In early January, I was at the local Lego store with VIP rewards in pocket, looking for a new toy. On a bottom shelf I spotted one Grand Carousel set. I knew it shouldn't be there, so I quickly grabbed it, shocked that the crowd in the store was ignoring it just because the box was banged up.
Name: Grand Carousel
Set Number: 10196
Price: $250 / £180 (originally)
Year of Release: 2009
Links: Bricklink Peeron Brickset
This set is out of production, and I assume they found it in the back because the box was pretty smashed up.
That's right, I got it for just $125 due to the box damage! At the time, sealed sets were selling for around $350 on Bricklink.
The Back of the Box
More damage is visible, but I love the photography here. The minifig group along the bottom is especially nice, with all the posing. Lego took good advantage of the huge box to show a lot on the back. There's a cutaway to show the mechanisms, the overall shot to show size, and several nice minifig's-eye-view action shots. The only thing missing is a camera in the hands of "dad" in the bottom-center photo.
The Box Top
Even though this is a huge set with over 3200 pieces, Lego had enough space on the top of the box to show the entire part selection. Look at the color array - there's all the usual white, grey, and blacks, plus two shades of blue, two greens, two reds, tan, yellow, gold, reddish brown, dark tan... and that's not even counting the trans parts! Many of these very large sets are pretty monochromatic (think of the grey Star Wars sets, or the mostly tan London Bridge, or the Taj Mahal...), but this one just explodes with color.
The 1:1 Indicator
This set is so huge that they didn't show an actual size part, they show an actual size portion. These decorations that go around the carousel run around 70 pieces each to build, so this really gives a sense of scale. And I love the smirk on the head... like he's saying just wait, you won't get to build me for many many hours... As a photographer, I find it interesting that they took this photo with it installed on a carousel. Above the jester head you can see the grey ball that the canvas hooks to. Why didn't they just remove it and take a photo on a white background for easier editing, rather than using a shot from an installed decoration and have to much more carefully cut it out for use on the box?
The carousel is built on a plain green 48x48 plate. That's the largest plate Lego makes (there was a 50x50 back in the 70s, but no longer available) and this is the only place to get it in plain green. There was a green with soccer field paint version a few years back that came with two of these plates to make a field, but it obviously wasn't plain. Given the scarcity of this part (and since I'd think this is a very desirable baseplate for large scene builders), I'm surprised that it's only going for $15-$20 on Bricklink. It does have one issue though. It's VERY flimsy. Moving the carousel for these photos was always interesting, since the baseplate bends easily.
There are 25 bags of parts, not counting the canvas and Power Functions parts. They're not numbered or organized in any way (except for that bag in the center with all 48 of the dark red inverted slopes), so I recommend that you begin by sorting them all out. There are several bags that are duplicates of each other, so you could just sort one if you need to save space. My wife and I built this on a card table without enough room to sort everything and it really slowed us down.
The Sticker Sheet
Although the sticker sheet was tucked into the manuals when I opened the box, it was still crinkled. It didn't actually end up mattering, since the stickers smoothed out nicely when applied. The gold circles along the top though are some of the worst stickers I've ever had to apply. I'd rather do the stickers on the curved Technic panels any day - those circles are supposed to go in the bottom of the gold bowls. My fingers are just too big for that. Any why so many stickers for a large set? I think those gold vertical decorations should have been printed. There are twelve of them per carousel. Even the Emerald Night (at a much lower price tag) had gold printed parts for the engine.
There are two of them, both large, nice manuals. Inside they're clear and easy to follow, but nothing interesting. Just standard Lego manuals. Just be ready to repeat things - they're full of "make 8 of these" and "make 12 of these" sections. It IS a round, symmetrical carousel after all.
The PF and Canvas Parts
The battery box and motor each are packed separately, and then there's the bag with one of only two unique parts in the set - the 8 canvas triangles that make the roof. (The other unique part is the sound box that plays carousel music.) They are very sturdy and nicely cut.
The lineup: First is the operator. Nice beard. Then mom and dad. Strangely, dad is wearing the same shirt as the operator. Did they plan that? Is dad a ride operator at the park too? Next are two teens, I guess. Boring clothes; the second is completely plain! Finally there are 4 little kids. One boy has the same shirt as his big brother. And finally the twins on the end. I'm assuming they're twins since they're wearing the exact same clothes. Is this all supposed to be one family ? I'm guessing it's just random kids, in which case the two boys with matching shirts are probably siblings, the twins are obviously siblings, but I don't know who belongs to this mom and dad. Overally, the quantity is nice, but they're a bit boring. A few accessories would have been nice. A camera for dad, a Nintendo DS for the kids (because you know kids these days would be bored with a carousel), etc.
Building the Carousel, Part 1: The Baseplate
Construction begins on the baseplate immediately. First up are some white bricks in the back left corner (which are later removed - they're used only to get that one section of white fence in the correct spot!) The motor is built up as well, along with the plates that the carousel will rotate on.
Building the Carousel, The Motor
There was no good way to hide the battery box and motor for this set. Lego did the best they could, adding a fence and a control platform for the ride operator on top of the battery box. A real carousel would have the mechanisms inside the center of the ride, but plenty of other amusement park rides have exposed machinery like this, so it works alright in my opinion.
Building the Carousel, Part 2: The Spinning Base
This was the longest part of the build. That huge tan base took several hours to assemble (partly due to having all the parts still there to dig through, partly due to the wide array of pieces and colors needed, and partly due to watching tv while building). There are 8 wheels on the underside of this base that roll along the tiles underneath, and the log bricks in the center hold it nicely in place while it rotates. That's actually one unrealistic aspect of this set. Most real carousels don't have wheels under the floor. It's all hanging from the structure overhead, which is all supported by the central tower section. Lego however isn't designed to have hanging weight like that, so they cheated a bit by supporting the weight from underneath. The wheel driven by the motor just rubs the outside of this to spin it. It's all simple but so effective (and realistic - lots of amusement park rides use driven tires as the power source).
Building the Carousel, Part 3: The Center
Time to get out that bag of 48 dark red inverted slopes and all the white pieces you can find. This structure just builds level upon level up to the top. Here I've removed part of the top layer to show the structure. The panels with the gold stickers are on hinges at the bottom to achieve the nice slope. Behind the dark red slopes is a very sturdy structure of white arches and bricks. Hinged bricks are used at a couple levels to hold it in the circle. All in all, this is one solid piece of struture here, easily able to support the weight of the carousel roof.
Building the Carousel, From Overhead
Even though Lego bricks are rectangular, this set does an awesome job making large circles. The center is a dodecahedron (12 sided), and the base is a hexadecagon (16 sided). For this set, Lego basically built the biggest carousel that would fit on this massive baseplate. There's only 2 studs to spare on each side!
Building the Carousel, Part 4: The Mechanism
A carousel needs a way to have the horses move up and down. This is the Lego method. First, make several of each of these parts.
Building the Carousel, Part 5: The Mechanism
Combine all the pieces you just made into this ring. The wheels will ride on the edges of the central column, rotating the axles. The blue thin 2 liftarms will raise and lower the white 5 liftarms. Simple, effective, very Lego. However, what's up with all the colors here? None of this layer will be seen, so why the blue thin liftarms, red bushes, yellow thin bushes... not to mention the dark blue bricks and dark red bricks in the outer ring. It did make finding the parts easier though, so that was nice. You can also see in the center the light bluish gray sound brick (pointing towards the camera). There's a button on the side facing the middle that triggers it.
Building the Carousel, Part 6: The Top Ring
The ring just sits on the tower, attaching to the tan floor with 8 16 axles in white.
Building the Carousel, Part 6: The Top Ring Detail
A closeup of the mechanism here. This part does require you to pay attention to the symbol in most Lego manuals to NOT attach things too tightly on axles. There are so many connections here it's easy to get it bound up. Things (especially between the blue thin arms and the white 5 liftarms) need to be loose enough to spin very freely. Even with freely spinning axles, there's still so little friction between the tires and tiles that sometimes the horses will stop moving up and down for a moment.
Building the Carousel, Part 7a: The Horses
There are six total horses on the carousel, two of each color. Other than colors, they're all identical. The figs seem a little small on them compared to most carousel horses I've seen in real life. And the small kid on the dark grey horse - seriously, with the short (non-bending) legs, she has to stand! You can also see here the stickers for the eyes. The white and light grey look good, but the dark grey are too dark for the bricks.
Building the Carousel, Part 7b: The Sleigh
One daughter gets to ride this nice sleigh. It does go up and down like the horses (the real-life carousels I have been on usually have sleighs or similar that don't move). I actually think it looks a little plain. Everything else on the carousel is loaded with jewels, fruit, gold... this only has the two gems.
Building the Carousel, Part 7c: The Thing?
I have to say, I have no idea what this is supposed to be. A hot air balloon basket? A gondola from something? Anyway, like the sleigh, it's a bit plain. They did add a beard at the back for a little more decoration, but it's still simple compared to everything else.
Building the Carousel, Part 8: The Decorations
Carousels always have to be adorned with golden decorations and assorted colorful things. Here is how Lego does that. First, there's 8 heads with jester hats. The heads are in 4 different expressions for variety. Some clear gems and golden rocks give the required bling, and an upside down beard piece is used on top. The construction is some nice SNOT work, with studs actually facing 4 different directions.
Building the Carousel, Part 8b: The Decorations
The jester-head decoration looks like this, all assembled. There are two pins sticking out the back that will be used to attach 8 of these around the top of the carousel. There are also 8 slightly smaller, but similar, decorations built with gold bowls in the center instead of heads.
Building the Carousel, Part 9: Adding the Canvas
The last addition to the carousel is the canvas top and golden flag. The canvas triangles have holes in each corner - the lower two hook over the grey ball pins, while the top holes slide over the blue pins on the underside of the red stripes. Those red stripes actually only attach at the top - the lower end is just resting on the canvas.
Here all the lovely curves of the carousel fall apart. It's just not possible to get all the canvas sheets to lie nicely. It's not that bad in real life though. Most people are too busy looking at the details to even care about the wrinkles.
Inside the Big Top
If we pull back some of the canvas triangles of the roof, you can see the musical mechanism inside. That orange button starts the music. There's a cam on the center shaft (just visible sticking out to the left of the white column) that presses the button on each rotation. If you get sick of the music, you can just slide that cam up or down the axle so it doesn't hit the button any more - I did that while building since I kept rotating the carousel to attach various parts. The music gets very annoying when you're working for hours.
The Spare Parts
After assembling over 3200 pieces, this is the leftovers. It's quite the assortment of small pieces and shows just what variety of parts go into this set. There are 3 white cheese slopes shown here, but that's because my wife forgot to put two of them on one of the horses :) (my wife is making me add that she had a 104 degree fever and pneumonia at the time, so it wasn't really her fault...)
The Abused Part
One of my spare yellow half-bushes looked like this. What horrors must have befallen this poor lonely piece in the Lego factory to come out looking like this...
After about 8 hours total build time (albeit while watching tv for most of it), the carousel is done. That is gorgeous. I love the tons of details crammed into this set. Decorations on the horses, faces on the jester heads, gold and red and white and dark blue and tan everywhere. And those gold stickers in the middle just make it. This set would lose so much without those.
Around the crown of the carousel are the decorations made earlier. Each clips on as a unit - 8 with jester heads and 8 with bowls. These add a lot of glamour to the design and hide the Lego structure behind them well.
In the back corner is the operator's stand. Lego even added a pair of levers to the control switch of the battery box. One is a functional grey beam coming under the stairs to make controlling the ride easier for the real people. The second is the rods coming up for the minifig operator to control. Such a nice touch. And of course, all the mechanical bits have to be behind a fence to keep the kiddies safe.
You just can't have a review of a set like this (with both motion and annoying sound) without a video. PLEASE click through to youtube and watch at high quality - the standard resolution just doesn't cut it for this.
This set defines how detailed and gorgeous a Lego set can be. The rich colors and attention to minute detail just make this set stand out. It's loaded with playability, staying with a nice minifig scale so you can include it in a town layout. Really, the only things I'd improve if I could would be: 1. a more rigid baseplate, 2. easier access to the cam to mute the music (perhaps sliding the flagpole on the top up and down to turn sound on and off?), 3. printed pieces.
Value: 10/10 - Assuming you get it at the original price, it's a great deal. Well under 10 cents a piece at just 7.7, and loaded with fun pieces in large quantities, it's a fantastic deal. Plus you get a motor and battery box!
Design: 10/10 - Did you look at the pictures? Do I really need to explain a 10 rating here?
Playability: 10/10 - It's motorized, musical, and minifig scale so you can fit it into whatever scene you have. It's got enough figs to fill it, and enough going on to keep a kid (or AFOL) busy for a long time.
Parts: 10/10 - While not giving anything new, this set is practically a part pack of anything you could want. Slopes, arches, hinge bricks (in both directions), any color, it's just loaded. Even has a bunch of minifigs to get you started.
Minifigs: 6/10 - Ok, there are a bunch of them, but they're boring. No accessories, repeated clothing, just nothing interesting to see here. They fill the seating on the carousel and that's about it.
Overall: 10/10 - Really, what could they improve that's enough to merit docking a star?
My Flickr set for this set (to see the images larger)
Edited by Zorbas, 22 February 2011 - 07:46 PM.