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.
The recent launch of the the Space X Falcon9, successfully delivering astronauts Doug Hurley and Bob Behnken aboard their Crew Dragon capsule to the International Space Station has renewed public interest in the space program. And at a time when there are so many other problems affecting the world, a little excitement and optimism is what the world needs.
Space exploration has often been associated with this hope and optimism, as we see parts of the universe through new eyes, and discover that we can achieve things that had previously only been dreamt of.
A child excited by the the dream of space travel today might look at the range of LEGO City ‘Mission to Mars’ sets from 2019, and be inspired by such a future, as some of us were 40 odd years ago, when we first saw LEGOLAND Space.
Back in those days, we started with spacemen on a planet somewhere. They had a spaceship, a rover or a base. Or all three. They were all working together: no fighting, just cooperation in achieving the teams goals.
The last week has seen the COVID-19 pandemic declared. Public events around the world have been cancelled, including many LEGO® Fan shows. Even the LEGO House has shut its doors for the time being. Europe has just declared the new epicentre of the pandemic, with borders closing, and quarantine being enforced in many countries. The USA has been declared to be in the grip of a national emergency, and the Australian Grand Prix has been cancelled. Our hearts go out to families around the world that have been affected by COVID-19 – those affected directly the illness, and those whose livelihoods are affected by the economic consequences of the pandemic.
In these troubled, uncertain times, we need someone to turn to. We need a symbol of hope, and reassurance that that although we have a struggle ahead of us, we will get through as best we can as a society.
We Need A HERO!
And so I thought I would take this as a prompt for my next Rambling Brick Habitat Competition.
March the 8th marks International Women’s Day, and I thought I would briefly return to my occasional analysis of Gender Balance in LEGO® City. I haven’t visited the topic for a couple of years, and was wondering if there have been significant changes here.
This year seems to have become unreasonably busy, for reasons I do not fully understand. As such, I have not had the chance to sit down on a daily basis to Build, photograph and describe the LEGO City Advent Calendar’s builds. In this era of binge watching and instant gratification, where we cannot bring ourselves to wait a whole week to see how this episode’s residual issues get resolved, but follow straight on, I have taken a similar approach to the Advent Calendar.
I will almost, but not quite complete the calendar in this post.
A quick recap:
One of the advantages of binge building the advent calendars is that you can see how the narrative threads develop and resolve. Last time, we saw a number of random activities out side, as well as a small boy looking at presents under the Christmas tree, while eating a biscuit. We were left with 2 developing scenes, somewhat like this…
Where will our stories go now? Will we see new characters and situations? Will we see the source of the cookies? And will we understand why the smiling man in blue is carrying a broom, despite standing outside, with lots of snow around? Hang around as we set out to complete the stories over the next couple of days…
This collection of elements struck me as a little odd, until I realised there was a giant target drawn on the frozen lake. It looks like a curling match is in progress: sliding these polished stones towards the target, our man with the broom must be trying to sweep the ice clear to get his closer to the centre of the target.
Behind window number 12, we find ourselves moving inside again: a few telescopes, a chair and some inverse curved slopes: without a doubt, this is a rocking char, and lamp on a table. I certainly remember seeing this kind of set up in days gone past…
And on day 13, we find someone to sit in the rocking chair, by the lamp, and read a book. The Tile, reading “Once upon a Time” looks great and makes it feel like a real book. I wonder if this lady is the cool Grandmother, or aunt, of the child we met earlier in the month. The cardigan torso has been previously seen in the 70657 Ninjago Docks, as well as the recently release 60203 Ski Resort
To add to the effect, while sitting in her rocking chair, Grandma now has a cup of milk, and a cookie, while sitting in her chair reading. Or has it been left for Santa to find by candlelight? I’ll let you be the judge.
A couple of skids, small Technic elements, handlebars and some small slopes brings us a snowmobile: I suspect we aren’t in the lounge room anymore!
A mixture of elements today, including a disk missile launcher and a frying pan, resolves itself into a stove, employing the open studs on the front of a SNOT Bracket as gas dials. Now we know where the cookies are coming from!
Another figure today, but where does he below? Inside our out? This older man might have a real thing against candles. Perhaps he wants to ensure the fire is out before Santa Claus comes to visit. Or perhaps there has been a nasty accident with the snowmobile in the snow.
We have a small, elegant table setting behind the 18th door. With a table wreath and drumstick, it has the makings of Christmas dinner. For one…
Just in time to help us keep time, we build a grandfather clock. This relatively recent clock face tile shows us that it is a little after 10 minutes to midnight. The kids are staying up really late tonight!
Today, we have another figure with a torso from the Ski resort set – calling back to the X-Treme Team sets of the late 90’s. This child is enjoying the chance afforded by the weather to go snowboarding.
It all depends on how you look at things… and this looks like another night time activity: a telescope. Perhaps all the better to try and find Santa flying through the sky in his Sleigh.
Perhaps this is what Grandpa was worried about back on day 17: this fireplace, still ablaze, with a number of NSOT bricks, Stafford slippers and profile bricks, this is a really elegant representation of a small fireplace, with trans orange tooth elements as the fire. (or is is a gas heater… a fire place will be more practical for Santa, wherever he’s gotten to!) We must be pretty close to the end of the story inside the house.
And just to throw us off the scent, day 23 sees us putting together a few clip elements to make a sled, being pulled by a single husky.
And this almost brings us to the end of our stories. There seems to be a fairly coherent narrative inside the house, with the family relaxing: eating, playing, reading, and extinguishing the candles with extreme prejudice, while waiting for Santa to arrive.
Meanwhile, outside, it seems a little more disjointed: we have a number of activities underway, with people well dressed and rugged up to keep warm. We seem to have a disproportionately large number of modes of transport, compared with the minifigure count. We also have a number of activities – snow ball hurling; curling and stargazing/Santa Spotting, as well as snow boarding. We have certainly had some interesting builds, and some quite unexpected. The outdoor narrative is well suited to the design on the box.
Will the next day go inside or out? Will it be a minifigure, or something else?
And I am going to leave it there for now: I want to avoid spoilers for the final build – so come back in a day or so, when we shall be able to see all our final builds, perhaps along with a little something Xtra.
This year, I have felt as though I have been busier than ever. Sometimes when life gets busy, it becomes harder to find a little time to sit down and dedicate regular time to a project.
Just As I am now more likely to binge watch a television program via a streaming service, rather than a weekly viewing commitment, I have decided to take this approach with the LEGO City Advent Calendar this year.
Looking at the box, however, it seems to give us a great idea of what to expect as we open the windows: minifigures, vehicles and other snow based activities. In previous advent calendars, we sometimes see sequential builds develop into a larger structure, or to tell a story – for example, presents under the tree, while the family gather around the fire. Perhaps there are some hints to this as we look at the front cover of the box.
As I proceed with my binge building, I am curious to see whether the daily builds contribute to the build from the previous day, in one long narrative, or if we will see stories with parallel threads, waiting to be drawn together at the last minute? Let us start, by taking a look through door number one.
Long Term Character Development in LEGO Town and City.
In which we begin our ongoing search for Bill and Mary, by looking through LEGO Town and LEGO City for evidence of long form story telling, beyond the confines of a single set. If we can find it, then we are one step closer to demonstrating whether or not the protagonists of the 6000 Ideas Book could still exist in LEGO City today…
Nothing brings a LEGO® model to life quite like a bit of light and/or sound. Between 1986 and 1998 and there was a 9V system dedicated to this, and made available in a number of Space and Town sets of the era. This system had a battery box (8studs x4studs x2 2/3plates), and had some exposed powered studs that a light brick could be placed on, or a siren brick. It was also the power system for the monorail sets of that era.
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.
In which we take further inspiration from LEGO® Friends, by looking at Olivia’s Service and Care Truck. We follow up by developing a modification to allow two minifigures to sit side by side in a contemporary vehicle, that otherwise only seats one. Now read on…
Last time, we looked at a couple of Olivia’s vehicles from Friends – from 2016 and 2018. Both of these cars have our friends sharing the two seats in a 4×3 space, allowing them to sit side by side in a vehicle that is six studs wide – within the constrains of a four stud wide cabin (so long as there window are open). Today I would like to look at another of her sets from this year. Who knows how it might inspire us…
Looking out for her Friends on the Track: Service and Care Truck 41348
The Service&Care Truck (41348) which was released in the mid-year wave of friends sets in 2018, and has 244 parts. It seems to fit in a similar part count and price point (AUD29.99/€19.99/£14.99/USD19.99) as Olivia’s Mission Vehicle.