24 January 2015

Frozen LEGO Review | 41062 Elsa’s Sparkling Ice Castle

I’ve now seen Frozen almost twice as many times as I have Star Wars. This feat is even more remarkable when you consider that the icy Disney epic’s forty-seven viewings to date have all been within the last couple of years, as opposed to being speckled across three decades of man and boy. It’s the opiate of the female under fives, and its insidious appeal has hooked many a parent too. I liken my own begrudging, burgeoning respect for it to a parental Stockholm Syndrome - “Arendelle Syndrome”, if you will. I’ve spent so much time with it assaulting my visual and auditory senses that I’ve nothing else left to blog about.

My then-two-year-old’s first cinema trip was a qualified success - she sat through an hour or so of Ricky Gervais and his Karl Pilkington stand-in, Kermit, before asking to go home. Her second trip, though, was magical. Not only did she endure over forty minutes of adverts and trailers (with Daddy chuntering all the way), but she sat spellbound throughout all hundred and two minutes of Frozen. From its opening “Vuelie” S├ími chant to Demi Lovato’s closing, popped-up rendition of “Let It Go”, she was bolt upright on her mummy’s knee, her eyes glued to the silver-blue screen.

Inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s “Snedronningen” (“The Snow Queen”) fairy tale, Frozen tells of the queen regnant of Arendelle, whose coronation goes awry when she loses control of her suppressed cryokinetic power and inadvertently freezes her kingdom, which she then flees, leaving her plucky princess sister to pursue her into the snowy mountains in the hope of bringing back both her sister and the summer. As I sat through it for the first time, to my untrained eyes it looked very much like Disney by numbers - everything in its right place, perhaps a little shinier than I would have expected, but with little to set it apart from its peers. But even in that first viewing, I was taken aback at the Steinmanesque grandeur of Queen Elsa’s (Idina Menzel’s) “Let It Go”; I was shocked by a genuinely unexpected character twist; I was even impressed with some humour that, going against tradition, didn’t patronise the young target audience.

In the many viewings since, I’ve also come to appreciate the film’s rich themes, the core tenets of which are embedded in the lyrics of “Let It Go” that my daughter endlessly rehearses, as well as the loud and unsettling “Frozen Heart”, which serves as a powerful reflection on the danger and beauty of ice, and metaphorically on Elsa’s then-latent powers and the then-frozen hearts of all but one of the film’s human characters. It’s empowering, confidence-boosting yet cautionary entertainment that I’m pleased to see my daughter soaking in.

And so with the Wolversons’ appreciation of all things Frozen - Frozen toys, Frozen games, frozen fruit for our Nutri Ninja® Pro - we were understandably excited by LEGO’s long-overdue release of Elsa’s Sparkling Ice Castle. As soon as the first UK retailer started offering it at the RRP - as opposed to massively inflated eBay prices - we snapped ours up and had it built within an hour, sparking several “Just stay at home...” days and hours of delightful daddy / daughter LEGO play. It seems that the tale of “Dark Vader” and his Imperial fleet laying waste to Elsa’s icy fortress has infinite permutations.

A similar price and size to Rapunzel’s Creativity Tower, which has been a centrepiece of our sprawling Disney / Star Wars / Ninja Turtles / Simpsons / Friends LEGOpolis for a year or so now, the ice palace boasts a comparable number of rooms and features, and an extra minifigure too in the shape of Olaf, who’s cobbled together from a few existing pieces and a specially-moulded headpiece with a wonderful, removable carrot nose (parents will be pleased to hear that the set even includes a spare carrot, as our original went astray after about fifteen seconds). The two Friends-style mini-dolls are similarly detailed; Elsa’s cape sparkles on its underside, while Anna’s unique hairpiece captures her distinctive ginger-grey locks and bonnet flawlessly. Both include tiny holes so that various crowns and bows can be applied at your little girls’ discretion, and one of Elsa’s hands comes with an optional “frozen fractal” attachment that makes her appear to shoot an icy bolt at her torch-wielding sister. The only disappointment is that Anna’s bonnet doesn’t come off - not that it stops my daughter trying to prise it off with everything from LEGO brick separators to screwdrivers.

And whilst a £34.99 price tag leaves no room for a clumpy-walkin’ Kristoff mini-doll, or  a duplicitous Prince “Horns” one for that matter, we do get a minuscule version of Kristoff’s sleigh, which is a welcome addition despite only having room for one mini-doll and not having a reindeer named after an old England manager included to pull it.

The palace itself seems to delight my daughter, though even she, at just three years old, questions the inclusion of an ice cream parlour on the ground floor of Elsa’s spontaneous, ice-spun mountain refuge. Whilst the fact that neither this cosy, commercialised parlour nor the picnic area outside it weren’t shown in the movie doesn’t automatically mean that they weren’t there, they are so absurdly out of place that it seems all but certain. The colouring of the bricks used is also open to criticism, particularly when it has been expertly demonstrated what could have been accomplished in this stunning LEGO Ideas submission (right) which is now just eight hundred or so votes away from being considered for production.

However, the set’s differently-coloured pieces are at least loosely drawn from the movie’s palette, and they do make for a far easier build, which I especially appreciate now that I’m trying to get my daughter to follow the instructions and build her sets herself. Other parents of those well under the set’s recommended 6-12 age range will also really appreciate the palace’s many large, almost DUPLO-sized components (though there’s many a fiddly icicle too, mind).

And it isn’t as if the set bears no semblance at all to the film; it’s just not as good as it could and, I feel, should have been. But as the balcony area, snowflake spire and icy staircase all evoke the sense of the film if not the specifics, I’ll... let it go.

LEGO expect to be able to ship this £34.99 set from 18th February 2015 onwards, but in the meantime John Lewis still have one left, with the option of free delivery to your friendly neighbourhood Waitrose.