torso. It forms a compact double joint that allows the model to fold inside itself for transformation.

It's hard to see in the photo, but the holes at the ends of the double rotation joints are larger than a standard pin hole; in reality, the black Technic pins slide right through these and attach to the black and light grey elements instead. The three middle holes are regular Technic pin holes and they behave as expected.


New prints

Although there are stickers in this set, you won't miss much if you decide to not apply them, since the most important decorations are implemented with prints.

By far the most important print is Bumblebee's face, here in a Slope 33° 2 x 2 Double / Inverted (1762) in Medium Stone Grey / Light Bluish Gray. This is the perfect shape for most Transformer faces, and I'm happy to report that there's no yellow printing in this part, so you can easily use it to build other Autobot characters (but not Decepticons, as they usually have red eyes)... as long as you don't mind them all having the same smirk on their faces.


This is the first time this mould gets printed, and we're not off to a great start. As sometimes happens with printed parts, this print is misaligned, which results in a crooked nose. Fortunately, it's not too noticeable head-on and from afar, but I expect better quality control from the premium brand that is LEGO. Hopefully your mileage may vary and you get an aligned print.

 

Right above the printed face is the printed forehead, using one Slope Curved 2 x 1 No Studs [1/2 Bow] (11477) in Yellow. Unlike the face, this print is generic enough to add detail to your non-Transformer builds, as long as they use the yellow colour.

Note that the blurred printing in the image above is only due to the close-up photography having a very shallow depth of field. In real life the printing is sharp throughout, so you don't need to worry.


If you were sad that the Autobot logo only existed in LEGO form with a red background, you will be happy to know that there's one more colour available: Yellow. The set comes with two Tile 2 x 2 with Groove (3068b) printed with this iconic symbol. Now you can properly show the faction of your yellow LEGO Autobot build, such as Grapple (if you interpret him as yellow and not bright light orange), Sunstreaker, or Hubcap.


Bumblebee's legs are a bit plain, but their upper parts get some detail courtesy of these two printed Tile 2 x 4 with Groove (87079) in Black, with dark grey prints. Like Bumblebee's forehead, these prints are generic enough to add detail for your non-Transformer builds. And, like Bumblebee's face, one of the prints (on the right in the photo) is misaligned. Sigh.

 

Recolours

A mostly yellow set is expected to have a large quantity of parts debuting in this colour, and it doesn't disappoint in this regard. I was quite surprised to see many combinations of common moulds and common colours not being done before. 

  • 2x Weapon Axe Head, Clip-on (Viking) [Thick Clip] in Bright Yellow / Yellow (6506035 | 53454)

Axes are more strongly associated with Optimus Prime than his small yellow underling, but here they serve a different purpose: to form Bumblebee's head horns. An interesting part usage that we'll see in more detail later.

 

  • 2x Hinge Brick 1 x 2 Locking with 2 Fingers Horizontal End, 7 Teeth in Bright Yellow / Yellow (6506031 | 54672)
  • 2x Hinge Brick 1 x 2 Locking with 1 Finger Horizontal End in Bright Yellow / Yellow (6500764 | 30541)
This is the newish 7-toothed version of this hinge brick, but the previous version never came in yellow either.

  •  2x Plate Special 1 x 4 Rounded with 2 Open Studs in Bright Yellow / Yellow (6506036 | 77845)

 

As a mostly Technic builder, this is the first time I have this recent part in hand. I find it interesting how similar it is to an old part from my youth: Technic Plate 1 x 4 with Toothed Ends (4263). Besides the migration from Technic System to LEGO System, denoted by the replacement of the pin holes at the ends with studs, the most obvious sign of modernisation is the removal of the versatile, yet fragile, toothed connections from underneath.


  • 2x Bracket 5 x 2 x 2 1/3 with Inside Stud Holder in Bright Yellow / Yellow (6506034 | 76766)

 

  • 4x Technic Brick Special 1 x 2 with Pin Hole and 1 x 2 Plate in Black (6506032 | 73109)

Although new, I'm actually surprised that this part didn't exist in this neutral colour until now.

 

  • 2x Plate Special 1 x 2 with Pin Hole On Side in Black (6506033 | 3172)

 

  • 2x Dark Bluish Grey Plate Round Corner 3 x 3 with 2 x 2 Round Cutout in Dark Stone Grey / Dark Bluish Gray (6506037 | 68568)


Rare elements

Although not exclusive to this set, the following elements are uncommon and therefore welcome.

In 1 other set:

  • 1x Slope Curved 3 x 2 with Stud Notch Left in Bright Yellow / Yellow (6404640 | 80177)
  • 1x Slope Curved 3 x 2 with Stud Notch Right in Bright Yellow / Yellow (6404636 | 80178)

 

In 3 other sets:

  • 6x Brick Special 1 x 1 x 1 2/3 with Studs on 1 Side in Yellow (6441826 | 32952)


In 4 other sets:

  • 2x Brick Round Corner, Curved 3 x 3 x 1 Quarter Circle in Bright Yellow / Yellow (6397957 | 76797)
  • 1x Plate Round Corners 2 x 6 Double in Bright Yellow / Yellow (6116475 | 18980)
  • 1x Tile 1 x 2 with Stud Notch Right in Dark Stone Grey / Dark Bluish Gray (6510145 | 5092)
  • 1x Tile 1 x 2 with Stud Notch Left in Dark Stone Grey / Dark Bluish Gray (6510131 | 5091)

 

In 5 other sets:

  • 5x Tile Special 2 x 2 Inverted in Bright Yellow / Yellow (6411902 | 11203)
  • 4x Arm Skeleton [Bent / 2 Clips] in Medium Stone Grey / Light Bluish Gray (6363108 | 93609)


Other elements of interest

Apart from the stuff mentioned above, there's only other one piece that caught my eye.

  • 2x Tile Round 1 x 1 with Bee print in Transparent / Trans-Clear (6350656 | 98138pr0208)
What's Bumblebee without a bumblebee? Two of these printed elements appear as Easter eggs in the set, while the third is a spare.

 

Sticker sheet

As mentioned before, most of the important decorations in this set are done with prints, so you're not missing much if you choose to not apply its stickers.

The most important sticker is by far the one for the display plaque. It's a shame that this isn't a print instead, as this large sticker isn't easy to apply. On the other hand, being a sticker has the advantage of not applying it, and using the unprinted part elsewhere in your builds.

 

The build

For a LEGO Icons set of this size and price point, the construction is surprisingly simple, perhaps on the level of medium-to-small LEGO® Creator sets. It mostly comprises of stacked bricks and plates with the occasional bracket for studs-on-side construction. This is surely due to the engineering requirements of turning something that looks like a car into something that looks like a humanoid robot, all while being robust enough to endure rough play. The fact that this is a set that's also targeted at the large Transformers fan base, which can't be expected to be as used to complex LEGO building, must be a factor, too.

 

You can see this simplicity right at the beginning of the build. Here is one foot (with wheel arch removed) and its respective leg. The leg is notable for the huge number of stacked plates.

 

For the wrist swivel, I found it odd that, instead of a Technic pin with friction, a ball joint was used, locked to allow only rotation. My hypothesis is that it's to allow room for the plate-and-bracket sandwich in the wrist.

 

After 10 plastic bags (unlike what I have heard, Recognised LEGO Fan Media pre-release review sets aren't necessarily hand-picked to get nice paper bags) and 331 building steps, the model, with its accompanying blaster and display plaque, is finished.

The first thing that pops into people's minds is that it looks nothing like a Beetle. 

Generation 1 Bumblebee's original 1984 toy transforms into a super-deformed VW Beetle, and the accompanying cartoon is notorious for its inconsistency in how the character is depicted. While this made the LEGO designers' job harder in that there was no single "definitive" material to reference, it also had the advantage of giving them more freedom to adapt this iteration to the needs of the plastic brick medium. Plus, various incarnations of Bumblebee have been things like a compact hatchback, a WW2 armoured car, a Willys Jeep, a steam locomotive, or even a dinosaur, so a car different from a perfect VW Beetle (or a Chevy Camaro for you young whippersnappers) isn't abnormal or unheard of.

Having said that, most people who get this set will likely want to display it along 10302 Optimus Prime, which is a quite faithful recreation of the original G1 character. That would be a strong argument in favour of a more faithful representation of Bumblebee.

However, despite many of the shapes being there, particularly in the roof and wheels, I think this incarnation of Bumblebee's alt mode looks too far from a VW Beetle, especially looking from the side. Rather, maybe it looks more like a 1940s car. 


The main culprit is the back, with distinct window and boot sections instead of the Beetle's smooth slope from roof to rear bumper. The pronounced spare wheel, which sometimes is present in the cartoon and sometimes isn't, certainly doesn't help.


Unlike the surrounding regular yellow, these Brick Special 1 x 1 with Studs on 2 Adjacent Sides in Flame are Yellowish Orange / Bright Light Orange (6292415 | 26604). A quick check on Rebrickable shows that this mould isn't produced in yellow, so perhaps the set's budget for recolours was already maxed out and the designers had to opt for the nearest colour. Fortunately, it's not used in places where it would seriously detract from the set's appearance.

 

The back of the car features all the stickers in the set except the one for the plaque. There are two license plate stickers, each with its 2x3 tile to apply to, to choose from.

They include the same features, except for one having "BMBL84" in reference to his name and the year of Transformers' debut, and the other having "GLDBUG" in reference to the upgrade Bumblebee undergoes in some continuities, when he changes his name to Goldbug. On both license plate stickers, the bottom left features the Autobots' spaceship The Ark crashed into a volcano, which served as their main HQ throughout most of their adventures. The bottom right has the date September 17 1984, which is the day the cartoon first aired.

I opted for the "BMBL84" license plate, obviously since he's still Bumblebee and not Goldbug. I don't want to imagine the price of this set if all the yellow parts were Metallic Gold instead...

In a case of stickerception, the rear bumper features stickers that are intended to represent bumper stickers. They're meant to appear misaligned and badly applied when you apply them correctly and aligned... is this irony?

 

Besides the license plates, you have another option: the placement of the insignia that proves he is indeed an Autobot and not a dirty, good for nothin' Decepticon. In the cartoon, Bumblebee sometimes has the insignia on his chest (which becomes the car's roof) and sometimes has it on his left foot (which becomes the car's bonnet). The set gives you four yellow 2 x 2 tiles: two blank and two with the insignia, so you can choose where to have an insignia and where to have a blank. I decided to have the insignia in both locations, because I'm a firm believer that a robot in disguise should advertise its allegiance as blatantly as possible.

 

I bet that sooner or later we'll get a 1x1 version of Brick Curved 1 x 2 x 1 No Studs (37352) to better match the profile of other curved elements.


Looking at the bottom, you'll notice that Bumblebee actually features 8 wheels, not 4. The small wheels are meant for the robot mode, to prevent it from sliding around. Fortunately, they don't hinder rolling in car mode whatsoever.

The bottom view hides the robot features well, and reminds me of LEGO Creator 3-in-1 sets that have the parts required for the alternate models hidden away.


The model is very sturdy and hefty, and holds up well in car mode, thanks to plenty of clip connections and the stiffness of the large click hinges. The exception is the rear, held in place by gravity alone. If you turn the car upside down, the whole rear easily opens up and exposes the robot head. This problem could be solved if somehow the rear bumper could clip to the fenders, but I don't see any immediate way to do this.

 

I wasn't going to mention this, but, since it's advertised on the back of the box, I have to. You can kinda sorta open the car's doors, but I don't see the point in that: the portion that opens isn't what you'd expect of a car door, and inside there's nothing interesting to look at. In reality, the "opening doors" are there for transformation and you should forget any other purposes for them.


If you look carefully, you'll see a tiny bumblebee peeking out of Bumblebee's windscreen. I find it cute, but if I were riding in a car and saw a bee flying around inside with me, I'd be just a teeny tiny nervous instead.

Sorry for not making an animation or a video showing the transformation, but I couldn't find any way to do it without showing my ugly ogre hands. Not to worry, though: the instructions booklet contains a QR code for this video (OK, start worrying – it is still unavailable at time of writing), which should show you how it's done. 

But still, I want to show you the first step: you need to remove the windscreen and put it off to the side until the end of the transformation. "WHAT, PARTSFORMING?! WORST TOY EV..." Shh, it's OK, it's OK. I bet the designers really tried to implement a transformation that didn't involve removing and re-attaching parts, but couldn't come up with a satisfactory solution.

 

After a surprisingly large number of transformation steps, here we have Bumblebee ready to make friends with humans. Right off the bat, I can say that he unmistakably looks like a G1 Bumblebee, with the bonnet feet, the black legs, the roof chest, and the black details on the arms. 

I do think the arms are mounted too high on the shoulders, which gives him gigantic shoulder pads that would put Ultra Magnus to shame. Bumblebee doesn't typically have shoulder pads, especially G1-inspired versions, and lowering the arm attachment points would at the same time eliminate the shoulder pads and make the hands reach lower, both of which would contribute for a better-proportioned body.


I never thought I'd say this, but that is a beautifully sculpted crotch. The stacked elements with different curvatures really work together to form this shape.


When viewed from the side, his enormous shoulder pads look even bigger. I wonder, how does Bumblebee look both ways before crossing the street?


Speaking of side view, the hips connect to the upper torso just by the double rotation joint disks, with the crotch piece resting against it. This makes the model's midsection a bit bare, but fortunately you won't notice that from most angles, unless you're specifically looking for it.

 

The last step of the transformation is to get the windscreen you detached at the beginning, fold it in half, and stick it on the model's back. The official explanation is that this is a jetpack that looks like little bee wings, but I don't remember G1 Bumblebee ever having wings or a jetpack. My suspicion is that the car windscreen had nowhere to go during transformation, so this is the best they could come up with.

 

While we're at the back, here's another view of the spine formed by the double rotation joint disks. The required angle to have the torso correctly positioned gives Bumblebee really taut glutes... now this is putting the "bum" in "Bumblebee".


This is my favourite part of the set: the head. The shaping, the Viking axes used as horns, the sloped face: everything comes together to form a perfect Bumblebee head. Too bad that this review copy has a misaligned face print, but fortunately it's barely noticeable.


Bumblebee comes with a black and dark blue blaster. It looks cool by itself, but I don't remember him having such a large weapon in the cartoon or the few comics that reached my homeland Portugal. In fact, as a small Autobot who interacted a lot with the squishy humans, he rarely wielded a weapon at all. I guess you can just leave the blaster off for more accuracy.

 

The other accessory that comes with the set is the display plaque. It has a picture of Bumblebee, his function, motto and tech specs, and his name both in Latin alphabet and Autobot script.


The back of the plaque features another Easter egg: a second copy of the round tile with bee print. Just in case you forgot the name of the character.

 

To ensure stability, the robot mode doesn't have much articulation. The head is on a ball joint, the shoulders have two degrees of motion, the elbows are single-jointed, the wrists swivel, each finger is poseable, there's no waist swivel, the hips can pivot to the sides and backwards (not forwards), and there's nothing at the knees or feet. Still, with some care, you can get him into somewhat dynamic poses.

 

The huge shoulders and small forearms definitely look weird together if you bend the elbows 90º. This arm design reminds me of the figure in the Titans Return line.


I couldn't find anywhere on the altmode to store the blaster, besides the spare tyre. It looks ridiculous, just like most weapon storage in Transformers toys, but I guess this way Bumblebee can shoot down Decepticons that are chasing him? That's another reason to chuck the blaster in a drawer somewhere or take it apart and into your parts bin.

Spare parts

I don't usually pay much attention to the spare parts, as they typically consist of the usual assortment of replacements for small parts that can be accidentally lost or missing. But in this case we get more than usual: two yellow 2x2 tiles, either plain or printed with the Autobot insignia depending on which you choose to use on the model, and a white 2x3 tile, onto which you can apply the second license plate sticker to swap at will.


Closing thoughts

While this is an adequate model of G1 Bumblebee's robot mode, the robot mode also suffers in poseability and the vehicle mode suffers a lot in looks. Mind you, it's OK that it doesn't have to look like a VW Beetle; just take a look at all the toy variations. It's just that in my opinion the car looks plain ugly. It's understandable that in this case the form is severely limited by the transforming function and the fact that it's made of bricks that must be easy to assemble and can withstand handling and play, which leads to my painful conclusion. 

While it's commendable that two rival companies join forces to create something that appeals to both fanbases, building blocks is just not the ideal way to implement transforming robots. I'm personally a fan of LEGO and of Transformers, but sadly not LEGO Transformers.

Now, about what likely matters the most to you, dear New Elementary readers: the elements. This is an excellent source of yellow elements, be they common, rare or brand new. Figure builders will also find interesting stuff here, in the form of the several hinge elements, including the new "dogbone" double rotation joint. The face and insignia prints should also be useful for those attempting to build their own Autobot characters.

So, in conclusion: this set is for you if you want to expand your yellow parts inventory, or if you really like the concept of LEGO Transformers. Otherwise, for the price of €89.99 / $89.99 / £79.99, you can get either a more interesting LEGO set or a more interesting Transformers figure.


The instruction booklet's introduction section talks about bringing down even the most formidable enemy. "I've got you now, Ravage! You're... uh... under arrest... uh... please don't hurt me." 


Set 10338 on LEGO.com

READ MORE: See all the new parts in LEGO® Icons 10337 Lamborghini Countach 5000 Quattrovalvole

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5 comments:

  1. Great collection of yellow parts and I looove the new round corners! I was hoping this set was going to from the bumblebee film and more greebly. Really enjoyed your review!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not sure if it could be more greebly: I feel it's already at the limit of what can be done with LEGO that still transforms.

      Delete
  2. Wow, those shoulders are really huge: the set images really make them look much smaller than they really are, unfortunately….

    ReplyDelete
  3. Could you not patronize and insult the fans who don't like partsforming? Like it's too much to expect the whole thing to transform as one? I've done the math, it's possible, they did this to break up the color palette and make him thin, which was wholly unnecessary.

    ReplyDelete