Set Review: 21301 Birds
Sunday, January 4th, 2015 at 9:39pm by Jason, BZPower Reporter
2015 starts off with the release of the new LEGO Ideas #009 set, 21301 Birds. This model was designed by Tom Poulsom and added to LEGO Cuusoo (now LEGO Ideas) on May 13th, 2012. In January of last year, it received the needed 10,000 supporters to go through to the LEGO Review, where they would see if it was worth it to make it a set. On November 7th, 2014, it was announced that they would be moving forward, and it became the 9th LEGO Cuusoo / Ideas set to go through production. And now we have it in hand, to see just how good it really is!
From the design of the box to the instruction manual, these are the first things you see before building the set.
The box really stands out with itís custom artwork, which seems to be common for most of the LEGO Ideas sets. It features the three main models over what appears to be paintings of their respective habitats, which itself is placed over a wooden background. Itís very detailed, and does a nice job of showing off the models. The back, however, is even better, because it has images of the real birds the models are based off, as well as their habitat range. Unfortunately, none of these birds frequent the west coast of the US, where Iím from, but it shows that the Robin is found throughout Europe and the Blue Jay across much of the eastern US. Thus itíll be possible for many fans to build these sculptures based off a bird that could be in their backyard.
The box is a little heavier-duty than traditional LEGO boxes, as itís intended for use even after you open the set. (This is another common element of LEGO Ideas sets.) Inside, you get five bags of parts and a total of three instruction booklets, one for each bird sculpture. The instructions are of higher quality than usual, and are somewhat difficult to flatten out while you build. The first few pages of each one include an introduction of the set by Tom Poulsom, and then a description and fun facts of the respective bird, which is a nice touch. But then the same pages are repeated through a handful of different languages, so it seems thereís a lot of repetition as far as the pictures are concerned. Still, this probably makes producing the booklets easier for a multi-lingual release.
The first model we build is the European Robin, or the Erithacus rubecula. This bird primarily comes with brown, light gray, and red pieces. LEGO Ideas sets donít have the budgets for new molds or colors, but there are a few uncommon elements included here. Among them are the new red jumper plates (which have the new bottom connections) and the brown 1x2 plates with bars on the end. You also have plenty of small brown and red plates, and then a fair amount of SNOT (Studs Not On Top) pieces. The Robin has about 205 pieces overall.
The first thing you build is the base, which uses a bunch of dark tan tiles and includes a printed tile with the scientific name of the Robin, Erithacus rubecula. One thing I am disappointed in is the connection for the brown handle the Robin is perched on; itís not fully connected, but rather just an axle resting in a rod hole. This allows you to easily spin the bird or take it off the base completely with ease, but while it doesnít fall over, it does tend to wobble a bit. Something sturdier wouldíve been nice, but the current design works.
Next up is the actual Robin, whose build is spectacular. The Robin doesnít just have a studs-not-on-top build; it has a studs-in-every-direction build! Even the bottom with the legs has the studs facing outwards. This is achieved by a nice block of SNOT on the inside. The color design here is also fabulous, especially with the use of the red and light gray wedges on the side. The front has a nice stud-curving texture, and then the back is angled using the brown clips. Even the talons have a basic but effective design. The Robin is a compact little model, but everything about it is packed with detail and flows quite well. The one exception to this is on the back of the neck, where there are a couple of gaps due to the constraints of the SNOT bricks. The gaps are evident when viewed from certain angles, but generally donít stand out too much. There are a few weak connections, such as on the end of the wings where some of the brown plates are connected just with a single stud, but I didnít have much issue with them falling off. Itís a great sculpture overall.
The second model is the Blue Jay, or the Cyanocitta cristata. The Blue Jay comes with pieces in white, light gray, black, and medium blue. Some of the rare pieces here are in medium blue, and include the 2x4 wedge plates, the 1x3 and 1x4 curved slopes, 1x3 and 2x3 plates. I also believe this is the first time weíve seen the new style of jumper in medium blue. Also of interest are some of the mini ball joint / Mixel joint pieces included here. You also get some more dark tan tiles, because the base is the exact same as the Robinís, only this time with a printed tile reading, "Cyanocitta cristata." The Blue Jay has roughly 228 pieces overall.
The Blue Jay utilizes some SNOT techniques as well, but itís a different design than the Robin. Instead, the Blue Jay attempts some different angles. The head, tail, and back are angled using clip and hinges, while the wings are attached using Mixel joints that allow for a more unique positioning. The belly has the offset stud-curving texture to give it a nice angle, and the head itself is a nice design that offsets a 3 length head to the 4 length neck, with some great color choices to reflect the coloring patterns on the birds head. Because it attempts some non-ninety-degree angles, the sides of everything donít mesh together as well as they do with the Robin, especially on the neck, where you can see the gap between the jagged body and the head piece. But this is nitpicking since itís almost impossible to get everything flush, and this model does an excellent job at hiding the gaps, especially with the angling of the wings.
There are a few issues to speak of here. I found the back section kept popping off the hinge piece, and due to the angles itís hard to put back on. The other glaringly bad bit is the feet. Unlike the Robin, the Blue Jayís feet are mere technic pieces, complete with the blue plus-rod showing. Compared to the Robin, this is a shame that it canít be more detailed. However, since the Blue Jay is also positioned differently, this design mightíve been necessary for stability. If thatís the case, it works, because the Blue Jay is nicely balanced. But while everything else about this bird has a ton of detail, the simplicity of the feet is disappointing.
Green Violetear Hummingbird
The last model is the Green Violetear Hummingbird, or the Colibri thalassinus. The Hummingbird primarily comes with green and dark green elements, but the flower adds a splash or yellow and orange bits into the mix. You get a lot of green and dark green cheese slopes, some orange 1x3 tiles, and a handful of the relatively rare corner wedge plates in green. One piece I believe is new in its color is the green 2x4 trapezoid wedge plate. You also have a lengthier baseplate compared to the other birds, which again has lots of dark tan tiles and a 2x4 plate with "Colibri thalassinus" printed on it. Between the flower, base, and Hummingbird, you get about 150 pieces.
The Hummingbird model is definitely less impressive than the Robin or Blue Jay. The bit that stands out as the worst is the wings, which are just repeats of the same corner wedge plates on top of each other. On one hand, this might give a better effect of the buzzing wings of the Hummingbird as it hovers over the flower, but it still seems too simple compared to the elegance of the other birds. The body is actually mostly studs-down, where its underbelly is well decorated with the cheese slopes in both green and dark/earth green. A nice feature is that the dark green wedge slopes on the top are connection down via a technic pin; itís secure and works nicely. The head is fairly small, with a lengthy beak and some purple highlights. The head is connected via a clip, with an additional piece included to bulk out the neck a little more. The Hummingbird attached to a clear rod, which is actually securely connected to the base for once.
The other model included here in the flower. Itís a fairly simple design, with the repetition of pedals clipped onto the base, and the stem is made out of the larger tail pieces. Its bright colors slightly outshine the Hummingbird itself, but the size is right for the Hummingbird to feed out of it. Although it wouldíve been nicer to have more details put into the bird, the flower does compliment it well.
Once it's all said and done, how does the set stack up? Should I get it?
What's to like?
- Excellent SNOT design on the Robin
- Nice use of angles on the Blue Jay design
- Great color scheme on Robin and Blue Jay that captures the looks of the birds
- Flower design compliments (and perhaps upstages) Hummingbird
- Fairly sturdy on their stands
- A good amount of pieces, including some nice colors, rare parts, and lots of SNOT bits
- A fair value with 580 pieces for $44.99 USD
- Makes for awesome sculptures to display
What's not to like?
- Hummingbird design is a bit lackluster, especially the simplistic design of the wings
- Some gaps visible on the neck of the Robin
- More gaps visible between angled sections on the Blue Jay (but this is forgivable given how well the design works)
- Blue Jayís feet are simple technic bits with no special detailing
- Stands arenít securely connected to baseplates
- No real play value, perhaps intended more for adults than kids
In the end you get two awesome bird models and one mediocre one. The Robin and the Blue Jay arenít absolutely perfect, but theyíre fairly close to perfection with their awesome designs that are filled with a bunch of cool techniques and a lot of attention to the details of the actual birds. The Hummingbird isnít quite as glorious, but itís still a fun little model when coupled with the flower.
It should be noted that these are sculptures, and as such have little play value. The birds donít have moveable wings or necks and are not very swooshable at all. These are sculptures that are better suited as display pieces, and as such are likely aimed at an older audience.
This set is also a great source of SNOT pieces, cheese slopes, and small plates and wedge plates in various colors. Although I wouldnít recommend this at simply a parts pack (because then you would have the beautiful bird sculptures built) it would add useful pieces to your collection for creating your own sculptures, as well as maybe introducing you to new techniques you could use in your own models. Still, even with those benefits, the highlight of this model is recreating the birds in LEGO form, and it pulls that off rather well. The set is now available from Shop.LEGO.com for $44.99 USD.
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