LEGO Harry Potter 76403 The Ministry of Magic [Review]

When LEGO announced the summer 2022 sets, two stood out as covering new ground. Here we have the first appearance of the Ministry of Magic, a pivotal setting from the later books (and movies). It’s a large location, and LEGO has chosen to cover a series of vignettes from both the Order of the Phoenix and the Deathly Hallows. Does this approach pay off for the second-biggest Harry Potter set in this wave? 76404 The Ministry of Magic has 990 pieces and comes with nine minifigures, almost all with printing unique to this set and several completely new to LEGO form. It will be available June 19th for US $99.99 | CAN $129.99 | UK £89.99.

This set is based on a license The LEGO Group has with the Warner Brothers films, not J.K. Rowling directly. The transphobic views expressed by Rowling do not reflect the values of The Brothers Brick or, indeed, those of The LEGO Group. The magical world Rowling created, in which many who felt a bit different could see themselves, meant a great deal to so many people, including those that Rowling now demeans. TBB affirms each individual LEGO fan’s choice to claim a piece of the world for themselves, or to reject it entirely.

The LEGO Group provided The Brothers Brick with an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

Inside the box

LEGO has been talking a lot recently about transitioning to environmentally friendly packaging. Most of the discussion has been around the upcoming change to paper bags inside sets rather than plastic. When we opened our review copy of this set, we saw the familiar numbered plastic bags – but also a cardboard envelope protecting the instructions. It’s thick enough to do a great job protecting the instructions and sticker sheet and is decorated with some generic instruction steps. It’d be a nice touch if the instructions depicted were actually from this set, but presumably, this is a generic design that will be re-used in place of plastic sleeves going forward.

Opening the envelope reveals a new style for Harry Potter instruction manuals. Gone is the dark blue style we’ve had since the theme returned in 2018, in favor of an attractive white with a light silvery brick pattern behind it. It looks fresh and quite nice. The inside cover of the instruction manual has a version of the small flyer that’s been included in recent sets about the switch to recyclable packaging. The sticker sheet is modest for a large licensed set, and there are no loose pieces. Looking at the seven numbered bags, the dark green theme is clear, but also bits of color that will pick out specific rooms in the build. If you’re looking for parts, the standouts in this set are the 48 dark green brick-pattern profile bricks included, a new color for that part, and the 80 – eighty! – red candle pieces. That’s not a new color, but it’s only been in three sets before, and none of those included more than four.

The build

The first element of the build is the visitor’s entrance to the Ministry – a red telephone box. The door features a new red lattice print which matches the source material exactly, but the sides stick out and show off-color parts in a way that seems unnecessary. When I built it, I assumed that it was going to slot into some kind of slide mechanism later, but that never materializes (to be fair, you’d be hard-pressed to find something like that in the source material). The eight curved corner slopes that top the roof gives a very pleasing shape, though.

From there, we move on to six largely similar, modular elements that make up the Ministry. The facades do a reasonable job of matching offices that can be seen in the background in the movies, with a combination of red pillars and dark-green bricks. You can arrange the six modules in any order, and the back of the box points out that you don’t need to keep them to two stacks of three, either, but if you initially follow the instructions, each side will start with one of the two modules that don’t feature windows. The first, appropriately, is an employee entrance – the fireplace that one appears in after flushing oneself down the appropriate public toilet. Given LEGO’s history of toilet humor, it’s a small disappointment that we don’t get more of a reference to what’s on the other end of this fireplace!

The bay windows are done similarly to the apartment in 10270 Bookshop. It’s not a very complicated technique, but the candle pieces work really well to fill the gaps between the angled windows.

The other two modules on the first stack offer a courtroom, where you can have Dolores Umbridge sentence innocents to Azkaban prison, and Umbridge’s office, where you can think happily about cats. The office is appropriately pink and fuzzy, adorned with ribbons, cats, Ministry business, and, of course, a teacup.

Next, we move to a very scaled-down representation of the Fountain of Magical Brethren, and a set of launchable newspapers. Your reviewer has wracked both brain and Google, but the best I’ve got is that my 14-year-old says that either a newsstand is destroyed or newspapers are flung around during the duel between Voldemort and Dumbledore in the Ministry towards the end of Order of the Phoenix. Even reviewing movie clips I’m not sure about this, but in any case, you can launch stacks of newspapers across the Ministry! Knock over your friends, your enemies, or Umbridge’s Patronus cat!

The second side is completed with a module representing the Hall of Prophecies, and Arthur Weasley’s office. The Hall uses LEGO’s new pearlescent opal pieces to lovely effect – the pictures actually show it nicely, and we recommend just playing with the shelf of prophecies under a bit of light. It’s maybe the most quietly magical piece of the set.

Arthur Weasley’s office is stuffed full of Muggle items befitting his job in the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office as well as his fascination with Muggle technology, and general clutter befitting a Weasley. The family portrait is from the Weasley’s trip to Egypt, and is a key plot point in the Prisoner of Azkaban, revealing Peter Pettigrew’s survival (in the form of Scabbers) to Sirius Black. You may well wonder, what exactly is the function of a rubber duck? And enjoy the radio and other scattered implements. By the by, the Misuse of Muggle Artefacts office provides yet another opportunity to include a misbehaving enchanted toilet that LEGO passes by.

The final bit of the build tops off the two columns and joins them with a floating desk, presumably a version of the Atrium or Security desks. The instructions direct you to place the two Decoy Detonators built earlier on it, to provide a distraction for Harry to get into Umbridge’s office.

The Minifigures

With nine minifigures, eight of them unique to this set and a full six representing characters that have not appeared as minifigures before, this set will be quite appealing to collectors and character enthusiasts.

We start with Albert Runcorn, Mafalda Hopkirk, and Reg Cattermole – a.k.a. Harry Potter, Hermione Granger, and Ron Weasley! Each figure comes with an extra hairpiece and a double-sided head, one for the main protagonist and one for the Ministry employee they impersonate to gain access in the search for the Slytherin locket. Only Harry/Runcorn gets leg printing, representing Runcorn’s long jacket, but the standout element is Mafalda’s torso. It’s a great match to the source material and should be very useful for any modern business character as well.

The Dementor is the same version that has been appearing since the 2018 restart of the Harry Potter theme, but it’s a very nice figure with the swirled black-and-clear “ghost” style leg piece, and Dementors are sort of the Stormtroopers of the Harry Potter world; more identical ones are quite useful. I was unreasonably happy to finally get one of these cape boxes with punched-out “studs”; it’s a great piece-that’s-not-a-piece for freight palettes and other creative uses.

Pius Thicknesse and Corban Yaxley are new in minifigure form, and this version of Dolores Umbridge is new, featuring her very snake-like (hmmm!) cat scarf. All three have back printing, and Thicknesse and Umbridge have double-sided heads with alternate expressions. None of them have leg printing though. Umbridge’s cat Patronus is also new, expanding the range of sparkly animals available to fans.

Arthur Weasley and Mary Cattermole round out the selection. Mary is a very nice character, both matching the source material and also just a nice figure, with a silvery texture extending to the legs representing her dress under a blue jacket. Both also have alternate expressions and back printing. Arthur has a tile that perhaps represents a Fizzing Whizzbee, but can be re-used anywhere you want an adorable bee!

Finished Build and Recommendation

The sets that represent various pieces of Hogwarts Castle have always made a practical compromise between outer scale – representing facades of much larger buildings – and inner scale, making playable and recognizable vignettes representing scenes from the movies. The office windows in the Ministry that the exterior of the modules are based on are smaller than the large Hogwarts structures in other sets, but the interior scale still ends up feeling very cramped. The two offices work reasonably well, but the courtroom, in particular, is a very sketchy suggestion of the full setting.

The full structure is also, unfortunately, fragile. It’s easy to “cave in” the window sections on each module by picking them up roughly. When combining them, each module attaches by four studs, two on either side, and this works reasonably well… until you try to pick it up. Placing the connection between the towers at the top means that if you try to pick it up at the bottom, you must hold the two stacks exactly as far apart at the bottom as they are fixed at the top because any flex will cause the modules to pop apart. And if you try picking it up from the top instead, you’ll probably discover that the modules are heavy enough that four studs aren’t enough to hold them up. I had the same two modules crash to the floor, twice, just in the process of trying to photograph the build. And once this happens, you may need to finish disassembling things entirely; the construction techniques used do not lend themselves to being placed back together after the fact.

I’m not sure how kids will end up playing with this set. You can rearrange the sections, but most of the configurations are fragile and seem destined to lead to frustration and breakage. As a display, the exteriors are attractive enough, though they lack the detail of larger sets like Diagon Alley. Turned around, the vignette scenes are clearly playset-oriented.

The modularity also implies potential expansion, but buying two Ministry sets to connect together isn’t very appealing – you’d just be doubling the number of unique scenes and figures. That leaves playing with the vignettes individually. There are certainly enough minifigures and accessories included to make up scenes, but I just don’t see it as good value for $100. Minifigure collectors and completists may well disagree, and the eight unique figures are a strong entry. Ultimately, if you want every unique figure, you’re going to want this set, but if you’re choosing between this and other options, the summer wave has more successful playsets.

76403 The Ministry of Magic contains 990 pieces and 9 minifigures. It will be available from the LEGO Shop and worldwide starting June 19th for US $99.99 | CAN $129.99 | UK £89.99 or from Amazon. It may also be available from third-party sellers on eBay.

The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.

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12 comments on “LEGO Harry Potter 76403 The Ministry of Magic [Review]

  1. Xander Burger

    The flying newspapers are actually from Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows part 1. When Harry, Ron, and Hermione are running from Yaxley, Harry sends them flying everywhere as a distraction. That is also why there are newspapers on the windows in the Hall of Prophecy.

  2. Jack

    Just wanted to get ahead of any reactionary pile-on, and thank you for the uncompromising disclaimer at the top there. More power to your elbow!

  3. Wem Wem

    Really appreciate the disclaimer at the top. As an LGBT AFOL, the Harry Potter line invokes mixed emotions – appreciation for the craft and care put into the set, with distaste for the source of the whole series.

    Lego doesn’t exist in a vacuum and real world issues that relate to sets should be open topics for discussion. I appreciate TBB for their stance and their care.

  4. InGen

    I’m really glad for the new disclaimer. Wish Lego would just drop the brand completely (considering how poorly the recent movie did anyways it could be entirely justified)

    As a set this feels like a complete miss, fun but not displayable vignettes and too fragile to be properly played with. It just makes you wonder who the target demo for this was.

  5. Crusader

    I have to disagree. I prefer to keep my plastic bricks and politics/social issue completely apart from each other. I’d prefer to read a review of a Lego set without such commentary. Everybody is welcome to their opinions. Just my 2 cents, not trying to work anyone up or say that their views are wrong or anything.

    And nice review of a mediocre set. I really appreciate the site’s objectivity.

  6. Jake

    Personally, I find it actually demeaning to characterise the creator of the Harry Potter saga as ‘transphobic’ for voicing a perfectly valid opinion on a contentious issue, The realisation that some people (who might otherwise claim to be tolerant and liberal minded in the classical sense of the word), take such umbrage over one opinion to denigrate or other the creator of a fictional world that supposedly meant a great deal to them also comes across as particularly discourteous, especially when in the wider scheme of things, there are actually more distressing life and death issues affecting millions of people worldwide. Equally, that we have to now include disclaimers over reviews on what is essentially a children’s toy seems to further underscore the warped priorities of people in Western societies.

    First World issues aside, your review is appreciated. As I principally collect sets based on the appeal of the LEGO Minifigures included and their common world versatilty for MOC purposes, the modular building style of this Ministry of Magic set does not really appeal to me, but the new face and torso prints do. Moreover, given the ongoing cost of living crisis affecting the world at large, it would be rather superficial to quibble over the cost of this set relative to other similarly priced licensed themes (as well as LEGO’s own in-house themes).

  7. InGen

    @Crusader @Jake I’d personally rather one of the richest and most powerful creators in the world didn’t consistently call for actions that actively lead to the hurt and deaths of me and my friends and if you can’t see it in yourselves to care about that over the “Wah keep your politics out of my toys” stances then I wish you could develop some empathy for other people.

  8. Crusader

    @InGen, I really wasn’t trying to comment on anyone’s take on the issue, just that I’d rather not hear about it at all..on this specific site. I come here to see the amazing creations and the best Lego reviews, not politics preferably. The Brothers Brick can do whatever they like and post whatever they like, I was just stating my preferences. You and I might agree or disagree on hundreds of issues, but it’s really cool that we both think that Lego is awesome and I’d rather focus on that!

  9. Jake

    @InGen, I concur with @Crusader on the last point: we may agree or disagree on the issue of whether or not a disclaimer is necessary for a fan review of a LEGO product, but that should not detract from the fact that we think LEGO as a medium for self expression and creativity is great.

    That being said, I do find it extraordinary that anyone could go so far as to say that J K Rowling has consistently called for actions that lead to the hurt and deaths of people, when all she did was make it public that she disagrees with the idea that natal women and men are biologically the same. Just because someone may take an opposing view on the idea of strengthening the rights of transgendered people, or believes that the proponents of such rights do not acknowledge or consider the possible impact this may have on the existing sex-based rights of women (or men), should not immediately infer that they hold no empathy for the plight of transgendered people; indeed, J K Rowling was very detailed about why she became outspoken on that particular issue and made it clear that she did not wish ill on transgendered people. As with all philosophical beliefs, there is a spectrum of differing attitudes, some of which may or may not be extreme, but is it really necessary for any fan of LEGO to include a disclaimer on a product review accusing someone of being transphobic (or any kind of phobic) for holding a sincere belief that may or may not be shared by many millions of people? After all, The LEGO Group still produces several City sets annually based around policing: are we really going to expect The Brothers Brick or any other fan review site to make a reference to The Black Lives Matter movement or accuse The LEGO Group of showing no empathy for past (or present) injustices? Where exactly does it end?

  10. InGen

    @Jake I don’t think this is really the place and I am too tired and depressed to fully argue but I think you have a fundamental misreading of how JKR’s statements have had an effect in the real world even if on their face they are not out and out transphobic, they hold up a viewpoint based in transphobia and have been utilized to further transphobic legislation in US and UK law. If you can’t see the links between an extremely powerful and wealthy person not only supporting but monetarily giving to organizations that back laws restricting the access of Transgender peoples to public spaces and to life saving medical support then I urge you to please do more research and try to open your heart to others.

    And for what it’s worth I actually do wish Lego had done more then a token gesture towards police brutality and actually backed out of producing sets based on policing instead of just pulling a tiny amount of advertisement funding. They’ve proven they can do fire, medical, forest rescue and many others that fill a similar niche, I feel they can be comfortable backing out of making basic police sets.

    It’s also a different issue because this is against multiple distinct worldwide organizations versus a singular creator who tacitly benefits from any deal involving their creations.

  11. Tobi

    @Crusader @Jake Not wanting to see a political stance expressed is by default political. Not being targeted by an issue is what’s generally defined as privilege. That privilege can be used to change things in the world we in together. Then why not change it in a way that no one needs to feel left out/behind?

  12. Jesse

    It is nice to be able to read a blog about my hobby (for free!) and also know that it is being written by kind and thoughtful people. Kudos for the disclaimer, thanks for the blog, and sorry you have to endure the negativity in the comments.

Comments are closed.