Harry Potter Hogwarts Castle
There is a series of books that feature wizards, magic, maturation and has encouraged a renaissance in reading from children recently. It isn't Lord of the Rings, but the series of Harry Potter books from J.K.Rowling. The third installment of the seven-part series will reach theatres on June 4, 2004 as 'Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban' and the toys have already arrived, courtesy of LEGO Systems.
If you have noticed, the very best Harry Potter toys are coming from European toymaker LEGO. Yes, Mattel makes some action figures and games, but the revolving scale on those figures and the bland detailing doesn't come close to 'getting it' when it comes to Harry Potter. LEGO gets it, and they have created a wonderful addition to their previous offerings from the first two movies.
The Harry Potter LEGO sets are based upon the movie versions of the books, and one of the best things about them is that they are designed to all work together. This should come as no surprise to any fan of LEGO bricks since the same sets you can buy now work perfectly with sets from decades ago. This is especially true with the other sets that have made up other parts of Hogwart's Castle from the first two films.
Since most of the action takes place around Hogwart's Castle (Harry's wizarding school), the playsets in the line show different locations from around the castle and/or scenes from the new movie. Each set has an isometric drawing to show how the various sets interact and connect, so you can put them all together to form one huge diorama. They can also be kept apart, or even re-designed and built in different ways depending on where your imagination takes you.
One thing that doesn't match the previous sets exactly are the flesh tones on the mini-figures and this is because this year LEGO made some changes to the way they represent the people in their sets. The figures in the core building sets (basically all the sets that are not licensed) will keep the yellow color that has been used for years. The sets with figures based on actual people (like Spider-Man, Star Wars, Harry Potter and the NBA players) will have appropriate tones based on the actors or players. There is always an exception, and it seems Professor Snape will maintain his glow-in-the-dark tone. As far as we know Alan Rickman does not glow-in-the-dark. As far as we know...
The first Harry Potter set we're tackling is Hogwart's Castle, and it comes with a ton of mini-figures, a gate and three main buildings. It also has a working clock and gate, though we'll talk more about that in a bit. The three buildings can easily be joined together (or divided) to make a different display, and the pieces are divided into 7 bags to make construction easier. It takes a few hours to build everything, and breaks might be needed (especially with younger kids). The clock takes about an hour to build, and then each of the other three sections around a half-hour each.
The first thing we'll cover are the denizens of said castle, and they are legion. You have the star of the show - Harry Potter, and his two closest friends in Hermione Granger and Ron Weasley. Hermione even has a magic hourglass on her neck, a magical device that plays a part in the story but which we'll keep secret (so watch the movie, or better yet read the book). The Headmaster of Hogwart's is Professor Albus Dumbledore, and one of the staff - Professor Trelawney - the divination instructor. Then there is the bad guy, Draco Malfoy, Harry's constant adversary (besides you-know-who). And last are a pair of Dementors, the magical worlds enforcers and the guards of Azkaban. The Dementors are very cool, and they've done a great job capturing their cloaked skeletal bodies.
The Clock Tower
This is the most complex part of the set, and you'll probably spend the most time working in this part. The reason is that the clock and gate are both run by a wind-up motor and they have several gears that mesh to keep everything going smoothly. The build time for this section is about an hour, and all the parts for this and the mini-figs are in bags 1 & 2.
After you finish with this section, you can get a glimpse of the motor-operated clock and gate. There are two levers on opposite sides of the tower that flank the clock section. The lever on the right side (facing the clock) is there for winding the motor (it keeps the clock pendulum from running). The lever on the left side engages and disengages the gate mechanism. If you engage it then when the clock runs the gate is pulled up, and if you disengage it will fall back down. The winding mechanism is on the back of the tower, and you should use care not to over wind it and possibly break it.
The top of the clock tower has a small space in the loft for the owls of Hogwart's to take a break before carrying messages. I guess the noise must not bother them!
Attaching on either side of the clock tower are the two classroom towers. Each side can be pegged into the clock or they can stand alone, and they each have a swinging stair attached to their backs. The middle levels of both are classroom areas, while the lofts are more like storage areas. Since Professor Trelawney's class is taught up through a trapdoor, there is one provided that drops when a spider is pulled out of a slot. The lower levels of each side have plenty of spider webs and there's even a frog (probably Neville's).
Set apart from the rest of Hogwart's Castle is the tower that the Gryffindor students live in. The front door is a painting that slides open once the proper password is given, and behind it is a small desk that slides back to reveal a secret compartment. Upstairs you have a pair of beds that swing out, and there's even a little slot to store a book at the foot of each bed! Above that is a nice place to look out the window, and a small loft that is perfect for a rat (like Ron's Scabbers).
The front of every castle needs a gate to keep out the riff-raff, and Hogwart's is no different in this regard. The gate is a small section with an opening gate (and no fence, so you could try to sneak around) and you can put it wherever you'd like. Keeping it far away might be best...
The next Block Party will continue with fantasy and we take a closer look at MegaBloks Man O'War from their popular Dragons: Krystal Wars line. In the meantime, if you'd like another look at this Hogwart's set, check out Lando da Pimp's review.
Click to see pictures of the Mini-Figures
Click to see pictures of the Clock Tower
Click to see pictures of Gryffindor Tower
Click to see pictures of the Classroom
|Where to buy Hogwart's Castle: This LEGO set (set 4757) retails for about $89.99 USD and is available wherever LEGO sets are sold, such as Toys'R'Us, Target, and Wal-Mart, as well as at the official LEGO online store and various online toy retailers.|