Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Lego Friends: Olivia's Invention Workshop

When Lego created the new "Friends" line, I don't think they anticipated how controversial it would be. In the past week, I've engaged in several online and in-person discussions about these. There seem to be several different schools of thought around why these are bad, but most concerns center on the message these are sending to young girls.

I respect where people are coming from, but personally I don't see it. Anyone who's been paying attention to toys for the past decade knows that Lego sets haven't been gender-neutral in this age range for quite a while. And, frankly, if Lego's innovating new and better Star Wars sets for the boys, don't girls deserve some attention from their designers and marketing team?

Also, the mini-dolls are awesome. They're a little larger than the old mini-figs, and all accessories (and hair/hat pieces) are interchangeable.

The concept here is that each set contains a number of small projects, rather than one big one. Supposedly, Lego's research determined that pre-teen girls prefer this structure. I can't speak for young girls, but my wife decided this was adorable and picked it up. If she hadn't, I would have.

This set is of Olivia and her "Invention Workshop." Kudos to Lego for including a science lab in their first wave. With some luck, this could inspire a generation of young girls to grow up and become mad scientists and super-villains.

Along with Olivia, you get five projects, none of which should take you more than a few minutes to snap together. At first, I wasn't keen on the blackboard, due to the miniature hearts and flowers included. But the more I think about, the more it grows on me. Sure, it's girly, but that's the point, isn't it? And the message that math and science can be girly isn't a bad one to pass on to the next generation, given the gender divide in interest in those subjects.

The spectroscope (or whatever it is) is also pretty cool, if exceedingly simple. I like the included gem. As you can see, Lego was thoughtful enough to toss in an extra blue block, so Olivia's at the right height.

You also get to build your own miniature robot and remote control. The robot sort of looks like he's related to Wall-E or Johnny-5. I do wish they would have made him a bit larger, but that's just my opinion.

The workbench is one of the cooler aspects. It has working drawers and includes an assortment of miniature tools for Olivia's unholy experiments.

Finally, you get a shelf of jars and a beaker. I really love that beaker. I know Lego was trying to be cute with the colors, but it just looks radioactive to me. Cool.

The new mini-dolls are pretty awesome, too. They come apart in a few places, in case you want to swap out the heads or bodies with another of the Lego Friends figures. Unfortunately, the heads aren't compatible with traditional Lego mini-figs. However, the hair pieces are, and the hands are the same size, allowing them to trade tools and the like.

If you're not a fan of pastels, you're definitely not going to like these toys. But if you like the color scheme (as I do), then these are a lot of fun. And at $10 a pack they're a hell of a lot cheaper than Lego Star Wars sets.


  1. Although I have many misgivings about this move by Lego, and I am fairly certain it will fail, this lab set is one I want to get for my daughter to see first hand how well the toy translates in the eyes of it's intended market. I'll be keeping my eyes peeled for it.