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Winter Toy Shop

by yo go re

As Artemis has pointed out, the pairing of Lego and Star Wars may well be the best thing since peanut butter met chocolate. But as much fun as the licensed sets are, for my money, the best sets coming out of Billund are the plain Creator/Town Plan sets, the modular buildings like the Cafe Corner or Green Grocer. Yeah, they're just generic structures, but the design and the level of detail are astounding. The newest addition to the series is the Winter Toy Shop.

A wonderful, frosty winter is nature's way of making up for the bullcrap that is summer, which is why bucolic scenes of ice and snow are always so popular. Add to that a toy shop, and I'm sold! This set, #10199, is built from 815 pieces, and is designed to fit with the other Town Plan location, allowing you to build a complete Lego city - though one a bit more detailed and realistic than the City sets, oddly enough. Of course, none of the others have the benefit of being snow-covered.

The Winter Toy Shop set has three main "areas": the shop, a tree, and a park bench. We'll look at them in the order the instructions have you build, and that means we start at the bench. Situated on a 10x6 white panel, the bench is made from black and brown bricks - the legs are made from faucets, and there are two "boards" each for the seat and the back. There's a vintage lamppost behind the bench, made in black to suggest wrought iron. It's topped by two globes with "lights" inside, and festive wreathes hang on the front and back.

On the opposite corner, a small fir tree grows. In front of that, there are several stacks of single white studs - or, from an in-universe perspective, a pile of snowballs. Ha!

Next we've got the large Christmas tree which you'd normally expect to see in the town square. The tree is more than 5" tall, even before you count the big yellow star crowning the top. The tree is built from six layers dropped onto a central bar, assembled much like you would a fake tree in your own home. This scheme gives the boughs a nicely unusual look, keeping it from looking like the pile of blocks it is. There's a tree stand holding it up, and decorating has begun: several trans yellow barrels stand in for candles, and a string of light can be wrapped around however you like. How do we know the decorations aren't finished? There's a folding ladder next to the tree, allowing the tree trimmer to reach the top.

Finally, we have the toy shop itself. The toy shop is a small building, just wide enough for a door and two large windows. a few trees cluster near the building, and someone's built a snowman at the corner. A small awning hangs over the windows, and the building is decorated with three wreathes. A sign hangs on one side of the door, and a small light is located on the other. Or maybe it's a gumball machine. Let your imagination run wild!

The majority of the shop is located on the ground floor - the door opens, and the cash register is right there. Flames burn in the fireplace, and the chimney has a delightfully uneven texture. A clock is mounted in the rafters, just below a frog (for some reason). Since the hands are painted on, there are only so many times it can be - I chose 6:13, to match what's going on in the rest of the town. The floor really looks like planks of wood, and there are display stands in front of the main windows, allowing the toymaker to showcase his creations.

Speaking of which, a ladder near the register leads to an upstairs nook which has apparently been converted into a workshop. The toymaker has a swivel chair, and a workbench with a few tools clipped to the side. A single stud on top of the bench allows an "in progress" toy to be attached securely. The set includes one of those battey-powered light bricks, too: it's mounted to the ceiling, and points at the seat; press the plunger, and a light shines through the upstairs window, letting all the boys and girls of Legoville know the toymaker is hard at work into the wee hours of the morning.

We get a really nice selection of minifigures, too, starting with the little boy who made all those snowballs by the bench. He's wearing tan pants and a blue jacket, and has been winterized by the addition of a red scarf and black gloves. He's wearing a helmet, possibly having just come from his snowboarding lesson. His head has two expressions: either a normal, calm demeanor, or one of frightened surprise. The instructions suggest he's throwing a snowball at the small white cat, so maybe he's allergic?

Next we have a pair of Christmas carolers, a man and a woman. The man seems to be wearing a pilot's jacket, judging by the little airplane on the chest. He's matched that with a red scarf and a black tophat, for that quaint Vistorian look. His mistress is all in black, but she's wearing a reversible cape (actually two capes, layered - one black, one red) with white gloves, and has one of the ponytail hair pieces that debuted with the Agents series. Both carolers are holding a songbook, and they have a new face: the mouth is open, angled and showing a bit of tongue, and the cheeks are rosy red from being out in the crisp air.

The woman trimming the tree is wearing white pants, which isn't the smartest idea when you're crawling all over a pine tree. She's wearing a red jacket that has the old Lego Space logo on the chest, and her black hair is in a classic ponytail. There are also two children on skis swishing by: a boy in blue, wearing an orange tabard as though he'd been in a competition, and a blonde girl with a red shirt and purple pants. The kids' skis and even their ski poles are different.

Finally (if you're not counting the snowman) we have the toymaker. He's wearing green overalls and a red plaid shirt, and looks quite avuncular, with his gray hair, glasses, and neatly trimmed beard. He's sort of got a "Steven Spielberg without the baseball cap" look. The set includes a carrot, as though it would be a nose for the snowman, but there's no way to attach it to his face.

Since a Winter Toy Shop without toys would just be a Winter Shop (And that sounds dull), this set lets you build some toys of your own. There's one present that's already wrapped and has a tag on top, but we still get five loose toys: a jack-in-the-box, a teddy bear, a race car, a train engine, and a little robot. Wonderful! The bear (or whatever animal it is) is holding a flower, and the jack can be removed from his box so you can close the lid - no crank, though. Overall, these are great extras. Toys made of toys! Love it!

The Winter Toy Shop is a really fun set. One of the selling points in Lego's promo copy is that it "includes hard-to-find elements," but I don't care much about that - I just wanted a winter scene and a toy shop, and that's what I got. There's definitely some clever construction involved, and the final piece looks great. The little toy toys are neat, and the scene it sets is a classic. You wouldn't be reading this review if you didn't like toys, and for us, this is one Lego set that pays extra respect to our hobby.

-- 11/11/09

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