You’d think that someone with a track record for themes with a nostalgic call back – be it space, castle or time cruisers would be right on top of posting this sort of news. Unfortunately, I’ve had a couple of things to work through, that have occupied a chunk of my energy. That said, I was excited to see the latest Nintendo sets previewed last week. I could not help but feel that there is at least a little Fabuland Inspiration at play here. Perhaps I might consider the notion that Animal Crossing is to Fabuland what Friends is to Paradisa: There are certainly some similarities, but plenty of differences too.
Released between 1979-89, Fabuland’s initial core audience was younger kids making the transistion from DUPLO to system bricks. It brought a simplified, modular-like building system, with lots of accessories. Instructions were illustrated storybooks for the larger sets, and the myriad of characters, with their slightly strange ball mounted head – which was compatible with Technic and Belville figures- continue to provide inspiration 35 years after they ceased production. Fabuland also represented one of The LEGO Group’s first exploration of transmedia story telling, with German language audio books, actual story books books and a TV series, Edward and Friends – 25 years before Ninjago! Fabuland has maintained a cult following amongst AFOLs, with many of the kids who grew up with it well into their 40s and 50s now!
But what about Nintendo’s Animal Crossing? It isn’t just looking at a 3 year fanbase following the release of Animal Crossing New Horizons on the Nintendo Switch back in 2020. Animal Crossing was first released as as Dōbutsu no Mori (どうぶつの森 ?, lit. Animal Forest) in Japan, for the Nintendo 64 in early 2001. Later that year it was ported to the Game Cube, and we have seen multiple iterations on the various Nintendo Platforms since then. We are looking at franchise that has already run for decades, and has been popular with children and adults alike. Animal Crossing New Horizons remains one of the best selling games for the Nintendo Switch, with over 70 million copies sold since its release in early 2020.
Let’s take a look at what the range has to offer. As we work through, I’ll grab a few sets out of the Fabuland range that I felt reminded of as I looked at the new images. There were of course over 100 Fabuland sets released over the decade that it was available: you might feel the call of others as you look through the list.
LEGO® Animal Crossing™ Isabelle’s House Visit (77049)
- Pieces: 389. Measures over 6.5 in. (17 cm) high and 10 in (25 cm) wide
- 2 characters: Isabelle & Fauna
- Price: £34.99/ €39.99/$39.99
While Isabelle perhaps best resembles Paulette Poodle from Fabuland, I cannot help but feel that Lucy Lamb might occupy a similar role in the Fabuland sets…
LEGO® Animal Crossing™ Julian’s Birthday Party (77046)
- Pieces: 170 This 170-piece set measures over 3.5 in. (9 cm) high, 6.5 in. (17 cm) wide and 4 in. (10 cm) deep when arranged in standard configuration
- 1 character: Julian
- Price: £12.99/ €14,99/$14,99
While this set feels a little chaotic, it is rich on accessories: enough for Julian to share his special event with any other character. It feels a little like Hannah Hippopotamus going on a picnic back in 1988. Gotta love the fact that a bottle of chianti wrapped in raffia was considered a reasonable inclusion back in the day.
LEGO® Animal Crossing ™ Bunnie’s Outdoor Activities (77047)
- Pieces: 164 Measures over 3.5 in. (9 cm) high, 8 in. (20 cm) wide and 6.5 in. (17 cm) deep when arranged in standard configuration.
- 1 character: Bunnie
- Price: £17.99/ €19.99/19.99
Bunny’s always love exploring the outdoors: not just in tents: Bonnie Bunnie loved to go and stay in the great outdoors with her camper van, possibly the closest thing that fabuland had to a Combi. I love the fact that the doors from the police van are made a little friendlier with a floral print , here!
LEGO® Animal Crossing™ Kapp’n’s Island Boat Tour (77048)
- Pieces: 233 Measures over 3.5 in. (9 cm) high, 11 in. (28 cm) wide and 6.5 in. (17 cm) deep when arranged in standard configuration
- 2 characters: Kapp’n and Marshal
- Price: £24.99/ €29.99/$29.99
There are a few small boat sets in Fabuland, as well as some larger ones. If I was looking for a set that incorporated some waterside life, as well as the boating life, I couldn’t go past the Fisherman’s Wharf from 1985, although it is short. acharacter or two.
LEGO® Animal Crossing ™ Nook’s Cranny & Rosie´s House (77050)
- Pieces: 535 Measures over 6 in. (15 cm) high and 15 in. (39 cm) wide
- 2 characters – Tom Nook & Rosie
- Price: £64.99/ €74,99/$74,99
I’m going to invoke two sets here: one is the general store from 1987- it seems the closest in function to Nooks Cranny. While it is staffed by Freddy Fox and Hannah Hippopotamus (taking a break from her role as the public gardener), we get a postal service to boot.
And while Catherine Cat’s house makes a number of appearances, I feel this interior set depicting the kitchen is possibly one of the better examples to compare with the animal crossing model.
Billund – October 10th, 2023 – Today, the LEGO Group reveals brand-new LEGO® Animal Crossing™ sets, inspired by the popular video game series from Nintendo.
Millions of people have found their happy place while playing Animal Crossing™. Now for the first time, that world is coming to LEGO brick form.
The five new play experiences, created in partnership with Nintendo, allow LEGO builders to explore the world and characters from the video games, and play out different stories in the brick-built landscape.
The sets have been developed to fit together easily and offer a high level of customization, for instance it’s possible to switch elements between buildings – including the window frames – with one simple click. All sets can be adapted, mixed, and changed, enabling builders to create their own worlds and make the settings unique to them.
Builders aged 6+ can get creative and imaginative by bringing their favourite scenes and characters to life in the physical world with LEGO Animal Crossing. The new range will include build experiences such as:
- Julian’s Birthday Party, where builders can celebrate with Julian, share cupcakes, and open presents.
- Bunnie’s Outdoor Activities allows enthusiasts of the great outdoors to roleplay setting up a tent, roasting marshmallows or using the vaulting pole to jump across the water, and grab the shovel or other recognizable tools from the video game series.
- Kapp’n’s Island Boat Tour gives fans the opportunity to board the boat and explore another island with Kapp’n and Marshal, go on an adventure to search for coconuts and bamboo, discover wildlife, hermit crabs, and fish or simply hang out and enjoy the fire.
- Isabelle’s House Visit allows builders to get creative and help Isabelle and Fauna customize Fauna’s house and enjoy activities like opening the balloon present, crafting tools, or picking fruits and flowers.
- Nook’s Cranny & Rosie’s House gives builders two locations where they can roleplay stocking up Nook’s Cranny shop or go to Rosie’s house for freshly baked cookies.
“To us, Animal Crossing is all about creativity and roleplay, so bringing that to life in physical form using LEGO bricks and creating new minifigures has been fun for the team” said Simon Kent, Creative Lead, Design Director at the LEGO Group. “One of the challenges was to make sure that customization of the sets was simple so builders could experience the freedom they have in the game. Additionally, creating the minifigures to make sure they were accurately representing the characters in the video games was very important for us. We look forward to giving kids the opportunity to play with their favourite characters from Animal Crossing!”
“The Animal Crossing video game series is about creating a world where you freely build the life you want, and now with LEGO bricks, you can build that world with your own hands in the real world too” said Aya Kyogoku, Game Producer of Nintendo Co., Ltd. “Putting the sets together is only the beginning. Kids can use the furniture, plants, and more, included with each set, to customize them or even combine multiple sets to create their own village. There are so many different ways kids will be able to express their creativity based on what they like, which can evolve as they grow. We hope that the world of Animal Crossing and its characters, now also in the form of LEGO bricks, can bring smiles to people’s faces by being a part of their day-to-day lives.”
Since its first release in 2001, Animal Crossing continues to be one of the most popular franchises on Nintendo platforms.
The new LEGO Animal Crossing sets will be available globally via LEGO Stores, all retailers and on http://www.LEGO.com from March 1st, 2024.
I don’t quite ‘get’ Animal Crossing, in full. My daughter has been actively decorating and setting up her Island for the past 3 years – as such I can understand the appeal. I can see a few more opportunities developing here for The LEGO Group: why not roll out building instructions to the Nintendo Switch, rather than have it limited to mobile platforms. And what about rolling out a new range of torsos in the Build-a-mini stations in LEGO Stores to allow builders to construct their player avatar out of real bricks.
Of course, one of the biggest differences between Fabuland and Animal Crossing New Horizons is the number of vehicles in use. Most people’s islands are small enough to walk around: there isn’t really the scope for the fully fledged range of cars and trucks that made up life on Fabuland to be driving around.
Overall I am intrigued and curious about these sets. I appreciate the brick built aesthetic and the way it resembles the prefabricated Fabuland builds, to an extent. I love the printwork on the new characters, and I also appreciate the range of accessories that come with the sets, to allow role play to happen straight out of the box.
But I would love to know what you think of these. Are you an Animal Crossing Fan, or do you prefer the naive simplicity of Fabuland? Are you reminded of any Fabuland sets in particular as you look through these? What would you like to see in a future wave of Animal Crossing sets? Why not share your thoughts in the comments below.
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