A review with a twist this time. Lowlugger dip bought Craggers command ship, but after the build he had some questions. His questions were answered by the designer himself, Mark Stafford!
The box art depicts the ship, together with the lions on their jetskis.
At this moment the flagship of the Legends of Chima series literally is a flagship: a big olive green boat for the crocodile tribe. With extra speedboats and a helicopter it is of course a fantastic set. The boat is used by the crocodiles to capture chi, the energy source of Chima. But who am I to tell all this? Maybe we should listen to the person who actually designed the set himself; Mark what do you have to say about this set?
Video: Mark Stafford about this set:
So, that's looking good. And now it just happens to be that Mark was willing to answer some questions regarding this set. I can't guarantee that the questions (or answers) will be useful. So let's have a look at it all. First the dry facts:
Facts: made in 2013, €89,99 at S@H (nl), 609 parts, 6 minifigs, 8-14 jaar
Let's starts with the box; it looks good, we've seen the front and the back shows all the different functions of the set, nothing special. The fun starts inside, the box is loaded, you cann't add another bag if you tried. It contains 4 bags, the big bulky hull and stickers and instructions are wrapped in plastic with a cardboard piece against creases.
It is obvious that the kids shoudl be able to start playing as soon as possible. As Mark already mentioned there are 6 minifigs in the set and we begin with putting them together. There is a lot attention put into the looks of the animals, detailed prints and a cool design for the heads.
The minifigs: Leonidas, Lennox, Crominus, Cragger, Crooler and Rawzom, for comparison an old Fabuland character.
dip: A lot of Chima characters in the set. When designing this theme did you guys at Lego ever considered this to be a follow up to the Fabuland figures (at least the heads)? Or is this just something that the AFOLS have assumed?
Mark: Well, I guess we did notice some similarities, and I even joked this could be some terrible dark vision of 'Fabu-war' either as a prequel or post apocalyptic sequel to the 1980's theme – but the figures were actually developed from scratch and honestly the Fabuland parallels didn't hit us until later. Plus it's very unlikely we'll feature lambs or bunnies as any of the future tribes!
dip: While we're on the characters: How long is the lion tribe busy with styling their hair in the morning. How much chi does that take?
Mark: Lions manes are naturally spiky, no gel or chi required – though I hear the ravens use old chi-motor oil to smooth out their feathers!
Those where the figures, let's look at the 2 jetski's for Lennox and Leonidas, with which they can make a quick getaway from the crocodile tribe. In comparison with their opponents their crafts are a bit tiny. The crocodile tribe is equipped with 2 fast speedboats, which will result in some high speed chases. When the kids have build everything from bag 1 they can play for hours.
dip: We build some jet-skis and two rubber boats, clearly done so that kids can almost directly play with (part of) the set. Does this influence the final model? You have to have something small to be able to build it quickly, but it should also integrate into the main model?
Mark: We chose to put these small vehicles in bag 1 so kids can start playing straight away, it's not compulsory to include these small models, but it is a better play experience and I like to include something like this in many of my bigger LEGO sets.
There was no plan, I built the croc boat first and put everything I would have loved as a kid on it, the flyer, the small boats, the engine room and prison etc. Originally the lions had a bigger two seat boat, but as I was developing the set we had to choose between shrinking their vehicle or taking play features from the big boat. We all decided to make Cragger's Command Ship as cool as it possibly could be!
Prelimanary designs of the boats for the lions, the outer right model is almost identical to the final design.
We're building the helicopter. 2 motors on both sides which can point to almost any direction. Also a big tail with which we can whip things, always handy on a copter. It's a different design than previous aircraft, I'm not saying that's its ugly but I'm not super enthusiastic, but I have no idea how it could be improved (bigger gun?).
dip: A nice osprey type of vehicle. Now what is that raven doing on a croc boat?
Mark: Well crocs are not natural flying creatures so we figured they might need a bit of advice. Besides the crocs, ravens and wolves are all working together. For now...
dip: Did you ever notice that with the 2 boats and helicopter gone from the mother ship it's like a duck in the water? It does not have any propulsion of its own. Or are we missing some vital information?
Mark: Well I think there is always a way to move if you still have chi in the engine room, maybe there is a small water jet under the hull? Or Cragger could start rowing with his groovy sword!
Bags 3 en 4
We're building a boat! It consist of one of those big bulky boat hulls know from a.o. the recent fireboat. By building over the sides of the hull the "one partness" of the hull is less conspicuous. At the back of the boat we are building a small engine where some chi crystals are providing the power. Around the engine room is a structure to improve positioning of the helicopter on the boat. At the front of the boat the front paws also hold the small crocodile attack boats. In between is a cockpit with underneath it a prison, this is accessible via the large mouth.
dip: The set is a boat, actually a watertight mono-hull design which can float in the bathtub (as can be shortly seen in the designer video). Do you in the design studio have a real bathtub so that you can test it out? If yes; are there pictures, or even better a video? (Wait I'll just propose this to the people making those nice promotional videos, Mark sitting in a bathtub swossing the ship around, yes that will do wonders for sales...)
Mark: There's actually a large old kids paddling pool in the basement of out testing and verification department! All floating boats have to be tested here to make sure they are not too prone to capsizing. I don't think the water has been replaced for years! There is a video (and another of an earlier test in a LEGO plastic factory storage box) but I think we'll keep those to ourselves – I might have used a naughty word in delight when it worked!
dip: Talking about the boat: How far were you out of your comfort zone, building a boat, most of the time it's mechs and trucks, this is a really different thing isn't it?
Mark: I kind of built the first croc boat as a joke, we had a building boost and the simple task was to build interesting vehicles for the six tribes we were launching with. I had been joking for years that it was unfair I'd never get to have a 'floats on water' splash on the front of one of my boxes unless I went to work in LEGO City, so I just grabbed one of the police hulls and built the coolest croc boat I could think of on top of it. Then I sprayed most of it the new olive green, knowing this was far too many colour changes to ever become a set. The very first version is remarkably close in appearance to the final set.
A previous version of the croco boat, a lot of things have stayed essentially the same. There model is a bit redder, the chimney is reduced to something simpler and the large claws (a new part, not available for the first design) are absent, but the whole head assembly is almost unchanged.
Mark: I was amazed when at the next test with kids the croc boat was a favourite choice and it went straight into the line up!
Ironically there was not enough room to put the 'floats on water' splash on the front of the final box!
As for building comfort zones I've built so many LEGO sets now (over 40) that I'm pretty much ready for anything, from temples, fast cars, monsters, castles, jets, helicopters to my favourite Mecha and spaceships. But having come out of Atlantis and Ninjago: Year of the Snakes, I was pretty well equipped to build an aquatic animal inspired set!
dip: In the boat there is much more of that lovely olive green which is abundant in this set. And a lot of the olive parts are unique for this set. Are there any other parts which are unique for this set and made especially for us afols (like the black sausages in the deep sea rider)?
Mark: Yes, a lot of these parts are unique in olive and many will not appear again, but with this set I really was not considering the AFOLs. I hope there are a lot of useful parts for builders in there, but it was purely about making the very best floating crocodile boat toy I could. Now in Eris' Eagle Interceptor most of the Dark Azure bricks are there purely for the fans – to make them available in more sets then just Galaxy Squad and LEGO Friends!
The new Chima part I think will be most useful for builders is the clip with tube/hole that holds the croc's claws in place. I think allows for some very interesting ways to build scaffolding and roll cages and I'm looking forward to how fans use it. (Maybe in combination with that black sausage part!)
dip: The crocodile it's starting to look familiar with its bulging eyes. Is it by any change modeled on tick tock the crocodile from peter pan Disney? (The answer must be "no" of course, because otherwise Disney will be on your back due to copyright infringements)?
Mark: Well a crocodile has some iconic characteristics that are bound to be similar from one interpretation to the next. I never saw the Disney Peter Pan as a kid, but the very similar one in Disney's 'The Rescuers' haunted a few of my childhood dreams so I guess there's a chance some inspiration crept in!
All in all I think it's a nice set with a welcome unusual colour. The playability looks fine to me. The jet skis and the canon on the helicopter could have been a bit bigger, but the overall looks and functions of the croc boat are spot on. I like the translucent red I but I wonder how the whole model would have looked with dark red parts. The set as a parts pack is a bit doubtful, yes there is a lot of olive green, but due to the large boat hull the whole price balance is a bit skewed.
However if I was in the target group (8 year boys) than I would be overjoyed to receive it.
Then some general questions which do not have a lot to do with the set itself.
dip: We just had Ninjago which was flooded with dragons, will Cragger win a battle with one of the Ninjago dragons, does he have the chi for it?
Mark: Spinjitsu or Chi-ing Up... tough question I think so long as they have chi the creatures of Chima are pretty much going to win a fight with a Ninja, maybe even with his dragon – however the Chi will not last forever and ninja skills are learned and practiced, and a dragon is still a dragon. So I think in the long run the Ninja's and their dragons would win! But if the Chima Tribes have their vehicles with them it could swing the other way.
You know, I think you'll have to figure this one out yourself!
dip: The parallels between legends of chima and Orwell's "animal farm" are obvious of course (well for me). Instead of pigs we now have lions who "distribute" the chi. In the future, Will we see an uprising against these evil creatures and will the noble crocs prevail (or noble ravens, whoever is really noble in the end)?
Mark: There is more going on in the Land of Chima then there appears at first, though it's not an allegory of communism's failures like Animal Farm. These tribes were peaceful for centuries. Our main heroes and villains were all friends until very recently. There are a lot of unanswered questions. What happened? Why has centuries of trust suddenly been lost? How did it come to open war? Is someone or something manipulating these events? Can true friendship win out over distrust?
Chima's stories, its legends and its future tales are only just beginning and I think you're going to be really amazed at how far things change in their world over the next few years.
dip: We have lions, wolfs, eagles, ravens and crocs, The question on everybody's mind is of course 'will there be racing snails, so can give us a hint on that?
Mark: I can't comment on future products – even to dismiss Racing Snails! There will be more tribes, that much I can admit!
dip: The croc girl, crooler, does she ever hang out in Heartlake City lake together with Andrea, Olivia and the other friend girls?
Mark: Those Hartlake girls are vicious – they'd have her made into a handbag and some fashionable boots before she could even apologize for eating all their puppies and bunnies! That said I think she'd really like Olivia's speedboat!
dip: Thank you very much Mark.
Mark: No problem! Glad you liked the set.