You may have noticed that some of the recent (coming in August to North America) releases of LEGO City and LEGO Friends have been cobranded with the National Geographic brand.
The new City: Deep Sea Explorers, as well as Friends: Jungle Rescue subthemes have been developed in collaboration with National Geographic to encourage children to explore the world, and consider their own ways to solve some of the problems that we are facing, going forward.
A couple of months ago, the LEGO Foundation Launched a pilot program to test audio instructions – a tool to enable visually impaired children to build LEGO® sets. In the current pilot program, Audio Instructions are available for LEGO Classic: 11001 Bricks and Ideas, LEGO Friends: 41365 Emma’s Art Studio, The LEGO Movie 2: 70821, Emmet and Benny’s ‘Build and Fix’ Workshop and the LEGO City 60207 Sky Police Drone Chase. I had a copy of 41365: Emma’s Art Studio, provided by the LEGO Group at my request earlier in the year, close at hand, so I thought I test the system out.
Here we are, and it is the twenty fourth of December. Since the first of December, we have been visiting the ways in which different LEGO® sets have been but together to celebrate the Christmas Holiday Season. Why have I been doing this? This year is the twentieth anniversary of the release of the first LEGO Advent Calendar. If nothing else I would have just reviewed an advent calendar from each year. But in fact I have found myself spoiled for choice. And I have left things out – I have not really tackled Brick built, non Santa decorations from the early days of the century; I have not mentioned the baubles containing seasonal micro builds; and I remain puzzled about the LEGO Japan exclusives from Christmas 2004. So today, I have chosen a subject that has been getting more and more interesting every year: The LEGO Employee Christmas Gift.
These sets have been produced since 2008, although the 2008 and 2009 sets appear identical, despite seperate set numbers. Initially a simple heart, the constructions have become more elaborate: with subjects having historical significance to the company – either through their direct subject matter, or commemorating a significant anniversary within the company. And you know how I love my significant Anniversaries. [ please note: if you read past the break, there is a spoiler shot of the Box for this year’s Employee Gift. The content will not be revealed.]
As I’ve previously stated so many times that its making my head spin, this year represents many significant anniversaries in the the history of the LEGO group: Sixty years of the brick; forty years of the minifigure; twenty years of Mindstorms; fifteen years since the colour change was rolled out, ten years of Architecture…. and Twenty years since the release of the first Advent Calendar. Today, I thought I’s take a look at two of the enduring Advent Calendars: LEGO® City and LEGO Star Wars.
LEGO City, as we now know it, has had an annual Advent Calendar since 2005. Typically rich in minifigures, it has evolved over the years: Initially focussing on showcasing the sub themes of city – e.g. police, fire, healthcare, construction/civic maintenance; mechanics; cooking and domestic life, with a figure and several mini builds (occasionally integrating together to put together a larger build) and culminating with a Christmas type build – either Santa, with some form of transport; or a Christmas tree on the 24th of the month.
Today we continue out journey through Christmas Holiday seasonal sets with a quick look the 40223 Snowglobe. Released in 2016 as a gift with purchase in 2016, it has 215 parts, and comes with a Santa minifigure. Santa stands on a brick built plinth, along with a Christmas tree, sealed in with white round tiles, which fail to suspend themselves magically in the air, as shown in the box art…
Yesterday, I struggled to work out the nature of the the decoration that was unwrapped in yesterday’s Friend’s Advent Calendar, and an astute reader pointed out that his daughter felt it was a micro version of the 40139 Gingerbread House released in 2015. Having had that pointed out to me, I cannot unsee that version of the truth. So today, I thought I’d have a quick look at some of the gingerbread houses that have been produced as seasonal sets over the years.
According to Wikipedia, baking gingerbread was exclusively the domain of specialised gingerbread bakers, except at Easter and Christmas times, when anybody was allowed to bake it! Ginger bread houses became a popular construction in Germany during the early 1800s after the publication of the Brother’s Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel, where the witch’s candied house became the centrepiece of the story. Some food historians claim they were already popular at the time, and the the Brothers were writing about something they had regularly seen.
As we continue our Advent-ure today ( exploring Christmas holiday related sets, as it is the 20th Anniversary of the first LEGO Advent Calendar), I thought we might look at a couple of small vignette sets related to the theme. 40106 Toy Workshop was released as a gift with purchase in 2014. With two elf minifigures and a small, 8×8 stud workshop, with a few microscale builds as toys as well, it is a great example of what can be achieved with a low part count.How great is the detail in the vice, as well as the microscale train engine!
Following on from yesterday’s Christmas Ornaments, I thought I would survey the other sets that used the 2×1 printed white ‘Santa Head’ element. This print is not listed in the LEGO inventories on Brickset, and results in all of these sets appearing to be slightly incomplete in that database.
We finally got around to decorating our Christmas tree last night. As we unpacked our decorations we found these great baubles, Holiday Ornaments 852744 from 2009. Released as a set of three, we have several different renditions of Santa Claus: one wielding a sack, another with a present, and finally one on skis! I think we found them when we visited the USA around that time. Based around a printed white brick for Santa’s head, each of these models is subtly different. As a group, they provide an interesting look in our tree.
Today, we continue our Advent-ure: exploring past and present seasonal LEGO® sets released over the years.
Time for something we just have hanging around…
I am preparing to decorate my Christmas Tree. I suspect there might be some LEGO® based decorations to go on it this year. One, we picked up while travelling a few years ago, and was sitting close to the top of our box of decorations: 851358 – Holiday Bauble with White Bricks.
The name is somewhat of a misnomer: this bauble also contains a selection of transparent clear and transparent light blue bricks, for an appropriately icy effect. Did I mention that it is now summer in Australia?