Reflections on 2010 – Part 1

Now that we are just over a week into 2011, I thought I’d share my opinion on the best and worst of 2010.

Best new theme of 2010
– Atlantis. I was very impressed with the amount of effort that went into Atlantis. A lot of great pieces and minifigs. The thing that impressed me the most was the amount of back story that went into Atlantis, up to and including LEGO Atlantis, the movie, and the larger variety of sets that cover all of the major prices. It was nice to see a much more thought out underwater series that went above and beyond Aquazone and Aqua Raiders, with a bit of Power Miners thrown in (to the point of a crossover minifig with Brains/Dr. Brains). I know there are still a few more sets to be released, including 7985 City of Atlantis, and there is a bit of a new storyline with the “Quest For the Golden King” arc, but I thought it was a mistake to change some of the colors with the transparent pieces/divers, because the 2011 sets look out of place when placed with the 2010 sets, but that’s the AFOL in me speaking. I’m also aware of the rumors that it will be discontinued in 2011, or will be shelved for the time being. LEGO’s lineup is very crowded, and and I’ve seen (and bought) Atlantis sets that have been on heavy clearance, even sets that were released just the past summer. I hope this series continues in the future. It would be odd to put that much effort into it and then drop it, but it seems like that’s what is happening.

Best theme revival of 2010
– Harry Potter. I don’t have that much to say – I like all of the sets, and while many of them are updates (or downgrades in some cases depending on your point of view), I thought they were done nicely. It gave people a chance to get into the Harry Potter LEGO sets who didn’t the first few times around. I thought it was nice that 10217 Diagon Alley would be released this year (2011), since it seems to be targeted towards AFOLs, similar to the 10210 Imperial Flagship. Would like to see that happen more often. Would loved to have seen an Atlantis set with a similar brick count/price to Diagon Alley and Imperial Flagship.

Best themes that ended in 2010
Indiana Jones. Not much to say – I liked the series for the most part, but I’m not upset it ended – it was never going to be as big as Star Wars, especially without a decent movie to keep it going. There is only so much room in the LEGO lineup. I have heard that it might be revived in the future depending on future Indiana Jones movies. Most people might say Pirates, but I had a clue that with the Disney licensing agreements, that we’d be seeing Pirates of the Caribbean, and that is going to happen here in a few short months, so I don’t necessarily see that as an ending of a theme, especially since Pirates is a theme, similar to City, Castle, Space, etc., that is always being discontinued and retooled and brought back in a new form. You might consider Space Police III to be discontinued in 2010, although I believe technically it will end in 2011. If you consider it to have ended in 2010, then I would put that as a tie with Indiana Jones. I really liked some of the Space Police sets. I would have liked to have seen as much effort go into the back story of Space Police III as went into Atlantis.

With Indiana Jones and Space Police III, we have replacements of sorts – first the Prince of Persia and now Pharaoh’s Quest for Indiana Jones, and the upcoming Alien Conquest for Space Police. You could argue that Space Police was always going to be in the shadow of the Star Wars sets, and I think that’s a valid argument. I hope that a lot more effort is put into both the Pharaoh’s Quest and Alien Conquest lines – I don’t want to see a situation where small lines are introduced and then discontinued the following year, at least as an AFOL. I understand why LEGO would do it though, since they’ve been doing it for years. I do think they are putting more effort into their in-house lines.

Thoughts on the best sets of 2010.
I thought these would be a lot tougher, but there were several that stood out to me. I’m not covering all price ranges, because in some price ranges, sets didn’t necessarily jump out at me – this is after all my thoughts on what I consider to be the best sets and not just the best sets of a certain price range.

Under $5
LEGO 7955 Kingdoms Wizard. (7955 Wizard Review) At $3.99, I considered it a very good value – very well printed, comes with some neat/useful accessories. I liked the little dragon as well.

A lot of AFOLs would say the collectible minifigures would be their favorites for under $5. I’m of two minds about the collectible minifigs. I’ve not had an easy time finding them (lot of eBayers in my area apparently) and because of availability, I’m a bit soured on them. However, I think they were a good addition to LEGO’s overall lineup, and hopefully they will become easier to get over time. I don’t necessarily agree with LEGO trying to make it difficult to figure out which ones are which.

$5 – $10
No question in my mind here – LEGO Space Police III 5981 Raid VPR (5981 Review). It’s actually somewhat of a tie with the 8060 Typhoon Turbo Sub in my favorite sets under $25. I liked the design – detailed and yet with a bit of minimalism, and it came with a couple of minifigs. It looks great sitting on a shelf.

Second place, and a very close second place at that, would be the LEGO 7949 Kingdoms Prison Carriage (7949 Review). It was a very good parts and minifig selection, complete with an actual vehicle and horse.

$20 – $25
My favorite set in this range? The 8060 Atlantis Typhoon Turbo Sub (8060 Review). Technically it came out in November, but it was a part of the 2010 lineup. I liked everything about it for the most part, up to and including the price.

Second place would be the 8092 Luke’s Landspeeder from the Star Wars line (8092 Review). It seemed very well thought out to me, with a lot of care taken in the brick selection and overall design. I thought it was one of the best values of the Star Wars sets. Like the VPR and the Turbo, I consider it to be one of those sets you put together and leave together, rather than strip it for parts for MOCs.

$35 – $50
8077 Atlantis Exploration HQ. This was a set that I felt was missing from the first wave of the Atlantis sets – an enclosed submersible with roots in previous underwater sets. I’ve actually picked up a couple of these on clearance and am toying with making a slightly larger submarine. I would have loved to have seen a large submersible for AFOLs in the $120 range, but this will have to do.

7594 Woody’s Roundup! from the Toy Story series might be a runner up for me. A very good selection of minifigs and parts, including parts/buildings that could be used in MOCs if you stayed away from the decals.

$50 – $79
LEGO Harry Potter 4840 – The Burrow. A very neat little design, and a lot of cool minifigs, including some minifigs you wouldn’t see elsewhere. Wished it was a bigger house, have thought of buying two and putting them together, but I understand that increasing the size would have put it out of the range of many people.

$70 – $100
This one was very tough because I didn’t buy much in this range, so I’m just going to list those that appealed to me. 10213 Shuttle Adventure. A lot of parts, and looks good on a shelf. 7946 King’s Castle from Kingdoms. I thought this was a very well thought-out set and like that it works as a complete/enclosed set, as well as spreading it out. 4841 Hogwarts Express from the Harry Potter series. I liked the design of the train, as well as the inclusion of the car, plus the minifigs. Although I like the 7597 Western Train Chase as well, this one gets the edge in trains.

$100+ Range
10210 Imperial Flagship. I actually don’t have this set yet, but will be buying it soon, both because I really want it, and because I’m concerned it’ll be discontinued soon in favor of the Pirates of the Caribbean sets, which will have two large ships released this year. There is a chance it’ll stick around through the first wave of POC, but I know as soon as it’s discontinued, the eBayers will be out in full force. I have seen enough of them in person to know I want it.

The worst?
This is tough because I don’t buy sets I don’t think I’m going to like, so I don’t get much hands on with those sets. I wasn’t thrilled with the rollout of the first couple of waves of collectible minifigs, and the quantities available. I know that LEGO is working to address this, but it still feels like a heavy competition with the eBayers/resellers.

I think things got really crowded in 2010, which meant that some lines didn’t get a good chance, or at least the chance they might have gotten in another year. I may very well be wrong though and there may not have been more lines/sets released in 2010 than in other years – I just know that there seemed to be more lines/sets that I was interested in last year, than in previous years. That does speak well of LEGO though if there were more sets that I was interested in. It’s a weird situation though for AFOLs, because most of the time we are not the intended/target audience. It seems that a lot of sets went on clearance a lot sooner than in the past.

I do worry that short run licensed series will crowd out traditional/in-house series. I don’t necessarily want to see a situation like with Prince of Persia where you have a lot of potential, but the series doesn’t last one year. Of course, had the Prince of Persia movie done a lot better, we might have gotten more sets, but I don’t want to see LEGO turning out sets/lines based on whatever big movie is coming out. On the flip side – Toy Story 3 had an incredible box office performance, so a movie’s success doesn’t necessarily guarantee a line’s longevity – the Toy Story sets were definitely just a one-off marketing thing. Don’t get me wrong – they were well designed, but a lot of us like having larger lines that run for a few years.

I would rather see a situation like with Star Wars or Indiana Jones where you have an ongoing line over several waves/years that covers a broad range of settings and sets. I hope (and believe) that Pirates of the Caribbean will follow Star Wars in that area, and it does get a boost from being a continuation of previous LEGO Pirates lines/sub-themes.

Overall though, I think it was a very good year to be a LEGO fan. I saw some things from LEGO that I think will continue in future lines, some design philosophies.