Wednesday, February 29, 2012

9473 The Mines of Moria

Moving on after a delay with my examination of the upcoming sets. Next up is 9473 The Mines of Moria. The folks over at the Brick Time posted a cleaned up photo of the box art:

My first impression is that this really should have been called the Chamber of Mazarbul, but I suppose that would have left a huge portion of the buying public scratching their heads. I do see a bit of a missed opportunity here, since they could have easily gotten three sets out of Moria: this scene, a scene at the west door that would include the pool and the Watcher in the Water, and of course the Bridge of Khazad Dum with Gandalf and a Balrog. After I get through reviewing all of the sets I'll do a few posts on what might have been and may speculate more on this. Of course, they could always come back in a future round of sets to give us those other two scenes. Anyway, back to the set we actually have. At US$80 this is a pretty expensive set, but it seems worth it. We get a good rendition of pieces of Moria, lots of figs (about half of the company, plus enemies), plus good accessories and printed pieces (I do hope those are printed - in some photos they look like stickers, but that may be because this is a prototype).

A video shows some of the 'action' features: the sections are modular so they can be taken apart, pillars fall down in the battle, a treasure slides out, etc. Here, for instance, we see the skeleton that Pippin knocks down the well (grr, I'm holding back an anti-Peter Jackson rant right now).

Perhaps most disturbing, we get a pop-up Balin's corpse. Nice attention to detail that they got the runes right (I checked versus the runes recreated in the book).

On principle I object to the cave troll. Yes, I know, Gandalf does say "A great cave-troll, I think, or more than one," but the impression in the book is that he is wrong at that point. It's when he looks out and sees a hoard of orcs and 'something else' that is making them hang back. Later, after they escape from the room, Gandalf tries to hold the door, but he 'met my match'. This 'something dark as a cloud' that he 'felt it through the door' was more powerful than Gandalf had ever encountered. Then at the bridge he finally understands, it was a Balrog all along. So Peter Jackson was just plain wrong. Did this guy even read the book? More likely he just saw a hook to bring in a big CGI monster for an extended action sequence. Okay, that out of my system, I do think that LEGO did a great job of interpreting Peter Jackson's total fabrication.

Let me pause here for a moment to praise the orc design. I want an army of these guys.

As with Legolas (and the Collectible Elf before him), orc ears are built into the hairpiece.

There are a ton of weapons in this set, including the Heroica weapons (also found in Blacksmith Attack), the Collectible Highlander sword, the Collectible Elf bow, the Collectible Roman gladius, the flail, axe heads, old spear, new shields for the orcs. This is just impressive, as it draws weapons from all different castle lines.

Let's check out the hero figs. Boromir:


Legolas (and foes)

Legolas is printed on both sides. Not sure about the other figs. Note that the book is printed on one side.

Gimli (hmm, I'm not sure if I've seen a photo of Gimil's torso print when you take away his beard)

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Attack on Weathertop MOCs

As with Gandalf Arrives, the Attack on Weathertop has been depicted by several builders in recent years. Here are a few selections:

Here by Leaz

I like how Nathan included Gandalf's battle on Weathertop before Strider and the hobbits arrived.

Lord Amras includes a great detail - views of the Witch King both with the Ring off and the Ring on.

Caleb Cutlass


My own feeble effort (one of my first post-dark-ages MOCs).

I did include a view by Frodo while wearing the Ring. I was happy with this effect.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

9472 Attack on Weathertop

Next up for examination is set 9472 Attack on Weathertop. This is a pretty good choice for a scene to make a set of, as a very important moment in the first Volume of the Lord of the Rings. Along with the confrontation at the Ford of Bruinen, this is probably the key confrontation during the trip to Rivendell. This passage in the book has all of the key characters who are introduced before the Council of Elrond except for Gandalf (and Bilbo, though he isn't really key to any of the action of the book) (okay, and Tom, but he's so self contained both geographically and in the action of the book that it's hard to call him 'key').

The set leaves out Sam, Pippin, and three Nazgul, but at US$60 it's already a little pricey. As it is, though, you get Frodo, Merry, Strider, two Nazgul and two of the new horses.

As someone pointed out on Classic-Castle, the horses have red eyes. This is a little disappointing, as they will be less universally useful. Here in this image you can see the horse in both poses.

The ruin is pretty nice. It includes a good selection of bricks and slopes in light and dark gray, dark green and a little dark tan (including a smattering of the new brick bricks).

It was a nice surprise to see that the ruin opens up so you can access the interior.

Those microfigs from the games make a nice little architectural detail.

I was a little confused as to the purpose of this structure, but a couple of Flickr comments noted that this is presumably a pedestal for the Palantir that once resided on Amon Sul (and is now at the bottom of the Bay of Forochel). That's a pretty cool little obscure detail to give to Tolkien fans. I'm glad someone in Denmark actually reads.

I can't find any Toy Fair photos that specifically focus on the figs from this set. All of the ones I've seen include them in this action pose. Maybe the displayers were unwilling to allow people to handle the figs since they wanted to keep it in this action scene? Anyway, here we see Frodo, Strider and a Nazgul. Note that this set includes the Ring. We can also see the new tattered cape the Nazgul are wearing. Nothing seems to distinguish the Witch King from the other Nazgul.

Ah, Merry, why are you so obsessed with carrots? And what does Peter Jackson have against mushrooms?/

Friday, February 17, 2012

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Gandalf Arrives MOCs

Let's compare official set 9469 with MOCs that have been built over the years with the same theme. Here are just a few variants of Gandalf's cart (click each to find the original source). I like how Nathan Wells did the fireworks. If you look close you'll see that one of them is topped with a dragon plume. He also made Frodo look shorter in the seat, which was a neat trick.

Cyin's variant is also nice. He includes the fact that (from "A Long-Expected Party") "When the old man, helped by Bilbo and some dwarves, finished unloading..."

I found several other variants that were all quite similar. Wookie Bounty Hunter uses door elements to get a nice shape to the cart.

Both Skalldyr and Gandalf the Grey (Wow! I didn't know he was an AFOL!) put the cart in a large context, including details like a hobbit hole (Bag End?), children chasing after the cart, and fireworks going off (which, btw, is the opposite of the book, but oh well, it made a nice note in the movie).

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

9469 Gandalf Arrives

Let's start our look at the Toy Fair presentation with set 9469 Gandalf Arrives. BTW, I'll draw these images mostly from FBTB's coverage, but also from various different sources, so click on them to go to the original outlet. Anyway, at US$12.99 this will be the cheap set of the line, so I'm sure that most fans of LEGO and Tolkien will at least get this set. After all, you get two of the main characters, and you also get that new cool horse. More on that in a moment. Anyway, this faithfully reflects the moment right at the start of the Peter Jackson film where, well, Gandalf arrives, to be greeted by Frodo. It is even a fairly good representation of the book, allowing for some artistic license on PJ's part (Frodo isn't really in this scene, and there are some color variations:
At the end of the second week in September a cart came in through Bywater from the direction of the Brandywine Bridge in broad daylight. An old man was driving it all alone. He wore a tall pointed blue hat, a long grey cloak, and a silver scarf. He had a long white beard and bushy eyebrows that stuck out beyond the brim of his hat....It had a cargo of fireworks...and the old man was Gandalf the Wizard.

So, start with the box art, that gives a good overall view of the set:

First let's go with the negative. The cart itself looks like a pretty flimsy construction, though I'll be happy to be proven wrong when I get the actual set in my hands. It rides pretty high on the giant wagon wheels and with the horse hitching going to the top of the horse rather than its midsection as is more common.

The contents are nice enough. We get a barrel with three fireworks, a backpack, a letter (hmm, is this the envelope that will hold the Ring later?), a book and a carrot (huh? I guess Gandalf needs a snack on the road, or maybe this is for Merry and Pippin later on in Farmer Maggot's fields). For those unfamiliar with the part, the red firework is the snake staff element found in several Ninjago sets.

Okay, on to the most important aspects.

The new horse may be one of the most exciting new elements introduced in this line. As you can see, the head is a little less blocky and one of the front legs is lifted, to make it seem less static than the old horse.

But, of course, the thing that has people excited is that the back legs swivel, so you can show the horse rearing (this black horse is from the Weathertop set). Some people were wondering if this new horse mold would fit the barding element. I think it probably will, since the old style horse hitching also fits this new horse, as does the old saddle.

Saving the most important for last, the figs! As you can see, they both look great. Frodo's head is double sided, with one sort of half-smile and the other upset. New beard and hair molds are always good and generally useful. I can't find a good picture of Gandalf's torso without the beard, which is sort of frustrating, but it also looks fairly useful. It's sort of frustrating that Frodo's torso has a little patch of flesh at the neckline, which will make it less interchangeable with yellow LEGO heads. There's also been some complaints about the lack of a new mold for Gandalf's staff. I'm of two minds on that one. On the one hand, the Ninjago snake staff piece is proof that LEGO isn't averse to making new detailed pieces similar to this. On the other, the more we go away from traditional LEGO shapes to molded parts, the more these seem like action figures and less like the toy I love. One last complaint is that I was hoping the Tolkien line would give LEGO an excuse to develop articulated short legs, since those would be useful for both Hobbits and Dwarves, but alas we get the static stubbies. Aside from those relatively minor complaints, I'm quite happy with these figs. They are both good representations of the movie characters and reasonable interpretations of the book descriptions.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Official Hobbit sets timeline

Images are starting to appear from Toy Fair New York. If you read this blog, you've probably already seen these. So rather than just quickly repost them now I'll try to do something a little more in depth spread over the next few days. If you haven't seen the new sets, check them out at Lord of the Brick, FBTB or Brickset. For now, though, I'll start with something quite simple, that may be overlooked in the excitement over seeing the new sets clearly at last:

It's not that this is a surprise, since we would expect Hobbit sets to come out at the same time as the movie, but this is a good confirmation of that. Anyway, tomorrow we'll take a look at Gandalf's Arrival.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Nuremberg Toy Fair

Now it's Germany's turn. The Nuremberg Toy Fair is underway now and through the weekend. Perhaps we'll see official pictures of the sets soon (crosses fingers). In the meantime, check out these great sculptures that are part of the LEGO display. There's also a glimpse of what I assume is the official Shelob design behind them.