At long last! Lego’s biggest new thing this year that isn’t Lord of the Rings or Superheroes, a new theme aimed squarely at getting little girls between the age of 5-12 interested in building blocks. It’s a bold move on Lego’s part, investing huge amounts of money and marketing into making Friends work.
The Lego community was largely split, with some openly decrying the new ‘mini-dolls’, girly-fied minifigures akin to real dolls complete with hair accessories and boobs. Interestingly, feminists jumped on the bandwagon lambasting Lego for being sexists. Here are some choice headlines from the dissenters.
New Lego line designed for girls decried as sexist
Legos Catered to Girls: Sexist or Good Idea?
On the other hand, parts of the community were hugely receptive over Lego’s new direction (I’m on this side) and were giddy with anticipation over the new parts, fantastic new colours and cutesy animals and elements!
I digress, on to my review! Friends started showing up at Malaysian Toys ‘R’ Us last week and since I’ve been waiting for these for AGES, I wasted no time in getting my grubby hands on some of them with the last of my Toys ‘R’ Us vouchers! Presenting my very first Friends review for Emma’s Fashion Design Studio!
Name: Emma’s Fashion Design Studio
Set Number: 3936
Price: RM 49.90 (Toys ‘R’ Us Malaysia)
Year of Release: 2012
Here’s the box of Emma’s Fashion Design Studio. It’s brightly coloured and very purple and from some of my own observation at TRU, it works really well at getting the attention of little girls and their parents.
Here’s the back of the box where we see a mugshot of Emma, the titular minidolls in this set and some of the play features and accessories available. At the bottom, we see some of Emma’s friends and the sets they appear in. Pretty much a ploy to get ’em all.
Pop open the box and what do we have here? Two bags of parts and the instruction manual.
And here we go, a closeup, back and front comparison of Emma! As you can see, this is NOT a minifig, although they’re about the same height (the minidolls are slightly taller) and my only beef with the legs are that they don’t bend backwards. My thoughts? At first, I was kind of uneasy about the minidolls and thought they looked pretty weird, but after playing with them for a bit, they’re starting to grow on me. Lego put a lot of thoughts and design into it to make it look unique but at the same time retain the fact that it’s a Lego product.
Here’s a side by side comparison with regular Lego minifigs. The minidolls are pretty much the same height as minifigs with the slope dresses.
One more thing I like about the minidolls, they’re perfectly compatible with Lego head accessories and hairpieces! Personally, I think Harry Potter’s hairpiece (right-most image) looks incredible on Emma.
On to the parts! Perhaps my favourite thing about the Friends line is the amazing palette of colours available. Yes, since this is a girly line, Lego decided to be an angel and introduced a bevy of incredible new girly colours and have made other rare colours such as purple a lot more widely available. Again, love love love these colours, especially Medium Azure.
The first thing we build is this lovely purple and pink coloured bunch of drawers. Just look at the colours. I cannot describe how much I love the colours available.
Next up, we build Emma’s fashion design board. Emma’s a designer so she’ll need a place where she can pin various designs. Note that this piece is printed! Pictured here also is this sweet ruler included (love the butterfly motif) which actually accurately measures studs! That area from 0-4? That’s 4 studs long (mind blown!)
Emma’s table is next. The new(?) Bright Light Orange tiles are a beauty. One thing I really like about the Friends line is that they give you a lot of tiles, which give the sets a much cleaner look without studs visible everywhere. On her desk, we get a camera (always good to have more cameras!), lamp, translucent mug, pot of flowers and a pink mobile phone as well! No stickers on the mobile phone, however in this particular set, I seem to have gotten a defective phone (the paint is all smudgy) so I’ll be contacting Lego about a replacement very soon!
Last but not least, we build a little workstation for Emma. Notice how everything is tiled up again. We get a laptop (yay, my first!) and a sandwich as well, because I figure Emma gets hungry designing. Seems like Emma’s a vegan (like all good designers!) as her sandwich only seems to consist of greens.
Only problem with her workstation is that it seems that her stool is a little too short for Emma. Nothing that can’t be fixed with some extra bricks added to the base but still… Emma needs better interior designers.
Emma gets a visit from a business man, possibly looking to source for the latest designs for his fashion label. With the new influx of minidolls into the world of Lego, the fashion business is booming, and Mr. Businessman here isn’t wasting anytime tapping this lucrative market.
Here’s another shot of Emma at work, looking pretty proud of her work!
And here we go, a fullshot of Emma’s Fashion Design studio!
Final musings: I love this set. I had to choose between this and Olivia’s Invention Workshop which were both in the RM50 category but ultimately settled with this one as I wanted the purple bricks and multitudes of tiles. Also, I felt that the accessories here were nicer (laptop was a dealbreaker!). What do I think about Friends? I absolutely love it. Since young, I’ve always loved building houses and civilian-type creations. I loved The Sims and am in no way ashamed that I used to spend hours designing a perfect house. Friends brings a whole new layer of realism and domesticism and mayhaps, feminism to a traditionally boy-ish Lego world. At the end of it, the more tools I have at my disposal to create, the better.
Playability: 7/10 Lots of nice accessories such as the mobile phone, ruler and laptop. But no other ‘real’ play features since the Friends line is after all supposed to emulate dollhouses, so it scores well on that metric.
Design: 8/10 Great use of tiles. Brilliant use of colours. Nothing groundbreaking design-wise, but using tiles to create a very non-Lego looks is great.
Price: 9/10 I’m giving this quite high scores for price because it actually doesn’t deviate much from US pricing after considering shipping costs. And it’s under RM50 for a great selection of parts and accessories, so that’s always easy.
Minifidolls: 7/10 Emma looks great. Am not a fan of the hair material (don’t like that squishy rubber hair piece) but I can always swap it out for other hairstyles. I would’ve liked Emma to be dressed a lot more suitably for her profession. Here, she’s wearing only a halter-top and navy skirt when I’d expect her to be quite a fashionista.
Parts: 8/10 Lots of tiles! Lots of cool colours! Ruler, camera, mobile phone. This set is a winner on its own. Also, the huge number of new colours makes this a very appealing set to have if you’re just in it for the bricks.
Total: 39/50 A great introduction set to the Friends theme. Again, cannot stress the amazing colours and parts selection and even if you’re not a fan of this girly nonsense, I’m sure builders will find the parts handy for other things. Looks great when all the elements are combined and I have pretty much no complaints! Definitely a buy.
More outtakes and photos from Emma’s Fashion Design Studio on my G+ photo album.
Matt Merrill says
Hey, Jay, sorry to comment on such an old post but I just started following your blog about a year ago and am still catching up!
In the interest of full disclosure, my boy who is 5 going on 6 and thoroughly loves the more traditionally “boyish” Lego themes thoroughly loves the Friends themed sets as well. Just as my same age niece loves the traditional sets targeted more toward boys. 🙂
Haha no worries! Don’t mind the bad photos in my early reviews!
That’s great to hear. Sometimes I think we don’t give enough credit to kids to pick and choose what they like, instead of just going for dolls for girls and cars for boys. Great to hear that your boy loves the Friends sets as well!
I’ve got to admit, I don’t really like the look of the “mini-dolls” themselves, but I love all the new accessories and the new colours are right up my alley!
Jay Ong says
They take some time getting used to!
Minifig Fun says
Thank you for the great review. I also was excited about the Friends launch. I love the colors and many new bricks. I don’t have the design studio but I have Olivia’s Tree House and the Cafe. I do wish though, that Lego just kept the mini figs the same. I’m not too excited about the mini doll figs, mainly because the joints don’t all move (like the original) and parts can’t be interchanged except for the hair.
Jay Ong says
It took awhile for me to get used to the minidolls, but after that I kinda quite like them. They fit the theme really well.
Yeah, one of my pet peeves about it is that the legs are pretty stuff and they can’t sit well.
I’m probably getting the Tree House myself too!