80109 Lunar New Year Ice Festival: Hands-On Review

The Harbin Snow and Ice Festival is one of the more unique events associated with the period from late December to early February. Located in Heilongjiang, the northernmost province in China, the annual festival sees a large number of magnificent Ice and Snow sculptures on display.

This festival, and other like it are the subject of 80109 Lunar New Year Ice Festival. With 1519 pieces, it is one of two minifigure scale sets released this year celebrating the Chinese Spring Fesitvals.

Like the Temple Fair and Lantern Festivals, this set is rich in minifigures, and scope for story telling. Being set in a snow clad winter setting, it brings us a very different environment to these other sets. I was fortunate to receive a pre-release copy of the set for review, thanks to the LEGO Group. Let’s take a look at the build experience.

Opening the box reveals 13 numbered bags, a thick instruction manual and no sticker sheet! I was surprised to see there are no stickers in this set: everything is printed! As always, I’d like to thank Ann, who took the time to knoll out all of these elements, making them a little easier to see what you will find along the way.

Bag 1

First, we set up our two minifigures: Possibly mother and child, and we build them a sled out of teal elements. I love the boy’s jacket. I reached out to set designer Chris Perron about this: he is a great fan of Ice Planet 2002, and this came up in conversation with the graphic designers: They managed to sneak this jacket in twice.

While I believe it is intended to be a penguin, I cannot help but think of Perry the Platypus from the cartoon Phineas and Ferb.

Next, we construct the rear aspect of diorama, setting up a with of around 48 studs. we build up an extra layer of bricks across the rear, and set up a row of SNOT elements, which I suspect will come in handy, as we set up for the rest of the build. On the left hand side, we set up a rectangle of ingot elements, on which we place a small tray. The treat fastens in place with a pair of clips, plugging into a click hinge. The effect gives us a gentle grip, but not so firm as to require excessive force to remove it.

Bag 2

In Bag 2 we see a number of larger white plates, including wedge plates, as well as 23 2×4 white tiles. There are a few dark tan slopes, including 2-3×3 angled slope, and a corner element. Bricks destined for contributing to the base structure are bright bluish green (teal). Some of the white 2×2 arched corner elements will also come in useful as the model comes together.

Using the two 16×16 plates, this bag sees us lay the foundations for the rest of the model – around 32 studs worth.

The large wedge plates present help to set up the slightly rounded shape of the base.

We also start work on some of the detail we build on over the next few bags, including steps at the front right corner, and another flight of stairs on the left. These left sided stairs include a small cobbled path at their base, built out of medium stone grey ingot elements. The white tiles are laid out along the length of the model, inder what will become an ice rink. a mobile phone attached to the base suggests that someone may have carelessly dropped it at a time when the ice was a little more fluid.

Bag 3&4

One element dominates these two bags: the 6×4 opalescent panel. These panels allow you to get a peep at what lies beneath, but not so much that you can make out great detail. There are 18 in total. We also have further white and dark tan elements. I am particularly enarmored with the 3x3x1 quarter-circle curved slope. This element provides for a corner of the same curve as the 1×3 curved slope element. There are a number of blue and green upward and downward brackets – we can be confident that they will not be on display in the final model. We also see some curved, quarter circle, 1 stud wide tiles with a radius of 2 studs, 4 studs, and for the first time, 3 studs. Between these two bags, we also have fish in spring yellowish green, light royal blue and bright orange.

Bag 4 contains one minifigure: an enthusiastic hockey player. So enthusiastic, he keeps crashing into other players sticks. He has a double sided face print, and wears a hoodie. But I digress

We start to lay out the opalescent panel elements, and build up the landscape around the edge. the fish are hidden under the ice, while we also start to build out some organic shapes across the ice to represent the edges to the ground. The curved stairwell at the front right corner of the model takes advantage of the new radius of tile.

As the base comes together, you see that the elements representing snow tend to have smooth curves, while the dirt/rock – in dark tan – tend to have firmer slopes. This change in texture between the different landscape elements lends itself to the effectiveness of the overall presentation of the model, as it comes together.

As we build across, a framing of white bricks is braced by an extra tile, against a series of 2×6 teal bricks, which will be hidden before too long.

Bags 5 and 6

Our next couple of bags see us start to move towards some more landscaping. Sixteen of the 2x1x 1 2/3 SNOT Bricks see us build over the back of the ice, while more white and tan elements cover over the bricks for the last bag. We have an older lady, who is given a chair on skates. Possibly a new and exciting extreme sport. Bag 6 includes a couple of different diameter cutout curves, as well as a number of medium nougat 3×3 circular tiles, as wellas some 2×2 round plates with a central stud.

Bag 5 features an older lady, with a sled chair, while bag 6 features a younger lady with eye-protection and a chainsaw. Both have double sided head prints.

Bag 5 consists a number of elements to build up over the ice rink to contribute to its organic shape, while bag 5 then starts work on building up the detail on the landscape – from the Ice sculpture in progress, to the ground texture, in preparation for building it up.

I appreciate the way that the larger tiles are used to set up the path, while smaller 1×1 elements in tan (tiles) and dark orange (plates) fill the gaps in between. Some times, dak tan, medium nougat can be difficult to distinguish, particularly in the instructions. I have mentioned it before, but will say again: there are no identical elements of similar colour in these steps: check the manual for the element design, and the colour will look after itself. I love the look of the opalescent blue penguin. It really captures the spirit of the ice sculpture.

Bags 7,8&9

We start to see a little more colour appear in the elements now – Flame yellowish orange and dark red; dark brown and teal, and rend and flame yellowish orange dominate the next few bags, as slao had a couple of elements which highlight certain details.

We have One figure in bag 7, and three in bag 9. First we have the Skate shop keeper, pining for his glory days, long past. The family are all rugged up, although not all torso prints are new. The father caries a camera, with a large flash, and telephoto lens.

This bag also comes with the chestnut roaster

Bag 7 sees us start work on the Skate Shop. We previously laid down sand blue tiles on the floor in hear. now we build up the walls and facade of the shop. The door is placed at 45º and we have some decoration in the skate shop, including skates themselves; a skate sharpener, and some trophies oh the wall – perhaps a reminder of Glory Days gone past for the proprietor. An offset window sill allows skates to be hired without customers entering the crowded space. I love the decoration just below the roof line. The cool yellow door and sign are a nice contrast.

It feels a bit weird that it is only now that we are starting to add something other than base to the build. Building the building with its small details feels quite refreshing after a solid push through the complex landscape – it feels like each bag moves a little easier: perhaps feeling simpler, perhaps just that it is the kind of building we typically associate with this sort of set.

Next, we start work on the roof for the skate shop. A snow clad, jade tiled roof. Angled 2×3 shield elements provide the overall angle of the roof. A double wedge plate fits into the corner rather nicely. We add a small heating unit, and the pile of snow on the roof looks like it has been slowly melting.

The final bag on this tray brings us the photoboard: a plastic card, printed on both sides, with holds for minifigures to put their faces into… Again: not a sticker, and the card is quite robust. There is the option to use a ‘Tropical Tiger’ or Ice Festival Tiger Print. The card slides into some slotted bricks, and is secured above. Again, some rounded snow elements are place on top of the supporting pillers. We also have a number of minifigures at this point suitable to set up a bit of Family Photo Fun!

Bags 10, 11, 12 and 13

As the build progresses, we see fewer elements per step, or the elements are smaller. We have some fences in dark brown, along with more white curved slopes of different forms. We have some white leaves, and foliage elements. Bags 11 and 12 include a wide variety of transparent clear and transparent light blue elemtns, including the modified double plate with bars. Or what ever it will be called. Finally, we have the makings of some decorated lights, as well as a snow covered pine tree.

These last 4 bags contain one figure each: The Ice fisherman, the Tiger mascot, and 2 girls. Undoubtedly, we have shared heritage between the Ice Fisherman and commander cold. The tiger has a printed hood on the back of his torso, while the two girls fill out the cast. The teal and purple parka has appeared in Monkie Kid in 2021, while the bright green torso is new in this set.

I love the small bushes built here: they really add life to the barren landscape. I appreciate the ice core and small seat with thermos flask, that gives our ice fishing figure somewhere to be.

One aspect of this step that I really like is the angling of the fence at the front, through a cunning use of triables and offset plates:

At the end of this bag, there appears to be a big gaping hole at the back of the model…

And so we take a look at the elements involved in the ice sculpture: Transparent light blue 1×1 bricks, modifies bricks, headlamps. And then Trans clear 2×2, 1×2 and 1×2 45ºslopes. There are also a few decorated elements, including 2×2 tiles, and a 1x4x3 panel – with information about the ice festival , including a map and a thermometer.(These printed elements crop up in bags 12 and 13.)

We build up the sculpture, as an archway. The headlamp bricks are used to support cheese slopes on an angle, to enhance the appearance of the ornate gateway, and we add some flags for good measure.

In our next bag, we build up the top of the large ice sculpture, and add in some decorative banners, and some furniture for our minifigs to take a rest on. Transparent red minifigure heads, with a tiger printed on them in gold add to the decorative effect.

I am a little confused as we commence work on the final bag: we have a penguin, and we attach an ingot to its back. I presume this is to make us feel that it is a model, rather than a live penguin, but I cannot be sure. We also have a young girl in a teal parka, over a medium lilac shirt. She is carrying last year’s model mobile phone.

We follow up with a street lamp, of original design: the studs on the lamps face downwards.

At this point, we are encouraged to tidy up any spare skates, kockey sticks, snow shoes, stocks etc into the drawer that we made back in bag 1.

Finally, we set to work on a conifer, brick build around a circular/octagonal core. As we build up, we shift from green to white foliage, with clips on the trunk.

We install our printed sign, and set to work in getting everyone in their place. With 13 minifigures, the area becomes a little crowded. That said, there is a lot of character out there on the ice. We have 6 male characters, 6 female characters and one tiger. I am particularly fond of the the neo-ice planet torsos being worn by the young boy, as well as the older fisherman.

I really love the final result with this set. I have found with some sets recently, that laying down the foundation layer is tough work, but essential to ensure that the model is robust enough to withstand frequent moves around the house.

Designer Chris Perron was also behind last year’s Story of Nian – another set where we had a snow drift in front of a house. He has made a point of differentiating the shape of snowdrifts from rocky terrain – using rounded curves rather than clearly defined slopes. And while we spend the first half of the set putting together the base, it is extremely solid – resistant to twisting and benging. I have stopped short of actively dropping it on a hard surface. The opalescent panels are really effective as the ice skating rink, and I appreciate the work done to ensure that the snow and earth around the edges of the lake have a smooth, organic look. The introduction of new curved sloping elements will help many people with their projects now and in the future.

While I felt that the base took a greater proportion of the build time than I expected, when initially looking at the set, I have still learned more, going back and looking at it a second time, while writing this review up, and I get more from it every time. I should not have been surprised by this when, on looking at the set with fresh eyes, the Skate shop and the Ice sculpture make up most of the ‘non base ‘ build, with a few other little details included in this section.

There are however some interesting elements – the range of parts in transparent light blue; the new quarter circle 3×3 curved slope, the 1×2 inverted cutout slope amongst others – making this a tempting parts pack for a snow or icebound environment.

The figures bring this set to life. While the area is limited, there are so many different activities going on: there is plenty of space for all of them, both on and off the ice. I find myself tempted to get a collection of the Ice Planet jacket torsos.

Is it as good as the Lantern Festival, released last year? As a building expecience, it did not feel quite as fluid: perhaps something is lost in needing to ‘brick build’ the base from scratch, rather than adding elements directly to a baseplate? In that set we moved around different aspects of the landscape with each bag, whereas in this set, the bulk of the build was spent constructing the snowscape, and perhaps it was just me, growing up on an environment where snow is a day trip away, but some of the subtleties were probably lost on me at the time. As I said above, however, it is appaent that a lot of work has gone into ensuring the snow has a different texture to the ‘solid’ elements in the landscape.

Overall, I award the set four out of five Arbitrary Praise Units. It is a solid addition to the Chinese Spring Festival range and includes some interesting techniques and elements, and the final product looks great.

The set is available in the Asia Pacific region now through Bricks and Mortar stores (including independent resellers), and will be available through LEGO.com in the Asia Pacific region after January 1 2022. It is on LEGO .com in Europe/ UK from december 26th, and the rest of the world from the 10th of January. If you are interested in purchasing this set, consider using the affiliate links below: the Rambling Brick might receive a small commission from any purchases made.

In the mean time: what do you think of this set? An easy purchase? Of one to wait and see? Hoth Parts Pack? Leave your comments below and until next time,

Play Well!

This set was provided to the Rambling Brick by the LEGO group for review purposes. All opinions are my own.

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