Monthly Archives: December 2012

Most popular LEGO models of 2012

This past year saw an incredible diversity of LEGO creations posted here on The Brothers Brick. It’s not always easy to predict which LEGO models will go viral, but some, like the Batcave, just hit it out of the park.

  1. Carlyle Livingston & Wayne Hussey’s epic LEGO Batcave

01 Batcave1048

  1. Basic brick characters
  2. The 9 Circles of Hell in LEGO
  3. Portal 2 test chambers in LEGO
  4. Ryan McNaught’s Massive LEGO Apollo 11 Saturn V rocket

Me next to the Saturn V

  1. Scrolling LEGO TV featuring Superman
  2. LEGO Skyrim tower
  3. Motorized LEGO Tachikoma from Ghost in the Shell
  4. Blake Baer’s custom Hobbit models

Fire and Water

  1. Mini LEGO Batman Tumbler

Lego Batman mini Tumbler

In contrast to the most popular LEGO models of 2011, the list isn’t as dominated by LEGO Halo models. We enjoy Halo as much as the next LEGO fan (I just finished Halo 4 solo on Legendary last night!), but it’s nice to see other sources of inspiration listed among the most popular models of 2012.

The first year of LEGO Friends – worst toy of the year?

LEGO Friends logoA year ago today, we shared LEGO’s official announcement about their new Friends line. You may recall that images had leaked a few days earlier, and there was already massive controversy swirling all over the web.

The hubbub centered around the very idea (the nerve!) of “pink LEGO” or “LEGO for girls.” Critics suggested that LEGO was reinforcing gender stereotypes and that the sets had been dumbed down for girls, lacking the normal construction-based play common to all other LEGO sets. After our initial shock at the new “mini-dolls,” adult fans of LEGO (AFOLs) generally responded positively, even if we haven’t embraced LEGO Friends as deeply as the latest UCS Star Wars or modular building sets.

The late Heather Braaten summarized the initial AFOL consensus nicely, in a comment on our original post:

I think this is as close as LEGO has ever been to getting it right when it comes to targeting the young female demographic. Appeal to the people who buy the toy for their little girls by making them appear girly and cute and then sneak in the universal appeal of being able to create whatever your imagination desires – whether it’s pink and frilly or a mecha robot that just happens to be purple. I’m not a big fan of the “doll” fig but I think that’s the sentimental side of me speaking. My little girl will probably adore it. Just as long as she builds, I’m a happy camper.

By now, multiple waves of the actual LEGO Friends sets have been out for nearly a year, but the controversy really hasn’t abated. One organization even included LEGO Friends in their list of worst toys of 2012. Really?

As infrequently as I bring up politics, long-time readers of this blog will already know that my personal politics lean rather far to the left. I’m not shy about calling social injustice when I see it, and I’ve posted about marriage equality, pacifism, racism, and so on. Whether you agree with my particular viewpoint or not, I suspect my “progressive credentials” here in the LEGO fan community are not really in question. But I also take issue with unthinking, reactionary opinions from either end of the political spectrum.

Unfortunately, I think that much of the negative criticism surrounding LEGO Friends has been of the unthinking, reactionary sort, and it deserves a good debunking.

Parent and LEGO fan Ty Keltner responded to some of the criticism during a talk at BrickCon in October:

New York Times parenting blogger KJ Dell’Antonia responded specifically to the “worst toy” accusations, saying:

The Lego Friends Butterfly Beauty Shop … remains a noncommercial building toy that promotes an understanding of spatial relationships and calls into play fine motor skills, problem solving and creativity. The fact that it does so by providing the material to build a beauty shop (and then, once that’s done, any number of small square houses that differ from the ordinary Lego house only in their color) shouldn’t be any more “destructive and oppressive” to youth of either sex than the boxes upon boxes of Legos [sic] offering more stereotypically masculine battleships and superheroes.

David Pickett over at Thinking Brickly doesn’t necessarily disagree with some of the critics, but takes on the claims that LEGO Friends sets are dumbed-down (“juniorized” to use AFOL-speak) in terms of construction complexity, and that the women and girls of Heartlake City have been locked in gender stereotypes. David’s post is particularly interesting as it compares LEGO Friends to the new Barbie “construction” sets.

I’ll readily admit that LEGO Friends sets really aren’t my thing — I’ve bought a few to see what the fuss was about, and picked up a few more for parts in interesting colors. I’ll also agree with Ms. Dell’Antonia that these sets don’t do a whole lot to change existing gender roles among children. But is that really the LEGO Group’s responsibility? Like David, I have a lot more problem with LEGO’s marketing today than I do with their core set designs.

Remember this beautiful ad from 1981?

What it is is beautiful

This classic ad demonstrated a clear understanding of gender-neutral childhood development, and contrasts strongly with the gender-locked advertising for today’s play themes — Ninjago, Star Wars, and even LEGO City — that I encounter in LEGO’s TV commercials and in print. When was the last time you saw a girl playing with a LEGO bus or recycling truck in a LEGO ad? I certainly haven’t (though I’ll admit to being outside the target demographic, so it’s possible I may have missed it, and I do love the Build Together campaign).

Despite the advertising industry falling over itself praising LEGO’s latest “creative” ads (more often than not a leaked sample or test ad from an agency bidding on the LEGO Group’s business, and not an actual ad you’ll ever see LEGO use), I believe that the real advertising that children and parents see does reinforce gender stereotypes and traditional gender roles. I’d love to see LEGO City and Creator in particular marketed as often to girls as to boys.

For example, 3368 Space Centericon includes a female astronaut, while the new 60003 Fire Emergency includes a female firefighter.

And yet, the female astronaut in Space Center is the one in all the pictures wearing the opaque helmet, so you’d never know — again, a distinction between a gender-balanced set design and the marketing for the set.

Do LEGO Friends sets include colors that many little girls are attracted to? Undoubtedly. Do the jobs that Mia, Olivia, Andrea, Emma, and the other LEGO Friends characters perform in Heartlake City reflect the wish-fulfillment of the average 8-year-old? Presumably (I wouldn’t know). Nevertheless, I believe that the actual set designs across the full range of the LEGO Friends line do no more and no less harm to the progress of the human race than any other LEGO sets.

What do you think? Sound off in the comments…

Top 10 LEGO news stories of 2012

As 2012 winds down, we reflect back on the LEGO year that was, with a look at the LEGO news stories here on The Brothers Brick that all of you out there read most.

The Winchester 2.0

  1. LEGO rejects Shaun of the Dead project on CUUSOO
  2. LEGO fan Heather Braaten’s death confirmed
  3. First photos of new 2013 LEGO Super Heroes minifigures
  4. 10225 UCS R2-D2 announced
  5. LEGO Minecraft Micro World set officially unveiled
  6. LEGO Friends announcement
  7. First pictures of new 2013 LEGO sets
  8. 10937 Arkham Asylum Breakout unveiled at BrickCon
  9. LEGO news from Toy Fair 2012 in New York City
  10. Monster Fighters 10228 Haunted House announced

Heather BraatenNot surprisingly, announcements about new and upcoming sets fill most of the list.

But this has been another tragic year for the adult fan community as we lost one of our own — beloved SEALUG member and regular BrickCon attendee Heather “LEGO Girl” Braaten went missing at the end of March, and we learned shortly thereafter that she had died.

News about the new “LEGO for girls” from the end of 2011 also ranks high throughout 2012. We’ll have a full post about that here tomorrow, on the anniversary of the announcement.

Life-size LEGO Bag End built by LEGO Model Shop

LEGO posted photos on their Facebook page yesterday of a life-size version of my favorite LEGO set, 79003 An Unexpected Gathering.

Life-size LEGO Bag End

Here’s what LEGO says:

It took a team of 12 model shop employees 3,000 hours to build this life size model of the LEGO Bag End set. In addition to containing over 2 million 1×1 bricks this model has working lights in the fireplace and over the bookstand as well as a chimney that really smokes!

I suspect that this display model was built for an upcoming trade show, like Toy Fair. We’ll ask around and update this post as we learn more.

You can see more views on the official LEGO and LEGO Shop Facebook pages.

Ninjago: 70500 Kai’s Fire Mech [Review]

Another of the sets I bought last week is the smallest of the 2013 Ninjago sets. This is the last wave of Ninjago sets before Legends of Chima takes its place as the go-to theme for battling minifig games, and I’ll be sad to see it go.

Now, I didn’t follow the mythos of Ninjago, or watch the show, so I can’t tell you a lot of backstory about the theme beyond the very broad strokes, but it’s sure included some sweet sets, and 70500 Kai’s Fire Mech is definitely one of them.

79100 CompletedThe set contains a small mech and two minifigures, and feels like a bargain with 102 pieces and a USD $9.99 MSRP. The mech is basically the little sibling of the previous wave’s Samurai Mech, which is my favorite set of 2012. The mech is built with ball joints, which allow it quite a lot of pose-ability. Add to that the full-fingered left-hand, and this is probably Lego’s best mech of this size.

The gold highlights are terrific, especially since so many of them are weapons, which are always useful. This is also the cheapest set thus far to include the new inverted 2×2 tiles. All of the printed parts except for the minifigs are stickers, which I didn’t apply, even though they do look very nice. The only new piece here is the fire mech’s sword, which is transparent yellow infused with transparent neon orange, for quite a cool effect. Here are photos of the inventory pages, for those who are interested.

79100 CompletedThe minifigs look great. Kai has a snazzy black and red outfit, which is just generic enough to be useful for other themes.

The bad guy has a fantastic grimacing visage reminiscent of the masks samurai wore to look fearsome, and a red quiver and hat, both of which are new in that color to this wave of sets. Both minifigs have back printing.

My verdict: this set is a winner. If you’re a fan of Ninjago, mechs, or good Lego deals, you should pick this one up. I enjoyed it so much, I’ve already bought two.

HispaBrick Magazine 015 out now [News]

The latest issue of the excellent HispaBrick Magazine is now available in both Spanish & English.

HispaBrick Magazine 015 cover

Articles in this issue include:

  • A history of flying machines, from a massive LEGO Hindenburg to a Technic Sukhoi SU-37
  • Coverage of recent LEGO fan events, including BrickCon, LEGO Fan Weekend, and HispaBrick’s own event
  • An interview with Sean & Steph Mayo (Siercon & Coral)
  • More tutorials on POV-Ray, LEGO MINDSTORMS and the MILS system
  • And much more…

You can download HispaBrick Magazine 015 for free from HispaBrickMagazine.com.