Monkie Kid 80036 The City of Lanterns – Full of easter eggs [Hands-on Review]

Monkie Kid draws its inspiration from the Classical Chinese novel, Journey to the West, and in the closing moments of season 2 of the animated series, that is exactly where the Monkey King told MK and his friends that they would need to go: on a Journey to The West. I presume that the 2022 wave of sets relate to the path that this journey takes.

Today, I would like to present the flagship set of the wave: 80036 the City of Lanterns. with 2187 pieces, and 9 figures, the set presents some highlights from LEGO History, while embracing the spirit of the story.

While the set, along with the theme as a whole is said to be ‘…designed to be a fun, creative way for parents and grandparents to pass on legendary tales of the Monkey King to the next generation.’ This set also sets out to refresh the iconography of LEGO sets from the past, to educate a new market of its history and provide extra inspiration to older people who build it…just in time for the LEGO Group’s 90th birthday!

The set will go on sale on January 1 2022 from LEGO.com, ad branded retail stores. At this stage, I do not believe it will be routinely available from independent retailers in Australia.

So, let’s open this box up: inside, we find 17 numbered bags, and one unnumbered bag, containing, amongst other things, some larger grey plates, as well as some roller coaster track, in ‘teal’.

I will look at the figures, and then take a look at the build itself, highlighting various easter eggs, and call-outs to LEGO history along the way.

We are yet to see any of the non-single use plastic bags to contain the elements, which has been promised for a couple of years now, BUT we do have the instructions (2 manuals) and the sticker sheets inside a sturdy cardboard envelope. It was not bent or folded, and the contents came out nice and flat.

There are 3 sticker sheets, some purely decorative, some providing classic call outs to the Journey to the West, and others referencing LEGO sets long passed.

There are 2 instruction books: the first covers construction of the frame, railway line and track, as well as the small ground-level booths, and the upper ‘chilli prawn shop’, while book 2 includes instructions for all of the other buildings. But first, let us consider the figures.

Minifigures

This set comes with 7 Minifigures, and 2 brick-built robots.

Monkie Kid: our titular character has a great new hoodie print, incorporating a strap on wallet/fanny-pack/bum-bag. He has a new head-print, featuring sunglasses and a grin on one side, and a casual smirk on the other. He has a neck bracket allowing him to carry the Monkey King’s Staff With him, as well as a map and compass. The map uses a tan handle to form a scroll, and has a sticker: in the centre is a city, and a flame.

Pigsy: our noodle-cooking character comes with a backpack containing pots, pans and condiments he has a new, sloppy torso print, and carries a megaphone and binoculars. He comes with a ‘hat air’ balloon’ – a form of transport, using his pitchfork as a steering vane.

Next is Mr Tang. Always eating at Pigsy’s Noodle Shop, I find myself wondering if he represents Tang Sanzang, or Tripitaka in the classical source material. He has a new torso print, featuring a tour of noodle shops, including a fan tucked into his trousers at the back. He also has a scarf, and a double sided head print: one lovingly enjoying his food, the other looking vaguely startled.

Of course, this is not the exciting part of this character. Neither is the bowl with the dumpling. For the first time, we now see LEGO Chopsticks, as a Minifigure accessory.

Citybots A05 (blue) and A16 (green) both draw their lineage from the Time Cruisers droid which appeared in set 6494 from 1996, seen on the right. The head was first featured in the Cyberdrone Creator 3in1 set, and has plainly been inspired by the robot head print of that era (also featuring in Spyrius and Exploriens, with variations also appearing in other space themes of the late 90s.

Mei features a delightfully casual green jacket, with a gold dragon printed on the back. The top of her white pants extends onto the torso and is slightly cinched in by her belt. She has the same hair-piece previously seen but has a new face print – with an open mouth, and a smirk. She has a mobile phone.

Huang features a flame yellowish orange torso, printed to show an open cardigan, with her blouse tucked into the front of her jeans. This torso has appeared before. She is carrying a lantern!

Han has a red jacket, printed with flames over a t-shirt with a lightning bolt on it. this is another ‘returning torso’, having appeared once in 2021. She has long straight black hair and is equipped with a shopping bag from the LEGO store. She has a reversible head print, both smiling, but one with her eyes closed.

Finally our train driver: there are no new parts here, and the head-print has appeared often enough in the past. He has a single-sided face-print, and no back printing.

I am a little surprised that we do not get a figure for Sandy or Mo in the set, although they appear in the Evil Macaque Mech set.

The Build: Book 1

After assembling our figures, including Pigsy’s flyer, we start work on the base of the city. Lots of 2×2 offset plates provide attachment points for our buildings in the future. For reasons I am uncertain, there is a frog hidden in these foundations. Was Nick Vas associated with this design? I’m sure this will be revealed in time, although Justin Ramsden has been listed as the principal designer on this set. Two columns at the front are braced using technic axles. Otherwise, there is a small Octan drum sitting by the stairs to the footpath.

We add some vertical girders and add another series of tiles/offset plates to form the upper level of the city. we start to lay some straight track around the city base.

Tucked in around the base, at one end, are the information screen for the station, including an online information ‘bot’ I wonder if he is a reference to the Infomaniac who appeared in the LEGO Island video game, as well as occaisionally in LEGO Town/City sets in the early years of the century. There is a screen showing a map of the city, and a departure board featuring

Our next bag builds the platform for the train, above the information counter. There are some signs – indicating a chargrilled barbecue place, a movie – Havoc in Heaven – perhaps referring to why the Monkey King was exiled to earth – and a couple of railway signs, including a hero factory logo. This theme was a short-lived successor to Bionicle around 2015 but is yet to establish itself as man ongoing fan favourite. There are also a couple of surveillance cameras around the platform. We hang some lanterns from the lower level of the track.

We then tack a quick diversion to build in a karaoke booth, with images of a couple on screen (as well as a couple of microphones. I love the detail of the lighting in front of the booth, as well as the Star/Microphone on display outside. I feel I am missing a detail, with regard to the onscreen couple. Do you have any idea? Drop me a line in the comments below! As we complete the rail loop, there is a word going through older AFOL’s minds. One word. Eight Letters. Starts with M.

And now that we have a completed rail loop, we build the train. for reasons I am sure will become clearer in the televised narrative, the light rail is somewhat pig themed, with pictures of Pigsy on each side, but defaced on one side by the artists referring to himself as MK.

each carriage can carry one passenger, and there is a driver in the first. On the control panel in the cabin, you can see a ‘T’ logo, featured in the next bag, but also featuring at the stops for the Airport Shuttle.

The next step sees construction for the steps to the platform we built earlier. The transparent blue arched element was first introduced in the International Airport 9396, but at a different scale. We also add a sign, onto a 3×3 round tile – the Transit T again (and is that the Demon Bull King advertising a chargrilled BBQ):

Technically, it is not a monorail, but there is no doubt that we are tipping our hat to that set here.

Finally, we build a spicy prawn shop – I presume it is like a food court – a giant brick-built prawn, as well as filled bowls. On the fence is a sign for Znap – an exploratory theme from the 1990s which was interesting, but not renowned for adhering to the LEGO system.

At this point, we come to the end of the first book. I took a deep breath and prepared for the next 8 bags.

The Build: Book 2

To date, we have an information booth, a Karaoke booth and a food court, joined by a pig-themed light rail system. And so, as we start on the next parts of the build, we look to stock our city with buildings.

Lets start with the Bubble Tea shop. Based on an 8×8 plate, this shop has amazingly colourful signage, as well as a creative use for transparent purple tiles in a 1x2x5 brick, to give the feeling of the tapioca pearls. We install more lanterns in the town – I presume it is time for the Lantern Festival. We will see more as we build our town. The signage advertises the bubble tea, and transparent cones, mounted upside done on tiles with a bar, and topped with a superhero’s action pose accessory makes a great drink. It is great to see this shop in cool yellow.

After the bubble tea, we move on to build the hot pot restaurant. This is a double story affair, with lots of internal detail. We build it up over the next few bags. The stickers tell us where Mr Tang got that dumpling (or is it a steamed bun) that he was eating earlier! And look, you too can get a pair of sunglasses like MK’s

I suspect I have missed a reference with the respirator hanging by the door. I love the printed mooncake, as well as the use of purple bulls horns as chillis.

As we build up, we add interior detail, including tables featuring lazy susans and hot-pots, as well as a variety of sauces, and more pairs of chopsticks.

After decking out the interior, we add some signage to the front wall: the fusion of different foods in a bowl, to create a yin-yang symbol, as well as the base relief monkey on the wall make this look just top-notch. The dark green ingots are perfect for the roof tiles, as well. Finally, the air conditioner mounted to the front wall will ensure that no one gets too hot and sweaty in the humidity.

On the external windows of the hotpot restaurant, there are traditional representations of Monkey, Tipitaka, Pigsy and Sandy:

We reach our shoppers, and build 2 small shops – based on an 8×8 plate: first, we build the LEGO shop, and it is a real treat: we have a pick a brick wall, with tubs of multiple coloured elements, as well as a wall full of sets from throughout the history of the LEGO Group, including the very first – the Automatic Binding Bricks from 1949; Classics of the 70’s and 90s. We also see Justin Ramsden’s Monkie King Mech on display, as well as his Lantern Festival from 2021. The building is capped off with a couple of brightly coloured bricks, as well as a model of Brickley, the LEGO Store dragon. Stickers over pentagonal tile give us fantastic scales on his body segments.

Next, we build a Panda Convenience Store.

I love the striped colour scheme: Sand green, cool yellow and flame yellowish-orange. On the roof is a small tree, as well as the face of a Panda. Again, the shop has an air conditioner, and there is a wide variety of drinks available. I am unsure just what the purpose of the box with the golden frog is sitting on, but I am glad to see a 1×1 cone in the new satin blue colour.

Overall, it does feel as though there could be a little more detailed, be it a register or another shelf with food on it. I suppose I should just do it myself!

As we approach the last couple of bags, we start by constructing a billboard. This is made using a small technic frame, constructing a right-angled triangle (3+4+5 modules long on the sides.) The 6×6 tile with a sticker is advertising Moon Cakes as made by Chang’E the moon goddess – whom I suspect we shall meet when we come to put together her Bunny Mech, and Moon Cake Factory in 80032. I love that the signage also features the LEGO Mascot from the ’50s, celebrating 90 years of the LEGO Group in 2022. I really appreciate that the power pole also includes a transformer and another lantern. The detail in the pole is also remarkable.

Finally, we start work on the Lotus hotel: This 2 story building also features a lotus flower model on the roof and forms the centre piece of the finished model. The building appears suitably grand, decked out in sand blue and dark red. On the ground floor, there is a service area, including space to leave your luggage, while there is a bedroom on the first floor, with a suitably detailed bed. On top of the flame yellowish orange lotus flower is a ring with one of the new flame elements. This is a recurring theme in this wave of sets, and I wonder if it is part of the quest that the team will embark on in the series.

And with this, we can put the entire model together.

The buildings are reminiscent of the level of activity present in the Ninjago city sets, although the finished product is significantly shorter than those sets. The model is full of chaotic energy, as you might expect in a bustling city. At the same time, there are many little hints to LEGO themes gone by in the set – in the store, the robot figures and in other signage around the town. This is particularly poignant given the 90th anniversary of the company coming up in 2022. We are also reminded of the primary source material for Monkey Kid, in the form of graphics based on more traditional art, as well as other posters.

There is scope to rearrange the city, according to its modular nature, but it can be a hit and miss affair. However, I can see this potentially becoming a new standard for community builds, and stacking them up as part of a convention display.

At $AUD229.99, it is perhaps a little more than I would initially expect to pay for the set, but there is such a level of fine detail throughout, along with a few new techniques that I had not previously encountered. I love the variety of eateries represented here, as well as the detail applied to the internals of the hot-pot restaurant, as well as the lotus. The design of the train is hilarious, although it has very limited passenger capacity. A little voice inside tells me to try and motorise it someday. I am sure somebody has come up with a way: hopefully, it will not be too impractical for me.

Overall, I give this set 4 out of five arbitrary praise units. I am still looking to the other sets of the current wave of Monkie Kid, but as the flagship set for the theme, I feel it is off to a great start. While the 8×8/6×8 shop format might have some limitations, it also allows for some interesting effects as seen here. I love the LEGO store, along with the Bubble tea and the design of the hotel. I am less enamoured by the internals of the Panda store, which feels as though they are somewhat lacking. I also found it hard to place figures on the footpaths outside the stores, but perhaps this is just a case of grumpy middle-aged fingers not trying hard enough. That said, I found myself crying tears of joy every time I found a reference to LEGO Sets of days gone past. As such, I was at risk of blubbering throughout the build.

I will be reviewing most of the new range of Monkie Kid sets over the next few weeks. They will be released on January 1st 2022. You can check them out on the LEGO Website, using these affiliate links:

If you make a subsequent purchase from LEGO.com, The Rambling Brick might receive a small commission, which goes towards running our website.

I’d love to know what you think of this set: is it full of nostalgic action? Urban Chaos? Why not leave your comments below, and until next time,

Play well.

This set was provided by the LEGO Group for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

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