Earlier this week, we got our first official look at the new LEGO 18+ Botanical Collection. Having already taken a look at 10280 Flower Bouquet, today I would like to look at the 10281 Bonsai Tree: also released on January 1 2020, with 878 pieces, and priced at $AUD89.99/USD/GBP/Euro 49.99.
One thing I have appreciated about the 18+ sets over the last 12 months is that they have provided a little more focus on the designers than in times gone past. The set was designed by Nicolaas Vás. Nico has designed a number of Bonsai models in the past, but predominantly used aournd the various LEGO offices, as well as on the promotional material for the LEGO Ninjago Movie. The manual also offers a selection of ‘way out’ techniques that could be used to explore the design of a LEGO®Bonsai tree, with different trunnk and leaf structures, as well as completely different themes…
The build appears relatively simple and elegant at a distance, but will it promote an opportunity to enter a state of mind where it becomes the total focus? Read on, as I explore the set in this hands-on review.
Bags One, Two And Three.
I am grateful for my wife Ann’s patience in laying these elements out. Especially the tiles in bag 3…
The first bag is dedicated towards building the pot in which our Bonsai tree shal grow. It builds up quickly and easily. The curved sides look very effective, thanks to the use of the bricks with Studs oon the side, in conjunction with the 2×2 bow slopes. tiling the top makes it look very tidy. The legs of the containiner are built or 1 stud lung technic collars, which are each surrounded by a small tire. This results in a container that is firmly in touch with the grounds, and unlikely to slide. In the base of the container, is a turntable, along with some studs and tiles. this is used to attach the tree, while also stabilising the trunk ‘off the grid’, in a way similar to that seen with the stand of the Ox in the recently released 80107 Spring Lantern Festival.
Bag Two sees us start to put the trunk together. When I have built ‘single sided’ trees in the past, I have often been frustrated by the connection between the lower ”root elements” and the upper “branch elements” being poorly connected. Nico uses a brace connected using SNOT bricks to provide additional stability. The base of the tree is also placed on a hinge, to tilt the trunk slightly. This gives the trunk a more realistic look.
The main branches of the tree are made using reddish brown curved bricks, which were first seen with the 2020 Mickey and Minnie Mouse sculptures.
Hee, we have 3 main branches, as a way to attach our main decorative elements, reaching out in each direction. They have a hole for an axle to attach the modules containing the leaves/blossoms… or what ever you might choose to attach.
Bag three makes for the soil/gravel around the base of the tree. We have 1×1 round tiles in olive green, light nougat, medium nougat and dark tan. As a combination, it works quite well. The instructions say to mix them up, and pour straight into the container. what could possibly go wrong with pouring 200 elements into a pot from a plastic bag…
Well.. only a few fell all over the floor. We were able to rescue them without to much bother…
Next, the instructions present you with a choice: Green Leaves, or Pink/purple blossoms. I chose to build both! But in fact, it is easy enough to build both and swap them over. at your leisure.
We start the leaves (in bag 4) with a 2×2 branch module, which can be attached to the branches, as they come off the trunk, using a ‘double length technic pin – axle’ connection. I woulnd when removing/changing over the branches, that the pin would often get stuck behind. Each branch would have three brighht green foliage elements, in turn each having three ‘ivy leaves’ in darker green attached, as well as one stug flowers, and the modified rounded plate with bar attached. This is where you can unleash your inner zen master: ensuring that every leaf is facing in precisely the right direction. OR ensuring that every leaf is facing in a different one once installed.
The alternative is to use the cheery blossom option: just in case you wondered what 100 pink frogs, 19 white small foliage elements and 40 flowers looked together.
Again, aligning the leaves, frogs and petals provides even the most patient builder with a special challenge. I do not even pretend to have succeeded with it here.
Having built the tree, and put it in its pot, it is time to build the stand for the tree. We start with a simple reddish brown frame, and build around it with alternating plates, and offset plates: this will leave us with a half module space between the adjacent tiles. We then add the legs: inverse slopes, as well as rounded plates (complete with tiles and ingots)
Having completed the base, we can now work to get our tree optimally centred on it. I found this harded than it should have been.
Over all, this was an intigueing build. Both the blossoms and the leaves were fun to put together, even if getting them optimally aligned was challenging my patience from time to time. The designer, Nico Vás has commented that the set is designed to be customised, with adjust the foliage to suit your own interests: as such a range of different sketches models are provided in the manual. It will be great to see how people might modify their own versions of the bonsai over the next few months.
The build is both simple, and complex. There is great scope to lose yourself in the build. At present, there is nothing quite so organic in the current LEGO portfolio, and I think it will be a welcome’s addition. For the time spent, value for money, as well as the options in construction, I give this set 4 out of 5 Arbitrary Praise Units.
In the designer video, Nicolaas Vás, the designer says he would love to see people customise their own leaves for their bonsai tree. There are some interesting… inspirational models also included in the instruction booklet.
What do you think of this set? Does it appeal? Do you just like the idea of getting your hands on 100 light purple frogs? Are you looking forward to customising your own version? Why not leave your comments below, and follow the Rambling Brick for further updates.
Until next time,