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ResIpsaLoquitur

Review: 40096 Baby Ent...I Mean "Springtime Tree"

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It's that time again! The first Tuesday of the month means that the Lego Brick-and-Mortar Stores have put out their Monthly Mini Builds for the kids. The Stores do these once a month (at least) to get you into the store and spending money. However, you do walk out with some free bricks and a possibly functional model.

I recently reviewed all of 2013's MMB's in this article. I also reviewed January's model here, and February's here. It was from both articles that I quickly copied-and-pasted this introductory paragraph because I have stuff to do and it's late. If you're sad because you don't have a Lego Store near you, that's ok, because Lego publishes the instructions for each month's builds on their website. If it's not up yet, it should be soon.

This month, we're reviewing a small tree which may or may not be alive. It's Lego, so your imagination is the limit.

Set Title: Springtime Tree

Set #: 40096-1

Theme: Monthly Mini Build

Pieces: 62. That's a lot. On the other hand, most of these are 1 x 1 round studs.

Minifigures: None

Year of Release: 2014

Price at release: Tree...I mean, "Free."

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First things first. When you get in line outside the store, you get a ticket with the parts list on the back and a picture of the item on the front. It's got a spot to write in the builder's name so you can proudly display it at home. When you actually get your model, you get a 1-sheet of instructions. This month's instructions seems to be a little bigger than I remember most MMBs having. Anyway, here's both the card and the instructions in a single photo. (We also got the monthly calendar and the bi-monthly Lego Club Magazine for free.)

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Yeesh, this is a lot of parts. Most MMBs come in around 40 parts. Last month's Micro Manager set an unofficial record for me at 50. This one is 62 (plus 5 spares, which are in the lower right corner). However, a lot of these are the single stud pieces which seem to dominate Pick-a-Brick walls. You otherwise have an oddly-numbered assortment of brown and tan pieces. It's an interesting selection, if not very symmetrical.

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The base of this tree is an assortment of brown bricks and those tan arches from the "Prince of Persia" line. It's an odd but interesting use for them. You only get three, so if you want to rebuild them into some arches, you're left with half of one. Two other oddities: one, the arches are in a light tan while the rest of the tree is brown. It gives some color variety, but the branches do look odd in that color. Two: the base is made of two 2 x 4 plates instead of a single 4 x 4. The light green is a nice early spring color, so maybe Lego doesn't have a 4 x 4 in that color? Suffice it to say that two plates made building a little challenging for my daughter.

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The bird is your typical brick-built bird made out of a 4-stud SNOT brick and some traffic light colors. I don't care for brick-built animals, but he does the job for decorative purposes. Plus, Vitruvius from The Lego Movie uses brick-birds, so who am I to complain?

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Here's the finished ent...or tree. The latter half was pretty tricky for my 7 year-old daughter. The method of overlaying the green branches was confusing for her, and assembling all the blossoms was tedious. (Pink stud on white stud, repeat.) It came together in the end, but it took longer than I expected.

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Side view. From the side, it's...still a tree.

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Back view. Still a tree! But it looks a little flat from back here. For decorative purposes, you may not care.

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I do like that this isn't too abstract of a tree. For sizing purposes, it's fairly compatible with your minifigures depending on how you want to use it. For example, those colossal eyes could very well make it a baby Ent getting ready to march on your Tower of Orthanc with his dad, no?

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Or maybe that's a little silly and you just want to incorporate it into your City scene instead. It can make a nice spot for a guy to propose to his gal, while some hibernating animal peeks out looking for warmer weather. What are those eyes supposed to be? An owl? A really big squirrel? Who knows?

I am a little let down after the last two months' MMBs. January was a functional snowplow which worked well for winter. Last month was a functional Micro Manager which makes a great supplement for Lego Movie fans. This month is...a tree. And it's not even spring yet! We're recovering from a nasty snowstorm where I live that caused the kids to miss two days of school. I personally wish this had been a Mardi Gras/Carnival themed model since today is the end of that season. Now, all that ranting aside, the model is cute. Functional, no. But it is minifigure-compatible if your imagination allows it, so that makes it OK with me.

CONCLUSION

Design: 7/10. I don't like the tan branches where brown could have worked. I get the need to add some color variety, but the tan really looks off.

Parts: 8/10. I can't complain much about the parts, except there's a distinct lack of symmetry here. This model isn't great for rebuilding anything except another tree. You do get the new 1 x 1 eye tiles, though.

Build: 6/10. My daughter struggled with this one and I had to help some. It's a solid, stable model though. I knocked it on the floor and the bird was the only thing to come off.

Minifigs: N/A. But it's minifigure-sized and could fit well in your City scene.

Playability: 3/10. I had to mark it down here: it's a TREE. You can move the bird around, but it's a stationary tree. In fairness, most MMBs don't do much. Over the last few months, though, there's been some functionality in the models, so the fact that it does nothing hurts it some.

Price: 10/10. It was free! Free!

Overall: 34/50. This was a free model, Lego's gift to your kids, so I'm not going to knock it. It's nice and works for what it is. Consider this a score of practical use versus a review of whether your kids should go to The Lego Store.

Coming next month: April's build is a small helicopter, and it appears to be minifigure sized. Will it beat February's Micro-Manager? We'll see....

Thanks to the good staff at the Westfield Annapolis Mall Lego Store for putting on the free monthly build as usual.

Edited by ResIpsaLoquitur

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Nice review! I always thought those eyes had something to do with this being a promotion for Mixels. Now, is it?

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Nice review! I always thought those eyes had something to do with this being a promotion for Mixels. Now, is it?

I don't think so (the printed eye tiles actually came out last year, and this model seems to be purely a cartoon tree and not some zany and colorful fantasy creature like the Mixels). I think it's just supposed to make the tree cuter and give it a bit of personality. After all, you can always remove them if you want to use the tree as more realistic scenery.

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My assumption is that the eyes are supposed to be an animal poking out after winter. It could be a squirrel or an owl. They're a bit large compared to, say, the Friends squirrel, but I think you're supposed to come away thinking something lives in there.

...or it could be some kind of Ent. It's up to you!

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