Countdown to the Year of the Pig: Dragon Dance 80102 [Review]

As we approach the eve of the Year of the Pig, I would like to look at another of the sets released for the Chinese ‘Spring Festival’

The 80102 Dragon Dance has been enthusiastically awaited after the initial images arrived last November, and the set has been hotly sought after, in part due to its relative scarcity outside of Asia. In Melbourne, both this set and 80101 Chinese New Year Family Dinner have literally flown off the shelves, with long queues, household limits and disappointed customers being frequent occurrences at the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre store.

I can see the appeal of this set on many levels: as a seasonal set, it is one of the first sets released, outside of the ‘Year of the…..’ series, for this significant day in the Asian Cultural Calendar, touching on subject matter rarely covered previously, featuring bright colours, and a movement function, coupled with limited global distribution to the Asia Pacific Region – this set has very little to be negative about.

This set has 622 parts, and costs $AUD79.99 new. The retail channels for this set have been limited in Australia. Certainly, demand for this set has been high in the rest of the world, and it will be interesting to see what approach might be taken with this type of set in the future.

We start with a sizeable box for the price, and there are 5 numbered bags inside ( although two labelled #1, with one containing the smaller elements included in that part of the build.

One of the things that becomes apparent as we build this set, is the number of new, or relatively rare elements included in the build. As I enter each stage, I have laid out the parts, with varying success. I shall highlight the new elements this year ( which is still pretty new!) in green, and those which have not been around for long or have not appeared often, in yellow.

Minifigures:

The first step sets out of construct the base of the model – giving the impression of an ornate wooden box, with golden inlay.

There are a lot of new elements in this first bag: 1×16 stud bricks in reddish brown(6258989); spring yellowish green arches(6252917), the 4×4 modified plate with cutout in sand green(6249804), and also the brick separator in bright bluish green/dark turquoise/teal (6254100). The other newish elements in this bag were introduced last year: the round plate (4×4)in sand yellow/dark tan(623138) and the pearl gold fence (6195089). The fence is a beautiful element, and there are 12 in both this set and 80101.

The #1 bag containing the smaller elements has a much more interesting contribution: 1×1 round plates in love green (6258990) make their debut here- and we get 34, and also the 2×2 round tile in vibrant coral (6258405) – 16 in total. This is an interesting choice of element: none of these tiles are on view in the model. Others have commented on the difficulty in capturing the vibrancy of this colour – I showed recently that this colour fluouresces under ultraviolet light. Fun fact, Pantone recently names ‘Living coral’ the 2019 color of the year. 

Also in the bag, are four dark azur(e) 1×4 bricks (6213272), introduced last year

The Build proceeds simply, building up a box and installing a long, supported axle, with multiple cams attached. The set uses the 2 unit technic lever (design ID 41677), and the final movement effect might be a little smoother if regular cam elements were used. These units are colour coded to determine the direction of installation, ensuring smooth transition from one unit of the dragon to the next.

After adding the fences, this stage is completed, and we open bag #2 – providing the mechanism for moving the segments up and down.

Many of the new elements in this bag we have already seen. We do see black 1×2 slotted bricks(6236255) for the first time. Amongst the less common elements, we have dark azur 1×10 plates; 2×4 technic plates in bright yellowish orange(6132408); olive green quarter circle tiles(6218089), and medium nougat 2×2 round tiles(6173694) and 1×2 plates (6218360).

As we start bag three, you get the feeling that some repetition might be on the cards:

Lots of elements, many new or uncommon, appearing many times. Of note are the printed red 2×2 curved slopes – which appear in both a left( and right print(6258953; 6258955) – seven of each in this set; and the bright orange 1×1 heart shaped tiles (6258993) – we have 28 here. This also represents the debut of the double tooth element in red (6248950), the t-piece in reddish brown (6258995);the grey shield/2×3 plate with horizontal shaft (6258991) and a collection of bright yellowish elements: the sausage(6258994) and plate with 2 rods 6258707. The red 1×1 plate with a horizontal clip the side has a new element number – but I think it is more likely to be a new mol, or subtype of this clip. This is also sixth appearance of the dark orange 1×2 plate with a clip on the side (6186049), and the first time a set has had more than four of this element.

The rods go into the holes in the base, and then we build the core of the body of the dragon, built around the clip plates and the 3×3 cross plates.

Using the shield, curved slope 2×1 clip plate, hearts and sausage, we build up seven of these body segments. This is not a sentence that I ever thought I would write, and represents some excellent parts usage.They all attach to the left hand side of the dragon, and then we open the next bag…

We have many of the same elements from the previous bag here, as well as a new red SNOT brick/ (6258015), the red lantern ( based on BB8’s body – 6258826), and the split level 1×4 offset plate (6218227). The unikitty tail in bright yellowish orange(6259037), new eye tiles(6258840), as well as scorpions (6259035) and frogs(6259036) in tan are all interesting elements that go towards building the head of our dragon.

We can also see why the scale segments were split between bags: the third bag covered the left, the fourth the right. If they were in the same bag, they may well have been confused, resulting in an unsatisfactory result. there is a comparison of left and right…

The Figures:

There are five minifigures with this set: one is the ‘piggy guy’ – reappearing after debuting in Collectible Minifigures, series 12. This time, we have a different face print, and torso: the original figure has a tail printed on the back, which is absent here. I do like the split toe effect, to imply hooves.

The dragon dancers all share the same legs and torso, brilliantly printed, with the printed golden belt lining up nicely with the print on the legs. There are two ‘hair’ elements used: one is a new mold: with tousled black hair, bandana and a topknot. The other gives the impression of short black hair, with a bandana tied around. It appears to be the same mould as seen with the Collectable Minifigure Scalliwag Pirate from series 16.

I really like the look of these figures, and it would be fantastic if the opportunity existed to purchase more, to fill up the spaces around the dragon.

Here you can see the completed model, followed by a short video demonstrating the mechanism in action.

Provinence: A mystery I didn’t know existed.

Given the fact that this set is exclusive to the Asia Pacific region, I found myself wondering whether the set was manufactured in one of the Chinese factories, or in Europe. The factory assembly code for this set is printed on some of the tapes sealing the box:

The code 43g8 indicates that the set was packed in week 43 of 2018. The factory is designated ‘g’. The original Chinese facility at Shenzhen had the code’b’. This is the code we find embossed on boxes of collectable minifigures. The ‘g’ code is relatively new, and is thought to represent the new (opened in 2016) factory in Jiaxing, which is expected to be providing the majority of sets for distribution around Asia.

When examining the Minifigures in this set, I found the presence of alignment marks on the front of the necks of minifigures. These marks are used by robots in the assembly factory to recognise the front of the minifigure torso after printing, as as such ensure that the arms are attached in the correct direction.

Normally, this would not interest me, except these marks are not present on the collectable minifigures, which are produced at the facility in Shenzhen… It has been suggested that the ‘robots’ here have been programmed to recognise the printing on the front of the CMF, to ensure the arms are connected the correct way. I am therefore intrigued by the presence of these alignment marks on the figures present in this set, as it suggests that one of the most modern LEGO manufacturing facilities has reverted to the technology used since the earliest of minifigures, OR the figures are manufactured and printed in Europe, OR a combination of both. I am now curious as to how it actually occurs. Do you have knowledge of exactly where these figures are made? Why not drop me a line.

In summary

This is one of the more beautiful sets that I have put together I recent years. The design of the dragon, as well as the movement is truly entrancing. While the actual mechanism could possibly be a little smoother, this would be my sole criticism of the set. Turning the handle to generate the movement brings me joy, and I have no concerns about awarding this set four point eight out of five Arbitrary Praise Units. Since I always round off to 0.5, I guess that makes this a five out of five APU’s!

I have to admit, I have been extremely impressed by all of the sets released this year as part of the celebrations of the Lunar New Year. While there has been a lot of justified criticism of the lack of availability, if you are able to obtain a copy of this set anywhere near the official retail price, it is well worthwhile.

What has been your favourite set celebrating the arrival of the Year of the Pig? Dragon Dance Guy? The Animal model? Dragon Dance? the Family dinner? why not leave your comments below.

Until next time,

Play Well.

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