I’m not going to lie: when I first saw this set, I was a little baffled. Most of the imagery associated with Christmas holidays refers to the northern hemisphere winter: conifers, reindeer, references to the North Pole. The penguin does not appear very high on this list at all. Harking from the opposite side of the earth, you might understand why. Instead, I embraced this as the Southern Hemispheric attempt to embrace the Southern summer: if you were looking for snow at this time of year, it would have to be on the Antarctic or, at least, a nearby sub-Antarctic island.
I was very fortunate a few years ago to have the chance to travel to the Antarctic Peninsula, via Patagonia. It was January, and the sun dipped beneath the horizon around one am, only reappear around two hours later. Penguins were abundant, of several species, and I found myself wondering if I saw anything resembling the one depicted in this model. More of that later.
But I digress. The 40498 Christmas Penguin is the 4th ‘iconic’ seasonal set released this year, after the Valentines Day Bear, the Easter Rabbit and the Halloween Owl.
Before I digress too far, I feel I should take the parts out of the box and see what we have here:
We have a few 6×6 plates with a 4×4 arc – in medium azur and white. Some cool yellow 2×4 tiles, lots of 2x1x2 2/3 bricks with 4 studs on one side in bright purple, and some similarly sized bricks with studs on the edges as well in bright yellow. there are lots of white plates and tiles, in various shapes: quarter circle 1×1 tiles, 2×2 corners and 2×4 white tiles. There are a variety of curved sloped elements in black. There are many others, including the 4×4 macaroni elements in dark azur, and some opalescent light blue elements.
We start off building the 12×12 base, which has curved corners. Its a double layered affair, and we build a hidden treat into it: a snow flake. You will never see this again, until you pull the set apart.
We continue to build up the base, covering it over in white, and making a small snowdrift. A turntable provides a way for our penguin to spin on the spot.
I really like the way the tiles are used to give the penguin plenty of room to spin. The light blue translucent tiles are terrific at giving the snaw and ice a slightly blue tinge. Fun fact: Snow and fresh ice look white, because there are lots of small air bubbles present. When a glacier has been slowly moving from the centre of the continent for tens of thousands of years, the air gets squeezed out, resulting in icebergs with a naturally blue colour.
From here, we start work on the penguin. We begin by builging up a core of bricks with studs on the front and side, separated by a brick and 2 plates: exactly 2 studs long. You can see this demonstrated by the plate in the picture on the right. The light purple and lime plates at the blottom help you to ensure you have the core oriented correctly as we build on it.
Next we build up the rear aspect of the penguin, and put together curved black panels to make up the sides. I appreciate the tiled regions on the side: they make it easier to remove the curved panels later, since they are held together by 2 seperate groups of 8 studs, as opposed to 4×8=32 studs, otherwise.
The head of the penguin came together a little too easily: Bricks with studs on the side (1×2), connected by plates and an offset plate to the front, on which to attach the beak. We use eye tiles on the side, and add a yellow 1x2x2/3curved slope behind the eye. This feather declares the identity of the penguin.
Having completed the penguin, we then add a small Christmas tree: wedge plates around a SNOT brick core. A few wrapped presents complete the picture.
But first, a quick spotters guide:
During my trip, years ago, we saw 4 types of penguin as we ventured towards the Antarctic peninsula. Undoubtedly they are extremely social creatures, typically living in colonies numbering in the tens of thousands. The Macaroni penguins were far less plentiful than the others. Those that we did see were sitting on their own, seperated by a colony of chinstraps. There are of course dozens of species of penguin, in different parts of the world, but virtually all of them are to be found south of the equator. Fun Fact: one hundred thousand penguins in the same place are both extremely noisy, and extremely smelly.
However, I suspect our model here depicting a macaroni penguin, and is reasonably accurate within the scope of the what is possible with a LEGO model of this size.
The penguin can sit comfortably on the base, and there is slight rotational wiggle room.
As incongruous as a penguin appears to be, sitting on an iceberg with a Christmas Tree, I quite enjoyed this set. The other Iconic Holiday models have been a little more predictable – and this brings just enough craziness in the juxtaposition of these icons from opposite ends of the earth to make it work. The set is billed as 8+, and I can see an enquiring child wondering just what the penguin has to do with Christmas. Just go with the (ice)floe
I enjoyed the build overall. the used of the Studs Not on Top techniques to build up the body from around the central core is now a well established technique. I really enjoy the use of the angled curved slopes to bring the white patch on the penguin’s chest to an appropriate shape. The base is simple, and the hidden snowflake made me smile, as I put it together.
With 244 pieces, and priced at $24.99 I feel its reasonable value for money, even more so if you have been collecting this series all year. At the end of the day, the penguin is quite sweet, and is a valuable source of ideas for SNOT Techniques. The base has a certain iceberg vibe to it. I give this set 3.5 out of 5 Arbitrary Praise units.
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Thanks for taking your time to read this review. I’d love to know what you think of this set..
In the mean time, there are a few days left to sign up for our Jumper Plate Classic Town Giveaway: share your Builders’ Journey for a chance to enter our draw for these great figures, valued at $AUD125 for the set. Entries close at 11:59pm UTC on Sunday, 24th October, so be quick.
And until next time,