By now, you should have heard about LEGO friends, LEGO’s next foray into the girls toys market. The collection is poised to be popular with girls whose father wants an excuse to buy some LEGO, but is stirring some controversy over the adult fan community (AFOLs). Not ones to shy away from owning toys aimed at girls, especially if they’re LEGO, we purchased a set (Emma’s Splash Pool – 3931) to do some thorough analysis.
Past LEGO for girls
LEGO has tried several times to cater to the girl demographic, with mixed success. Amongst the most notable girl collections in the past, you might have heard about Paradisa, Belville or Scala. Paradisa was a subtheme of Town that ran from 1992 to 1997. It featured scantily clad minifigs, pastel colors (most notably pink), and some rare cheat parts like the giant glass dome, a spiral staircase or a dolphin. Belville featured taller, more realistic articulated figures, even more pastel colors (light yellow, light green, purple, dark pink, the list goes on), and bigger cheat parts like giant columns, arches and wall lattices. Scala had even taller Barbie-like clumsily dressed figures with hair, an outrageous amount of new colors and parts including, but not limited to giant wall panels, plates with flower-shaped studs, roasted chicken and a transparent light blue inflatable dolphin. Scala did not run for very long but Belville lingered from 1994 to 2009. It drifted from realistic themes to fairytales, mermaids, fairies, princesses and oriental adventures. The name Scala came from an old line of LEGO jewelry. LEGO ventured in that territory again with the short-lived Clickits line. As for the name Belville, I’m guessing this is an attempt at a French name, « bel » meaning beautiful and « ville » meaning city. Actually, since « ville » is a feminine word, one might expect the name to be spelled « Belleville » instead, but Belleville is a popular neighborhood in Paris, much like Brooklyn in New York, which is not glamorous. Apart from that, I don’t think we can count half-hearted attempts like buckets of pink bricks. But all of that is history now.
LEGO Friends is supposed to launch in 2012, but you can already find it in some select stores. This time around, LEGO is trying a different approach to lure the feminine crowd : instead of dumbing down the build experience with lots of cheat parts, it’s trying to use standard bricks to create girl toys. The new theme features brand new slimmer and girlier LEGO minifigures (or mini-doll), and a lot of bright colors (including the new medium azure) and girl-themed sets (kitchen, hair salon, vet clinic). There are not that many new parts (save for the obligatory girl accessories and cute animal friends) and existing parts are sometimes used in an innovative way.
Emma’s Splash Pool
The set in itself is fun, but nothing really exciting. It contains a sunlounger with a parasol, a tiny pool and a pot with a plant. The pool is barely deep enough fo the mini-doll to sit in. The only noteworthy aspect of the set is the new medium azure macaronis. But the highlight of the set (and probably the whole collection) is the mini-doll.
The LEGO Friends mini-doll
The mini-doll is not a standard minifigure but shares some similarities with it. It is roughly the same size (5mm taller) as the usual minifigure, has similar claw hands with the same spacing between same and can put standard hair pieces on its head. The mini-doll, is made out of 4 different parts.
- The hair piece is made of a rubbery plastic that is sturdier than some modern regular minifigure pieces. It is a little flexible, but not much. Interestingly, it has two small holes than can host standard small pieces such as plumes, small dragon wings, old style flames and Belville bows. The hairpieces are compatible with the standard minifig hairpiece which makes the sets quite interesting.
- The light flesh head looks a lot like a minifig head but it is shaped more realistically. The top of the head is similar in diameter to that of a minifig with a standard lego stud. This means your minidoll can wear just about any standard minifig hair piece, hat, helmet and whatnot. The head has a chin which makes it non flat and asymmetric. The neck hole is the same diameter as LEGO bars and tools. You can thus put the head on a stick or any object or attach anything compatible in place of the head. The head also has a prominent round nose and is painted on the front.
- The upper body is thinner than that of the regular minifig. It features two articulated non removable arms. Each arm has a non rotative wrist and hands are standards claws. They can hold the same thing as a standard minifig. The diameter of the arms seems to be random since it does not clip when another minifig is trying to hold it. However, as it goes toward the shoulder, it gets a little bigger and thus enables things to clip and stick. After a day of playing with the minifig moderately, the arm went a little loose. I think this is to be expected. The neck is thinner than the minifig neck. Bars and sticks fit snugly inside the torso so you may attach the body to one.
- the bottom part of the body is constituted of two legs that cannot move separately. The figure can bend over forward 90 degrees (but not backwards). The figure cannot sit on LEGO studs (like a minifigure would thanks to the holes at the back of its legs). The feet are a tiny little bit longer that a stud, so you cannot put a brick directly behind them. It means won’t fit on regular horses (girl toys need horses). The waist is very thin and does not seem to correspond to anything that I know of. However, its stud seems to fit inside the green cylinder brick that’s used in the set for the pot.
We’ll submit this minifig to some more tests and post more has it develops. If you have any more suggestions or testing ideas, feel free to comment!