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Yet again, the LEGO Ideas theme has sourced a concept from a fan in order to offer something entirely different. 21320 Dinosaur Fossils is a unique set, building three dinosaur skeletons that are presented as if on diplay in a museum, with a few additional accessories rounding out the scene.
When the LEGO Ideas Design Manager, Samuel Johnson, needed to select someone to translate Jonathan Brunn’s fan designed model into an official LEGO set, one name sprang to mind. Samuel went to Niels Milan Pedersen, a LEGO designer with almost 40 years’ experience, who sculpts dinosaur skeletons in his free time. Currently working in element design, Niels had not designed a model for more than a decade – but the concept for 21320 Dinosaur Fossils was enough of a personal passion to get him building.
At a glance, it might not be clear why 21320 Dinosaur Fossils is age marked 16+, as it is less than a third the size of 21318 Treehouse. In the building of the set though, it becomes clear that this would be challenging for young fans. Just about every technique in the book is used to achieve these fossils, which by definition only have limited scope to hide an interior structure. There are some absolutely ingenious part uses in these models in order to make the shapes as organic and authentic as possible. Clip and hinge elements are used throughout to achieve the careful angles required.
Each dinosaur provides a nice balance between being accurate to the real-life skeletons that have been discovered and capturing the pop culture influenced character of these creatures. The Tyranosaurus Rex is well proportioned, with the head a particular high point that really captures the look of the tyrant lizard king’s skull. As for the Triceratops, the pose works well and once again the head looks excellent, recreating the shape exquisitely. As the smallest model, the Pteranadon is also the most simple of the three prehistoric animals, but is just as effective as the larger two.
Having the skeletons in white makes sense, with the grey and sand coloured elements feeling like the pins and structural insertions used in museum displays to have these fossils recreated in a way that is meaningful for visitors.
This is clearly a set intended for display rather than play, which is reinforced by a couple of points at which the models break easily. The spikes on the T. rex’s tail fall off easily, as do the sections over the Triceratops’s legs. By contrast, the legs on both beasts are very sturdy, although to achieve this they are slightly wider than would be ideal – these are the trade-offs that have to be made when recreating something so spindly and delicate.
An important thing to bear in mind while building – and once again when setting these models up on the shelf – is to carefully postion the angled elements, as having them positioned correctly is important to make these builds live up to their display potential.
One thing that has always been a nice nod to LEGO fans in the Ideas theme is that stickers have been avoided – all of the bricks are usually printed. In this case, there are no new prints – the dinosaur name plates and book page are all labels. While fans have long resigned themselves to labels being more common than printed pieces, it is a shame to see the last bastion of printed parts starting to use stickers instead.
To finish off the set, a ‘LEGO Sapiens’ display is included, featuring a skeleton on a plinth. This could be a nod to Niels Milan Pedersen being the designer who created the classic LEGO skeleton, particularly as it wears a similar hat to the style he is known for. An archaeologist minifigure also comes in the box with a crate full of equipment – perhaps the expert is off to unearth another batch of fossils.
The limitations of LEGO bricks and requirements for stability must have made designing 21320 Dinosaur Fossils quite the challenge, yet once again the LEGO Ideas theme has provided something completely unique that will look attractive on the shelf. Much like LEGO Architecture sets, these distinctive white builds have a stylish quality that makes them feel more like a display piece than a toy. Capturing these dinosaur fossils as they look while retaining the essence of the creatures, this is a set that dinosaur enthusiasts are unlikely to regret buying.
This product was provided for review by the LEGO Group.