Monday, May 7, 2012

Lego Friends and other Girly Sets

Stephanie's Cool Convertible 3183
I recently took my 6-year old daughter, Lena to buy her first Lego set. She had been playing with some of my old sets and had figured out how the instructions and different parts worked. She really enjoyed them, so I figured I'd let her get her very own set. At the store, we looked at all the various sets available in the Town systems, Star Wars (which she doesn't get, yet. Some day she will ;-), Castle, and other various things. She liked some of those, but being the typical princess mindset little girl that she is, she was naturally drawn to new LEGO Friends sets in the pink part of the toy aisle. She picked the Stephanie's Cool Convertible set, and we took it home.

Scala Indies Stable 3124
Being a manly man (and formerly, a typical rough housing boy), I wasn't really sure what to think of a Lego set aimed at girls. Legos seems to mostly appeal to boys (though I know there are a lot of female fans out there) so most Lego sets seem to be designed to get a boy's attention. I was also aware of Lego's past attempts at "girly" sets and systems. The first one was a system called Scala. The figures in these sets looked pretty much like smaller versions of Barbie dolls, and the pieces in these sets were huge. What I mean by that, is that instead of building a wall for a house brick by brick, and adding in little things doors, windows, and wall decorations as you built, each wall was one piece that you plopped down on a big base. Furniture was usually made of several big pieces, as well. This pretty much meant that you could really only build one thing with a Scala set, and that's what was in the instructions. Part of the inherent charm of Legos, in my opinion, is that when you're tired of playing with the built object, you can take it apart and make something else.

Belville Fairy Tales
The next girl system to come out was Belville. Belville also had it's own specialized figures that were more "Legoish" but had more articulated joints, kind of like GI Joe figures. There were large specialized wall pieces and such, but not nearly like Scala. So there was more replayability because the pieces were smaller and could be used with other Lego sets from the Town or other systems. In other words, I think it was a huge improvement and more in line with the old Lego charm.
So that brings us to LEGO Friends. Of the three systems, I like the figures in this one the best. They are small and compact (like the minifigs of most Lego sets) with the same kind of articulation as the regular sets, except that the hands don't twist. But they are also slender and more doll-like in shape. The wigs have tiny holes that accommodate all kinds of a little pink accessories (Lena loved these). The actual Lego pieces used for making the convertible were basically the same kinds you would see in a Town, Star Wars, or other Lego set, except in pink or pastel colors. The bricks also seemed a little shinier to me than my old sets, but I don't know if that's specific to Friends or if it's just been years and years since I've seen a brand new set out of the box. The directions also followed the standard layout and didn't seem dumbed down, like some of the Scala directions I've seen. All in all, I think the LEGO Group has achieved a perfect balance between the usual toys a girl likes to have from the "Pink Aisle" with the charm and replayability that Lego is known for. I've already been getting major hints for which Friends set (City Park Cafe) to get for an upcoming birthday. I'm actually kind of looking forward to it.

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