The much anticipated 12th LEGO Ideas set, 21303 Wall-E made headlines this year for all the wrong reasons thanks to well documented issues with the stability of his head and neck. Wall-E was one of the Ideas sets that I was most excited about and I wasted no time purchasing it on release day but I was quite put off by reports that the set was fraught with issues and (begrudgingly) held off building and reviewing it till the design problems were sorted out.
The AFOL community (bless their proactive hearts) were quick to come up with homebrew fixes (see: Chris McVeigh’s mod) but being the goody two-shoe that I am, I stubbornly waited for an official fix from LEGO before building the set. Now that the fix is here, I’m proud to be able to bring you my review of LEGO 21303 Wall-E!
Set Number: 21303
Price: AU$69.99 (AUS LEGO.com link) | US$59.99 (US LEGO.com link)
Exclusive to: LEGO.com
Year of Release: 2015
Instructions: LEGO Ideas 21303 Wall-E instructions (corrected and up to date)
I was beyond excited when Wall-E was announced as an official LEGO Ideas set. It was a dream come true – combining one of my favourite LEGO themes with one of my favourite movies of all time. It was a match-made in heaven.
When pictures of the official set surfaced – I was convinced that it would be an instant classic. Which is why I was pretty disappointed about the maligned floppy neck design.
I don’t deny that LEGO’s motto of “only the best is good enough” was slightly tarnished by the design issues but hey, no company is perfect. In fact, the design problems did more to highlight the inherent flaws of the LEGO Ideas theme – an accelerated design to production cycle where the luxury of extended play-testing was probably a luxury.
LEGO’s opaque structure means that we can only speculate as to why this issue was allowed to happen. I have two primary theories – firstly that the set was rushed to meet the Christmas gift-giving rush and secondly that Wall-E was designed first and foremost to be a “display model” like most other LEGO Ideas sets and was never intended for exuberant play.
Anyway, that’s just my two cents. I do have to commend LEGO for quickly responding to the issue and for communicating excellently throughout it, culminating in the revisions of the instructions and a “fix pack” being sent out to buyers.
There have been multiple reports that LEGO is sending out emails to people that bought Wall-E from LEGO.com about the “fix pack” and new instructions. I haven’t received mine but you can get in touch with LEGO’s Customer Service and they should hook you up with the replacement parts. Wall-E sets have also made a return to LEGO.com and retail stores around the world complete with the updated parts list and instructions.
That’s pretty damn fast, considering that LEGO first addressed the issue in mid-October. I’m positive that this entire saga will result in improvements to LEGO’s quality control processes – it must’ve been an extremely costly endeavour to issue the fix and make changes to the retail sets and instruction booklets.
Knowing LEGO’s relentless obsession for perfection, I wouldn’t be surprised if Wall-E makes it into the orientation document for new Quality Control and Design employees or if its brought up in every Ideas or QC meeting at Billund!
Anyway, that’s all I wanted to say about the Wall-E issue! On to the review!
The box of LEGO Ideas sets are practically part of the entire experience of the Ideas sets and Wall-E’s is of course no exception. The box greets would-be-buyers with its cheerful bright yellow colours and of course Wall-E starring at you with his damn adorable eyes.
The back at the box has Wall-E posing and admiring his plant and lets you see how his trash compactor compartment opens up.
On the sides of the box, you have some of the most memorable scenes from the movie and another shot of the LEGO Wall-E model. It’s really clean and simple and I really like the aesthetics which mimic Wall-E’s yellow body. There isn’t too much detail as the bright yellow colour, Wall-E model and logo does enough to make the box as eye-catching as possible.
The instruction manual is also up the usual high quality Ideas standard. The pages are fairly thick and made out of very nice matte paper.
On the first page, you get a short introduction to Wall-E and a brief synopsis of the movie.
On the next page, there’s a few more words about the designer of the set, Angus MacLane who worked on the Pixar film as Directing Animator. There’s a much better video feature on Angus on the LEGO Ideas blog which I highly recommend watching.
To be honest, I was expecting a lot more detail and insight into the model and movie like previous LEGO Ideas instruction booklets as I really enjoy reading these little snippets about the designer, inspiration of the model and more.
As I wasn’t sent the parts required for the fix yet, I scrounged up all the parts I needed from my own collection. I’ve managed to get all of them except Part #3, which is a black instead of dark grey. In the instruction manuals, the only changes are to steps 92 – 108 – everything else is the same.
Here’s the list of parts in case you want to take things into your own hands, here’s the list of parts you’ll need numbered according to the photo above.
- http://brickset.com/parts/4619760 x 1
- http://brickset.com/parts/4211350 x 2 (note that I photographed the wrong Radiator Grilles. The right ones should be light grey)
- Bricklink Part Number 64276 x 1 (this should be light bluish grey/dark grey but I only had black)
- http://brickset.com/parts/4654582 x 3
- http://brickset.com/parts/4140430 x 1
- http://brickset.com/parts/6015356 x 1
Here’s Wall-E! The build process was slightly tedious as you don’t get numbered bags, so you basically have to pour out 676 parts onto your table and spend an unhealthy amount of time looking for that one damn grey piece that’s surrounded by other grey pieces. A bit of a pain but it gets easier as the build progresses.
The end result… is breathtaking, adorable and wonderful, just like the movie! I have to say this, but Wall-E has got to be my numero uno favourite set this year. It’s just one of those spectacular sets that’s damn near perfect.
Wall-E’s best feature is his head. The designers did an outstanding job capturing Wall-E’s emotive, forlorn and hopeful eyes. The shape is right on the mark and the use of the black dish for his eyes are just brilliant design decisions.
And yes, they swivel, allowing you to give Wall-E different “facial expressions”.
Wall-E’s neck can extend and bend in several different ways. Here’s his neck extended straight to its maximum point. It’s made up of several different sections and is fairly stable. Of course, I didn’t build the original flawed neck-piece so I’m not able to judge if this is a big improvement or not. It certainly feels sturdy enough for me.
Here’s what it looks like from the side, bent slightly. You can also see the use of tiles and slopes to give it a very smooth SNOT-y look.
This is the view from above.
What’s under the hood? In this picture, you can see the change to Wall-E’s neck. It now employs a ball joint instead of the clicky/serated one dimensional hinges (I’m really terrible with part names) which gives it a lot more stability and retains the ability to swivel his head around.
The common complaint that Wall-E’s head tends to droop unexpectedly seems to have been addressed although I did encounter several instances (when I was swishing or handling Wall-E a little too roughly) where his head would droop down but they were few and far between.
Here’s the back of Wall-E’s head where you can see two hoses that extend from his eyes to the neck portion. I did often have these dislodge themselves from the neck area, so be extra careful around them or you’ll find that you’ll have to refasten them pretty often.
Moving downwards to his body, which is blocky like the movies. There’s a printed tile with Wall-E’s solar charge level alongside some grills which are meant to be Wall-E’s radio/speakers and a little red warning light as well.
And yes, the Wall-E logo are both printed tiles as well. Thank the LEGO gods for that.
Wall-E’s front pops open in a very pleasing manner to reveal the trash compactor compartment. There’s plenty of space inside Wall-E to keep the plant safe.
Other than the plant, Wall-E’s only living companion, the cockroach also makes an appearance in the set! Made out of a black 2 x 1 plate and a black antennae. It’s extremely basic and kind of the wrong colour as I would’ve preferred the cockroach to have been brown. I also would’ve liked the cockroach to have been a bit more detailed and not made of only 2 parts!
Wall-E’s side profile gives you a better look at his arms and his treads that he uses to move about.
The treads are particularly impressive and you can push Wall-E along and see the gears move in unison. They are a little stiff and require quite a bit of downward pressure to get them to roll along.
Wall-E’s back has a very pleasant curved shape and two exhausts (?) that can be flicked up and down. There’s also a small flap which has limited maneuverability but is still a nice feature built in. I really like all the moving parts built into Wall-E.
These components, bolstered by the overall tight design of the entire model makes Wall-E feel more like a traditional toy, rather than a brick-built LEGO model – a rather uncommon vibe that you don’t often get from LEGO models.
Wall-E’s arms have a bit of playability built into them. You can move them backwards and forwards along this little channel you see from the side. Unfortunately, the ridge only allows Wall-E’s arm to travel from left to right – you can move it downwards like the original design in the movies which is a bit of a shame.
In this photo, you can also see the little crack that’s on the side of his body that’s achieved by cascading a bunch of slopes.
Wall-E’s flat fingers allow his hands to grip items like the plant with relative ease. His hands are pretty sturdy, so you won’t have to worry about issues like a weak floppy grip if you want Wall-E to grasp random objects.
Wall-E’s arms are extremely poseable as they’re attached to his body using ball joints, which lets you swivel them around in nearly any angle that you want. It’s pretty fun and adds a lot to the entire model’s overall interactivity.
- Wall-E’s thoughtful eyes captured perfectly
- All the playable, moving bits
- The size of the model is just right
- Looks spectacular on display
What I didn’t like:
- Cockroach is a little basic
Final thoughts: If I could sum up this entire review in only one word, it would be – wow. I don’t own ALL the sets from 2015, but Wall-E is hands down my favourite LEGO set this year.
The build starts off exceedingly well – My curiosity was piqued throughout the build process as it was very enjoyable seeing Wall-E slowly come together. It was a breezy endeavour except for the fact that I had to sift through unnumbered parts bags but that’s a minor complaint.
When it all came together and I inserted the final element into place, I broke out in such a huge grin. That’s the LEGO Wall-E effect. It’s clever, almost flawless design combined with all the moving parts make it a treat to play with or leave on display.
Wall-E’s size is perhaps my favourite thing about the set. It’s big enough that all the tiny little details are noticeable and small enough to display without needing too much space. It’ll sit perfectly on a study desk, display cabinet, coffee table or custom-designed pedestal.
My Wall-E is sitting on my coffee table as I write this (I like to keep my LEGO sets near me when I review ) and every time I glance at it, I can’t help but smile at it.
LEGO have hit an undisputed home run with Wall-E. It’s such a bummer that it was plagued by all the initial neck design issues or this would’ve been THE toy to get for Christmas. As an adult LEGO fan, I really like that I can fiddle with Wall-E, put it in a new pose, maybe adjust his head and eyes a little to achieve a completely new look.
The display possibilities are endless and for me, I’ve never owned a LEGO set with such unprecedented playability, especially for an adult LEGO fan.
If you enjoyed Pixar’s masterpiece, you absolutely have to own this set. Even if you’re not a hardcore Pixar fan, Wall-E’s iconic status as an animated character, as well as his outstanding design is reason enough to add him to your collection. I own several sets that have “permanent display” status (Orthanc is one of them) and Wall-E is a LEGO set that I’ve instantly bestowed that status upon.
Wall-E is the best LEGO set of 2015 and I am beyond delighted to have this cute little robot on display in my study – a perfect LEGO set if there ever was one and a glowing example of the wonderful designs and possibilities that can be achieved using LEGO bricks.
LEGO, it is almost criminal not to produce an EVE set. Please, I need one. Wall-E is going to be incredibly lonely without his robotic soulmate.
Thanks for reading! Do you own the LEGO Wall-E set or plan to buy it soon? Let me know what you thought of the set in the comments section!