The 2023 Friends sets are one of the strongest waves that have even come out!
LEGO Friends for 2023 must be one of the strongest LEGO Friends waves that have ever come out. And I’m not overstating that. I am 100% on board and hyped for how this theme has developed into what it is today.
The theme for this year ramps up inclusivity, video game references, new part colours and moulds, fun new buildings, and a whole lot of extras that you’ll just have to read about to get the gist of it all!
LEGO have been kind enough to send us the sets early for review, and there’s a lot to unpack here. Rather than an incredulously detailed analysis of every single set in the wave, we’re looking at the theme overall, the main story beats to each set, and whether we think it’s worth picking up for yourself.
Our analysis of the new characters and our thoughts on them can be found towards the bottom of the review. Oh, and this wave is heavy with stickers. Buckle up.
41732 – Downtown Flower and Design Stores
Being the biggest set of the wave, the Downtown Flower and Design Stores make quite the impact. Not only is the newer sleek design of the purple building eye-catching, but the Flower store also looks like something that came right out of the Modular city line.
The set provides a few limited options to be able to reorientate itself into a different configuration, as well as the premise of the Design Store being loaded with furniture options to fill up the upper floor of the Flower store.
I love this concept, but the concept is somewhat limited. LEGO make fantastic work of being able to choose between three distinct styles of furniture to place in the house, but there isn’t enough space to make it all work.
This idea honestly works really well knowing that LEGO made various bedroom sets for the new characters (later in this review) that can be interchanged/integrated somewhat with these furniture pieces.
Fun key things to look out for in this set:
– Plenty of Lavender, Purple, and Violet corner tiles
– Flower Shop Door has the ‘new’ six square window mould with cat flap, instead of the usual four. (Debuted in Home Alone set)
– New ‘Custard’ yellow slopes in 1×2 inverted curved slope.
– Possibility to be MOC’d up for Modular Cities.
41731 – Heartlake International School
The second largest set of the 2023 wave. Taking a bit more of an older-teen approach to schooling, the International School sets to take a hold of the LEGO Friends schools and try reinventing it a bit.
Now, to be honest, nothing here screams “International” to me, at least as far as the building goes. The figures that do come with this set are some of the best examples of racial diversity is conveyed in this new wave, but outside that, eh.
The build comes as a modular array, allowing the building to be switched around to the target audience’s liking, much akin to the Harry Potter sets, and there is an Art Studio, Chemistry/Biology Lab, Classroom, Locker room, Bathroom and Cafeteria to play around with.
I am genuinely confused as to why there is a cafeteria and an eatery in this set, where it would have greatly benefitted from another type of classroom here instead.
Not the strongest in the wave, to be perfectly honest, but I can still appreciate its quirks.
Fun key things to look out for in this set:
– Window design brings modern design to otherwise repetitive building for the theme
– Nice building techniques used in bathroom sink, burgers and desk chairs.
– New Locker piece.
– Artroom is designed really well.
41730 Autumn’s House
41735 Mobile Tiny House
2023 gives us two different house builds, and they both seem to hit similar but different beats. With the largest of the two sets, it is nice to see Mia from generation 1 of friends be represented as an older adult, where she is also confirmed to be Autumn’s mother.
As far as Autumn’s house goes, however, it is a bit static. And I don’t mean that because the other one is on wheels, I mean it more so that it doesn’t have a lot to draw attention or keep interest. There are two nicely designed rocking chairs and little, small interiors, but there’s not much more than that. Not many stories can be explored outside of sleepovers and people visiting.
On the flip side to that, the Mobile Tiny House really sets its aesthetic quickly. It’s quirky, wildly impractical, and has a moving story; all things a moving house should be. There are enough things in the house to keep the dollhouse feel, but the fact that they can close everything up at once and go is fantastic. Couple that with the small but effective side build that really conveys camping, and well, it’s a bit of winner.
Fun key things to look out for in Autumn’s House:
– Redbird remakes and appearance.
– New mould for fridge
– Rocking chairs
Fun key things to look out for in Mobile Tiny House:
– Yellow Gecko
– Nice build techniques to squeeze as many details as possible – eg. Watertank
– All characters have a bed to sleep on
– Pet beds
– All Characters can fit in the car
‘Animal Rescue Focus’
41742 – Cat Hotel
41727 – Dog Rescue Centre
41741 – Dog Rescue Van
41738 – Dog Rescue Bike
So, the concept of these next couple of sets would have to be hands down my favourite that LEGO has ever done for the Friends theme.
The Idea of having a pet hotel for cats is just insanely fun, and the fact that every single bit of furniture is covered in claw marks just radiates the right energy for me. This set also comes with three different cat moulds – woo!
But the Dog Rescue part? That’s next level.
We can see small stories across the sets that all come together in the end, and there’s one detail that they make that makes it all work amazingly.
The smallest set shows a simple dog rescue, where a little girl has been putting out fliers hoping to find her missing dog.
The dog rescue van shows are about Nova and Dr. Marlon finding a dog named “Pickle”, who has been abandoned and doesn’t have functional back legs. Kids can use the van to clean up the poor pup and take him off somewhere to be properly cleaned up.
The dog rescue centre has a way for kids to take care of multiple dogs, including Pickle, by cleaning them up, putting them in kennels, and taking them to the veterinarian. When they’re all good, kids can adopt the dogs. Which revealed by Nova’s bedroom set, Nova adopts Pickle!
I love the depth of story that comes with these sets, rather than the generic ‘Pet ambulance’ sets that came from yesteryear. Amazing.
Fun key things to look out for in Cat Hotel:
– New Cat mould and colour exclusive to the set
– Torn-up furniture stickers
– Cat run along top of set
– Three cat moulds in one set!
Fun key things to look out for in Dog Rescue Bike:
– Lost puppy poster
– Cute dog mould for cheap
– Clear curved arch pieces in a cheap set
Fun key things to look out for in Dog Rescue Van:
– Exclusive dirty distressed Pickle the dog
– Coral bin in cheap set
– New mould for Dr. Marlon for ‘Adult Male’
– Van expands into small cleaning station and puppy care
– Sad/Happy expressions for Nova
Fun key things to look out for in Dog Rescue Centre:
– Slide piece
– Three Dog moulds in one set
– Exclusive Veterinarian figure
– ‘Modular’ building aspect
41729 – Organic Grocery Store
41751 – Skate Park/ 41743 – Hair Salon
41728 – Heartlake Downtown Diner
41733 – Mobile Bubble Tea Shop
It wouldn’t be LEGO Friends without their stores. The new Organic Grocery Store is dressed to impress but blown aside by its own price tag. It’s great to see LEGO using the new shopping cart mould, this time in a flamish yellow instead of orange, and we get two to boot!
The set features that new fridge mould, as well as boasting a surprisingly big size and room to have characters walk through. I really like this set, but the price tag is a really big oof for this year.
The Skate Park is LEGO’s own equivalent to the skate park in the City line, making use of the ramp moulds to give a versatile outdoor space. The shop that comes with this set is designed to be a skate repair store, and thus we get two skateboards, a scooter, and a new purple Friends wheelchair for all to enjoy for this set.
I do really wish there was some more thought put into the store that comes with this set, as the skate park of this model is good and the rest pales in comparison.
The Hair Salon isn’t a new idea for the LEGO Friends theme, but this is probably the best executed in my opinion. The set gives us a beautifully constructed shop, adorned in newer colour moulds and clear ceilings, as well as multiple hairstyles for the characters to swap between.
I do appreciate that they aren’t all just a singular colour, and really shows how much they can be customised. The pink hair on the main hairdresser is a goodie too.
The Heartlake Downtown diner is a set that I was surprised by the execution of. The price point is solid for an 80’s styled retro diner. Complete with checkboard flooring, a jukebox that can be rattled around, vintage pink and teal seats and a menu too!
I really like that the attendant in the venue has coloured hair. Which isn’t commonly seen in many sets. Overall, this set is another one of those surprising must-haves in a LEGO city, and I can see it easily being MOC’d into normal LEGO cities at home. The Skateboard drive-thru is a bit weird though.
The Mobile Bubble Tea shop is the smallest set of the wave, and let’s be honest, for what you get, this is going to be a surprise buy for a lot of people. “I feel like buying LEGO today. Oh, this is neat” kind of purchase. That isn’t a bad thing! Bubble tea has blown up as a bit of a phenomenon lately, and this is a easy little set to buy to make into a stall in your LEGO city marketplace or mall.
Fun key things to look out for in Organic Grocery Store:
– Shopping Cart Recolours
– Fridge mould
– Yellow baskets for customers
– Character with Vitiligo
– Generally Nice aesthetic and colours
– Electric Car
Fun key things to look out for in Skate Park:
– Ramp recolours
– Friends Wheelchair
– Skateboards with decals
– Fun poppy colours
Fun key things to look out for in Hair Salon:
– Hair colours and moulds
– Large, uncommon window pieces used as roof
– Pink Electric Scooter
– Nice Signage
– Mint Green Windows
Fun key things to look out for in Heartlake Downtown Diner:
– Must have for this wave
– Price Point is good
– Retro Aesthetic
– Retro Stickers
– Mint Blue Male Hair
Fun key things to look out for in Mobile Bubble Tea Shop:
– Cheap and Easy
– Bubble Tea Mascot
– Pink Electric Scooter
– Folds away nicely
41740 – Aliya’s Room
41754 Leo’s Room
41739 Liann’s Room
41755 Nova’s Room
LEGO creating the bedroom concept is one of the best ways that they could have introduced us to the new characters of the wave, whilst also giving us a cheap way to get the characters alongside a bit of insight as to who they are as people.
It’s worth noting that the bedroom sets have two characters each, of which don’t have their own room either. This is clearly a move by LEGO to release a second set of Room sets and I’m all in for it.
There are some big standouts that are in this small wave of sets, and I’ll hit on all the best story beats of each of them.
Aliya’s room has a very ‘princessy’ kind of vibe, having the movie projector on a fantasy film, crown for her kitten, storybooks, rose in a glass case (Beauty and the Beast) and plantlife everywhere. I really love this aesthetic, but the big thing is the green book that comes in this set. Clearly a nod to Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild if you ask me. I also love the slide-out spare bed she has.
Fun key things to look out for in Aliya’s Room:
– Projector and Screen
– Trundle Bed
– Legend of Zelda reference on book
– Beauty and the Beast reference
– Fun, quirky, princess aesthetic
Leo’s room straight away sets a bit of a surfer tone, with the very large watermelon surfboard taking up a fair bit of the focus. This set comes with a small kitchen, reflecting a passion for culinary dishes too, as well as a cat, cat toy and even a selfie ring light. Some of these things are clearly intended for Leo, and the others for Olly, as this is probably the ‘messiest’ of the room sets, not exactly sure what it’s doing with itself.
Fun key things to look out for in Leo’s Room:
– Photography ring light
– New Cat mould in a cheap set
– Surfboard/Snorkel gear
Liann’s room is a strong embodiment of making in art in a small space. Being of the cheapest ways to get Autumn, as well as that cute little yellow gecko, I see this one being popular. I love the very different styles that are conveyed between the two girls’ drawing styles, and the fact the bookcase lies down into a bed is a fun feature – although I do have questions about what happens to those books, however. I love the ‘Wow!’ speech bubble on the floor as well.
Fun key things to look out for in Liann’s Room:
– Art-styled stickers that can be easily reused
– Blue and Green tipped paintbrushes (Blue previously exclusive to Van Gogh)
– Fantastic Characters in a cheap set
– Digital Sketchpad
And finally, probably my favourite set in the whole Friends 2023 range – Nova’s bedroom. This is an instant win for me and a lot of other people, as it’s LEGO’s first really acknowledgement of streamer culture, gaming culture, and pop culture all as one!
Nova’s bedroom is decked out with a dual monitor setup linked up to a webcam and playing a Bionicle fighting game against Zac who is beside her on a laptop. There are game controllers, trophies and nonspecific skull in a jar that just make me love this more and more.
And then LEGO top that again, by giving her Pickles. The initially abandoned rescue puppy that she has now adopted! All with a small station to replace his wheels and a ramp to make sure he can get up on the bed for snuggles!
This is top-tier LEGO Friends, and you can’t change my mind.
Fun key things to look out for in Nova’s Bedroom:
– Pickles the dog, completing the story of Rescue Adoption
– Streaming Setup
– Bionicle Reference
– Cool punk aesthetic
– Breaking stereotypical gender roles
– Best set of the wave
Thoughts on the New Characters
This new wave of LEGO Friends brings us quite an array of new characters. I for once believe that LEGO has been doing an amazing job working through individuality and diversity over the last few years, and the introduction of a character with a missing limb was an exceptional step by the LEGO Group.
LEGO introduced characters prior to this with an amputated leg, but by having a full-blown limb difference and specialised mould makes me prouder of this company more than I can put into words.
Each one of the new characters can convey their individual characteristics through not only their sets, but also their clothes too. You can see from the specialised hairpieces and attire that Paisley is a bit shy, Autumn is a bit ‘rougher’ around the edges, and Olly is Matthew Ashton personified (That’s a little in-joke, don’t be upset – it’s a compliment!)
These characters bring so much life to these LEGO sets that I honestly can’t criticize the characters one bit. Even the side characters, such as the children in the Designer Store set or the Supermarket convey representation to various cultural backgrounds or medical conditions that give children a way to bring up conversations with parents or guardians about topics that can seem somewhat ‘taboo’.
Most children won’t have an experience with someone with vitiligo, or limb difference, or social anxieties, and by providing a way for kids to see these things and ask questions can help educate and avoid awkward social encounters by normalising these things.
After all, education is a powerful tool for children, and LEGO has evolved this theme into being more than just a dollhouse theme for girls, but a range of culturally diverse characters from all walks of life that better each other’s weaknesses.
And I applaud LEGO for that wholeheartedly.
As a father of two girls, I am very proud to be able to show them these LEGO sets and use them to teach my kids about these differences that make up individuality and continue to break those gender norms. I mean – heck, I’m a heteronormative white male and I think these are some of the best sets for the January launch of 2023. And I’ll be picking up a few extras.