Has the LEGO mini-doll met its match?
The LEGO Group’s 2022 LEGO Disney sets return us to the world of The Little Mermaid, but they may have helped to expose some broader issues with the mini-doll design in the process.
This year’s Disney sets reference several classic Disney properties, including Mulan, Aladdin and Sleeping Beauty. A highlight of the sets announced so far is 43207 Ariel’s Underwater Palace, which recreates the lavish castle at the heart of Atlantica. As befitting a set this big Ariel is joined by several sea creatures, her sister Arista and – of course – King Triton himself.
Triton is making his debut here in LEGO form, but while he’s splendidly detailed a whiff of compromise hangs around him. He’s similarly scaled to his daughters – a notable departure from the movies, where he is far bigger than his fellow merfolk.
This is a problem that a few other Disney sets have encountered in the past. 41145 Ariel and the Magical Spell – a 2017 release – uses a mini-doll to depict nefarious sea witch Ursula. However, like Triton her bulky appearance is immediately distinctive, and her mini-doll arguably doesn’t do it justice. What’s especially frustrating is that the Collectible Minifigures (which included a version of Ursula) did do justice to the character design.
More recently, 43201 Isabela’s Magical Door depicted ‘micro-doll’ versions of Mirabel and her sisters – including her famously powerful sister Luisa. While a micro-doll has obvious limitations, it’s disappointing that the LEGO Group hasn’t been able to depict a key character with any real degree of accuracy. Especially since whether we’ll get more Encanto sets is unclear even now.
For the Disney theme’s target audience, all this probably isn’t any kind of dealbreaker – and modern LEGO figures are generally high quality. But it does expose the conspicuous limitations of the ‘standard’ figures the LEGO Group has at its disposal.
The LEGO Group has been able to think outside the box with its main Disney characters. A notable example was 41150 Moana’s Ocean Voyage; this 2017 set used the bigfig template to depict Maui, complete with tattoos on his arms and chest. Sadly Maui remains exclusive to that set, although further sets starring Moana have released since then.
Since princesses (or the princess-adjacent) tend to dominate LEGO Disney sets, some broader compromises are perhaps to be expected. Indeed, compromise is (to its benefit) the lifeblood of LEGO in a broader sense. However, for some time, Disney films have been moving beyond the princess dynamic – and this has resulted in a number of conspicuous absences within this mini-doll-focused theme, for anyone who doesn’t fit a slim, androgynous body type.
Given its key characters usually get along fine with the mini-doll format, we don’t expect any major product revisions within the LEGO Disney theme. But hopefully, we’ll get a broader mix of body shapes in these kinds of sets at some point. If you’re still interested in a LEGO King Triton, you can pick up 43207 Ariel’s Underwater Palace from March 1 this year.
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