The Rambling Brick Family recently travelled over to Europe during the recent school hollidays, and along the way we visited the LEGO Store in Paris, located at the Forum des Halles. Now, I find it to be a difficult challenge shopping for LEGO when travelling to Europe: It becomes a delicate balance between retail prices, Dollar to Euro conversion, easy availability of the set and on flight luggage allowances.
In France, there was not a lot to gain in purchasing sets at a saving by buying it locally compared to at Australian prices back home, or indeed purchasing sets online. The prices and exchange rate just about cancelled each other out that week. So I looked to exclusivity. What was on the shelves at a reasonable price, that I might not be able to pick up back home? Would I want to pick it up through shop.lego.com?
There is something to be said for the experience of visiting a LEGO brand store. We were there in mid September 2016, and virtually every conceivable set was on display: The Disney Castle and New Death Star ( the one only slightly different to the old one) had just appeared in the stores, and were part of the instore display. The Christmas train was being unwrapped and built at the counter. As was Big Ben and just about every other set that would make an Australian AFOL cry out and bemoan the absence of such a retail experience here. Even the Technic Porsche was on display.
Pick a brick.
Pick a brick walls are part of the intrinsic strategy of visiting a LEGO Store and increasing your personal supply of pieces if you live in a market where such things abound. But for an Australian, you end up running around as dizzy as a three year old who has just overindulged in red cordial at their own birthday party. Which means that I filled up a small cup, with a remarkably random selection of pieces. Brightly colored. Lots of Lavender and Azure. They Clash: especially with bright Pink and Green. Any Green. All Greens. I proved this! Suffice to say, I don’t yet know what I call build with my spoils from the pickabrick wall, but it will be colourful. Perhaps too colourful. Wear sunglasses. Or not: it’s your choice.
Pick a bricks in LEGO Stores are different to Pick a brick walls in LEGO Land. Remember, LEGOLand is owned and operated by Merlin entertainment, and therefore not owned and run by the LEGO Group. This means that shops in LEGOLand parks run a little differently to official LEGO Stores-as do Certified LEGO Stores-There are no ‘LEGO Exclusives’ for one, and their Pick-a-brick is sold by weight, rather than by the cupful. There are 2 sizes of cup, and it turns out, a whole new category of online tutorials on how to maximise the number of LEGO bricks that you can fit into a cup. Fortunately, the assistant in the shop that served me was happy to help demonstrate some of these techniques to me. This was just part of the great customer service experience that I had in this shop.
Time to make a choice.
Now looking around the store, I saw all of the marquee sets that I plan to purchase over
the next few months. But something caught my eye. Something that is unlikely to be sold on the shelves in Australia: the 40203 Halloween Vampire and Bat set. Halloween isn’t really a thing in Australia. People have been trying to make it a thing for a while, but the uptake has been patchy: People mutter things about American Neocolonialism, Ancient Pagan rituals and too many sweets to be consumed too close to Christmas. But this set was interesting, and it met some vital requirements: It was small, it was different and it was relatively inexpensive. I still had almost two weeks of travel to go, with Billund just one of another four stopovers remaining on the trip, and wasn’t ready to fill my luggage up yet. Also, the So, between this set, my pick a brick cup, a Ninjago character pack and a few keyring, I reached the threshold for the bonus polybag.
While polybags often appear at shop.lego.com after reaching a threshold of around $AU75, I rarely spend only that amount. Shipping to Australia starts at $40, unless you spend over $200, so in my head, I don’t get a’freebie polybag’ unless I spend $AU200. So a polybag as a bonus with only 50 Euro purchase felt like a pretty sweet deal.
So I completed my purchase, and packed my bags. But more on that another time.
And now Halloween is almost upon us…
Perhaps I should crack open the box. Looking at it, this set appears a little lacklustre. the graphics on the box are a little minimalist, but add a skull and spider’s web to the layout. If you are presenting this set as a gift, there is a place to write a greeting across the skull. My box got a little dented, thanks to an extremely enjoyable trip, and a limit as to the actual finite space within the luggage. If the box doesn’t get home in mint condition, then it should be opened. So it was.
The set came with three bags of pieces, seemingly sorted by relative mass. Spilling them over the kitchen table, I commenced the build. It is simple, and construction is almost modular: you start with the bat. Then you move on to the base of the cloak and the legs of the vampire. Connecting these units together, you build on the torso, essentially just layering up the body. Then you come to the head. This is also constructed by layers, but there are a few things you notice as you complete it: the inverse slopes adding to the gaunt features, crazy eyebrows, hair built of small arches, a sinister glare and a white streak.
This is your Classic Horror Movie Vampire. None of your angst written Millenial shiny vampires here. Although pearl gray is used for his pointed ears, the sole acknowledgement of the nouveau edgy and iridescent vampire of contemporary literature. This is a vampire who looks a little threatening. Or perhaps it is just the bat. Think Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff and Grandpa Munster rolled into one. White dress gloves, albeit with only three fingers, tell you that this is a vampire with style, panache, and an insatiable lust for blood.
The build is predominantly in black and grey, with flashes of dark purple and medium lavender adding to the effect of his evening dress. The final effect is actually much more appealing than the cover art would have you think. The build took me around 20 minutes, and I think it looks quite effective. I enjoyed the color blocking. I was perhaps inaccurate as to how I would enjoy the facial features. After completion, I am happy than this is a great movie monster. I am sure he will sit on the mantlepiece until Next Halloween. Or maybe Christmas. Time will tell. Three point five arbitrary praise units.