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A Family Tree worth growing or turning to kindling?

LEGO Ideas has always been one of the strongest themes for the adult collector in LEGO‘s arsenal. With big ticket things such as Back to the Future, Rockets from NASA, and even non-brand gems like the Treehouse or A-Frame cabin. Even within the last year we saw the arrival of the Polaroid, the Insects, Viking village and more. But every so often, something comes into the theme that doesn’t quite fit the mould. Something different, and something strange.

The LEGO Ideas Family Tree is the next set in the production line, and it certainly carries a different vibe. Want to know what I mean? Read on.

LEGO Ideas Family Tree 21346 - Brick Banter - New Release Review

The Family Tree

The Family Tree set is comprised of a large central tree built with black trunks and red leaves placed atop an ornate base hewn with flowers, pumpkins and trinkets.

At the very front of the set is an “Our Family” sign. As well as a few micro builds to help populate to the surface. We have a book, painting of a butterfly, glasses, camera, ladder, kite, small aeroplane and birds and butterfly in the tree.

The base of the model might initially look ajar with a large raised terrain. But this section of the build, and the tree itself, can be detached and displayed solo. Underneath the tree also gives access to the trinket box – more on that later.

At face value, the colour choice to me is a bit jarring, but in all fairness, matches the original LEGO Ideas submission by Bulldoozer. I personally would have preferred a dark green foliage palette and dark brown tree trunk, but that’s just me. The Azure that is also intermixed with the model is also really out of place to me, and I’m just not all for it. There’s something about this set that doesn’t feel very ‘deluxe’ to be attached to the LEGO Ideas IP. It feels more Creator 3-in-1.

On The Branches

Up on the branches of the tree, we are met with a lot of different build techniques to help the plant life grow in many different directions. Amongst the tree leaves we get a closer look at the doves, butterfly, plane and kite. All of which can be easily move around or removed.

The big feature of the tree are 16 branches embedded in the model to allow the attachment of photos, the whole point of the set. More on that later.

Trinket Box

Underneath the removable tree section of the build, we are introduced to a trinket box. The set comes with an array accessories to change up the display, as well as two painting of the same bird on the tree. We also get an uncommon purple carrot piece here too.

We are also treated to numerous flower elements, allowing us to change the flowers in bloom around the base of the tree. Neat.

Hanging photos and notes

The hanging photo feature of the set is used with some new photo/modified plate elements. I’m not sure what to call these, and I’m sure they’ve appeared in sets elsewhere, but its new to me. The elements hold just enough strength within them to hold up photos. Which leads me to an odd point. The way we have photographed the model is how we would assume the set is intended for these to be displayed. The set actually instructs you to attach your photos to the set by the top of the piece. So that the bottom of your photo sits atop it.

This threw out the whole model for me, and gave me the epiphany that this tree wasn’t a “Family Tree” where you can see where you come from, bloodlines etc. This was a set about having photos of your family, in a tree.

The Original Description

The original description for the model on LEGO Ideas when it was submitted was:

“(This submission) will give you and your loved ones the perfect canvas to build, map, and grow your own tree. You can insert small photos of your kin and connect the dots across the branches. As your family grows, you can even pick up more sets to add height and branches. The set can also double as a ‘Memory Tree’ to store small photos of your favourite memories.”

This model isn’t a family tree per se, but more of a memory tree. There isn’t clear ways to connect photo A to B, and there isn’t hooks lined up to arrange family members by bloodline. Heck, there’s only two levels, which means a family of 4 couldn’t even have their grandparents in the mix. This ‘Family Tree’ is a ‘collage of family’, and less about being a Family Tree of bloodlines.

Verdict

This set is a bit of a weird muddle to me. For a set labelled Family Tree, there is a missed preconception that people may have with the set – myself included.

I went into this review with the thought that the set was to show your family tree, your family history, through a set. Yes, not all family is by bloodlines etc etc, but it is more the set labelled “Family Tree” doesn’t correlate to the first thing that shows up on google is going to catch a few people of guard.

The original pitch submitted by Bulldoozer had it so that the model could be a collage of family memories, or a family tree. LEGO leaned to one idea more than the other, but kept the name regardless? The original idea was also to be able to modify the set with addition sets and branch it out larger, with more people as you go. A task that this set doesn’t give easy means for either.

An Example…

Let’s throw an example. I want to use the set labelled ‘Family Tree’ as an intended Family Tree. I have two daughters and one partner. That’s myself and Dannii up top, and my kids below. I can display this, but essentially make the other half of the model redundant. I now have 14 unused photo holders. But I want to add Dannii and I’s parents on the tree. I would have to buy another set, heavily modify the tree and hope the parts are there, just to add a single row. $260 AUD, 28 unused photo holders, and not even our siblings thrown into the mix.

If the set came with alternate instructions and other ways to make the branches, I’d be all for it. But this? No thank you.

This is a ‘Family Tree’ set that should have been renamed to “Family Memory Tree”. Because people are going to get confused.

Thanks for the LEGO Group for sending us this set to review!


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