Do you know who your Friends are? (The official word on the new look for LEGO Friends in 2018)

The callout on the Friends Set packaging has had an update in 2018… a sign of things to come.

Recently, we have seen images of the new LEGO Friends Sets for 2018, and there have been a few interesting surprises. Not only the presence of teal, but our protagonists have had a bit of a makeover. In fact, this is possibly the most obvious aspect.

Andrea, Emma, Mia, Olivia and Stephanie.  Changing eye colour, fading freckles, altered skin tones, bigger smiles and new (or no) lipstick! Just part of the shakeup in 2018

All sorts of theories have been bandied around: colored contact lenses, eye damage due too much time in the tanning salon, extreme perms, but perhaps the most simple answer is that after five years, the line is getting a bit of a refresh…

Here is the official word from the Friends Design Team about the new looks that we are seeing in 2018:

Every year we strive to innovate and make our products even better for children all over the world. A lot of effort has gone into the development of the LEGO characters and universes across our entire product range, so it makes us very happy  when changes are noticed.

LEGO Friends in 2018 looks a bit different than what it has in the past. To be specific, the 5 main characters have a slightly different look but also the city and the citizens of Heartlake City have changed.

But what are the reasons for the change?

Firstly, we want to assure you that all 5 friends are still there in 2018.
Andrea, Mia, Emma, Stephanie and Olivia – they all still exist! Also the character’s main interests and personalities remain mainly unchanged.

What you will see in 2018 is an evolution of LEGO Friends, a progression of the story and characters to make sure children get an even greater play experience. Every year more than a million children and parents reach out to us and share what they love and what they would like to change. In the LEGO Friends range children told us that they would like even more differentiated characters and also suggested improvements to Heartlake City.

We always take great care to listen to input from children, and the LEGO Friends team has worked hard to make even more engaging and relevant experiences for children – and also make the LEGO Friends universe more true to the actual world children live in.

Taking a starting point in reality, we’ve made the characters more diverse in their appearance and have added more depth to their personality. And of course, they still live in Heartlake City. But just as the characters have changed, Heartlake City has become more differentiated and rich. There are different districts and there are other citizens that play a more active role in the story.

The changes we have made does not change the fact that previous and new LEGO Friends sets will cater for great building and play experience in 2018 and beyond, and we hope to inspire even more stories and play opportunities for children in the future.

While we can think what we like about the changes, it will add to the ongoing diversity in our characters. For the last five years, Heartlake City has been a relatively homogeneous town- it will now go on to reflect more closely on the world that the target market wish to play in. For those of you who who have a Minidoll based city layout, you have a whole new collection of faces for the town.

Personally, I like the fact that we now have vintage Friends Minidolls to collect. What do you think about the new look? Why not add your comments below, and follow the Rambling Brick for new stories, updates and random opinion.

Play well.

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Minifigure Gender distribution: 2017 update

A little over a year ago, I wrote up an analysis of gender distribution in LEGO® Minigures in the post friends era.  In the years since LEGO Friends had been released, there had been some positive trends towards an equal balance, after starting from a pretty low base line (around 11% in 2012) up to 30% in the Volcano Sub-theme of LEGO City in 2016.

As well as supporting the regular themes, 2017 has been a big year for LEGO tying in with cinematic releases, with both inhouse and external IP.  By the end of the year, we will have seen a new Star Wars movie, Wonder Woman and Justice League movies, The LEGO Batman Movie and LEGO Ninjago Movie released.

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The LEGO Ideas set: 21312 Women of NASA.  Real Life STEM role models in LEGO Form.  This set is due to be released this week from LEGO retail stores. 

This post was provoked, in part after reading a comment about the relatively low female representation in the Collectable Minifigure sets recently released. I thought it would be interesting to revisit the question of gender distribution in some popular LEGO themes, and see if there were any significant shifts in trends over the last 12 months, when I last reviewed the numbers. The impending release of the Ideas set ‘Women of NASA’ is also of interest, as it certainly demonstrates a desire to see inspirational female role models immortalised in LEGO form.

I would like to look specifically at LEGO City, overall, as well as broken down into its major sub themes; The LEGO Batman Movie; The LEGO Ninjago Movie, and also LEGO Friends. I would also like to look at LEGO Star Wars sets released since the Force Awakens… Continue reading

Does The Use of Stickers Ever Compute? or Adhesive Labels – for gain or pain?

Please don’t get me wrong with the title here: I can find stickers to be as irritating as the next person.  However, after looking at Stephanie’s House last week, I came to realise that some LEGO elements are used in a recurring fashion, but that the final appearance and effect is dependent on the labels used.

IMG_7007On this occasion, I am specifically thinking of the humble laptop computer. Design number 18659.  This piece is currently available in two colours: black and medium lilac. It appeared in black in 2010, and medium lilac in 2016.

It appears simple enough: Slightly less than 3×4 studs in area when open, there are no clear system connections. No studs, no tubes, no clear handle. However, when closed, there is an indentation in the upper and lower parts of the laptop that accepts a clip type attacment such as a minifigure hand. Actually, when open, a lip along the bottom section allows a clip connection there as well.

Now, these laptops appear simple enough. But they are a little plain. I can see the benefit of only having one part, without printing it. From the manufacturing point of view: every new element – a part in a new colour – needs a new bin in the warehouse for storage.  Once you go the next step, and print on that part, each printed design has a new element ID, and therefore requires a new place to store it too. For the MOC Builder, the role of this element is not locked in: It’s a little hard to pretend that a part printed with decorative bows is, in fact, a vital tool in the war against crime!laptops friends.pngThe medium lilac laptop (Element ID 6141902) appears in three distinct sets, all in the Friends theme:  41314 Stephanie’s House, as discussed already; 41115 Emma’s Creative Workshop and 41116 Olivia’s Exploration Car.  Each set has a new sticker added to the sheet, which can (if you wish) be attached to the laptop present in the set, and allow you to give it an appearance of functionality.

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Making Some New Friends (The design drafts and review): Stephanie’s House 41314

sh 41314 drafts2.pngWhen we last met, we caught up with Fenella and Ricardo, from the LEGO Friends design team, and we spoke in part about the preliminary models from Stephanie’s house, and how some things came and went during the design phase.

Today, I thought we would put this set together, and look at some of the features that make these sets so popular with the target demographic.

This is one of the larger sets in the first wave of  Friends sets to be released in 2017.  It has 613 pieces, and a recommended retail price of $AUD99.99/£64.99/$US69.99/€69.99. It comes with 3 minidolls: Stephanie, her mother Alicia  and father James. It is laden with accessories and play features, as one would expect with a Friends set of this size. Continue reading

Making Friends, with Fenella and Ricardo: LEGO Friends’ Designers (Interview)

At the start of June, as part of the LEGO Fan Media Days, I had the opportunity to meet Fenella Charity and Ricardo Silva, who are both part of the LEGO Friends design team.  Fenella’s back ground is in industrial design, and Ricardo came to work at LEGO via the fan community. Our conversation rambled over a variety of topics relevant to the Friends line: including storyboarding the  sets and animated stories;  stickers vs printed elements; gender balance; designing Stephanie’s house and starting the trip down a slippery slope by using tan walls  in the pizzeria. But before we started on that path, I had to ask something…

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The LEGO Friends sets have be inspirational for introducing buildings around town that aren’t fire stations, banks being robbed or police stations, as are de rigour in LEGO City. But something I have been wondering… Are we going to see a police station?

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Bring your Friends to the City for Pizza, and Vice Versa

Last time, we spoke about some of this year’s Pizza related sets. One of the things I found lacking in the Heartlake City Pizzeria was a Pizza maker, similar to the one to be found in 60150: Pizza Van. It left me wondering: can I just swap my figures over?

Crossing the Streams

At a public display earlier in the year, I had a chance to talk to lots of people.  One of the ongoing topics seemed to be along the nature of LEGO® City: A lovely little place to get robbed, burnt down, go power boating, volcano exploring or monster trucking, but not so great if you just wanted to go to the mall, bakery, supermarket, hospital, recreation centre or school.  By the end of the year, Heartlake City will have had all  of these things and more.

Now, many people were a little disheartened by the Friends’ mini-dolls when they were first released: issues with body shape, unrealistic proportions, legs unable to move independently and wrists unable to rotate.  However they have now spread across a wide variety of themes… not just ‘City’, they can also be found in Elves, DC Super Hero Girls, and Disney (princess?) sets. Mini-dolls can now be found spread across a broad range of thematic material.

So, do I need to work any magic to make this set (or any other Friend’s set) work at Minifigure scale? Can I just give the mini-dolls to the children next door, and put my Minifigure in? I took my figures and situations from the 41311 Heartlake Pizzeria, and the 60150 Pizza Van to find out.

New Dimensions

Now Minifigures and mini-dolls are proportioned a little differently to each other. But what are the real differences, and how does this work out in real life?

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Minidolls tend to be taller than Minifigures.
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Mini-doll legs are approximately ‘two plates’ taller than those of a Minifigure. Also, there is no room between the back of a mini-doll’s foot and the stud behind it, compared with a Minifigure, who can stand directly in from of a plate of brick.
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Despite being shorter overall, Minifigures have a proportionally taller torso than the mini-dolls.

 

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The wrists of a mini-doll are fixed: not all handlebars are for them!

 

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Don’t forget: Minifigures and mini-dolls have interchangeable hair and headgear, even if you cannot exchange their heads.
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Mini-doll necks are the size of a 3.18mm bar.  The heads are asymmetrical from front to back, and so they are extremely unlikely to have double sided printing.

So, lets look at these two sets, and think about the alterations that may need to be made to cross them both over.

Fitting your Minifigures in Heartlake City:

In areas where the figures are standing, there is little need to make adjustments to the original model to swap  mini-dolls for Minifigures.

Most of the pizzeria works quite well with Minifigures.  The kitchen benches are around the height you would normally use with Minifigures. Even the pizza oven is at the necessary height as is the dessert bar and the cash register.  IMG_0054In fact there are only one or two things that need to be adjusted to make it feel like a city scale set:

The seating: Often seating for Minifigures  has studs to fix the figure’s legs to.  Perhaps use plates rather than tiles on the stools, or use chairs, as are used in many LEGO City sets. However the tiles provided are satisfactory, even if your Minifigures slide on them a bit.

Most of the problems I encountered were in the various vehicles, where the legs are of significantly different length. In the delivery van accompanying the pizzeria, I replaced element 6093479 (Foot, Plate) with a steering wheel, and replaced the 1×2 tile with 2 green flower elements- providing studs (because they were spare) for the Minifigure’s legs to bind to.

Fitting Minidolls into City Sets:

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© The LEGO Group 2016

There is already a precedent for the mini-dolls working in a food cart: last year’s Amusement Park Hot Dog Van 41129. As you can see in this image from shop.lego.com, Stephanie’s hips are a plate or two higher than the counter. (i.e. counter top is 4 plates above the floor). It would seem to be the same height in the food truck, with the transparent screen rising above this height, but in the name of food safety, I think this is acceptable.

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Help the minidoll to fit into the food van AND have a means to steer it

So… the food service aspect of the truck is no problem here.   As you can see, Emma fits in here quite easily, to feed the masses at the back of the van. The main challenge seems to be to securely fit the mini-doll into the driver’s seat. By tiling the seat, and placing the ‘foot, plate’, the mini-doll can fit securely into the seat.  We then move the steering wheel forward in the cabin. This is not too tricky, but does require a little modification, and a couple of extra pieces.

The next challenge is the motor scooter: the handlebars included in this set are incompatible with mini-dolls.  Hands can only clip on if they run from side to side.  Mini-dolls’ hands run at approximately 90º to this.  Motor scooters in other LEGO® Friends sets use element 98397  for the handlebars, which are designed to fit the minidoll grips.  It is compatible with minifigures, but is not the ‘go to’ motorbike handlebar in LEGO® City.  It appears to be readily available in LEGO Friends and DC Super Hero Girls sets, as well as a few other themes- especially LEGO Ninjago.

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Don’t be afraid:

If the colour scheme does not cause you concern, you can safely integrate the architecture from Heartlake City directly into your regular, Minifigure populated town layout, with minimal alterations. Every one will fit, and you will add a higher level of functionality to your town.

Likewise, it’s not too hard to move City sets into Heartlake City.  The colors may be a little more subdued, but it will allow our LEGO® Friends to get some proper danger and excitement into their life. And you can exchange hair pieces/hats.  But your city may descend into anarchy if you have no police force to maintain civil calm. (At least there are the DC Super Hero Girls?)

Myself, I am quite happy to merely ensure the figures can safely sit in the driver’s seat without excessive peril.  But, if you are bothered by the lack of interesting businesses in your LEGO city, but feel that investing in the complete back catalog of Modular Buildings is a little extreme, why don’t you take a look at the Friends sets.  Remove the mini-dolls, and replace them with random minifigures… you may be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Have you tried moving Friend’s Buildings into your regular city?  Have you taken them the other way, with a layout occupied by minidolls? Or are you happy to have them all live together in one big town? Why not leave a comment below.

Play Well!

2017: Year of the Pizza

Pizza.

IMG_0138It’s changed a lot over the last 70 years since it was first introduced to Melbourne. In Australia  it was a  generated by post war migration from
Italy, however pizza has evolved in different ways in different markets. Not necessarily to the taste of everyone. Perhaps the only thing an Australian pizza has in common with an American pizza or indeed and Italian pizza is the presence of a bread like pastry, baked with stuff on it. Some of this stuff is probably cheese. And possibly tomato. But not always.

When I was at school, pizza delivery did not exist. If you needed a pizza, you would find it at your local Italian bistro on a Friday or Saturday evening with your family. It was a food to share, and it brought us all closer together. Continue reading