Number – 30026
Name – Panda
Theme – CREATOR
Year – 2011
Minifigs – 0
Pieces – 62
Price – Received as a gift. Available sealed for around £2.75 GBP ($4.42 USD; €3.50 EURO) on BrickLink.
CREATOR polybags are a great way of picking up a wide variety of models. They don't come with the '3 in 1' build that regular CREATOR sets are renowned for, but they are usually interesting models to build and occasionally they are smaller versions of bigger sets (30023 Lighthouse and 40049 Sopwith Camel spring to mind). This set was a kind gift, for hopefully obvious reasons, and I've been waiting for the right opportunity to review it, so what better than the Reviewer's Academy 4th Anniversary?!
Links: Brickset, Peeron, BrickLink.
So as mentioned, this is a poly bag set, and the polybag itself is of pretty standard size. It's very easy for a polybag to get crumpled, so I've done my best to smooth it out with the bricks inside. The background is typical for CREATOR sets; a light blue with a strip of LEGO yellow at the bottom. If you look carefully at the light blue background, you can just make out some fronds of bamboo, which add a little interest to an otherwise plain background. The panda itself is seen sitting up on its haunches, munching on some bamboo, and generally looking adorable (as pandas do ).
There's a ton of text on the back of the polybag, including all of the manufacturing information and requisite safety warnings, and how to contact customer services. It is through the transparent vertical strip at the back that we begin to catch our first glimpse of the contents, and that's far more interesting than any safety blurb.
The instruction booklet is folded up into a small surface area, but on opening just one fold there's another adorable picture of the panda model munching on its bamboo. Actually, it's exactly the same picture as before, with similar bamboo fronds over the blue background, but it really does look cute, and the instructions would look odd without an introductory picture of the model you're building.
When you unfold the instructions out fully, they aren't that big, but they are very clear and easy to read, with numbered steps. There's no parts callout, because it's a pretty small set, so there aren't a huge number of pieces to hunt for, and similarly there's no issue with differentiating colours, but we'll understand more about those points when we look at the parts.
The instructions are double sided, and the build itself is split into two parts; the body and the head of the panda. Adding the head is like adding the finishing touches to the model, so it's nice that it's the last thing built. There's room on these instructions for TLG to advertise some of the larger CREATOR sets, but I think you'll be too busy looking at the panda to notice.
I really don't think it's all that surprising that a set for building a panda be composed of mostly black and white parts, hence the lack of difficulty with colour differentiation. There aren't a huge number of parts, but you really don't expect that from a polybag set. The interesting things are the slopes, curved bricks, modified plates and technic bricks. Which is pretty much all of the contents here. For a small set, there's a good number of very useful parts, in a wide variety, albeit not in a rainbow of colours.
The actual panda model, when built, really does look like a panda, and there are some charming details included, such as the cute little posable ears, and the adorable little nose. You can see the legs of the model are attached using the technic pins and bricks, which allow the model to be articulated. If you showed this model to someone who knew nothing about LEGO and asked them what it was, they would undoubtedly say 'panda', and then they'd probably say 'aaaawwww'.
Here you can get a better view of how the ears are constricted, very simply, from 1x1 modified black plates with clips, and the use of the curved white bricks to form the panda's posterior make the model that much sleeker. The proportions are right, too. This would dwarf a minifig, but as a stand alone model it looks just right.
There are no features to speak of on the face of the panda, yet somehow it manages to look quite cute and happy. It's possible that using the 2x2 dome top for the snout gives the illusion of a smile, or maybe it's because the panda seems to be munching on its bamboo. The addition of the bamboo helps add a spark of life to the model, gives it a basis in reality and something with which it can interact.
Even if the panda isn't actually eating the bamboo, it can still help give the model character, and the ability to move the head and the legs into various positions can give you an awful lot of fun playing around with poses and positions.
It may be obvious that that is exactly what I did with my panda: play around with it, and here it looks happy, playful and content. The bases of the paws (made by the 1x2 black slopes) are also posable, as it is a single stud connection. It's not particularly visible in these pictures, but you can certainly see it in the pictures from the front of the polybag and instructions.
Ahem, yes, you too could transform your panda into a performing bear, and really this picture is here to once more illustrate the model's articulation, and perhaps give you a better side view of his head. It looks a little larger from the side than it does head on, but it's still proportionate to its body.
Having built the model, a few sparse pieces are left over. Nothing to write home about, just a technic pin, a 1x1 tile and 1x1 cheese slope (always useful) and a 1x1 round plate.
Design: 9/10 The design of this model is just great. It looks like a panda, and a cute panda at that. The proportions are right, it doesn't look odd at all, and having ways to make the panda posable designed in is just great. There are so many articulation points, and these allow you to add character to the model yourself, plus including the singular piece of bamboo with the model just adds a little spark to the whole ensemble.
Parts: 8/10 I really think the the parts mix here is very good, especially for a set of this size, but then it is a CREATOR set, so it's all about the building and how to achieve a realistic(ish) looking model on a small scale. I really don't think anyone in their right mind would be surprised that the vast majority of parts in a set for a model of a panda are black and white, but they are quite useful black and white parts, not just basic bricks.
Build: 8/10 The build is short, but very sweet. The panda doesn't take long at all to build, but it is lots of fun with some interesting techniques and use of parts in unusual ways. To make a panda model of this small size that is both quite realistic and articulated is impressive to me, and the techniques used to achieve this are fun. Splitting the build into two sections (the body and the head) makes sense, and the final act of adding the head to the body and thus completing the model is immensely satisfying.
Playability: 8/10 Once built, the fact that there's a near infinite number of poses for your panda (and that it really is quite adorable) means that you can have lots of fun playing around with its positioning. It would be a cute model to have on the shelf that you could pick up and play around with, so I think this model scores quite highly for playability, even if it isn't particularly swooshable.
Price: 9/10 If you can pick this up on BrickLink for the price listed above, then it's a bargain. It may not be a set that you might specifically go looking for, but given that it makes a cute model and contains some useful parts, I really do think that it's great value at the £2.75 GBP mark. For someone like me who likes pandas in all their LEGO incarnations, then this is actually extremely cheap, however, as I stated at the start, this was a gift, and that in itself means a lot.
I think this set is wonderful. The designer here has jam-packed tons of detail, character and realism into a small model, using a variety of interesting parts in interesting ways within a limited colour scheme. The end result is a gorgeous little model that's cute to look at and fun to play with. And all this for a really rather inexpensive price. I think I may have to start hoarding these...
Thank you for reading, comments are always very welcome. High-Res pictures can be found on my flickr account.