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The Simpsons' House

by yo go re

You know that nostalgia works in a 20-to-30-year cycle, but is it possible to be nostalgic for something that's never gone away? The Simpsons has been on the air since 1989, and in honor of their 25th anniversary, they're getting official Lego sets. No, not Blockos, Legos.

The first release, set #71006, is the Simpsons' house. It would be rather daunting to try reviewing it all at once, but since you build it in sections, we'll review it the same way. Imagine these section titles being sung like "The Siiim-suuuuuns" at the beginning of each episode:

The Car

The Simpsons' House

We start with Homer's car. Originally based on a Plymouth Valiant, the car on the cartoon is a pink, four-door sedan. This one gets the color right, but is missing two doors. And a roof. That's sort of a standard shortcut for Lego cars, so we can forgive it.

The car is a complicated build, with a fair amount of SNOT - "studs not on top" - construction. It has an angled grill in front, moveable side mirrors, opening doors, and a functional trunk. There is enough space for two minifigures in the front seats, but the back is at once more spacious and more crowded: there are no backs to the front seats, just studs to fit in the figures' legs, while the back seat is about twice as long as you'd expect.

There are three sticker to apply to the car: front and back license plates (1PHL07) and a radio on the dashboard. Just like on the show, the driver's side fender is slightly crumpled, which is an amazing little detail for the designers to remember to include.

The Garage

The Simpsons' House

The "garage?" Hey fellas, the "garage"! Well, ooh la di da, Mr. French Man! [Well what do you call it? --ed.] A car hole! From the outside, the car hole looks rather plain - it's just a beige box with a brown roof and a small window over the door, nothing too special. The door itself is orange, which a bit unusual, but not so out there that it looks wrong. There's a bushy green shrub growing by the rear corner, and the whole thing has a footprint 16 studs wide by 22 studs deep.

The roof doesn't actually connect to the walls: it just rests on top, held in place by friction. That allows you to easily remove the roof (in two sections) to better access in the interior of the car hole. Yes, the door raises as well, but taking the roof off is much more conventient. Pushed against the righthand wall you'll find a blue workbench with a gray vice and a red toolbox; a broom hung on the wall; a rack of tools including cans of paint, a power drill, an oil can, four different wrenches, a hammer, a screwdriver, and a tire iron. The bin the tools sit in is pretty clever: it's actually two windowframes, attached sideways to the locker next to them to form a space deep enough to hold all the pieces. Well played, set designers. Well played.

However, it's not perfect. While, at a glance, everything looks hunky-dory, right here we get our first clues that there are going to be some things that are just wrong. For instance, how many cars do the Simpsons have? Two: Homer's pink car, and Marge's orange station wagon. And since they have two cars, they also have a two-car garage. This one is only half as wide as it should be. Plus, what happens at the end of every opening, right before the couch gag? As Marge pulls in, Homer enters the house immediately in front of her car (either running or being thrown), so we know that's where the door is. On this set, the door is off to the left. Uh-oh.

The Ground Floor

The Simpsons' House

Departing the car hole through the mis-placed door, we find ourselves in the living room. One of the first things you'll notice is that while the exterior of the house is very plain and unassuming, the interior is brightly colored. The walls aren't pink, but the floor (almost completely covered by 2x2 flat plates to make smooth, un-studded carpet) is pale blue. There's an orange, purple and blue area rug in front of the iconic couch, a blue telephone on a purple end table next to it, and a painting of a sailboat on the wall behind. Across the way sits their blue television, its rabbit ears currently bringing in Itchy & Scratchy.

There's also a vaccuum cleaner built at this point. It's just five pieces, but it's instantly clear what it's supposed to be. This is a delightful little accessory, one that we didn't need, but will add a lot of personality to the scene. It would have been easy to leave this out, and no one would have ever missed it at all, but Lego wanted to do one better.

The living room continues, through an archway, to the front door. On that side of the room the only furniture is a purple piano, with a red and white stool in front of it. The piano itself is pretty clever: again, there's a lot of SNOT work, and the keys are formed by putting white "grates" over a flat black panel. Neat! There's a sticker representing sheet music on there, but it's not the same tune as the last time we got the piano.

This room is finished off by a big bay window, and the home's front door. Of course, directly across from the door, you'll find the steps leading upstairs, but we're not ready to talk about those yet. First we have...

The Kitchen

The Simpsons' House

Through a smaller archway we enter the kitchen. Just as on the show, the floor is alternating blue and yellow tiles. The blue used is desaturated, but grey would have been better. The cabinets are orange with pink drawers, and the countertops are dark blue. There's a sink under the window, and next to it is a green stove. Sadly, the corn-cob curtains have not been duplicated around the window.

On the show, the kitchen table is covered by a blue tablecloth, so there's no telling what color is actually is. For this set, the designers made it the same blue as the living room carpet, with dark blue legs. Okay then. There are four orange chairs that fit under the table perfectly. There are no exposed studs on the floor, so all the pieces can move around easily. The door opens, to give access to the back yard.

To accessorize the kitchen, the set includes a black pot that can sit on the stovetop (two of the burners are studs, while the other two are smooth), three yellow plates, four red mugs, three forks, three knives, three cupcake cups(?), a little tray, a frying pan, a hand mixer, and a silver skillet. The mixer and skillet can hang below the cabinets, the plates fit on the table, the cups can go on the countertop, and all the small things can fit in the six opening draws or the two opening cabinets. Seriously, this is the best toy kitchen since Palisades'.

The Second Floor

The Simpsons' House

So before we head up the stairs to the second floor, this seems like a good time to mention that in order to give us access to the interior of the house, the entire set hinges open, using the chimney as the fold point. That's why the living room was divided by a big archway, and is also why the kitchen, in our photos, appears to be in two pieces. All folded up, those halves line up perfectly. Over the living room, the second floor can just lifted off - it's a shame the same isn't true for the rest of this level. The only way you can really see the kitchen is when the set is opened, so it's hard to appreciate it as a cohesive unit.

The chimney cap is a separate piece, obviously, and measures 3x4. Given the way it's designed, it can be centered on the chimney in either open or closed configurations. Truly enterprising Lego fans could probably even design a gear system to move it automatically, but that's a bit beyond my skill level. If you do it, let us know how it worked out.

The stairs are pushed up against the living room wall, and are all done in shades of purple: lavender along the edge, a studless pink runner down the center, then magenta cones and purple slopes to form the railing. Once you get to the second floor landing, the purple railing continues, and there are pictures of Grampa and Maggie hanging on the wall. All the carpeting upstairs is green, and it's all made from those smooth 2x2 plates once again. There are four doors here, each leading into a different room. The white pieces that help hold the roof in place serve as ceiling lights, too.

The Master Bedroom

The Simpsons' House

If we're judging by the actual cartoon floorplan of the house, there have already been a lot of mistakes in this set, but things really start to fall apart on the second level. We start with the master bedroom, which does have a really impressive rendition of Homer and Marge's marital bed, but also features Maggie's crib on the other side of the room. What? Maggie's got her own room, and always has. Where are the freestanding closets? Where's the vanity? Where's the en suite? You can overlook a lot of the errors, but they start to add up.

All the beds in this set are made in really clever ways, with curved pieces at the edges to make them look natural, rather than like big square blocks. Homer and Marge's bed has a purple headboard and footboard, which is accurate, and yellow covers, which is less so. There are blue nightstands on both sides, with orange drawers. There are two pillows, and a pink basket sitting on Marge's side of the bed.

Maggie's crib is constructed cleverly, using the old-fashioned "ladder" pieces as the slats on the sides, and rounded pieces at the head and foot to serve as padding. The body of the crib is blue, and the feet are made from single-stud hinges, one of which plugs onto a stud on the floor in order to keep the crib in place when you're moving things around.

Lisa's Room

The Simpsons' House

Lisa's room looks small, at first, until you realize that a chunk of it is on the other side of the house thanks to the split. Her bed has pink covers (not the blue they should be), and is flanked by light blue stands with orange drawers - one has a lamp sitting on top, while the other has a fifth red mug. She has a tall blue bookcase, with books on the lower shelves, a magnifying glass and some kind of jar on the top shelf, and a... cake? Hat box? Something. On the top.

The other side of the room features the door, but more importantly it has the vanity that Lisa, of course, uses as a desk. It's pink, rather than purple, but the drawers are the appropriate shade of blue. The mirror is mounted on the wall, and she has an orange and pink stool to sit on. Back on the other side, she's hung a Jazz Fest poster on the wall. She also has a yellow hairbrush, and a black camera on a stand. You know, because Lisa is famous for... her photography? Yeah, okay.

Bart's Room

The Simpsons' House

Ignore the "Keep Out" sign on the door, and you'll find yourself in Bart's room. It's much less tidy than Lisa's room, with the items on his bookshelf (his lucky red cap, a few blue and white boxes, a coulpe books, and a radio) sitting askew and one of the orange drawers in his red desk permanently hanging open. The corkboard above his desk has a calendar, a drawing of an airplane, and a monster face. An issue of Radioactive Man is laying on the desk next to another red mug. His desk chair pulls out. A poster of Krusty hangs on his wall, behind the door.

Bart's bed is purple with a red headboard and a blue nightstand with a red lamp on top. Since the bed only attaches to the floor by a single peg, I'd love to see a future set (possibly one of those awesome little polybags that Rustin is always buying) to give us a replacement bed that could be dropped in, styled after the clown bed Homer made for Bart.

The Bathroom

The Simpsons' House

That's right, a bathroom. Once upon a time you weren't even allowed to hint at bathrooms on tv, and now thanks to The Simpsons we have one in a Lego set. You can tell this set was designed by a European, thanks to the weird stall shower and lack of a bathtub. There's a sink with a mirror above it, and storage shelves on the side. And yes, there's a toilet in there - it's permanently attached to the wall, so don't expect to pull it out and put it in your Millennium Falcon or anything, but it's easy enough to build that you could follow the directions to make your own. They even remembered to include a roll of toilet paper! It's made from a car door. Unfortunately, they chose the passenger-side door, which means the roll is hung in improper underhand fashion.

The Outside

The Simpsons' House

The exterior of the house is the same muted color as the car hole was, and is constructed with the same kind of built-in bushes, particularly around the front steps. There's a brown fram around the door, and the bay windows are created very well thanks to the use of hinge pieces. The chimney is a darker tan, other than where it's broken up by the beige hinges, and there are a few "brick pattern" bricks used to give it detail. A black antenna is on the roof, and there's an air conditioner in the wall outside Lisa's room. That seems like an odd place for it (why not something mnore central? why not the master bedroom?), but so it goes.

The front and side of the house is pretty accurate, but the back is not. The patio, door and window are fine, but there should be two windows on the second floor, not just one. And on the other section, there should be two windows on the ground level and two windows above them, not just one on each. If you really want to get technical, there should also be a porch light by the door, but compared to all the other mistakes, that seems minor. Part of the problem is that they're missing the section of the house that goes over the car hole in the back, so there's not enough room to build all the rooms there need to be.

The set does include a few things to put in the yard. There's a blue skate ramp with some El Barto grafitti on it, a mailbox with a functional flag and a letter to put inside, two red chaise lounges (with clear goblets and pink cherries), a green wheelbarrow with a shovel and two flowers ready to be planted, and a large orange grill that has two sausages to cook on it. The wheelbarrow, grill, and even the air conditioner all have stickers on them reading "Property of Ned Flanders."

The Minifigs

The Simpsons' House

This set isn't just about the house, it also includes six Simpsons Minifigs, which really show how this line is going to work: although the characters are mostly the ones you would expect, none of them are in their "standard" outfits, which means we're going to be seeing a lot of the same people dressed in different ways.

We start, of course, with Captain Wacky. He's clearly just getting home from work, because he's wearing a necktie and his SNPP ID badge, and carrying a briefcase. The set also includes an inanimate carbon rod! [Trans green = glowing = radiation; it's the fuel rod that falls down his shirt in the opening --ed.] His head is a new mold, with the hairs on top sculpted on, but the M's just painted. His eyes are half-closed - he must be tired from his day at work.

Next is Marge, who's wearing an apron over her normal green dress. The lower edge of the dress is a softgoods piece that fits into the minifig waist. Similar things have been used on several of the blind-bagged minifigs, and it never really works right: there's always a big open gap at one corner where it comes together. Plus, you can't move the legs very far. For some reason, Marge is barefoot. Her eyes are also half-closed, and she's looking off to one side. Her necklace is painted, front and back.

Bart has his skateboard, which is green with a red stripe and purple wheels. He uses the "short" legs, because he's a child, and is also looking to the side - though in his case, it makes him seem like he's looking forward when he's on his board. In a promo video, the designer claimed that these were the first Minifigures with molded sleeves and shorts, but that's definitely not true here.

The way Lisa's eyes are painted makes her look sad. Is she upset because she only got an A+, instead of an A++? Or because he's got a skirt piece just like her mom, and it doesn't work any better here than it on Marge? She uses the same "kid" legs as Bart, and is wearing her green backpack. Her necklace is painted on, but the Lego style means the yellow skin of her shoulders doesn't go all the way around, like it should.

Maggie is the only member of the family whose eyes are painted normally: ie, wide open. Her pacifier is molded as part of her head, but her bow is just painted on. She gets normal minifig arms, but the rest of her body is new, since they had to depict the bag she always wears. As a bonus, it allows her to be even smaller than Bart and Lisa, as she should be!

The sixth figure in this set is the real surprise: Ned Flanders! You might have expected Grampa Simpson, but nope, it's Ned. He's clearly in charge of the grill, because he's wearing a "Hail to the Chef" apron, and carrying a yellow spatula. You can see him smiling behind his big bushy mustache, too.

So that's the Simpsons' House, Lego set #71006. It's not perfect - especially if you're a stickler for details that are super-easy to verify - but it's still a very cool project and a lot of fun to build. Hopefully we'll see some add-on sets, like Marge's car or Bart's treehouse, or even a basement with a giant Olmec head.

The set includes 2,523 pieces, so using the "10¢ per piece" average that Lego fans use to determine if a set is a good value or not, it should cost no more than $250; well, retail price is $199.99, making this a hell of a deal! If you're a Lego fan, if you're a Simpsons fan, you should get this set.

-- 02/02/14

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