In which I pick up a set that hasn’t quite been released from LEGOLAND Germany, admire a Patronus and see a new way to build a tree. And Sirius Black returns after 15 years!
Regular readers will be aware that I am currently on the road, travelling through Europe. I have come from Hamburg, where I visited the Miniatur Wonderland ( worth a look, even if you are a LEGO purist – the model making and automation will inspire you), and I am now in Günzburg, home of LEGOLAND Germany. Due to various reasons, my train got in late, and I only spent a couple of hours there – including some time feeling intimidated by the largest pick-a-brick room I have ever seen – and a quick half hour in the main shop, where I was surprised to see virtually all of the June releases on the shelf a few days early…including one which I will wait until later in the week to tell you about.
However, I couldn’t let this opportunity pass, and not pick up something that I have heard people talking about since images were first seen online a couple of months ago. This year, all of the new Harry Potter releases depict moments from The Prisoner of Azkaban, or the Goblet of Fire. Today, we will look at one from the former: Expecto Patronum 95945. Currently €19.99 in Germany, it should be released world wide on June 1st. (USD 19.99; AUD 29.99) Please pardon the lighting in this review: hotel rooms are not the most effectively lit places
This set comes with 4 minifigures, some landscape and a transparent light blue, speckled deer – the form of Patronus, a protective spell, that Harry conjures, to safe his Uncle Sirius Black from the Dementors.
Let’s start with the new element that had everyone talking when it was first seen: the Patronus – in the form of a Stag.
At eight studs long and approximately 5 1/2 bricks tall to the top of the head, the model has been dual moulded with the antlers being a softer, more malleable palymer, almost rubbery in nature. There is the obligatory 1x2x 1 1/3 gap in the middle of its back, and we have a speckled brick to fill that space, with an unspeckled plate. There is no articulation. As I am inclined to do, I tested it under UV light, and found that it only very slightly fluoresced.
The stag is a beautiful element. consisting of two fused sides, with the softer antlers probably inserted at the time of holding. It is a large element, and it is difficult to get a nice, uniform, light through it. This is a transparent element, as such, if an opaque deer element were to be made, a new mould would be required. I am glad that the antlers are a softer material than the rest of the set.
We start this build off simply enough, with a semicircular lake bank, with a small out crop of rocks. Lots of dark green and dark tan, along with a smattering of reddish brown.
And then things got weird! I have built plenty of small trees in LEGO sets over the years, and after a while, the trees included in a set build become quite monotonous – a few sloped bricks, an inverse arch or two and a some leaves – and presto-change-o, a tree.
The designers here have taken almost everything I know about building trees, and while not quite turning it on its head, certainly put it over on its side! Using a 3 way technic plate, and a couple of A-Plates, with the studs all facing to the side, once the tree is upright, is an interesting approach.
A technic ‘elbow connector’ plugged into front if the Y-plate meant that we had branches going off in 4 different directions. The trunk attaches to the group using the (relatively new) modified T-tile, originally used with Minecraft big figure legs.
Once the trunk is mounted, they look great: this part of the build I had been considering leaving out of the review, but it was quite inspiring – a timely reminder that trees do not need to be made the same way as every other tree you build.
The trees are quite lush, featuring 5 or 6 small olive green leaf elements each. One tree mounts on the lake bank, the other separately, BUT also incorporates a stud shooter in its construction. This is intended to launch a radar dish with a stud on the tip. It is reasonably effective, and could easily knock over a self supporting Dementor.
The trees were in fact the most interesting part of the build: It is the first time I have seen trees approached in this way, and it added a lot to the whole build. Often LEGO Tree builds become an exercise in staggering horizontal foliage, but this was quite different and resulted in multiple pieces of foliage pointing in multiple directions. the other effect here is that lots of leaf elements are able to have been used, without appearing cluttered. It certainly helps them to look, well, quite tree like.
This set comes with four minifigures: two identical Dementors, Sirius Black and Harry Potter.
Harry Potter has a dark blue jacket over a t-shirt, and a pair of dark-tan mid length legs. His head has two prints: One determined, the other with a slight smile. Harry also comes with a spree of dark brown wands. The legs are unprinted, and as such are useful for use in other custom figures.
Sirius Black, the escaped Prisoner of Azkaban, has front and back printing on his torso, as well as printing on his legs, depicting a long coat, over his prisoner – fatigues. He has long wavy hair, in dark brown. His head also features double sided printing, and he has an angry/shouty expression on one side, and a look of blissful contentment on the other side. This is his first appearance since 2004, and the update is well worthwhile.
The Dementors are very similar to the one seen with the Hogwarts Express 75955 last year, except they have medium stone grey hands, compared to last year’s black. Mounted on the blacked version of the base seen with Collectable Minifigures ghosts and Reaper from Overwatch, they appear to float, towering over all the minifigures in the room. Their torso printing is suitably gruesome and the cape suitably ragged, as becomes their character.
If you were to tell me last week that the minifigures were amongst the less interesting things in this set, I would not have believed you. Don’t get me wrong, they are good, and I can’t really see how they can get much better: I guess I could complain about the lack of arm printing, but I don’t see why I should. It wouldn’t add much to the product. The Dementors look really creepy, and the new base works well. Having their hands grey, rather than black hands helps to break up the total darkness of their look.
A little adjusting the layout of the trees, as well as adding some creative lighting resulted in Harry being able to summon his patronus, and repel the Dementors, just as they prepare to suck the life out of Sirius Black.
My take on it all
I was suitably impressed by this set. The minifigures are quite good, but, for me, are overshadowed by the appearance of the transparent deer element, and the design of the foliage.
As a price per part, this set does not come out looking good: 16c/part in Europe/US, and a massive 24.7cent/part in Australia. However, I feel that the Patronus element justifies this cost.
This set represents an important moment in the Prisoner of Azkaban, and indeed the series of books/films as Harry discovers he can cast a strong protection spell. If you are a fan of the series, this set is a must – buy. And if you are not, it is still worth a look, even if just for the tree design. This set has so much that is good. I strongly recommend it and give it four point five out of five Arbitrary Praise Units. (4.5/5).
This set goes on general release on June 1st, but the LEGOLAND Parks in Europe seem to be full of early releases! What do you think? A must buy? A ‘wait for a sale’? You had me at Patronus? Why not leave your comments below, and until next time,