Paradisa was a subset of town made by TLG for a short time in the early 1990s, 1992-1997 to be specific, and it is often regarded as the most successful foray made by TLG into a theme aimed at a female market. These days many have fond memories of Paradisa – the unusual pastel colour scheme and the higher prevalence of female Minifigs may be reasons why. Unfortunately for me, Paradisa was released during my dark ages; were I a little younger ( ) I may have owned some. Nevertheless, it appeals to me now, and the advantage of being a little older is that I have a little disposable income, which I like to dispose of by buying older sets such as this. With its rosy sunsets, tropical birds and palm trees, Paradisa makes for some perfect summer building, but does 6403 Paradise Playground fit in with this summery theme? Read on to find out more.
Number – 6403
Name – Paradise Playground
Theme – Town: Paradisa
Year – 1993
Minifigs – 3
Pieces – 82 (BrickLink), 91 (Peeron), 94 (Brickset) , 99 (LEGO Collectors book)
By my count – 84 excluding minifig parts and counting the flower sprue as one part.
Price – Bought for EURO 30.00/ GB £26.43/ US $43.09 MSRP US $13.25/ GB £8.13/ EURO 9.22
Links: Brickset, Peeron, BrickLink.
Pink! That really is the first thing that springs to mind when you look at the front of this box. Once you get over that initial onslaught, you can notice a playful little scene showing the whole set. There is the old LEGO System logo denoting the set as standard minifig scale, and the special brightly-coloured corner tag denoting this as a Paradisa set. In case the bright pink didn’t give it away. TLG often put in a little background to the set on the box-art, but it seems especially more detailed for the Paradisa range. Behind the set is a multi-hued sunset, a textured landscape and sea, plus a few little details like sailing boats and drawn palm trees. These details make the box bright and colourful, interesting and appealing, and help tie the set in with the Paradisa range as a whole.
As with many older sets, the back of the box shows a number of alternative builds. These represent a diverse range of possibilities which I’ll come onto later, but suffice to say that I rather feel it is a shame that boxes no longer show these pictures, as they show the other ways the designers had thought the bricks may put together. It’s a great way of enforcing one of the fundamentals of LEGO – that you don’t have to just follow the instructions, you can put the bricks together any way you please.
The top and bottom of the box are a fiesta of pink, punctuated only by the nostalgic System log and another sunset set scene, and the obligatory safety warnings and barcode respectively.
The sides replace the loud pink with colourful sunset scenes and another picture of the set along with the LEGO and System logos – this is not a dull box. All around there are a variety of pastel pinks, oranges, blues and greens. Every effort has been made to make this scream ”Buy me, little girl!”
The instructions look like a booklet, but they’re not. The front of the folded poster shows the set again, but with the minifigs in a slightly different arrangement, which to me implies movement, and more importantly activity. Behind the set is a similar-but-different pastel picture of a sunset over a glistening bay, with sailboats and palm trees abound.
As you fold out the instructions, you have a large double-sided poster with different sections broken down into their individual stages. The front shows you how to assemble the minifigs, the pram, the seesaw and the palm tree.
The back shows how to build the slide, and how to place the remaining pieces to build the scene. They are simple and straightforward, and throughout decorated with swathes of various pastel hues which further enhance that this is a Paradisa set without compromising the colours of the parts in the pictures. There is no confusion as to which colour part is required. As you can see, there are no part call-outs, but rather the old-fashioned spot-the-difference pictures, which I find a bit more fun.
You may also notice in the top corner a triangle with the Paradisa logo on the front and the statement “90 points” and the set number on the back. Presumably these were collectable coupons, redeemable for rewards, a little research came up empty, but I’m sure someone could enlighten us.
Also inside is a separate pink Paradisa poster, showing a composite of all the Paradisa sets together, along with their set numbers. Seeing TLG's view of all the sets in one place gives us an indication of their vision for the line - that it involves fun and leisure pursuits in a tropical location locked in permanent sunset. Click on the picture for a high resolution view.
The baseplates for the set are two 8x16 plates in light green. Interestingly these baseplates are only available in this colour in this set and 6405 Sunset Stables, and the colour fits well with the pastel scheme of the theme. It’s actually quite a pretty colour so it’s a shame these baseplates haven’t been seen since 1993.
The parts inside are divided into two polybags, a large and a small, and the polybags are the old-fashioned perforated kind. Theoretically, given that the box seal was partially broken, there could have been an accumulation of dust over the intervening 20 or so years, but the LEGO inside was remarkably dust free.
Once again I’ve separated all the parts by colour, so these are the contents of both bags. I think when most people think of Paradisa and “girly” sets it is natural to think of lots of pink, especially with such a vibrant pink box, but as you can see, there really isn’t that much pink at all. Just ten pieces, in fact, however the 1x2 curved brick in pink is only available in this set and 6409 Island Arcade, and the pink fence and pink 1x2 tile with handle are both pretty much limited to Paradisa, with neither seen since 1997. The 1x2 and 2x2 tiles are also both mostly limited to a few Paradisa sets, excepting a brief appearance by the 2x2 tile in the 2003 Belville set 5857 Safran’s Amazing Bazaar, so what little pink there is, is actually not that widely available.
The grey parts are old grey – beloved by some, and shrugged at by others. Again there aren’t many parts, but there are some of interest, specifically the curved grey arches which are only available in this colour in this set.
The real majority of parts in this set, as with many Paradisa sets, are white. Many of the white parts are commonplace, however the white 6x6 container is only available in this set and the Fabuland set 3637 Gertrude Goat’s Painter’s Truck. In fact that part only seen in Fabuland (in other colours) outside of this set. The 1x3 slope with studs on top (or gable piece) is also relatively uncommon; it is only elsewhere seen in white in the 1996 Exploriens set 6982 Explorien Starship and the 1998 Paradisa set 5847 Surfer’s Paradise. I’m also very happy to add another saucepan to my collection.
Some of my favourite parts in a set are the greenery and detailing pieces. Here there are parts for a palm tree and a single red flower spruce, along with a multicoloured parrot. Not a huge amount of greenery altogether, and I might have expected more given that this set is supposedly aimed at girls, but I’m not about to sniff at a palm tree or parrot.
There are three minifigs with this set, which is quite a high number given the size of the set. None of the minifig parts are particularly rare, however a few are no longer seen in sets. The face with freckles was last seen in 2004, and the rosy-lips-thick-eyelashes face is almost exclusively available in Paradisa sets, which is a shame as it’s a very likeable face. I particularly like the gold printing on the striped vest (as a belt buckle) and a necklace on the pink top. They’re little details that are easily missed, and could easily have been left off, but I appreciate them. The pink top is certainly pretty, and clearly appealing to girls; it is exclusive to Paradisa sets. The white jumper with the Paradisa palm tree logo on the other hand was available in numerous sets, even outside of Paradisa, up until 2003. Overall I prefer the pink top, really.
From the back, there’s not much detailing to these minifigs, really. In fact there is no back printing for the red stripey vest, making it some sort of weird man-halter-neck type top. I’m slightly disappointed there’s no back printing for the pink top, though. A couple of extra dots would have added just a little bit more, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.
So, as mentioned in the instructions part, there are a number of elements in this set that are built separately and then combine to make the full display. Having assembled the minifigs, the next step is to make a pram. Yes really, a pram. Did I mention this was aimed at girls? The pram is cute, and from the pictures the pretty lady in pink is evidently Mum, or a nanny, as she’s usually pictured near it on the packaging.
Or is she some sinister Mafia Moll or crazy psycho lady, because *gasp*, the pram is empty!
Is she smuggling contraband? Is there a revolver secreted under the baby pink hood of the pram? Is she about to ice one of the cute little kids playing in Paradise Playground? Lets hope not, it wouldn’t exactly be Paradise if she did. Actually, for very few parts this makes a convincing minifig scale pram, if you like that sort of thing, and I concede that a Mother and pram does fit in with a playground, and there isn’t really a way to add a baby without it looking even more sinister. One could add a microfig from a recent LEGO boardgame, but that’d still be odd.
The next component to build is the seesaw. Again this is a straightforward build, but I’m really happy to see Technic pins and bricks used in a set aimed at girls. To my mind, there’s no reason why girls shouldn’t like Technic, and although the seesaw wouldn’t work with the inclusion of these pieces, I’m glad TLG didn’t think “we can’t put Technic in a set for girls!” Anyhow, I’ve presented it her on the delicious light green baseplate to show off the colour scheme. Pink and grey to my mind brings back distinct memories of the 1980s, however the combination here is probably also because grey goes better with pastel than black, and they wanted to use pink. Admittedly they could have used a pastel blue or yellow, but I don’t get the feeling that TLG wanted to include too many colours in this set.
I do think this is effective use of the 1x2 tiles with handles to make a simple yet recogniseable model, and the soft pastel colours are pleasing on the eye.
The other major component to the build is the slide, which is a slightly more complicated build than the seesaw. The curved grey pieces, along with white arches, add a smoothness to the model, rather than it being just blocky. The gable pieces are used to form the slope of the slide itself, giving it a precarious 45 degree angle that would be fun to slide down, until you land in a crumpled heap at the bottom.
The issue of creating steps up to the slide is solved in one fell swoop by simply attaching a ladder onto a grey 1x2 plate with a handle, and this works nicely apart from the fact that this introduces a small step down on the flat top of the slide. It’s a very minor gripe, though. I like the use of the pink fence pieces at the top of the slide to form a railing, as it makes the model prettier, more decorative.
From this angle you can see how steep the slide is, but that it is pleasantly tiled in pink. No wonder she looks apprehensive.. It is, at least, wide enough for a minifig to fit on, as they plunge to their death, so it works as a model.
The last playground area isn’t really built, as it uses the 6x6 white container as a sandpit. The adult sized kid wields an adult sized shovel and saucepan as presumably something akin to a bucket and spade. That’s it.
Actually, not quite, from this angle you can see that sand is represented here by two yellow 1x1 round plates (actually, there’re three in the polybags, but the instructions only call for two, and I didn’t want to over-do it). From this angle the “kid” also looks nearly naked; I dread to think what he’s doing in a sandpit with no sand, but there are no 1x1 round plates in brown provided with this set, unless the yellow 1x1s represent something else... He hides his face in shame. This isn’t really a build, but at least it’s another element to the set and fleshes out the playground a little.
Altogether, and when placed according to the picture at the bottom of the second page of the instruction poster, the elements form an L-shaped scene. The foliage details are added in, and although the palm tree and parrot fit nicely with the feeling of the set, the red flowers feel a little harsh. It’s a real shame that they couldn’t have used pink flowers; only a year later dark pink flower sprues would be produced for a Belville set (5890 Pretty Wishes Playhouse) and they at least would have fitted in with the colour scheme slightly better than red. White flowers in this context, I believe, would have been a little dull, but again would have jarred less against the rest of the set.
The addition of the palm tree adds a bit of height to the overall scene, and I’ve always like the construction of these palm trees – that the you can articulate slightly between each join, making the tree curve and bend in a realistically organic way. This and the multi-coloured parrot add an air of the exotic to the playground.
From the back you can see that the sand pit and palm tree are both used to join the two light green baseplates together. There has been much concern recently about the lack of larger baseplates in more recent sets, and I find it interesting that actually that that isn’t something new – here the same method using and joining of two smaller baseplates is used way back in 1993. The components fit reasonably well together on the surface provided, but there could be more baseplate visible at the ends of the slide and seesaw. All the nicer if that visible baseplate were the same lovely light green.
After combining all the elements, and building according to the instructions, an economical three pieces are leftover. The 1x1 yellow round plate could be added into the sparse sand pit, leaving but two remaining pieces.
As I mentioned earlier, there are a number of alternative builds shown on the back of the box. There are no instructions for these, but I maintain that adding them to the box art is a great way to show what else could be made with the pieces in the box. So I have tried (successfully I think) to recreate these scenes, although this first one causes me a little confusion...
The first scene shows a seating area with sand pit, with I think, a covered cooking area. I don’t get what the pink curved piece with 1x1 yellow round plate is – a beer tap? Surely not. And what is the freckly girl carrying? Is it a tray with a fried egg? There’s a different, but still recogniseable incarnation of a pram, and a somewhat stunted plant for the parrot to sit on. I guess my imagination is failing me.
The next scene is a little more obvious – it’s a bathroom and living room and hearks back to the time when Town buildings came with a little interior furnishing. This took a little thinking about to build given that the baseplates are used vertically, and I’m pleased with the result. I like the sink and toilet design, and I enjoyed the challenge of thinking in a different orientation. The bath is a bit odd – you may notice a costume change for the minifigs so that freckly girl is now sitting in the bath in her pyjamas (who does that?) and the lady and manchild are now wandering around in their underpants. At least they have a nice fireplace to keep them warm. The sand pit is now a cupboard, and somewhat randomly the parrot is sitting on a saucepan on the wall. It was going so well...
The last of the alternative builds I’ve tried to recreate is a sort of Cabana. Do you have Barry Manilow in your head now, too? Good, because I’ve been stuck with it for the whole of this review. So Lola (who was a showgirl) sits in a queenly fashion inside her cabana, waving her palm frond. I like the use of the gable pieces on the roof, which allow the attachment of the palm leaves and bring this build back to the Paradise aesthetic. The cabana was quite difficult to reconstruct as the picture was right across the opening seam of the box, and the back isn’t visible at all, so I’ve built the back it as I think it should be built from the parts available.
But, hey, that’s pretty much what building with LEGO is all about, right? Building sets, then modifying them to suit you, and possibly extending that further to MOCing. I’m sure some would disagree, but I think it is.
Design 7 /10 The scene is instantly recogniseable as a playground, and I’m most pleased with the seesaw which has a simple, yet effective design. The pram is also a very cute little rendition that works well and fits the System scale perfectly. There are aspects which don’t work so well, such as the steep nature of the slide, and the sand pit that isn’t so much built as placed, but altogether this is clearly a playground. The pictures of other possible builds are interesting, but my favourite, as it was the most interesting and was a slightly more challenging build, was the bathroom. Young girls often like the “Doll’s House” aspect of LEGO, and the furnished bathroom would certainly be appealing for that reason. If I’d had this set as a child, I’d have certainly tried to build the bathroom scene, and that makes me wish that TLG had included instructions for this build, so that the younger me would have been able to.
Parts 9/10 For a relatively small set there are some interesting and unusual parts here. The light green baseplates are just lovely, and make me want more, and although there isn’t that much in the way of pink, the pink parts are useful and unusual. There’s a small amount of old grey here for those who like that sort of thing, and a couple of interesting pieces in the larger quantity of white pieces - the gable pieces are new additions to our collection. In addition to these unusual parts, there’s also the ever-useful palm tree, saucepan and parrot.
Minifigs 8/10 Again, for a set of this size, to get three minifigs is actually quite a haul. The minifig parts are a little odd, but my favourite would be the lady with pretty face and nice pink top. The gold detailing is a pleasant surprise, but I’m disappointed that there’s no back print to the stripey red vest, and the white Paradisa top looks more like a sweatshirt, and thus a little warm to be wearing in such tropical climes. The little girl’s freckly face is also a welcome addition, as there could just as easily have been three classic smiley faces, not one.
Build 8/10 The playground, while not particularly challenging, uses some slightly more interesting techniques than one might expect, including a very minor use of Technic to make the seesaw, and the gable pieces on the slide to form a 45 degree slope for tiling. I’ve added in an extra mark here because of the bathroom build. It’s not part of the instructions, but I actually had the most fun building it, and really liked the idea of building a set in a different orientation.
Playability 8 /10 The seesaw works as a seesaw, thanks to the Technic, and moving parts, even if you move them yourself, always add to the playability. The slide also works as a slide, if you suspend your disbelief and accept that LEGO minifigs will not be harmed when landing at the bottom. I can easily imagine a little girl playing out stories with these figures in their playground, and if they built the bathroom, I can see that being very playable too.
Price 7/10 The MSRP of US $13.25/ GB £8.13/ EURO 9.22 seems relatively reasonable at first glance, but comparing this with a similarly sized Town set from the same year (6667 Pothole Patcher MSRP US $9.25/ GB £5.68/ EURO 6.44) and there’s a bit of a discrepancy. I can only assume that this is because it’s Paradisa, and thus more specialised, but that seems a bit of a rubbish reason. Given that TLG have always been trying to include more young girls in their fanbase, pricing a set aimed specifically at girls at a higher price-point than comparative sets seems a little odd to me. When I bought it I paid EURO 30 for a MISB set, which is the lower end of the going rate on BrickLink, but you can pick up complete used sets from around EURO 17.50 (US $25.13, GB £15.42) – personally I’m happy with the price I paid.
6403 Paradise Playground initially appealed to me as a Town set as it is a little bit different. It is not a shop, or a vehicle but instead more a depiction of everyday life that would fit very nicely into a Town scene. The parts overall are quite interesting and useful, and despite the fact that I usually eschew pink, I’m actually very happy to have even this modest amount in this set and the overall pastel Paradisa colour scheme is pleasing to me. The minifigs are plentiful for the size of the set, and include some nice parts and detailing, but the real bonus for me was the surprising enjoyment of building the “afterthought” scenes on the back of the box.
Thank you for reading, comments are always very welcome. High-Res pictures can be found on my flickr account.
Edited by Zorbas, 26 July 2011 - 05:11 PM.