When I was a kid, the coolest and most colossal Lego sets were often pirate ships or castles. These things required hours upon hours to assemble and cost a lot of money. My parents, when looking to spend money on me at Christmas or for a birthday, opted for video games or a bicycle as a “big” present, not massive Lego sets. I had a cousin who was rather fortunate when it came to gifts. He usually had all of the best stuff before anyone else, be they new Ghostbusters vehicles, gaming consoles, and so on. He also had some of these massive Lego sets but anytime I would visit his home they were always just partially assembled, as if construction was started one day and then forgotten. I always wanted to get my hands on such a set (the commercials made them seem like they contained endless amounts of fun) but the closest I ever got was a lone keep that came with a dragon. It was rather small, but I liked it plenty and got many hours of enjoyment out of it. Prior to that, I only ever had a general set of Legos. They were housed in a hard, red, plastic case and I would just build whatever. There was an included book that contained plans for numerous objects but rarely did I ever make use of it. Typically, I would build a pick-up truck or Jeep but then wouldn’t want to disassemble it to create anything else.
Among those bricks was a lone Lego mini figure. This was the 1980’s so the mini figure might have been new, or maybe not. I had other generic Legos before this collection and never had I come across a little figure before. He was rather plain: a black shirt and blue pants with a black baseball cap. I thought he was pretty cool though and started noticing these more and more in toy stores and commercials. I especially liked that I could rip him apart and even take off his head without breaking him. It seemed absurd but was a lot of fun especially when I would later get mini figures dressed as knights and armed with swords to apply a purpose for figure decapitation. Over the years the mini figure has become quite popular and in the last dozen years or so the mini figure is no longer just a generic pirate or knight, it’s Luke Skywalker or Batman. The mini figure is now sold both with sets and separately, and for a brand, having a Lego version of one of your characters is like a new rite of passage. Lego, because of its popularity, is able to strike deals amongst rivals so that consumers are able to pit Lego Superman against Lego Hulk. Lego has spread to video games, and most recently, to film. The brand has never been more popular than it is today which is why we now have The Simpsons in Lego form.
I’m not sure how the agreement started, if those behind The Simpsons reached out first to Lego or vice versa, but The Simpsons entered the Lego universe in 2014 in both television and the material world. An episode of The Simpsons aired this past May featuring the show’s many characters in a Lego setting. Interestingly, these Lego versions of the Springfield residents were more faithful to the Lego brand than the actual Lego product which arrived at retailers a couple of weeks before the episode. The Lego version of The Simpsons characters are unique, though represent a new trend not solely reserved for The Simpsons brand, in that they make use of the standard mini figure body but have unique head pieces. This creates a more aesthetically pleasing mini figure, though it does disappoint the Lego purists out there. In my hunt for these, I encountered one girl who was a Lego fan, not really a Simpsons fan, who wanted a couple of Marge figures thinking her hair would just be a Lego piece that attached to the usuall Lego head piece. She was likely disappointed to find that it wasn’t when she got home.
Lego put out sixteen figures in May, and they are a collection of usuals and some that may have surprised fans: Homer, Marge, Bart, Lisa, Maggie, Grandpa, Ned Flanders, Milhouse, Ralph, Nelson, Chief Wiggum, Apu, Mr. Burns, Krusty, Itchy, and Scratchy. A pretty solid collection, especially when one considers Lego’s policy of no alcohol references which may have played a role in not having a Moe or Barney. Itchy and Scratchy are the sort of oddball choices given that they’re cartoon characters in the show, but few are likely to complain. Because the show’s cast is so massive, there’s going to be characters missing and it would have been impossible to satisfy fans with just one wave (I’m not aware of a planned second wave, but these seemed to sell well so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see more). Wiggum could certainly use some help on the force, while Flanders is missing his boys, and what’s a Burns without a Smithers? There’s tons of characters people likely want, so hopefully if a wave two does come around Lego doesn’t waste slots on variants of Homer and Bart.
Each mini figure comes in a plastic pouch that conceals the identity of the figure inside. Retailing for about four dollars, some may be willing to give in to chance and pick them blind but anyone with some extra time and a little determination can prod at the bags and figure out who’s in each one. The head sculpts of the figures make this easy, but also the included accessories. Bart’s skateboard is pretty easy to pick out, as is Nelson’s baseball bat. The hardest ones for me were Ralph and Milhouse as both characters are the same size and their accessory is a flat square Lego piece. This meant finding the head, and being extra certain. I ended up with three Ralphs before I found a Milhouse. The accessories are pretty cool though. The piece that comes with Ralph and Milhouse is a bit overused, but they’re all printed differently and contain some classic show references such as Ralph’s “I Choo Choo Choose You” valentine and Grandpa comes with his newspaper with the headline “Old Man Yells at Cloud.” Homer comes with a unique donut piece and TV remote and Burns has a transparent Lego head piece with Blinky the fish printed on it. Maggie has Bobo the teddy bear, and Itchy and Scratchy each come with an instrument of violence. All of the figures look really good, the only one that looks off to me is Wiggum because he should be morbidly obese. Instead, he uses the same body as every other figure with no attachments to make him look fatter. Homer, since his shirt is white, has a line printed on him to mark his bulging stomach, but since Wiggum wears dark blue, the same technique doesn’t really work.
If Lego had stopped there with The Simpsons it still would have been cool, but they didn’t. Enter The Simpsons House!
Consisting of over 2500 pieces, the home of The Simpsons is a large set that is a site to behold. I couldn’t resist the call
of it, even if it was excessive, and purchased my own set. The set contains bricks to construct the house and also Homer’s famous pink car complete with dents. Included with the set is another version of The Simpson family plus another Flanders. Each figure differs slightly from the stand-alone ones; Homer is dressed for work and Marge has an apron, Ned is dressed for grilling while Bart is missing his slingshot from his back pocket. Most also have half-closed eyes while Maggie has a more neutral expression compared with her other figure’s concerned look. The differences are minor, and while some may see this as a missed opportunity to get more figures, Lego pretty much had to include a set of the family in both the house set and the retail figures. Perhaps the addition of Flanders could have been re-evaluated. Lego could have just made him exclusive to the house set and put someone else in the mini figure release. The only thing I feel they really messed up on was not including Lego versions of Santa’s Little Helper and Snowball II. Both pets are featured on the box as part of the family but are strangely absent from the set.
Lego had a somewhat difficult task of creating a three-dimensional set of an animated home. Early in the show’s life, the house didn’t seem to always have a defined layout but over the years the animators and artists have clarified this more. The first floor is pretty standard though: through the front door is a short hallway with a closet at the end and stairs on the right. To the left is the den, to the right the dining room. Up from the den is the living room which has an entryway on the top right which goes into the kitchen which wraps around to connect with the dining room. On a few occasions there’s been a bathroom on the first floor as well as a rumpus room. There’s also a basement entrance somewhere and the door to the garage. Lego, perhaps fearing the set would be much too large, chose not to really adapt the true layout of the house and attempted to just hit on the important stuff.
From the outside, the house looks pretty great, almost perfect. There’s the bay windows on the front, the ancient TV antennae on the roof, and even the chimney looks good. Veteran viewers will notice that while the garage is in the right place, the house doesn’t wrap around behind it like on the show. This becomes a bit of an issue when constructing the second floor as it’s pretty cramped. Aside from that though, the house looks great. Inside on the first floor there are just two rooms: the kitchen on the left and living room on the right. The living room is kind of an amalgamation of the den and living room from the show. The famous couch and TV are present (modeled after the old tube TV from the earlier seasons) from the living room, while the rug and piano are there from the den. Missing is the fireplace since the chimney is on the other side of the house and there’s no ceiling fan, as well as other things. There’s a closet of sorts tucked behind the stairs where
Marge can store her vacuum, and the sailboat picture is above the couch where it should be. Breaking from logic though, is the entryway to the garage being right in the living room with no door to separate it. This doesn’t make much sense and is kind of disappointing. Over in the kitchen, the color scheme is pretty faithful to the show between the two-toned floor and the pink and orange cabinets. The included table is kind of odd looking but more odd is the absence of a fridge. How are The Simpsons supposed to live without a refrigerator? Plus that ugly green fridge is kind of iconic, isn’t it? The kitchen is also pretty cramped, especially with the table in it, but space had to be sacrificed in order to make the living room larger.
On the second floor, the biggest casualty is Maggie as she doesn’t get her own room. Instead, she gets a crib in Homer and Marge’s bedroom. Bart and Lisa’s rooms are done rather well with Bart’s shining brighter because his personality is captured well. Homer and Marge have a larger room but it’s strangely empty and doesn’t connect to the bathroom. The second floor should have two bathrooms, but there’s only one and it’s too small to even get a bathtub. The roof rests right on top of the house and garage as opposed to snapping on so that users can easily remove it to access the rooms underneath. Bart’s room and the top of the stairs also just rest on top of the second floor so it too can easily be lifted out to access the living room while the whole house can open vertically for a cut-away look at everything. The garage is roomy enough to fit the car in comfortably, and even includes numerous power tools for Homer to neglect. Outside the house is the mailbox as well as Ned’s grill. There’s also two lawn chairs and Bart has a skateboard ramp. The wife and I assembled the entire house over the course of about a week. We didn’t do construction on it daily and took our time though impatient builders could likely put this thing together in a day with some determination. The instructions were easy enough to follow and thankfully only a few stickers are involved (I assume hatred for stickers is pretty much universal amongst Lego builders).
It’s easy to nitpick this set because it’s not all that faithful to the show and the show has been around for over twenty years. Fans of The Simpsons are intimately familiar with how the house is supposed to look so it must have been intimidating for Lego to even tackle it. Inaccuracies and all, this is a set worth investing the time in for Simpsons enthusiasts. Lego did do a good job of getting the smaller details right like Bart’s half-open desk drawer and the “Property of Ned Flanders” sticker adorning the air conditioner hanging off the house. It’s my hope that Lego does not stop here. We already have an Apu mini figure so how about a Kwik-E-Mart? And it would be a shame if The Android’s Dungeon were not created, at the very least, as a Comic Con exclusive or something (I assume Moe’s Tavern is a no-go considering the alcohol policy). Lego could easily milk this franchise for a lot more, so we’ll see what the future holds, but if this is all we get then at least it looks cool and The Simpsons have a place to sleep and watch TV.