Building Outside the Box: 80047 Mei’s Guardian Dragon [Hands On Review]

Is this one of the best LEGO Dragon Sets Ever?

Fun Fact: This year marks the 30th anniversary of the first ever LEGO Dragon being released, as part of the Dragon Knights range in 1993. This year, we have seen lots of dragons appearing in Ninjago Core, as well as the forthcoming Dragons Rising series. However, Ninjago does not have the Monopoly on LEGO Dragons.

Dragons are frequent characters in The Journey to the West, the novel which inspires the Monkie Kid range. We recently looked at the 80049 Dragon of the East Palace – and Mei is descended from the Yu Long, the White Dragon horse, 3rd son of the Dragon of the West – brother of the Dragon of the East, featured in that set. As such, it is quite reasonable for Mei to have a Guardian Dragon, probably sent by her ancestors, to provide protection in times of trouble.

This set was sent to me by the LEGO Group for review purposes, and I’ll admit, there was something intriguing about its appearance from the outset, that I couldn’t initially put my finger on. But we will get to that later.

This dragon follows a similar colour scheme to Mei’s previous Race Car, Mech and Jet – predominantly white with bright yellowish green and teal, – but where her race car added vibrant yellow, We have seen golden elements substituted in this set.


This set has 4 minifigures: Mei and Tang – in power up suits, more detailed versions of the suits they were wearing in episodes 8&9 of season 4[avoiding spoilers here as the series is yet to arrive in Australia]; an Ink General, with the dual moulded black and transparent clear ‘banshee base’ giving a great impression of its onscreen appearance – the role of these demons because apparent, fairly rapidly in the 4th season, as well as that of Yellow Tusk – an elephant demon – along with Azure Lion, and the Golden Peng, they are the demons of Camel Ridge. (500 year old spoilers). We have seen this Minifigure with the MK Ultra Mech previously.

I was recently at a round table discussion with the design team for Monkie Kid, and Xiaodong Wen, design lead for the team discussed the design process with minifigures/characters. He typically draws up the design/style guide for each character, which is then simplified for the animators at one end (in the series, these ‘power up’ suits are essentially white, with silver edging) while the graphic designers enhance the designs with for a more ornate finish. At first glance, I thought the Power Up suits seen here were identical with a trick of the light causing a slightly different look between them. Further examination reveals that while they share many common elements, the linework incorporated aspects of their ancestral weapons, while the coloured panels on Mei’s torso are bright yellowish/lime green and Tang’s are dark red. It won’t be long before I have the full team in Power-Up Suits to compare and contrast.

Mei and Tang both wield Golden weapons: Mei has the Golden Dragon Sword, while Tang carries a golden khakkhara, which previously belonged to Tang Sanzang/Tripitaka during the original Journey to the West. [to give a little perspective here – The Monkie Kid stories serve as a ‘continuation, several hundred years later,’ of Journey to the West. Aspects of the original story are told in Flashbacks, memory scrolls and other mysterious plot devices.]

The Ink General wields black ‘ink bursts’ as well as a black sword and Yellow Tusk carries the same Mace-like weapons seen in the MK Ultra Mech.

The Build

Now, I could talk about the build in several ways:

To start off, we have a core of bricks, covered in brackets, allowing us to layer plates on the body, as well as place a ring of bricks around the shoulder. A couple of technic sockets at the front are likely to provide a place fo the neck to attach.

We could talk about the way that curved slope elements are placed in staggered layers along the back, and that curved elements are placed above and below the body to convey the serpent like appearance that is common in Chinese Dragons.

We could talk about the way that the 1x6x1 wheel arch fits smoothly over the surface of a couple of 2×2 curved slopes

We could talk about the way that using curved ‘macaroni bricks’ on the legs, along with the inverted flower elements gives the legs a sense of dynamic, fluid movement – even when the dragon is standing Still.

We could talk about the way that the head has been spectacularly engineered, with complex curves lining the surface, and a frill around the neck, facilitated by altering the angles of round bricks with bar. To say nothing of the shape of the eyes, aided somewhat by the beautiful line work on the printed ‘pill tile’. The graphic design on the stickers gives us balance between an organic form and armour. Perhaps the hole in the end of the bar inferno of the printed eye is a little distracting.

We could talk about the inevitable use of stud shooters in the golden armour covering the shoulders.

Or the way that curved wedges have been used to accentuate the spines along the rear of the body. And indeed, this would give you a clue as to just what has had me feeling a bit gobsmacked by the build:

And its this: Around half way along the construction of the body, you have placed the hip joints at one end, and the shoulders at the other, and then you lie the model down. The front legs are a little taller than the rear, but not so much so that when the dragon rests on its feet, the grid of of the studs is 45º or so from the horizontal plane, with the tail pointing up at the rear.

But when you allow gravity, and the natural lines to take effect, the vertical/horizontal lines making up the scales on the body are rotated 45º. The angled technic connector, where the neck is attached to the body, brings the neck up to the vertical, and also brings the tail to a more natural-looking angle for that of a beast going on the offensive. This is the first time that I am aware of this ‘core’ rotation being incorporated into the main part of the build in a LEGO set – but I would be happy to be corrected.

Fun Fact:

As I mentioned earlier, this year represents the 30th Birthday of the Original LEGO Dragon. Here is is, face-to-face with Mei’s Guardian Dragon:

Overall, this is a magnificent model. There were definite limitations in the parts palette of 1993 that made building a dragon fairly impractical on minifigure scale. While is was easy to assemble, and had instant play value, its postures were limited. Flash forward thirty years and elements have evolved: an Increased range of flexible joints both hinged and ball – allow for more meaningful articulation; an ever expanding collection of elements allowing SNOT (Stups not on top) techniques while curved slopes and wheel arches allow for a more flowing, organic appearance. There are more elements that make it all possible, but these have been the big leap forward. Finally we come to the colour palette. In 1993, the range was limited. Very limited. Flash forward to the present and the LEGO Colour table is grouped in to multiple colour families, each with a selection of tones to use.

While Mei’s guardian dragon is predominantly white, it features three different shades of Green, (four if we include the transparent bright green), while also taking advantage of pearl gold for the highlights. But the biggest point of interest in this dragon is that it is entirely brick built, and is probably the first ‘big’ dragon set based on a play theme to be produced without using specialised head moulds, such as are still seen in Ninjago, Elves, or even Castle in tha last few years. I find myself wondering if, as far as building techniques, and end result are concerned, this is one of the most impressive dragon models ever released. [Point of order here: I have failed to consider many of the Ninjago dragons released in the latter years of the last decade. In more recent years, most Ninjago Dragons have had premoulded heads]

While it appears to be more representative of the Asian serpentine dragons than the traditional European Reptile with bat wings, it still looks great on the shelf, and the build experience demonstrates all that has been learned in designing LEGO Dragon models over the past 30 years. This set has me thinking if there is some way that the LEGO Group could top this dragon as a building experience? Perhaps if we have a Creator 3-in-1 Dragon with 1000 pieces, and a variety of styles of creature to build? (I’m going to call this now: it should happen next year! We have had The Creator ‘butthole’ 31129 Majestic Tiger in the year of the Tiger; the 31133 White Rabbit in the Year of the Rabbit and 2024 will be the Year of the Dragon…)

The minifigure selection is fair, and ties-in well with the content in Monkie Kid series 4. The power-up suits for Mei and Tang are an amazingly intricate design, each seeking to capture the essence of the character, whilst retaining a common thread with those seen on other characters in the theme. Like wise, the Yellowtusk and Ink Spirit General figures really shine (literally, with metallic gold ink) and bring considerably more detail than are portrayed on screen.

I am very happy to give 80047 Mei’s guardian Dragon 4.5 out of 5 Arbitrary Praise units. If you are a Monkie Kid fan, I recommend this set. Likewise if you are a fan of LEGO Dragons. It is priced at a staggeringly brilliant $84.99AUD, £46.99 or €42.99; or a somewhat disappointing $USD74.99/CAD99.99 depending on where in the world you are located . (I presume because the sets are only manufactured in China or Europe) . With only 608 pieces, it might not be the largest part count, or indeed the largest Dragon Model ever produced. But, I think it is one of the finest.

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Play Well!

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