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LEGO Steamboat Willie Review & Thoughts

We already discussed the #21317 LEGO Ideas Steamboat Willie set a couple of times (see links at the end of this post), but I thought to talk about it in a bit more. The set has some plusses and minuses that could be important to consider in your purchasing decision. So, let’s take a look.

One of the positive features is the elegant black, white, and gray color-scheme to mimic the original black and white film it is based on. This color-scheme could have been boring, so a little bit of silver was added for visual interest. I think it looks striking! The same color-scheme is also used for the two minifigs, Mickey and Minnie; black and white with lovely silver detailing. The box is also mostly black and white with shades of gray, a bit of yellow, and some silver foil here and there. It is obvious that great care was taken to make sure that the set doesn’t look dull and uninteresting even with the lack of color. It’s quite an achievement, actually.

While the set is grayscale on the outside, inside it is exploding with colors (see build video below). The designer has a lovely explanation for this, which you can hear about in the designer-video linked at the end of this post.

The steam pipes that move up and down and paddle wheels that rotate when the boat is pushed along is done really well, and the mechanism is very satisfying to build. The designer talked about how he wanted to make sure that the set is an enjoyable and fulfilling building experience for adult LEGO fans. I would say that he definitely achieved that.

While the designer did a fantastic job with the #21317 LEGO Ideas Steamboat Willie set, there are some downsides as well. First of all, although the price of $89.99 for 751 piece set doesn’t sound too bad (12 cents a piece), if you consider what you’re getting (a boat with a couple of minifigs), the price definitely feels high. In the same price range, there are several recently released sets with far more volume and interactivity. This is not an entirely fair comparison though, as different sets/themes cater to different interests. LEGO Ideas sets in general are geared towards adult LEGO fans and collectors. However, even amongst LEGO Ideas sets the price of Steamboat Willie appears to be high. Consider that the also recently released #21316 LEGO Ideas The Flintstones set has only three pieces less, but it is $30 cheaper. Two other recent sets, the #21315 LEGO Ideas Pop-Up Book and the #21313 LEGO Ideas Ship in a Bottle have 108 pieces and 211 pieces more respectively, yet they are both $20 cheaper.

Another issue is that the original fan designer, Máté Szabó, specifically designed Steamboat Willie to be a small, 156-piece souvenir that people could easily purchase, build, and display. He writes: “The model was designed to be tiny, easy to build, and playable. You can put Mickey Mouse inside the boat, and you can also play with the cranes.” Although the final set is very nicely designed, it is no longer a small display model that is easy to place anywhere or easy on the wallet. Buying, building, and displaying the final set require some more serious consideration. I have heard from a number of LEGO fans who say that they actually like the #21317 LEGO Ideas Steamboat Willie set more than the original submission, and they didn’t even vote for the project. However, what about those who actually took the time to vote? They supported one thing and received something else. It’s also worth considering that Máté is from Hungary. I’m sure LEGO fans in his country would have been happy to buy and proudly display a set designed by their fellow countryman. Unfortunately, the substantially increased size and price makes the set out of range for most families.

In summary, I would say that the set is beautifully designed, and Disney fans could definitely enjoy it as an authentic representation of the first Mickey Mouse film. The boat looks lovely, and the mechanism and play-features are delightful. On the other hand, the beauty of the set is somewhat tainted by the high price and the fact that it is very different from the original fan submission. Below, I have included JANGBRiCKS build video and review, so you can see the set in more detail and hear another opinion.

I also wanted to mention that LEGO fan and fellow LEGO Ideas fan designer Jason Allemann built his own version of the Steamboat Willie, using the set instructions from LEGO’s website and giving the boat some color. He writes: “After seeing the motion features of this set, I was really interested in building it. I don’t really care about the minifigs or the source material, though, so I wasn’t keen on paying the premium price for it. I downloaded the instructions and decided to try and build it using parts I had on hand. Obviously, I had to make some changes. There are several parts that only exist in certain colors in this set. The upper boat hull/deck ends, for example, are new in white, and I only had them in dark brown. I decided to roll with it and change the color-scheme to match. The windscreens LEGO is using for the front and back of the hull are also new in black, so I replaced them with standard slopes. I also didn’t have any of the weapon barrel pieces in black used for the stacks, so I built my own stacks using curved slopes. I would have liked to try building the paddles in a shade of brown, but I didn’t have enough clips in any brown shade, so I just went with black.” It looks lovely, isn’t it?

Finally, here is the officinal description of the set: All aboard Steamboat Willie to celebrate Mickey Mouse’s birthday! Disney Mickey Mouse fans will love the #21317 LEGO Ideas Steamboat Willie building toy, marking the 90th anniversary of the most famous cartoon character ever. Mickey Mouse made his screen debut in a 1928 black-and-white animated short film called ‘Steamboat Willie’, which was also the first Disney film to have synchronized sound. This LEGO brick version of the S.S. Willie features steam pipes that move up and down and paddle wheels that rotate when the boat is pushed along. The boat’s bridge has room for a minifigure and play-inspiring nautical details such as the ship’s wheel, life buoy, and buildable bell. On deck there is a working crane to lift the ‘potato bin’ cargo aboard and this unique toy building set comes with new-for-April-2019 Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse minifigures, each with special silver-colored decoration, plus a parrot figure. An ideal LEGO set for kids and adults to recreate scenes from the original Mickey Mouse cartoon or simply build and display this striking monochrome model. Steamboat Willie toy boat measures over 5” (15cm) high, 10” (26cm) long and 5” (14cm) wide. 751 pieces. Price: $89.99 – BUY HERE

What do you think? How did you like the LEGO Steamboat Willie set? Are you planning to get it? Or do you have it already? Have you built it yet? Feel free to share your own thoughts and reviews and discuss the set in the comment section below!

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{ 12 comments… add one }
  • jabber-baby-wocky April 16, 2019, 12:29 PM

    It looks good in brown! Now I’m tempted to have both grayscale and brown versions. I didn’t know I needed that. Ha-ha.

    • TomTom April 16, 2019, 1:36 PM

      I like the brown one too. It looks realistic. The only thing I would change is the peddles to brown. The ship has been growing on me, but like Jason, I don’t want to pay the Disney Tax.

      • admin April 16, 2019, 2:09 PM

        Jason mentioned that was his original plan too, but he didn’t have enough brown clips.

    • admin April 16, 2019, 2:09 PM

      Yeah, I thought of the same thing when I first saw Jason’s version. It looks lovely and I now need both! 😀

  • SPMom April 16, 2019, 2:17 PM

    These high prices are going to turn people away from legos. I like the kit, but the price is higher than what I feel comfortable playing for just one boat.

    • flyernut April 16, 2019, 4:23 PM

      Lepin’s is $40

      • brickmaster April 16, 2019, 5:12 PM

        Yes, because they use inferior parts, they haven’t paid for designers, nor do they pay a royalty to Disney, or Lego, or Mate Szabo. They may be cheaper, but no, thank you. I don’t support thieves.

  • Hayato April 16, 2019, 3:25 PM

    The brown one is so nice! Does the set has any hard to find parts? We have enough lego, so we may be able to find the parts to build it ourselves. I would love to have Jason’s version!

  • LEGOJeff April 16, 2019, 4:30 PM

    Not to defend Disney, but I don’t think the price is that bad considering the price per piece ratio. It’s an advanced build made of lots of little pieces and some large pieces (including new colors). If all you see is a boat, then yes, ninety bucks is a lot, and you can get other sets with boats and more minifigs and play features. But if you consider the historical significance and the display value the price is not bad. This is not an ordinary boat. It’s a Disney memorabilia.

  • HamishSalomon April 17, 2019, 6:45 AM

    nope, way too expensive. Pricing it this high, I think they push questionable ‘Lego-fans’ over on Lepin’s side.. thieves or not..

    • Martin April 17, 2019, 3:24 PM

      I don’t disagree that lower prices would be better. But what does Lego supposed to do? Fire their designers and other employees? Lower the quality of their bricks? Stop innovating? Stop caring for the environment or the safety of their workers? Because that’s what they would have to do to compete with thieves who don’t care about or pay for any of that stuff.

    • admin April 17, 2019, 10:01 PM

      Yeah, that’s definitely a concern. LEGO is fighting Lepin on the legal side, but it’s a long and drawn out process.

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