The Lunar New Year is approaching, and as such, the annual Chinese Zodiac Animal Gift with Purchase is now live. These animal models embrace a certain kawaii look, with big eyes, and cartoonish expressions. This is the 8th model in the series, which began with the Year of the Sheep in 2015. I might have missed that one, but I have managed to secure each animal since then. It is currently available through LEGO.com as a Gift With Purchase, with a price threshold of $AUD169; £88; €88, $USD88. It is also available in Australia, through Myer Stores as well as LEGO Certified Stores – possibly others – where the purchase threshold is $AUD88. The set has 183 pieces, and the promotion is due to finish on 27th January at LEGO.com, and 31st January at Myer Stores. Or while stocks last!
The set contains predominantly back and orange elements, which is not an especially great surprise. There are no new elements, and the set reuses the eye print seen with last year’s Year of the Ox set.
As with previous similar sets, the box is designed to be opened, and reclosed. The instructions can be found underneath the 3 sealed bags, while there is also a ‘red envelope,’ that a gift of money can be placed in. We have a variety of curved slopes and arches, as well as the requisite SNOT elements. It will come as no surprise that the dominant colour palette is black and orange, with some white, as well as the elements for the base.
Unlike the previous animals in the series, there are no Technic bricks, no turntables and no ball joints.
The build starts off building up the stripes. I appreciate the bright orange 1x1x 5/3 with 2 studs on the side, as well as the other SNOT Bricks present – essentially providing a studded surface to build on to the back of the tiger.
Next we work on the head: white Stafford Slippers form the ruffles on the side of the head, adding a degree of cuteness. Again, the SNOT Blocks provide a useful place to mount our eyes in the near future.
It’s time to add the panels onto the studs we left bare, as well as complete the tiger’s head, adding in the ears, eyes, brows and tail. I love the eyes: these are the same ones used with the Ox in 2020: black pupils, with a white reflection, along with a metallic copper iris.
Finally, as we do for these sets, we build up the base. on this occasion, it is a bright green circle ( made up of two 4 stud radius semi-circle plates), with some dark green tiles, offset tiles and leaves to hold the tiger in place. We have the obligatory red and gold trim. Some bright yellowish-green leaves, with red flowers complete the effect.
Overall, I really like this model: it looks cute and noble simultaneously.
I lined it up with the other Zodiac animals I have collected over the years and came to realise that the majority of animals have several pieces of articulation: here, it is essentially the tail and the ears. At a stretch, you can adjust the expression using a quick rearrangement of the eyebrows!
I was surprised as to just how dramatic the effect was for changing the emotional expression of the Tiger, moving just these few elements.
Here it is lined up with the other animals released in recent years.
Satifying the Inner Completionist
And then, I realised, I was missing one! 40148 Year of the Sheep. Fortunately, I seem to have most of the relevant parts available. Most are fairly common: I had the biggest challenge finding my technic bricks, and ultimately made some colour substitutions, as I did not have four 1×1 Technic bricks in tan. The part is invisible in the final build. Sloped elements in reddish brown are also relatively uncommon, especially the convex corner element. However, I gathered what I could find, and placed them in the middle of my other Chinese Zodiac Animals
And the elements started to manifest…
And here we have the Sheep model essentially complete. The model is smaller than the subsequent models, and the base is a framed plinth, rather than a circle. I did need to make a few colour substitutions here for various reasons, but the idea is the important thing.
Now I was very fortunate to have the chance to talk with Mel Caddick, designer of the Chinese Zodiac animals, as part of Brickvention 2022. We briefly discussed the design of these models. She highlighted that after the release of the ram, there were a few changes made: the models’ scale changed, and they became a little more rounder and cuter, some red and gold were added, and the bases served to unify the range. She did say that she hopes to be able to complete the cycle, and perhaps stay on to redesign the ram, if only so it could be in keeping, from a stylistic point of view, with the other models in the range.
Now, I have been a little pressed for time this week, but I was able to bring one aspect of the Year of the Sheep set to be in keeping with the other animals: I found some round plates, joined them together, and added some red and warm gold bling, as well as add in a small rocky outcrop for the ram to stand on.
You can certainly see how the overall design of the ram different to the rest of the theme: it is on the whole, narrowerin the body, lacks those big goofy eyes and the original base had none of the red and gold elements that tie the theme together.
I am happy to have reconstructed the ram, but I look forward to seeing how it might be reimaginined in the future. We have some other animals to get past first: the Rabbit, Dragon, Snake and Horse. It might be some time.
But Back To The Tiger
Now that I have completed by line up, I have to admit I really like the tiger. It looks noble, proud and just a little be bit too cute for its own good. I miss the articulation, particularly at the neck. However, with 193 pieces, the part count is already at least 25 elements higher than the other animals in the animals in the series – there tends to be a limit on just how much. I suspect this is a combination of the detail work around the tiger’s head, as well as adding in extra elements for the stripes.
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These Lunar New Year Gifts with Purchase are a recurring annual highlight. But should you rush out and get one now? We are currently experiencing significant supply chain challenges in Australia, and very few of the 2022 sets are on the shelves. As such, I feel it is appropriate that the ‘In Store’ buy-in is only $88AUD. Meanwhile at LEGO.com, there is a much greater variety of stock, so the AUD buy in of $169 is not entirely unachievable(including the 80035 Monkie Kid Galactic Explorer, and 42127 The Batman – Batmobile both clocking in at $169.99). With that said, the 31129 Majestic Tiger Creator 3-in-1 is sold out in Australia online, and was, at least on Tuesday, still available on the shelves at our local Myer and LCS.
In other markets, the $USD/£/€ 88 buy- in price($110 CAD) seems appropriate, given the association of the number ‘8’ with prosperity. Everything else comes down to exchange rates.
Are you collecting these animals? Is this on your ‘must have’ list? Why not leave your thoughts below, and until next time,