LEGO are throwing their full weight behind Disney for their 100th Anniversary, and to support the upcoming live-action The Little Mermaid remake, we have 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell, which releases on 4 May 2023, except for Australia and New Zealand, which gets the set in June 2023.
To capitalise on the nostalgia behind The Little Mermaid remake, LEGO have gone big, giving this set the 18+ adults treatment, complete with minifigures, and delivers a really unique, and rather complex build that makes for an impressive model fit for display.
That said, it’s not for everyone due to the high price, and also the fact that some Disney fans would prefer a version based on the classic animated Ariel from the 1989 film but if you’re a Little Mermaid Purist, that isn’t too hard to fix, as I’ll demonstrate in this review.
See below for product pages and pricing:
- 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell [US] – US$159.99
- 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell [AUS] – AU$249.99 [1 June release]
- 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell [UK] – £159.99
- 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell [EU] – €139.99
- 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell [CA] – CAD$219.99
Who is this set for? The Little Mermaid fans who want a large, detailed build and are open to the new-look characters in the live-action remake.
Without further ado, let’s jump into this review of The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell!
Special thanks to LEGO for sending this set over for review.
43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell Set Details
Set Name: The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell
Set number: 43225
Price: US$159.99 / AU$249.99 / £159.99 / €139.99 / CAD$219.99
Minifigures: 5 (Ariel, Ursula, King Triton, and Ariel’s sisters Indira and Karina)
Theme: Disney’s The Little Mermaid (2023)
Release Date: 4 May 2023
Set Designer: Marcos Bessa (@marcosbessaofficial), Graphics by Nikki Hartomo (@nikkihartomo)
Here’s a look at the instruction manual, which has a pretty plain and stark white background common with most sets, even adult-focused sets.
Thankfully, I was also delighted to discover that there are no stickers in the build!
The manual contains some information inviting fans to a new world under the sea, as well as an introduction to the design team. The set was designed by Marcos Bessa, an extremely talented and well-regarded designers who recently worked on LEGO Harry Potter, but is now part of the Disney team.
The graphic design, which includes minifigures was done by Nikki Hartomo. I managed to be part of an interview roundtable with both these designers, and will share appropriate insights into the design of the set throughout this review.
Designer Insight: the origins of the Clamshell Design
According to Marcos Bessa, Disney had shared some really early visuals and preliminary drawings of what the movie was going to look like, which encompassed some environments and King Triton’s throne, which was the focal point of where the family got together.
The visuals were very organic and had soft features, and there weren’t any recognisable buildings like the palace, so Marcos was challenged to build something structural, yet iconic that blended with the setting at the bottom of the ocean.
Marcos envisioned 3 key areas to cover, King Triton’s throne room, Ariel’s grotto, and Ursula’s cave, and landed on the concept of the clamshell to house them all together.
Clamshells were a strong undersea visual icon, and Marcos sketched something together, presented it to Disney which was received enthusiastically,
The rich and vibrant colours present necessitated the use of the more sober, white colour scheme of the clamshell, which Marcos envisioned to better frame the diorama, draw your attention to the center and also serve as an eye-catching iconic model that fans could proudly display in their homes.
The Build Experience
The build experience was incredibly fun, and quite unlike any other set that I’ve ever built before. It also has an interesting flow, as you begin with the first 2 bags assembling King Triton’s throne, then go into the clamshell structure, before returning to King Triton’s throne, which bookends the build.
Here’s a look at the individual bags that illustrate how the clamshell comes together. This is a highly technical build, and quite tricky in places, having you build upwards, sideways and attaching components at odd angles.
Experienced builders will get a kick out of building the Royal Clamshell, and there is some really masterful sculpting at work here.
I was most impressed by the geometry of the Clamshell, and how Marcos deftly created the structures and angles to allow for an organic, yet symmetrical frame to build on.
Here’s a look at the back, which is probably the most controversial part about the final design. It looks bare, and unfinished, with exposed Technic bricks, and multi-coloured bricks.
Designer Insight – The Royal Clamshell back (or lack of it)
According to Marcos, the primary decision behind the back was to prioritise a more affordable price point over covering it up, as in most cases, fans would be displaying it against a wall.
Expanding further on this, Marcos elaborates that the intent with the model was to create a hero display piece has a very recognisable silhouette. There was a conversation about whether to build the whole shell, which became apparent early on that it would drive the price point significantly higher.
For something that would in most scenarios be hidden and out of sight, the Design team felt that it wasn’t right to hurt the chances of this set reaching more fans and families, which made it a very easy choice once viewed through that lens.
LEGO 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell Minifigures
An 18+ adults set enables the addition of minifigures, and in The Royal Clamshell, we get 5 minifigures – King Triton, Ariel, Indira, Karina and Ursula.
Diversity and representation are at the heart of the live-action Little Mermaid, which is why we see a great mix of characters portrayed by actors of different ethnicities, including Javier Bardem (King Triton), Halle Bailey (Ariel), Simone Ashley who (Indira), Kajsa Mohammar (Karina), Melissa McCarthy (Ursula).
This translates well into the excellent cast of minifigures, who all have very distinct colours and visual identities.
Here’s a look at the new Ariel, played by Halle Bailey. She utilises Andrea’s (from LEGO Friends) wig, which is in dark red and is made of soft rubber plastic. The printing on her torso and mermaid tail is nicely detailed, with plenty of sparkles, and I also like the fish-scale design on her bikini.
Here’s a look at her back printing, and her alternate face which has a happier expression, with an open-mouth smile.
The appeal of this minifigure will largely depend on how big of a hit The Little Mermaid is, and if the movie (and Halle Bailey) knocks it out of the park, this minifigure is going to be quite highly sought-after.
Here’s a look at Indira and Karina, Ariel’s sisters. I think they have much more interesting designs compared to Ariel, and I was very impressed by the shimmery, reflective paint used on both their torsos and tails – very sparkly!
According to Graphic Designer Nikki Hartomo, she also worked on one or two more sisters, but it ultimately came down to Disney’s decision on including Karina and Indira, suggesting that they might have more prominent roles in the movie.
Nikki, who is a massive The Little Mermaid fan really enjoyed bringing to life the iridescent effect on the and working on the designs for the sparkly new clothes.
Here’s a look at their back prints, and their alternate faces.
But the most interesting minifigures in the set are undoubtedly King Triton and Ursula. I’m a big fan of Javier Bardem, so I’m excited that we finally get him as a minifigure as King Triton, who has an upright mermaid tail and stands quite tall compared to the other characters.
Ursula utilises the same tentacles as the one from her first appearance in Disney Minifigures Series 1, but now with some extra printing on the front, which has some purple bioluminescent spots.
Both minifigures are unmistakable depictions of their on-screen characters, and Ursula looks especially good.
Here’s a look at their back prints and Ursula’s alternate face.
King Triton utilises the same head mould as the one from 43207 Ariel’s Underwater Palace, which has the minifigure’s face printed on the, with a blank head underneath.
The King Triton minifigure also makes use of the new-ish Medium Tan colour, which is a fairly new colour used for minifigures.
LEGO 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell Minifigures Comparisons
Let’s have some comparisons! Here’s a look at the new Little Mermaid versus the older, more classic Ariel version that was included in 2016’s LEGO Disney Minifigures series.
And here’s a look at how the new Ariel compares with the Ariel minidolls, which LEGO Disney Princess fans would be more familiar with.
For King Triton, here’s a comparison of the minifigure version to the minidoll version from 43207 Ariel’s Underwater Palace. It’s really fascinating how they can print both minifigure eyes and also minidoll eyes on his head.
And lastly, here’s a look at how Ursula compares with her minidoll version, as well as the original minifigure version from Disney Minifigures Series 1.
And here’s a look at Flounder and Sebastian. As it’s a live-action movie, Ariel’s friends are a lot more realistic-looking, and Flounder has gone for a more muted recolours.
Sebastian is a regular LEGO crab which is really appropriate because he’s literally just a regular crab in the movies. It’s quite silly, but has become quite endearing how comical it looks to have a regular red LEGO crab as Sebastian.
In case you’re wondering, here’s a comparison between the cartoon Flounder vs the live-action version.
And here’s Sebastian and his cartoon version.
It’s subjective which versions are better, but I lean towards the more classical animated versions because they have a lot more personality than these… regular sea creatures.
The Completed Model
Here’s a look at the completed model, which is is large, and looks terrific, in my opinion. It measures 32cm (12.5″) tall, and is about 31cm (12.2″) wide, so it’s a large substantial build that will look great as a Little Mermaid showpiece.
The Clamshell works well to frame the model depicting three different Little Mermaid locales.
Here’s a look at the set from the side.
And here’s look at the base, which is quite heavy and wide for stability purposes.
The “fans” of the clamshell have these mint and trans-blue round tiles on the inside provide a bit of contrast, and create a blue undersea effect on the eyes.
Here’s a look at King Triton’s throne, which sits on a raised rock formation. The curves here are really pleasing to the eye, and are attached sideways, which is a fairly advanced build technique commonly employed by MOCers.
There are several “chairs” that you can affix the mermaids to, and there are plenty of organic matter, from green seaweed, to corals. Recoloured in teal are the “minions hair” pieces which look great as sea anemone.
Here’s a look at all the pops of colour.
To simulate fish swimming in the water, they’re attached around the rock formation by transparent rods. These are the newer “cloudy” trans-clear rods, and they have a nice matte texture to them.
Beneath the dais is Ariel’s grotto, where there are the skeleton remains of a sunken ship.
Here’s a look at Ariel’s grotto, where she collects and displays her collection of human artifacts and trinkets.
And here’s a spot for Flounder and Sebastian to hang out. There’s also a cutlass and a dinglehopper (read: fork) on the ocean floor too.
And lastly, here’s Ursula’s cave. There’s an evil-looking red crystal ball/cauldron mounted outside as well, but its otherwise fairly nondescript.
Inside, there is a neat shelf full of magical potions and artifacts.
The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell Minifigure Version
The beauty of LEGO is that you can be creative and modify things if they’re not to your liking. There’s a really vocal community of people who are absolutely incensed that this set is not based on the original 1989 animated movie, to which I say… just swap the minifigures out?
If you want a purist LEGO Minifigure version of the Royal Clamshell, just swap in Ariel and Ursula, which you can get from Disney Minifigures Series 1, and also add in Series 7’s Ocean King too, and other random mermaid minifigures.
See, that wasn’t so hard was it? Classic Ariel looks great here.
Hate the live-action Flounder and Sebastian? Swap them out for the OG Sebastian and Flounder.
Boom, problem solved.
The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell Minidolls Version
My daughter is a massive Disney fan, and has staked her claim on my entire collection of LEGO Disney Princesses. She loves LEGO Friends and absolutely rejects minifigures, calling them dumpy and ugly, which isn’t that uncommon of a view!
Thankfully, you can also swap out the minifigures, and replace them with minidolls, and guess what, they work spectacularly well too. Who knew!
If you have 43207 Ariel’s Underwater Palace, you can easily migrate the minidolls over, including King Triton, but the Ursula minidoll is relatively rare, having only appeared in one set – 41145 Ariel and the Magical Spell from 2017. Thankfully, she’s not prohibitively expensive on Bricklink.
I’m fairly attached to the Ariel minidoll, and think this is actually the best version.
King Triton and Ursula also look fantastic.
The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell Mashup Version
But wait, what if you HATE Disney and The Little Mermaid?
Not a problem at all, as you can swap out all the characters and put in whatever you want into the scene, and surprise, surprise, it works too!
To be fair, Mermaid Batman probably deserves to be on the throne, served a plate of freshly boiled Sebastian by Alfred in his swimsuit, as a Pirates of the Caribbean and Spongebob Squarepants mermaid swim nearby, as Sandy the Squirrel watches on.
Meanwhile down below, we have Patrick just chilling, as an Aquazone diver explores and comes across an Atlantis Squid Warrior, Shark Suit Guy and Black Manta.
This is probably my favourite version, and there’s nothing you can do about it.
What I liked:
- A very fun albeit challenging build
- Clamshell is a large display model and looks very aesthetically pleasing and unique
- Highly detailed Little Mermaid minifigures
What I didn’t like:
- A little pricey
- Back of Clamshell is incredibly unfinished
- Could use more graphical Easter Eggs and decorations
43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell is a very good LEGO Disney set that Little Mermaid fans should consider putting on their radar.
It’s always tricky reviewing a licensed LEGO set when the movie isn’t out, and it’s hard to make any sort of connection to the characters, especially ones that so dramatically reimagine beloved Disney characters, but on its own merits, this set ticks most of the boxes of what you’d want from a satisfying LEGO set.
The build itself is a real highlight, and although tricky in some stages (even for an experienced builder like me!), feels refreshing and delivers a unique overall experience that’s unlike most other adult-targeted LEGO sets.
The minifigures are pretty good, with incredible printing on all the mermaids, and King Triton, but until the movie comes out, it’s really hard to determine whether these will be as iconic as the depictions from the 1989 animated movie, and resonate with a whole new generation.
The model itself is quite beautiful. It’s a large display diorama with plenty of space to position the minifigures, and the giant Clamshell makes for a really eyecatching and aesthetically-pleasing model.
It’s relatively rare to get 18+ Disney sets, and The Royal Clamshell does scratch that itch, while at the same time is at a price bracket that doesn’t feel prohibitively expensive, relative to other larger alternatives like The Disney Castle.
The back of the shell doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would, mostly because, you don’t even notice it when you have it on display. It does look unfinished, and quite ugly when you do catch a glimpse of it, but again, this is LEGO and you can always “complete” the clamshell if you’d like to.
The diorama-esque model also makes this a really great undersea-setting for customisation, so you are perfectly free to swap out these characters for Classic Ariel, minidolls, or whatever you want, to keep the set fresh and dynamic.
It is a little bit on the expensive side, but I don’t think it veers into overpriced territory, and is one of the cheaper 18+ sets available, and will delight Little Mermaid fans. Of course, the movie could bomb and be terrible…which would alter how fans view the set and minifigures, but again, you can always swap them out if that’s the case.
All up, this is a pretty satisfying set and one that makes for an excellent display piece that has all the subtle hallmarks of a Marcos Bessa design.
Build  – I really liked how engaging the build was, and learning how the geometry of the shell came into being
Real Value  – A little overpriced, but if this goes on sale, it represents excellent value
Innovation  – The Clamshell and this 3D display diorama format is very unique
Coolness  – This is a hard one because I don’t know how the live action movie will turn out, but I like the boldness of the design
Keepability  – Makes for a great display showpiece and model that stands out from typical LEGO sets, even 18+ ones
Rating and score: 4/5 ★★★★✰
What do you think of The Royal Clamshell? Will you be picking it up in May?
43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell, will be available from 4 May 2023 from LEGO.com, your local LEGO store or most toy stores, alongside 2 other smaller sets based on the live action movie. In Australia, the set will be available on 1 June 2023.
If you plan on purchasing 43225 The Little Mermaid Royal Clamshell please consider using the affiliate links found in the post to support the blog, as I may receive a small commission with each purchase.
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