Review:71040 by Dorek

From BIONICLEsector01

BS01 Reviews

71040 The Disney Castle

By Dorek (View Gallery)

  • This set was provided to BS01 by LEGO, but the opinions of the set are those of the reviewer.

Review: 71040 The Disney Castle

The crown jewel of LEGO's 2016 releases, The Disney Castle offers a unique take on the Disney/LEGO relationship. Jam packed with all sorts of details, the castle also comes in at a whopping 350 dollar price point. Are all the secrets worth uncovering?

The Box

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The box itself is an enormous affair; the 16+ age tag makes a lot more sense when you realize it's roughly the size and weight of a small child. The front shows the castle exterior, complete with Disney's classic fireworks, as well as the four minifigures. The back shows the reverse of the castle, the interior and most of its assorted features, as well as shot of the real building to compare.

Also included is a helpful measurement for when you're planning on where to stick this thing (48 x 72cm if you must know!), which I really should have thought of beforehand. But it actually fits nicely into a cabinet of mine, so it worked out. It's also good to keep the width in mind when displaying because you will invariably want to be able to view the back and the front; assuming you don't have a 360 degree glass display case, you'll need room to turn the castle, hopefully without having to remove parts every time.

The Bits

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Speaking of parts, the Disney Castle comes in at a grand total (not counting extras, duh) of 4080 pieces. As a price-per-piece ratio goes, this is a pretty fantastic value; far more parts than fellow Disney licensee the Death Star - and yet still at a much lower price point, too - while only a few hundred shy of the similarly priced Firehouse Headquarters. People have been paranoid about the so-called "Disney tax", but you won't see that on this one, that's for sure.

As far as new parts go, the big ones are obviously the four exclusive minifigures that come with the set. Yes, four; the Donald minfig, for reasons unknown, is the exact same one you'll find in the CMF Disney series. They also, interestingly, divide the minifigs across the 20+ bags rather than making them all available at the beginning. The first one you'll see is Mickey, looking spiffy in his new tuxedo. I like this version better than the CMF one; Mickey has odd proportions in general, but this isn't emulating the character so much as the Disney costumes you'll see at the park, which makes more sense. You could argue that they shaved some of the cost by not including as many minifigs (which is probably where half the budget of the Death Star goes), but given the Disney CMF release a while back, I actually appreciate that there's more space to play around with.

On an unrelated note, I'm also used to super thin instruction booklets with constraction sets; Disney Castle's instructions is an veritable book (490 pages!), with the first few pages devoted to information about the castle, and a breakdown of the various Disney references contained therein.

The Build

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It's been a long time since I've built anything System on this scale, so it was interesting to see what techniques they currently use in laying the framework. To my surprise, the fusion pieces (bricks with Technic holes and pins) feature heavily in the foundation. Combined with some larger plates and they can successfully form a solid base while still leaving in certain gaps to save time and money.

One of the best parts of the base was the floor centerpiece shield; it's actually a shame to see parts of it get obscured later, but they leave the core as draw in the foyer. The coloring is great too; tan and dark blue come together well. There's plenty of other random colors in the mix too (reds, oranges, greens, the whole rainbow) that I don't really see a need for, and will just get buried later. Some are obviously the only available parts in that color, while others are there to stand out and make building easier, I suppose?

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Once we've defined our horizontal boundaries and the base has coalesced, it's time to go up. The pillars offer us a cute taste of some non-standard building techniques, utilizing some hinged 2x2/1x4 pieces to angle the columns, which are also nicely decorated with those small shield plates we've been seeing.

One of the cooler parts of the castle as a whole is also the main entryway, with huge double doors inviting one to come inside.

Before we move on, I'd be remiss not to point out the two frogs, our first Disney cameo (from The Princess and the Frog)! It's only a few pieces, but there's plenty more to come.

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The main facades use utilize a combination of rounded pillars and long slope pieces; as you may have read in some reviews (or seen in the news) the instruction booklet actually has you misapply the texture stickers, so I would recommend building first and applying the stickers after everything is finished.

The turrets also attach to a circular 4x4 turntable plate; ostensibly less secure, but works to allow angles that would normally not be achievable in standard grid building layouts.

At this point in the build we also have another Disney references, a target range from Brave - which I mistook as being from Robin Hood at first. Think of the possibilities!

Also of note (but not explicit Disney references) are two soldier statue minifigs, a grandfather clock, and a chandelier. The chandelier spins, which is kind of pointless but stupidly entertaining nonetheless.

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Though it's simply called "The Disney Castle" in most of the marketing, the primary inspiration is the Castle of Dreams from Cinderella; there is actually another oblique reference to the film later on, but the outside includes the clock, five minutes before the fateful midnight chiming. It's at this point you realize there haven't been any actual Princess minifigs outside of the doll figs of the Princess line; one has to wonder if the inevitable second series of the Disney CMFs will rectify that. Also seen at this point is the Magic Carpet from Aladdin. This is one of my favorite inclusions; the lack of a magic carpet styled tile in the CMF series (combined with a repeated magic lamp) seemed like a missed opportunity, so it's great to have it here.

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The building also starts to get more complex in its details. The capstone constructs are asymmetrical; the instructions guide you along well enough, and the coloring is meant to draw your eye to where the differences are, but the use for it isn't readily apparent, and so it's hard to tell if you've made a mistake until later on. But the finished results are something else; the flagpole spires, despite being mostly identical, add an immense level of detail.

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The Disney Castle is actually divided into three different "tiers", and the finishing of the capstones marks the end of the first one. I use the distinction because it's the part where the connections are the least solid; rather than firmly plant into any series of studs, the base of the next tier only loosely attaches to the top of the first one by a few sparsely placed single stud/2x2 tiles. On the one hand, it gives it a certain amount of flexibility in placement and allows for easier disassembly. On the other, it's way more likely you'll accidentally knock over one tier which will take the other one down with it.

Regardless, the next tier is when they really start packing in the details and references. The amount of specification does lead to some confusing building steps; even with the highlighting of individual parts, there were certain times where I would accidentally add a right angle brick rather than a 1x2 and 1x1 brick which the instructions called for (or vice versa). They also have you building from the outside wall, so it's harder to visualize what you're aiming for until you turn it around. The end results though, as before, are definitely worth it; the fireplace (from the kitchen in The Little Mermaid) is exquisitely crafted (with a shoutout to Cinderella in the form of a pumpkin), although I would have loved to see a little crab there too.

Next to it is the Beauty and the Beast room; the glass-encased rose is certainly a nice touch, but I think the Lumiere candelabra might just be my favorite of the lot. It's so simply built, but the recolors just bring it to life.

Next to it is a secret balcony of sorts where Cinderella's glass slipper goes. This eventually gets covered by a roof, completely obscuring access to it, which is a rather bizarre turn. However, I didn't quite get that the clear tile construct was supposed to be the glass slipper either, so it's a bit of a head-scratcher all around.

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The next floor (but still part of the same tier) is two more iconic Disney scenes; one the loom from Sleeping Beauty, the other a series of items from the Fantasia vignette "The Sorcerer's Apprentice". I love the Sorcerer Mickey hat, but I'm kind of bummed they didn't add in functionality that could attach it to the Mickey minifig head; I can easily picture a robe getup that would fit the whole theme.

The loom is cleverly constructed; a complex gadget in real life rendered in a simple brick form, but when you compare it to the provided animated image, it matches (though again calls attention to the lack of actual princess minifigs).

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Rounding out the tier is a technically unspecified reference, but can't really be anything but another nod to Sleeping Beauty: a bed. Complete with some pink hued blackout curtains, it actually does a good job of making a squared bed look comfortable!

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The third and final tier is devoted primarily to two Disney references. One a classic, the other from the modern age: Snow White and the Seven Dwarves and Tangled, respectively. The latter appears on the lower floor, with a collection of items they had lying around that could vaguely be referential, in this case some brown hair and scissors. It's cute, but it's filler more than anything else, which is why they also chose to use that floor for an action feature of two side by side stud projectiles. It took me a second to get what it is, but they represent the fireworks that close out the ceremonies every day at DisneyLand/World. Like most LEGO shooters these days the launchers have a hair trigger, but you're given some spare ammo too, so it's a nice touch overall.

The Magic Mirror, on the other hand, is a brilliant piece of brickwork; one of the many treats to the castle has been seeing common pieces combine in interesting ways (although recolors certainly help). The mirror itself is, however, sticker-based. As always, your opinions on sticker usage will vary entirely based on your success/failure ratio. I got a little bubble in mine, so I'm miffed. Be careful!

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The final touch is a turret ending in a gold-studded spire, along with various and sundry accenting pieces for the rest of the model.

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The Brass Tacks

Should I get this set?


  Good for people who like:

• Disney - Stuffed to the brim with your favorite Disney references, both classic and modern.
• Intense building - Varied and interesting techniques that don't just recycle constantly.
• Depth - Despite the open back, Disney Castle beats out many architecture sets for volume.
  Not for those looking for:

• Cheap sets - It might be worth the money spent, but it's still a lot of money. Far from an impulse purchase.
• Action features - Aside from an unnecessary mini-projectile, Disney Castle doesn't offer any play features.
• Minifigs - Four out of the five minifigs included are exclusive, but compared to similar sets, it feels like there could have been a few more
  Other Comments:

Who's the leader of the band now? -- Dorek

So, the verdict. Does one of the most anticipated LEGO sets in recent memory live up to expectations? In a word, yes. It's solidly and intelligently constructed, absolutely stuffed to the brim with all sorts of Disney references new and old, and does a wonderful job of translating an iconic cultural touchstone into a brick-based form.

The building process itself is entertaining without being too tedious; once it gets toward the end the certain finer details become more of a nuisance, especially when particular bits get repeated over and over. But for the most part, and especially in the first tier, the architecture is superb, and provides a host of different and intriguing techniques to discover.

The Disney references and cameos are undoubtedly a main selling point, and the castle most definitely succeeds on that note. Aside from the slapdash Tangled parts, each character, object, or scene from Disney movies feels lovingly recreated, from Aurora's spinning wheel to the cheeky Lumiere. It will be interesting to see how standalone the castle really is; with only five figures it feels a bit empty, but the accessories are almost all designed to pair with figures that we haven't actually seen yet. Nonetheless, adding in some of the currently available Disney figures makes it feel more alive - though the cynic in me eyeballs the combined price of all these things.

And the cost itself merits discussion; Disney and LEGO both pride themselves on being all ages, but even with the recommended age group, $350 USD is a lot to drop on a single set, despite having one of the better price-per-part values of its size class. But I think LEGO understands their market; Disney is a mammoth property and the ubiquity of its brand assures a certain quality. In order to live up to that expectation, price couldn't be the compromising issue.

All in all, The Disney Castle set was a great (but overly challenging) build and makes for a great display (if you can find the right space for it!); even if you're understandably leery of the price, the final result is a value that can most definitely justify the cost.

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