Dog eat dog: Is cuteness more important than part count?

So a couple of weeks ago, I looked at Furry Animals 31021, a creator set from 2014, and the SNOT (Studs not on top) techniques used in it in particular.  Today I would like to compare this set to this year’s Creator creatures set: Park Animals 21044.

I obtained this set through Shop@Home, as it is not currently available in Australian stores.  It currently retails for $AU24.99. Enquiries to Lego Australia were unable to shed any light on whether it would be a available on the shelves anywhere later in the year or not. Indeed, it did not feature in the January – May 2016 catalog.

With only 195 pieces, 31044_alt1this is a smaller set than Furry Animals ( 292 pieces). That said, for the dog model in 31021, there were close to 100 pieces left over, once it was built (compared with almost everything used in the cat).  The box reveals the puppy and ducks as the ‘hero build’,  and an owl and a squirrel as alternate models.  The predominant colours are reddish brown, and dark orange.  There is a smattering of tan and dark tan in the set as well. For the purposes of this discussion, I have only built the primary model.

IMG_7750
plate based construction makes for relatively flat bags of parts.

On opening the box, there are 3 plastic bags, and a paucity of bricks: plenty of curved slopes, plates and mixel joints, but the only blocks are part of the ball joint that forms the neck, as well as a few 1×2 bricks with studs on the side as well as a few slopes/invese slopes.  This is a set that will built up primarily by layering plates, rather than stacking bricks.

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The Ducks investigate the most brick like bricks in the set.

The build

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An interesting palette

Before the dog, we have a wood duck, lots of greens and different shades of tan,  The ducklings are simple 3 piece constructions. The duck includes a 2×2 turntable to enable head turning

We start with the body of the dog: no dramatic SNOT techniques, but the use of inverse slopes is elegant.  The hips of this model are Mixel ball joints, and the neck is a larger ‘biolnicle size’ ball joint  (compared with the use of these larger ball joints in 31021, and a click joint for the neck.  From the outset you can see that this will be a smaller model than the dog in 31021. It is shorter and narrower than the older set.

The legs are made from inverse curved slopes, and are narrower than the furry animals dog.  The use of curved slopes, in reddish brown and dark orange gives a great, smooth look to the legs.  The legs of the ‘furry dog’ have a greater rang of movement compared to the puppy, and the thighs are at 90 degrees to those in this set (studs outwards compared with studs forward.)  There is a nifty use of a hanging bracket and several clip plates: one horizontal, one vertical to create lined up clips that will attach the foot.  This is a different technique, for a near identical result to attach the foot compared with the furry animals.

The head in 31021 is a studs up affair, with a couple of slopes and a couple of (upwards) bracketed to attach the eyes to.  This is a far more SNOT based construction in the 21044 puppy: a brick with outward studs going to both sides, and forwards, to build out. the head looks complete, and occupies a smaller space than the previous set’s.  The smaller eyes make the dog appear younger. My only complaint here is the hanging brackets are visible at the top of the muzzle, and are grey rather than white or tan.

The head of this model is more satisfying build, as far as interesting techniques, than the dog in 31021, but that one is only the secondary model in that set.  I expect a primary model to contain interesting construction techniques.

The final dog looks really cute.  Obviously a puppy. Furry Animals 31021’s dog  looks positively mature when they are stood side to side. Posability is slightly reduced, compared to the legs of 21031, and you get the feeling the legs could get quite saggy if challenged. I start to wonder what the maximum weight that can be supported by a mixed small ball joint. Certainly the majority of this the use of these small ball joints has been in relatively small creatures.  The larger ball joints, and the click joints have been used in larger, heavier creator sets  (such as 6751 Fiery Legend).  The ball joints offer greater opportunity to be hidden in the build, and good flexibility with posing as well as , but at the expense of strength of the joint.IMG_7795

When comparing the two dogs, they show a different design aesthetic: The older dog is blockier, with a feeling of more visible studs, and a chunkier head.  The new puppy is predominantly plate and curved slope based construction: this makes the lines and curves feel more organic than the harsh blockiness of 31021’s dog.

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31021 (left) meets 31044 (right)

Of a greater concern to myself is the greatly reduced brick count, for roughly the same price as the previous model. And these pieces are smaller: more likely to be a plate than a block.  This is a great set to gain various brownish shades (dark orange through to tan), compared to the black and white of 31021.

Many of the SNOT techniques that have been outlined in the older set are revisited.

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Not in this set, but part of the evolution of SNOT techniques

Certainly Lego is recognising the value of SNOT based techniques in set construction.  However, in the past many novel techniques had to be implemented to change the direction of build, and to ensure adequate clutch area.

The ultimate simplification of SNOT building arrived this year, with the release of the Brick Bank 10251:  The 1x 2 x 1 2/3 brick with 4 studs on the side.  1 2/3 bbricks high, is the same as 5 plates, which is
the same height as 2 studs on the side.  This is square from the side, and allows for direct SNOT building, with little forethought needing to be put into spacing of plates/bricks.  What do you think of this new direction in SNOT building? Will this piece revolutionise your building? Let me know in the comments below.

Summary

Back to 31044: I love this build.  It helps to build familiarity with the use of sloped curves as a surface piece, as well as providing a great variety of ‘Earth Tones’.  I am sorry to say it is not yet available in Australia, and future retail availability has not been announced. However, the set can be obtained from Lego Shop@Home for $AU24.99. Just what you need to get your S@H expenditure up to $200 to qualify for the free shipping here.

What I like about this set:

  • the advanced building techniques included in construction
  • demonstration of curved slopes in construction
  • the colour palette: all those browns and earth tones.
  • The cuteness and posability of the final model, including the duck for the puppy to chase (even if not to scale)

What I didn’t like:

  • the part count has been reduced by 100 for what would have been considered an equivalent set 2 years ago. And these parts are smaller!

 

I am happy to score the set 4/5.  The point was lost due to the reduction in piece count by 30% for the same cost over only 2 years compared with the previously discussed 31021.  Park animals versus Furry animals: its a tough call.  The older set offers better value from the point of piece count, and features lots of interesting building techniques in the primary models. However, it has been retired. Both sets demonstrate great techniques, and produce great characters from their collective 3-in-1 builds.  The colour palette and increased number of curved slopes probably sways me more towards the new set for preference.

 

Play Well

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Of course, both dogs can create their own special breed of chaos around the park on together.

 

 

 

 

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