'The Empire Strikes Back' said:
Yoda: Oooooh... Jedi Master.... Yoda, you seek YODA!
This was the second of two large sculptures released early in the Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series line. The bust of Darth Maul preceded Yoda; only a large scale General Grievous followed some six years later. Coming after the three highly detailed and accurate spaceships released in 2000 and 2001, this set - although depicting an iconic figure from the Star Wars universe - came as quite a surprise to me, and I confess I probably would not own it now had it not been bought for me as a surprise gift.
Foreword: This review has been cooking in the Reviewers Academy for a few days; I had no idea drdavewatford would also be reviewing this set, and the two reviews are entirely independent. As such, it'll be interesting to compare our thoughts on the set, and to see if our different opinions (or reviewing styles) influence the poll results.
Name: Yoda (Jedi Master)
Theme: Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series
Available: 2002 - 2003
Parts: 1079 (including 4 leftovers)
Price: originally US $100 | GB £79.99
Links ... Brickset ... Bricklink ... Peeron
The Box - Front
As you can see, the box has a smart cover, featuring Lego Yoda superimposed onto a screenshot from The Empire Strikes Back: Luke, amazed by Yoda's mastery of the force, removing slime from his newly rescued X-Wing on Dagobah. A couple of inset pictures show the 'real' Yoda, in case you can't recognise him in plastic, and we are reminded that this set is aimed exclusively at the adult market by the prominent '14+'.
It's a sizeable box, measuring W 573 x H 381 x D 66 mm, as oriented here. Fanatical box-keepers like myself will be pleased to learn that it opens with a lifting lid, and no tear-tabs.
Just imagine... The rear shows another, similar, view of Lego's interpretation of the Jedi Master himself; and a further film screenshot of him toying with his little stick.
On the right are three composite 'inbuild' shots:
Inbuild shots included? This set reviews itself! Actually, if you follow the instructions the part-built model never looks like this, unless you make mistakes and have to go back a step or two.
A single A4 instruction book depicts a close-up of Yoda with a similar circle motif to the cover.
There is little inside besides the instructions themselves; no parts inventory, alternative models or other views of the complete Yoda himself.
There are some advertisements for other Star Wars models on the back, mostly following the maxifig theme:
The other UCS sets available in 2002 - Darth Maul and the RBR (both labelled 10018, interestingly) - play second fiddle to the Technic figs; clearly Lego have picked the sets they think will appeal to AFOLs. It's interesting that, in those relatively early days of SW Lego, TLC had underestimated how much the minifig would appeal to their adult fanbase.
The instructions themselves are a bit of a culture shock for anyone familiar with Lego for the last 30 years. Yes, there are piece callouts, but the steps are displayed in plan view, with insets of 'traditional' view for subsections. You are directed to build one layer at a time:
This is the only Lego sculpture I've ever owned, and I don't recall building any other set with similar instructions. I notice Darth Maul's are similar; I'm sure readers will fill me in on other sets that are built the same way.
And, there's a twist: the 'body' steps (left) display only the current layer and the one below; the 'head' section (right) shows all layers beneath the current. It's as if two different people designed each half of the booklet. Overall, I'm ambivalent about the 'plan' view; while it is confusing at times, I suspect trying to follow the steps in 'classical' view would be nigh-on impossible.
Loose inside the box is an A4-sized 'poster' - actually it has adverts for other themes on the rear: mostly rather uninspiring junior offerings that perhaps are meant to appeal to the kids of the owner of this set.
Absent from the box is the dreaded sticker sheet - there are NO stickers with this set, but that also means there is NO UCS display plaque.
I had a dilemma here. There are far too many parts to take pictures of them all, except perhaps in an unhelpful pile, and I wanted to get the message across that the pieces are mostly traditional blocks and plates, albeit in interesting colours. In the end I decided on a photographic parts inventory, which I hope will be useful to anyone thinking of buying the set for parts.
A quick glance at the box cover tells you that there are four main colours in the set: Tan, sand green, dark orange and brown (colour IDs 2, 48, 68 and 8 in Brinklink's colour guide - thanks CopMike for advice here). We'll start with the tan and sand green pieces:
What is of note here is not the pieces themselves, which are ordinary enough, but the very large count of some of them: 84 2x2 tan corner pieces, 55 1x2 bricks, et cetera - I can see how they would appeal to anyone planning a Tatooine MOC (or a Bricklink shop ). It's great to see the sand green bricks, although I imagine they'll be all too familiar to any Statue of Liberty owners.
Next up are the dark orange, 'old' brown and other bricks. Dark orange will be familiar to owners of the Sandcrawler, but this 'old' brown is significantly darker than the reddish brown that makes up most of that set.
There are very few Technic pieces, highlighting both the traditional nature of the build and the lack of playability features.
Stars of the plates inventory are the sand green plates, in huge quantities:
Note 26 sand green jumper plates: we'll see how they're employed later. Rare parts, but I imagine this set (and the Statue of Liberty) have made them readily available via Bricklink.
Thumbs-up, cookies and kudos to any eagle-eyed readers who can tell me which two parts I forgot from these photos and had to edit in later.
Part One - The Body
It's very much a build of two halves. We start, logically, at the bottom, with the body. A single layer of plates is followed by twenty-four tiers of bricks.
Now I consider myself an experienced builder, but I have to say I found this model tough going. For every step, you have to pick your starting place carefully and work round the ring, taking care to place each part relative to the last; mistakes (and I made a few) may not become apparent till later; I had to backtrack a few steps on more than one occasion. Needless to say, it wasn't helped by having to lean over the camera, keeping the model still, and the backache this caused!
What keeps the build interesting is the change of shape as you go upwards. It's intriguing, as the body tapers in and out, to place parts that seem to overlap inexplicably, then find out how that helps to support the higher levels. The following steps show how the sides start to lean outwards, and projections at the front form the green fellow's sleeves:
Note also the brown pieces at the front, which begin to take the form of Yoda's stick, and the jumper plates giving sections of the stick a half-stud offset, making it 'crooked'.
The blue pieces with Technic pins will support the arms, which are built (in traditional view) as below:
This section doesn't look much on its own, but in situ succeeds somewhat in giving the appearance of arms folded across the top of the stick. The grey slopes are Yoda's 'claws'.
With the arms in place, the model tapers towards the neck, making things move more quickly, much to my relief. The body is topped off with a turntable, and a rim of bricks representing the hood.
Here's a little tip to anyone planning to build this set. For the body, the order of pieces in the callouts is always the same: if you plan ahead, and sort your pieces by shape and colour, then place them in the order used in the callouts, it takes hours off the time needed to find the pieces. Unfortunately the same doesn't apply to the head section.
Part Two - The Head
Unlike the body, the head consists mainly of plates. It is essentially spherical, a lesson in Lego sculpture techniques:
Note the chains used to attach Yoda's 'Pipes of Peace'. Incidently, I don't recall the pipes from the films - could anyone shed any light?
Unlike the body, the head is symmetrical, which makes things a little easier; however, as you can see below, there are a large number of jumper plates used to give the facial features a number of half-stud offsets at different points; this is very fiddly and sometimes difficult to follow.
Two 1x2 plates with a side 'ridge' are used to give a little step to the 'nose'; quite why they didn't use a slope I don't know, when two are placed invisibly inside the head.
The 'eyes' are each formed of a small spherical piece in a Bionicle/Technic ball joint socket:
The white arch is purely structural, to support the parts above the eyes.
More jumper plates form the eyebrows, and the head starts to round off:
At this point I started to think Yoda might make a good piggy bank, if you modify the hole to a coin-slot.
The earless head is strangely frightening...
... but the ears, which clip into Technic bricks on the head, remove the scary effect:
There's even a missing brick behind the 1x1 brick at the front, which looks the entrance to the little guy's ear canal. Eeeuww.
The leftovers: a very small selection for such a big set.
Total build time: Well, I lost count, but several hours including sorting and pictures.
The Complete Model
Here's the little dude, in all his green, brown and tan plastic glory:
He weighs in at 1.4 kg (3 lb) and measures approximately 33.5 cm tall, 24 cm wide and 16 cm deep; at just over 1 ft in height he's probably about half 'life' size.
There isn't much to the back and side apart from the contours of the bricks...
... but in case you were wondering, this little statue of the most powerful Jedi is made of little plastic blocks called 'Lego':
A nice touch, if a little randomly-placed.
The statue base, and a close-up of Yoda's 'hood':
At the base of the statue are a couple of visible 'claws'. The somewhat random placement of dark orange bricks at the base is a little hard to fathom; folds in Yoda's trousers, perhaps?
And now, pray silence for the wonderful play features of this set:
The head swivels; if you keep the 'Pipes of Peace' out the way, it'll turn all the way round, which may appeal to horror fans. The eyes move, independently, but mostly only up and down. That's it for functions. The left picture also shows off the facial features: lips, eyebrows and nose all protruding by multiples of half a stud.
For completeness, here's what he looks like from the bottom and top:
Behold the wondrous Caverns of Yoda! I can't say the same for the top of his head; it's a green egg.
Thoughts on the design
How does he match up to the real thing? Let's take a look:
Well, he's recognisably Yoda. Compared to this particular Dagobah shot, he looks a bit colourful, but they are appropriate for the character and it would be difficult to produce a more faded look without him becoming a grey blob.
My first major criticism is Yoda's face. While the designers have done a good job of creating facial features in three dimensions, they haven't really captured Yoda's look: his protruding mouth might have been better rendered using slopes; his eyes, while cleverly constructed, are beady and sunken compared to the puppet Yoda's bulbous orbits. Lastly, the crown is a little pointed; it could perhaps have been flatter in profile.
If anything, the model bears greater resemblance to the younger, angrier-looking Yoda from Episode 1:
(image from www.scifiscience.co.uk)
The other major flaw, in my opinion, is the body shape. Yoda is simply too upright. Even 'young' Yoda in Episode 1 walks stooped; if you look again at the comparison pictures above, Lego Yoda stands straight, but our aged Dagobah friend is hunched right over. True, it would have been much more difficult for the designers to pull this off, but I'm simply not sure I like the design they've come up with.
This was a very brave move by Lego. Back in those days, what appealed to AFOSWLs was perhaps less certain; the fact that Lego released two sculptures within a year of each other but none since (unless you count the 2008 Grievous figure) suggests they may have been testing the water. In any event, they can't have been that successful, or we'd have seen many more along the way.
My own theory is that as the 'regular' Star Wars sets have become more detailed and accurate over the years, they have begun to appeal more to AFOLs; Lego, detecting the shift in the market towards minifigure-oriented sets, have responded by 'merging' the UCS theme with the larger playsets, just as they now appear to have blurred the boundaries between Clone Wars and Prequel Trilogy sets.
I suspect we've seen the demise of the 'true' UCS line, but I for one like the direction Lego Star Wars is going, and I'm happy to keep buying minifig sets provided the accuracy and detail are maintained. For me, therefore, Yoda now stands as a memorial statue to the early UCS days; though I confess he'll be the first to go when I need the shelf space.
As the model is designed for display rather than play, I have instead given extra weight to the 'design' section.
Design: 13/20 Not bad, but the young-looking face, egg-head and straight-standing body make this look more like Yoda's grand nephew than the ancient warrior himself.
Build: 7/10 Challenging is the watchword here; the build process is exhausting, but the lack of repetition and some interesting traditional-build techniques keep it reasonably interesting.
Parts: 7/10 Standard bricks, but in unusual and useful colours; they are perfect for desert MOCs, but I can't see anyone hunting this set down just for the parts.
Price: 8/10 £80 seems quite reasonable, now. For the Star Wars line, it's an excellent price-to-parts ratio. I suspect the lack of rare minifigs will keep the second-hand price down.
Overall, 70%. A bold move by Lego, this set was. Ultimately, though, I don't think it was a successful one.
Thank you for reading, and I hope you enjoyed it. Please let me know your thoughts on the review, the set itself, and sculptures in general.
Read drdavewatford's review here.
Edited by WhiteFang, 13 March 2010 - 05:25 PM.