Name: Grand Carousel
Set Number: 10196
Price: $US249.99, EUR249.99, GBP166.35, AUD$399.99
Resources: Brickset, Bricklink, Shop @ Home
When pics of this set first surfaced in early May, I wasn't initially impressed. My first thought was that it was a 'hot mess' - an over the top blend of colours with generic Stepford-type minifg civilians. I'd heard rumours of a fairground set in the Trains & Town forum, but expected it to be more like 10184 Town Plan - a mix of smaller-scaled rides which would integrate within a standard layout. Instead, the Carousel seemed out of step with the largest modular buildings like 10182 Cafe Corner and 10185 Green Grocer. I had a difficult time imagining who the target market was - 'Lego carnie enthusiasts? Carousel aficionados?' Ouch!
Parts-wise, the set also didn't seem that amazing. All the dark blue and dark red pieces could either be found in Star Wars, Indy or Castle (such as the inverse dark red slopes in 7627 or metallic gold bowls and crystals). The hoopla over multiple Jester hats and tan beards also seemed unjustified - why get so excited over a bit of facial hair in a standard (if new) colour when all of the amazing Indy and Agents figs with revolutionary pieces and colours were coming out?
Three months later, what changed? Why did I decide to buy this set? Price, largely When this set was initially released on Shop at Home, it was listed at $AUD299.99 (about US$240, GBP146, EUR170) - making it $AUD100 less than the 10195 LAAT/ AT-OT to which it was priced equivalently in other markets. (This deal didn't last long; the day after I placed my order it jumped 33% over its original list price to $AUD399.99.)
So now that I have the set in my hands, has my opinion altered? Is the Grand Carousel a baroque joke or (crazy) paving the way for future Exclusives? Read on and find out!
2. The box
The large box has the tape-sealed sides, so you can easily flatten and store it without damage. With less parts than 10189 Taj Mahal, it does not have the three sturdy trays provided in that package. My box was slightly squashed, but I think that was more to do with bad shipping rather than the weight of the parts distorting the cardboard.
The front of the box. Notice the orange Power Functions artwork - the set includes 1x small motor, 1x battery box, and 1x annoyingly catchy sound brick! (Seriously, by the end of the build, the cheery ditty will have eaten into your brain ). Click here for a closer pic of the PF stuff from the side of the box.
The rear of the box:
The citizens of Stepford, all 9 of the generic little beings, God bless 'em:
The artwork on the back is largely the same as the pics on Shop @ Home, with some background detail such as tree boughs added in:
[Detail fans, click here for a larger sized version of this pic]
We also get to see an intriguing cross-section of the completed set, showing part of the turning mechanism:
And also the measurements - 39cm (15.4") x 33.5cm (13.2") (slightly different to Shop @ Home, which states that the baseplates dimensions are 38.4cm or 15.1"):
The side of the box illustrates the recurring Jester motif:
As with the other large Creator sets, the parts are listed on the top of the box - they're too hard to see in one 800 wide photograph, so I've linked to the instruction pages inventory below
3. The box contents
Is there any purer joy in life than slicing open a freshly sealed Lego box and gently easing the contents onto a flat surface? The crinkle of polybags! The tang of newly minted cardboard! The scent of fresh Billund air!
Like any rush, it can all end rather nastily when you disocver the mangled sticker sheet, minus a sticker which has already peeled off (see the top left corner)! You would think Lego would have some method of ensuring stickers in a $US250 set would survive the packing process, but presumably the cost of sending replacement sheets to irate customers is less than the cost of specialist factory machinery to pack these properly. This is a shame as they seem to have managed to seal canvas pieces such as sails and specially moulded/ painted minifig parts in the same way - perhaps those ones are all made in China?
There are 2 instruction books - at 64 pages they feel surprisingly short, but there are many steps which are 4x or 8x. (Instructions download:Book 1/ Book 2)
Let's take a closer look at the instructions. Amusingly, there's a blooper pretty much on page one. On the left, is this Lego's first official drag king minifig? (If so, I like to think the character next to her is her cranky midget girlfriend.) This gender-bending error is later repeated in Book 2 when positioning the figs on the horses.
The instructions do show some colour printing issues. Navy blue looks darker than black, especially in dim light. I don't normally have a problem distinguishing between colours in the manuals, but here Lego has managed to make the same piece look like entirely two different colours in between the end-user picking up the part (the inset box) and placing it in position on the set
Next, the parts - there's 25 main bags (not including baggies within bags), as well as the separately sealed Power Functions motors and canvas roof pieces. They're all unnumbered! Prepare to devote the start of your 10196 experience with some good old-fashioned sorting.
(For parts fetishits, there's an unresized large pic for closeup, click here.)
The full parts list from the instructions is available from the following links (1400 pixel wide pics):
Page 1 / Page 2 / Page 3
The first thing you notice about the parts is the sheer variety of them. Compared to other huge 3000+ showstopper sets, which seem to be endless bags of white (Taj), light bley (Death Star), or dark bley (Eiffel), the Grand Carousel spills out as a diverse sea of colour! The four main shades are white, tan, dark red and dark blue, but there are plenty of other accents such as primary red, primary blue, metallic gold, medium blue, lime green, yellow, and so on. Not to mention all the sparkling gems and suchlike. It can be a bit giddy-making! Eg, who'd ever have thought we'd see an individual polybag of 96 dark red inverse slopes It really is an embarrassment of riches. Impressively, despite a large number of Technic pins, axles, and angle connectors, this is far less of a Technic build than I thought it would be and is largely and solidly brick built
The 8 Jester hats are bagged inside another bag:
The canvas sails also come separately packed:
Normally I toss all the parts together, but I'm not a masochist when it comes to these enormous Exclusives Half an hour was spent transferring the contents of sealed polybags into ziplock bags. I would advise you to do the same! Once you 'learn which parts are likely to be in which bag, the build zips along. Due to the large number of colours, there's less confusion than with something like the Taj, where you were constantly checking how long plates were etc.
The 48x48 baseplate is very cool (I neglected to take a separate pic of it before commencing the build ) This is the first official set it appears in, although it presumably has been produced for some in-house purpose as it previously has been available to buy via bricklink. Immediately you start thinking of things to plonk onto its vast and soothing green expanse!
The large plate looks a lot better than attaching a series of 16x32 or 32x32 plates. It's necessary, too, as the huge weight of the set means that separate baseplates would fall apart if you moved the set.
4. The minifigs
If you thought the figs couldn't get more boring than the 8401 City collection, you'd be wrong! The 9 figs included in this set are a real let-down. Don't give me that bull about how expensive minifig parts are to produce blah blah blah economies of scale mean we need 2x of each torso print blah blah. If licensed sets like 7195 Ambush in Cairo can give us *4* new minifigs for under $AUD20 or non-licensed sets like 8970 Robo Attack can give us three of the best City civilian minifigs ever seen, I don't see how hard it can be to throw us a bone in the form of a few different face or torso prints! It must be said - the City line figs overall are in dire need of a revamp - they're outdated and unattractive
Let's look at what we get. The first batch:
- 2 ginger-bearded men in flannel shirts. If I saw these in real life, I'd think they were a couple from San Francisco. In the 70s!
- 2 kids in the same overalls that City mechanics wear. Good to see a realistic depiction of child sweatshop labour from Lego! I admire this young girl's deft hand with lipstick and mascara too - what a role-model!
The second batch of figs are as follows:
- Dorky teen and his younger, identically dressed dorky brother
- An angry girl, probably annoyed she's wearing a hand me down shirt from 1994
- Bland couple - actually these are my favourites. At least they look like they're enjoying themselves!
10185 Green Grocer uses a similarly limited palette of pre-produced parts, but there Jamie Berard managed to cleverly combine existing prints to give us individual characters who felt like they had their own personalities - boy scout, businessman etc. I don't think it helps here that the minifigs are all produced in red, blue and white colours - exactly the same as the set itself! They should have at least mixed it up with a variety of hues in the parts.
So, for me, the figs are huge disappointment. If I wasn't building this set accurately for the review, I would have already busted out my Agents civilians, City Camper girl and a few other zingers to make these fun-lovers instantly more appealing. About the only fun that can be had with them is to subvert their boring appearance with a little social mischief...
5. The build - base & motor
First up is the tiled base which the spinning carousel will sit atop. Note how all these pieces, which will end up for the most part invisible, still come in rare or popular colours such as dark blue or reddish-brown This is a great bonus, as I hate sets where all the interior structural detail is produced in primary cheap colours (like the infrastructure of the 7778 Midi Falcon or the Taj Mahal.
While I thought it was an eyesore from the original pics seen online, the engine section doesn't look so bad in person. As many have pointed out, fairground attractions often juxtapose the ornate detail of the ride with the clunky machinery that drives it. As you push the PF battery box switch, the lever on the control platform moves too, giving the impression that the ride operator has switched it on - a great touch! I even like how the orange battery box switch colour coordinates with the Technic pin handle! Notice how the 1x8 dark blue Technic bricks (recycled from Agents Turbocar Chase) have been used to ensure the whole of that section is colour consistent - lovely attention to detail:
Now onto the large turntable itself. The build, while repetitive, is made more palatable as it is made of lots of little sections, rather than large complex ones (Compare with the Taj Mahal, where the incredibly detailed centre section had to be constructed 4x). So, there isn't such a long wait between the start of the build and a reward, which is a spur to efficiency! It also helps that the build isn't linear, so if you like, you can skip ahead and make a few horses or jester decorations, and then jump back whenever you feel like.
To start, we build up the rotating base with 8x of these segments:
Four become a semi-circle:
Eight form the complete circle. Notice the alternating lime and medium blue bricks in the middle - they're not hugely visible in the final product, but this is another example of the designer's attention to detail:
The underside - basically the motor drives the large wheel pictured a few steps above, which in turn runs the small wheels pictured here. They run smoothly along the tiled section of the baseplate and will eventually drive the whole carousel. It's a fantastically simple and elegant solution!
The rotunda in position:
Next up we add some detail, and again these are small repeat builds which aren't too mentally taxing:
The completed section, in position. I neglected to take pics, but if you had some snacks or sushi, you could totally use this as a motorised lazy Susan!
I've included this vital step from the instructions out of interest as it shows how the motor propels the Carousel. 1 - Push the large wheel in so it is touching the tan rotunda. 2 - The small Technic axle connects the wheel assembly to the piston, to ensure constant pressure of the wheel against the rotunda as it turns. 3 - switch it on! 4 - The assembly rotates in a clockwise direction!
6. The build - central supports & top ring
Next up, the inverted sloping centre section of the carousel is built.
The first step is to place 24x of the gold decals onto 1x2x5 white bricks. It is a shame such large, expensive sets can't include printed parts, but that's the way Lego is these days. You'd think it would be possible with the aforementioned economies of scale to run off 12x of the top and bottom sections without breaking the bank Probably the parts would look more metallic gold than mirrored, but it is still a painstaking and nervewracking task to delicately apply all the stickers - it's an expensive set and you don't get second chances!
Once assembled, the decals do look lovely. They're very elegant and Art Decoish, and could be used in all sorts of architectural MOCs or even as part of an LOTR Elvish Rivendell, for example. Actually the first thing that jumped to my mind was how suitable they could be for a carnival Hall of Mirrors to complement the Grand Carousel. It's my alternative model since Lego sadly no longer provides them!
The sloped effect is created using an interesting technique. (**Note that I built one half of this centre section before doing the other, so it doesn't look exactly as it does in the instructions **). Firstly, the decal-clad pieces are placed in position:
These are then folded out, and the internal architecture of inverse slopes and arches is built up:
The inside architecture with its circular plan and linked arches kind of resembles a Classical Roman stadium. Fight to the death! Mon Mothma adjudicates the first inter-theme Gladiatorial Games, as inspired by the recent 'Star Wars: Invasion' contest That poor cow - it doesn't stand a chance!
And we keep on building this
When the internal part is complete, the decalled sections fold back up like a closing lily, and the top modified tile on their tips sit inside the void of the dark red arches, which hold them all sturdily in place. Clever!
Time to add some detail and some tiled bricks to the top of the central section:
The next stage is to construct a wheeled ring to sit above this tiled section and which will connect with the Technic axle in the middle. Like other stages of this build, this is made of a series of small joined segments. There were so many of them, they kind of reminded me of blocky nanobots!
The completed outer ring and centre framework:
Now we need to add the wheel sections. Important note! Pay absolute attention when constructing the following small wheel sections. If you place the half Technic pins in the wrong spots on the short white beams, when the motor is later activated, these moving sections will hit and lock against the larger Technic beam superstructure we will see in the next few steps. I say this as a public service to future builders, because I made this error myself and it took me a chunk of frustrated time to work out what I'd done wrong! Kudos to the designers - it isn't too tricky to disassemble any of these parts to work out what you've done wrong
The wheely sections go into place.
Next we add the Technic frame which holds this wheel array to the solid central structure. You can the sound brick on the right there which is added at this stage:
The Technic frame and wheel are now connected:
And after this small sectionis added to the central inverted supports, the wheel section can now be added to the rest of the structure. Modified Technic axles lock the wheel in place by connecting with the long white Technic axles on the turntable:
Now let's see our Grand Carousel in operation! You can see the white Technic beams flipping and flopping around - obviously they behave differently once the rides are added. And listen to the soft, subtle purr of that Power Functions motor! I also try and show how the sound chip is operated in this video, but you will have to excuse my horizontal detour - I'm not an expert in videography and I got carried away (Too late to disassemble and reshoot now.) Basically, there's a piece connected to the central Technic axle, so as the wheel rotates, it nudges the sound brick button and activates the music loop. You have to hand it to the designers - the timing is brilliant, as one loop stops, the brick is immediately bumped and that catchy tune starts playing again! Amazing!