I recently built the #41423 LEGO Friends Tiger Hot Air Balloon Jungle Rescue set, so I thought to share my thoughts on it. This is one of the five sets from the new LEGO Friends Jungle Rescue collection that was developed in partnership with National Geographic, which is referenced at the end of the building instructions on a simple two-page spread.
My interest in this set was two-fold. First, I always wanted a LEGO hot air balloon, as it gives visual interest to LEGO city dioramas. And second, I wanted to take a closer look at the newly introduced trans-blue-opal color (called satin-trans-light blue on Bricklink) that is used for water in all five of the LEGO Friends Jungle Rescue series.
The #41423 LEGO Friends Tiger Hot Air Balloon Jungle Rescue is a good size set with 302 pieces that retails for $39.99. It features a jungle scene with a rock formation covered in vegetation, a waterfall cascading down the rocks, and caves hiding under. The landscape is really well designed with many nooks, corners, and hiding spaces. This landscape is the home of two baby tigers that are exclusive to this set, and their animal friends (turtle, frog, bird). Other animals (gecko, snail, butterflies, ladybug) can be added to the scene via the optional small sticker sheet.
The other part of the set is a hot air balloon with various accessories to help jungle creatures in need. So what could go wrong in such an idyllic setting? Well, the rock formation has two hidden play-features. One is a simple turn of a knob to throw the baby tigers in the water when they try to climb the branch sticking out over the waterfall. If you turn the knob one way, the baby tiger will plummet right down the waterfall. If you turn the knob the other way, the baby tiger will drop into the horizontal river section between the two waterfalls. At that time, you can activate the second play-feature. There is another knob at the back, that when turned, rattles the horizontal section from underneath, giving the impression of rapidly moving water. This causes the baby tiger to jiggle and eventually plummet down the waterfall. This is when Emma and Andrea (the two LEGO Friends mini-dolls included in the set) come to the rescue with their air balloon and rescue equipment.
I love this set. It’s really well designed, offering lots of play opportunities. The set is also very pretty with nice color-combinations (no weird colors at all!), and an excellent selection of parts for building landscaping and vegetation. But let’s focus on the initial reasons I got the set; the hot air balloon, and the new transparent-blue!
The curved panels that make up the balloon first appeared in 2015 in another LEGO Friends set, the #41097 LEGO Friends Heartlake Hot Air Balloon. Since then, the piece was used for various real-life and fantasy-based airships, air balloons, car fenders, and even the body of a giant octopus (#41373 LEGO Friends Funny Octopus Ride). However, the piece is still considered rare, as it only appeared in ten sets in total, and in seven different colors (dark-orange, magenta, red, lavender, dark-purple, white, and black).
As far as realistic hot air balloons, we get three examples. One is the aforementioned #41097 LEGO Friends Heartlake Hot Air Balloon with a magenta and white balloon. Although this air balloon had a nice design overall, I felt the basket was a little too big for the balloon, and thus passed on it. I was looking for a bit more refined design.
The second hot air balloon came in the #60130 LEGO City Prison Island set in 2016. The basket is smaller and simpler and I liked it better, but I didn’t want to get such a large set just for the air balloon. In addition, the red and black color combination wasn’t my favorite.
Then came this year’s set, the #41423 LEGO Friends Tiger Hot Air Balloon Jungle Rescue. It has a purple and white balloon and a redesigned basket using large curved bricks. I immediately fell in love with this balloon; loved the colors, the basket, and the rest of what is included in the set.
All three of the air balloons are designed pretty much the same way, using eight of the curved panels. The panels have clips at both of their ends, and they are clipped onto modified round plates with bars around their edge. This super secure and solid connection will not fall apart even during rough play. A LEGO Technic axle runs through the body of the balloon and then connects to the basket. The connection between the basket and balloon is also very secure with no chance of anything falling apart. The angled rods and clips between the balloon and the edge of the basket are just to make the whole contraption more realistic. They aren’t really needed for stability (in fact, the LEGO City air balloon doesn’t even have them). The basket has plenty of space for several minifigs or mini-dolls as well as equipment, and it also has bars along the edges to hang various items.
Once I built the balloon, I made some modifications. I added a LEGO string on top, so I can hang up the balloon over my city. I replaced some of the brighter colors of the basket with browns and grays. I also replaced the white angled rods and clips with black, and added more modified plates with bars around the edges to hang those red and yellow bumpers. And I added a gas tank like in the first LEGO Friends hot air balloon, and a red lever, which was an idea based on the videos I have seen on how hot air balloons are controlled. I also fit four minifigs (one operator and three passengers), and I could potentially add one more. I’m very happy with the final result, and will probably get some more curved panels in other colors to build more hot air balloons.
Now, let’s talk about those pretty trans-blue-opal (satin-trans-light-blue) parts. Opal (or satin on BrickLink) is a new color that was introduced this year. (For the sake of consistency, from now on, I will refer to the colors based on their name in the BrickLink catalog.) So far, we got satin-white in the LEGO DOTS sets, and satin-trans-black in a single set, the #43179 LEGO Disney Mickey Mouse & Minnie Mouse. Satin-trans-light-blue appears in all the new LEGO Friends Jungle Rescue sets, for the shell of some of the LEGO Friends Cubes, and in one LEGO Disney Storybook Adventures set. Satin-trans-purple is used for the shell of some of the LEGO Friends Cubes, in one of the LEGO DOTS bracelets, one LEGO Trolls figure, and in a small LEGO Disney set.
So far, I have some of the satin-white, satin-pink, satin-blue, and satin-purple pieces. It’s hard to describe these colors, but I would say that they are pearly, sparkly, and glowy at the same time. And depending on the light and angle, they are slightly translucent, similar to frosted glass. They work well for jewels, other small decorative pieces, and to represent water, but they wouldn’t work for windows or windscreens due to the material being too opaque.
In addition, the sparkly-ness and glowy-ness only show up from certain angles and under certain light conditions. From other angles, these satin colored plastics look like what’s used for cheap storage containers. This is not a problem for the small pieces and accessories due to their size – they still look pretty and unique – but it is definitely a deterrent for the larger pieces, like the curved panels used for the waterfalls. From some angles they sparkle and glow, and from other angles they look like cheap plastic. My guess is that LEGO is going to keep these as niche colors for accessories and decorative items, as they don’t seem to have much practical use otherwise.
In summary, I’m very pleased with the #41423 LEGO Friends Tiger Hot Air Balloon Jungle Rescue set. Although I originally got it for the balloon, I’m now thinking about getting some of the other LEGO Friends Jungle Rescue sets as well. As far as the satin colors, small items look pretty and unique, but for larger parts, these colors only look good in certain applications and under certain light conditions. If you would like to check out the LEGO Friends Jungle Rescue sets, visit the LEGO Friends section of the Online LEGO Shop.
What do you think? Do you have any of the hot air balloon sets? Which one is your favorite hot air balloon so far? And what do you think of the new opal/satin colors? Feel free to share your thoughts and discuss in the comment section below!
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