Tools of the Imagination – LEGO Chima Ring of Fire

LEGO Chima Ring of Fire
produced by LEGO, released 2013

Anthropomorphic Evel Kinevel

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(Image courtesy of Lego.com)

LEGO is a wonderful case-study in selling out.
Starting in 1949, The Lego Group began manufacturing interconnecting building blocks that allowed for the construction of larger and increasingly complex structures. Much of the premise of the company and its toys was that anything could be taken apart and build up again, perhaps better, perhaps cooler, perhaps both.

In 1999, LEGO released its first officially licensed set, an X-Wing Fighter from the Star Wars franchise. This would lead to a long and prosperous shift in the company structure, prioritizing licensed play sets and themed figure sets. This conflicts heavily with the stated corporate beliefs, and yet it has helped LEGO to become and remain one of the most successful toy manufacturers in the world.

Background
Beginning in 2013, LEGO launched a new line of figures and play sets, this time based around anthropomorphic animals. Chima was originally intended to replace LEGO’s Ninjago toy line but ended up complementing it.

The story, as told through the television show and other related media, follows the members of warring animal tribes as they form alliances and truces in an attempt to find and control a magical natural resource known as Chi. The Chi is represented with little orbs found in almost any play set, which the figures can wear or attach to weapons and vehicles to give them extra power.

Chima play sets are no different from earlier, more-generic LEGO play sets you may remember. They vary from little more than a single figure to full-on castles and other legendary sites replete with moving parts and nifty specialized pieces. And it’s these specialized pieces that may prove problematic.

Appearance – 5 out of 5
Razar, the figure included in the play set, looks spot on like his figure in the show. That is more a function of the show looking and moving much like the Chima toys than the other way around. It also should be noted that the figure is not ambitiously colorful or elaborate. Yet, the end result is that the figure in hand looks exactly like the character in the show.

Construction – 4 out of 5
LEGO toys are known for their ruggedness and Chima definitely has inherited some of those traits. Mother figure is as tough and solid as any of its predecessors and the motorcycle is likewise a sturdy piece of construction. Even the fiery wheel is more solid and secure than a first glance might suggest. In truth an act of true destructive malice would be needed to seriously damage these toys.

Movement – 3 out of 5
Movement with LEGOs is hard to score because their movement is pretty much uniform across the whole line. And yet, they also get a lot of mileage out of seven joints in an inch-tall figure. The motorcycle goes straight with minimal turning potential, but that’s hardly a deal breaker. Ultimately, no surprises, just what LEGO does and does well.

Extras – 3 out of 5
Where LEGO has always excelled has been in the extras, the little pieces that help expand and flesh out the toys. The Chima figures are a little lacking, but the inclusion of two hand-weapons, two flame spurts, and six Chi balls, is a good array.

Packaging – 4 out of 5
LEGO’s packaging has always been great and the Chima line is no different. Beautiful art work that is distinctive from all other LEGO lines (and other toy lines on the shelf), it also clearly shows off this toy spectacularly.
The one missing element is that, gone are the days when the back of the packaging showed other possible constructions using the pieces in the package itself. That loss, and the challenge they represented, is not trivial.

Overall – 4 out of 5
I feel like a Four is being a little generous, but I just can’t deny that this is a well-made playset. The motorcycle-jumping-through-fire gimmick may not work as smoothly as one might like, but that won’t stop an enthusiast from keeping at it. All in all, the Chima line has some real promise.

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Author: Robert V Aldrich

Author. Speaker. Cancer Researcher. Martial Artist. Illustrator. Cat dad. Nerd.

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