The Wooden Duck 40501 [Review]

This week, the LEGO House reopens after closure during the COVID19 lockdown. With its reopening, we have a new Limited Edition set released, available exclusively at the LEGO Store at the Billund attraction. The Wooden Duck 50401 was announced last week.

The Wooden Duck occupies an important place in the history of the LEGO Group – with the story of Godtfred Kristiansen trying to save his father’s manufacturing costs being a cornerstone in the LEGO Ethos of ‘Only the best is good enough’

The Wooden Duck itself, in particular the model with the pullalong quacking action, was in production from 1935 through to 1960.

I was fortunate to receive a copy of the set to review, courtesy of the team at the LEGO House. Here’s how it went together…

The Box proclaims this set as being part of a Limited Edition series, although exactly how it will be limited is uncertain: a certain number? A limited time? We will only know in the future. As well as this, we see the logo for the LEGO House, as well as a historical LEGO Logo – from 1953. On the back is a brief retelling of the tale of the LEGO duck, pictures of the new model, as well as a picture of Ole Kirk Kristiansen at work in his workshop.

The box folds open, in a style similar to those from the Architecture series. Inside, we find 6 numbered, and one unnumbered bag, as well as the instruction book. The first few pages of the the manual provide us with some of the history of the group, as well as a description of where you might find ducks on display around the LEGO House. the information on the box, and in the manual, were contributed to by the Corporate History Unit.

The Build

We start off the build, working on the base. Starting with Dark Blue plates, we see the base is going to be 24 studs long, and 7 studs wide. Using this unusual width means that we reinforce the base with 3×3 plate, secured with some inverted slopes. We install the axels for the cart, which both sport a cam mechanism. The base is topped off with dark blue tiles.

Our second bag has a grand variety of color. We start work on the main body of the duck: the body is three studs wide. We build it up with plates in white, black and yellow. We add some bricks in orange, mint and medium blue, and add some Inverted yellow bows, forming the rear of the duck. We build up with a touch of bright orange, medium blue and lime green, with a 1×2 plate in vibrant coral thrown in for good measure. Building up, we have some gaps left open, which will serve as points of attachments for the wings. Above the bright yellow, plates, we taper upwards towards some bright yellowish orange plates and tiles. There are some perceptible differences in the shades of Bright yellowish orange here. We have discussed this before. Some black curved slopes make up the tail feathers. And then we move on.

Bags three contains a lot of elements in new dark red.

Amongst others, there are 12 of the 1x4x1curved slopes, making the curves of the ducks back and breast. Tiers of smaller and smaller curved slopes cascade towards the tail of the duck.Now, dark red has been a difficult colour to maintain consistency with over the years, and unfortunately it is the case here. There is a gap between the ducks chest, and the main body: I am sure we will find out why later…

Bag four puts together the head of the duck. The top part of the beak, as well as the head, rotate backwards, while the lower beak is fixed. The side of the duck’s head is 8×8 and dark/earth blue. The eye is a printed element, with a great new print. We attach a few elements to the beam responsible for integrating with the cam, and opening the beak. This ensures it maintains position. A quick turn of the axle reveals the functionality of the pull along play feature.

Bag five adds the dark green wings. We have studs going in every direction, and appropriate bricks to accomplish this!

The wings are predominantly dark/earth green and, under the studio lights with a macro lens, this colour appears to have been presented in a number of different shades. Is this a problem or not? Colours appear to be consistent within the same element. Unfortunately, there are a subtle differences between different elements, which can be seen when we assemble the wing. This difference was not obvious to me in the photo above, with the elements knolled out. Perhaps it is my colour blindness protecting me. However, as assembly continued, it became more obvious.

Personally, while I see multiple variations between the dark green elements, I find it gives me the impression that the wings have been painted by hand, or that they are the wings of an actual duck: all feathers slightly different to each other in shape, sheen and direction. At the bottom of the wing, we have a little patch of dark blue, along with two white vertical stripes. These stripes slope backwards in the original, wooden version.

Next up, we add wheels to the duck: 4 stacks of plates, including a round 4×4 ring plate, for the first time in bright red. The wheels attach to the axles from step one, and the wooden duck seems complete. But there are a significant number of elements left in the box. they go towards making a black display stand – Based on two 8×16 plates, covered with more tiles, and the addition of a black brick built plinth, which the duck happily sits on.

The final result is a lovely display piece. If you put it on the ground, and drag it along, the top beak opens and snaps closed.

The Elephant in the Room

It would be negligent of me to quickly skim past the topic of the colour variations, particularly between the bright yellowish orange, dark green and dark red elements. Regular readers would know that I am occasionally prone to put a set under a UV light to look for evidence of fluorescence or inconsistent colouring. I have done that with this set, but don’t see any value in presenting the results here. Ultimately, I don’t think it bothers me with my enjoyment of this set. Apart for the irony, with regard to the role of the ‘Duck Story’ in LEGO History.

This set is designed for display: it will sit on a shelf, and admired from several feet away. I could not readily discern a significant variation in colours from a distance of 2 meters, with normal household lighting. Unfortunately, no photo that I took would clearly show what I see. Looking at the photograph on the box, as well as the supplied media assets from the set’s launch, we see a photograph of the set. It is not a render, as has been the case with the majority of regular LEGO sets in recent times. And the variation in colours is visible there. It is not being hidden from the consumer.

So, I would argue that, in this case, the colour variation is real. BUT this set is a model of a painted wooden toy. I find the variations in colour give me the feeling that this is just that. Wood is an imperfect medium, and hand painting is also a variable practice. Are the colours inconsistent? Yes. Does it really matter for this set? I am not convinced that it does. Unless you leave it on your desk, next to your computer. Of course you will see the variation, if you look at the model closely, examining it under bright lights. But will that be what most of us do after we assemble it?

I love the construction techniques involved in capturing the curves in the wings, as well as the ‘quacking’ motion. This is a set to celebrate the involvement of the Wooden Duck in LEGO heritage, and its involvement in the design of the LEGO House. It is a sturdy model, and conveys the sense of nostalgia beautifully. Stuart Harris and Jme Wheeler have done a great job in capturing the spirit of the wooden toy. I happily give it three and three quarters out of five Arbitrary Praise Units. I don’t think the colours influenced my feelings on this.

I am not bothered by the colour variations here (although I seem to have discussed them a lot). Personally, I think they help the set to look like the LEGO model of the hand built, hand painted, wooden Duck.

Would this keep a child amused for hours on end? Probably not. But the build is aimed at 10+, and is essentially a souvenir of a visit to the LEGO House. At a price of 599DKK, or $130AUD, it is on a par with other sets serving as souvenirs if the LEGO House including the Tree of Creativity (recently discontinued), and the Dinosaurs from the Masterpiece Gallery. Having visited the LEGO House in the past, this set captures the joy and nostalgia of the visit, more than a year since I was last there.

What do you think of this set? On your list of ‘Something I will pick up when I can get to Billund’ or one you would head straight for the dinosaurs? Why not leave your comments below, and until next time,

Play Well.

This set was provide by the LEGO House for review purposes. Provision of material does not guarantee a positive review.

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