Review: 2020 LEGO Advent Calendars
With the longest year in recent memory coming to a close, it’s time to plan for the holidays. What better way to get into the holiday spirit than with one of these four LEGO advent calendars; which one (or more) are you going to get!
Four Reviews, One Mighty Article
Every year since 1998 LEGO has released at least one annual advent calendar. This year, there are four advent calendars to choose from based on the same themes from last year. They were released on the 1st of September and will retire at the end of the year—make sure to pick one up before they are gone!
The non-licensed advent calendars come at a price of $29.99 (£22.99, 19.99€) and are #60268 LEGO City Advent Calendar with 342 pieces and #41420 LEGO Friends Advent Calendar with 236 pieces. The licensed sets come at a price of $39.99 (£24.99, 29.99€) and are #75981 LEGO Harry Potter Advent Calendar with 335 pieces and #75279 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar with 311 pieces.
Each advent calendar consists of 24 marked doors allowing you to open one door to reveal and build a small LEGO mini build or minifigure each day of December leading up to Christmas Eve on the 24th.
#60268 LEGO City Advent Calendar —Stefan Eriksson
I was a new AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO) when I was first introduced to the advent calendars. I specifically remember opening a City one back in 2015. I know I am not the intended target audience, but that earlier set was a bit of a letdown. Things have changed since though as this year’s calendar looks quite different from my first encounter five years ago!
The set contains 342 pieces and six minifigs along with spare pieces. This is way more parts than last year’s 234, even though that one had two more minifigs (if you count the dog). The focus this year is not minifigure settings, but rather micro builds of vehicles and buildings in a variety of sizes.
Top 4 Mini Builds
This set contains 18 mini builds which includes familiar city buildings like a bank and a police station so you can play out cops & robbers’ stories, and city vehicles in a strange mid-scale with wheels made up of 1×1 tiles. The only minifig scale builds are the Christmas tree and gifts. If you study the promo pictures however, you can see the micro-city builds presented as giant LEGO sets that the minifigs play with.
Monster Truck – This was one of the only cars that felt a fresh, with a very simple yet effective design. The choice of the Propeller, W/ 1.5 Shaft, No. 1 piece as the base to give it some extra details is great design choice. The roof headlights might be slightly too big for the scale however this still fits the look of the entire model!.
Propeller Plane – This strikes me as a very unique micro build probably since it’s using new parts through the small propeller and boomerang piece. I’m not too excited about the wings but at this scale, it was probably the best part to use.
Steam Locomotive – This locomotive is almost perfect in its appearance. LEGO has put out a lot of micro build trains during the years very similar to this but the proportions this time is close to perfect. The biggest letdown is that the locomotive is not connected with the tender and passenger car but once again this is acceptable at this scale. If connected to some studs it makes for an excellent display piece on any desk of a Lego or train enthusiast.
Santa’s Sled – This was a very simple yet unique way of doing a reindeer (Rudolf?) with a sled. The only letdown is that it will be parked at the North Pole since no one at that scale is ever going to drive it. It can only take two 1×1 tiles as passengers but I guess the gifts are all that matters for kids these days. Anyway, this micro build still is very striking and makes me want to build a Santa’s Workshop to go with it in that strange mid-scale.
Top 2 Minifigures
The six figures included are split 50/50 mix between male and female characters but the male figs get a bit more love with the only exclusive torso, a blue knitted sweater with a police bear on it. (The bear reminds me of the cheetah Clawhauser in Disney’s Zootopia but this has to be a coincidence.)
With the animated series LEGO City Adventures rise in popularity, the same cast of characters has started showing up in the regular LEGO City line; this set is no exception. For the first time we get six of these named characters (which are all shown on the box). My top picks are:
Duke DeTain – It’s easy to choose this figure for one simple reason: The exclusive Christmas sweater just mentioned. After some research, it was apparent that this sweater is shown in an episode of the show called “Arrest ye Merry Gentleman” that has not yet aired worldwide.
Daisy Kaboom – I like Daisy since she has an outfit that reminds me of the 90’s fashion that’s back-in-style again with a rivet belt and choker. Too bad she has to wear her striped prison shirt under that dark red jacket but this seems like another mandatory thing in the world of LEGO City.
At the time of writing this set only contains a small handful of pieces that are exclusive to this set but there are a wide variety of other great parts especially minifigure pieces that can be found in this set to supplement your collection.
- 54568 Propeller, W/ 1.5 Shaft, No. 1 in 26Black
- 76382 Mini Upper Part, No. 5206 in 23Bright BlueBlue
- 69046 Flat Tile 1X1, No. 221 in 28Dark GreenGreen
- 69047 Flat Tile 1X1, No. 222 in 1White
While this calendar still isn’t aimed towards me, I enjoyed building these micro builds more than getting the minifigs. The builds themselves are a bit repetitive with a lot of cars and vehicles built the same way. The micro buildings are built mostly the same way so when ‘binge’ building for a review like this it gets quite boring. When spread throughout December however boredom would probably not be an issue as the builds are evenly spread over 24 days. To have the characters from LEGO City Adventure in the advent calendar is a clever choice. Should you like that series you get a lot more out of this year’s version through these characters. Compared to a city set at the same price point I feel that this has a decent value for the number of parts and figures you get. I’d rate it at 4/5 Stars (Recommended) and think this is a step up from prior years and because it feels like a licensed set with all the named characters but is priced lower than the Harry Potter or Star Wars Advent Calendars.
#41420 LEGO Friends Advent Calendar – Christine Coste
This year’s Friends Advent Calendar seems to resolve several disappointing aspects from earlier years. Firstly, it includes a play scene mat, meaning Friends has finally joined the rest of the advent calendars to provide for inbuilt play and/or display. This is a great improvement. The play scene print provides play areas for three locations: Emma’s room, Santa’s toy workshop and a winter wonderland. This maximizes the play options and ties together nicely the surprises behind each door. Overall, it gives an impression of a cohesive design.
Another problem in previous years was too many spoilers on the box. This year we see only 8 spoilers – 7 builds and the mini-doll Emma. The box also addresses another issue – the lack of figures in the Friends Advent Calendar. The box clearly advertises the one pictured mini-doll ‘+ 3 surprise figures’. We get outlines of these figures, so we can see that one further mini-doll plus two micro-dolls are also waiting inside the box. Though it doesn’t take much detective work to figure out that the two micro-dolls are elves! Having only the one figure visible on the box is a great move and making the others a surprise mirrors the popular surprise pets contained in the Friends Play Cube series this year.
In total we get two mini-dolls, two micro-dolls and 20 mini-builds! My initial impressions of this year’s calendar are very good.
Top 4 Mini Builds
Last year’s calendar had 330 pieces whereas this one has only 236 pieces. That averages less than 10 pieces per door, which is a challenging prospect. Add to this that the builds all need to be in the same scale (to work in the play scene), which was not a requirement for earlier Friends calendars, and you can see the problem which arises. While I am impressed by the cohesive theme for these builds, a few of these mini-builds are individually a little underwhelming.
It also suffers from what I would call too much “stuff on tables’ – a design problem where the brick-built part of the build is only half a dozen pieces but these sit atop a brick-built table or bench. This affects five builds, three for toy workshop creations and two for Christmas sweet treats. I see these as great quality micro-builds modified to fit into a mini-fig scale.
The Friends calendar tends to have less mini-figures and is not a licensed major franchiseso I am unsure what the reasoning for the low piece count compared to the other advent calendars is. Unfortunately this decision has definitely had an impact on the quality of the designs.
The set includes many Christmassy things, but I would have liked to see perhaps less Christmas related objects and to focus instead on rounding out the play scene. For example, one very notable omission from a set which provides a pajama-clad mini-doll is a bed. A cute bed with a Christmas stocking at the foot of the bed would have really enhanced the play-ability of the set.
What are my favorites? I hate to say it but 3 of my top four are ‘things on a table’ builds! This really is a reflection of how limited some of the other builds were.
Waffle-maker – This was by far my favorite build. It provides a waffle iron in Light Bluish Gray with a1x2 plate (3023), a 1×1 clip (15712) and a 1×1 rounded plate with handle (26047). The waffle in the waffle iron is a simple 1×1 tile with a finished waffle (a printed piece (3070bpr0205)) on a plate along with condiments.
Gift-wrapping station – I really like this gift-wrapping station and it ties in well to the accessories held by the micro-dolls. The roll of wrapping paper (technic pin connector 62462) mounted on a holder of technic pin (4274) and Pearl Gold taps (4599b) is simple but effective.
Wind-up Penguin – After all these ‘things on a table’ builds, this clockwork penguin was a nice change. The feet were formed with a heart shaped tile (39739) mounted upside down using a technic pin (4274). I also liked the use of roller skates (11253) for the penguin’s eyes.
Train engine on table – While I don’t feel I should include another ‘thing on a table’ build, this nice little train engine on an elf’s workbench also deserved a mention. The train engine’s color scheme was effective from the Pearl Gold roller skate (11253) wheels to the Green chassis to the Red for the rest of the locomotive.
Top 2 Minifigures
The minifigures included in this Advent Calendar really are perfect. The number, with two mini-dolls and two micro-dolls finally provides enough characters to facilitate proper play and story-telling. Both mini-dolls (one of which I won’t spoil but will say that she is an iconic grandmotherly Christmas character) offer something special. That these mini-dolls are obtained behind doors 1 and 24 works really well and indicates to me that the LEGO Group is also considering the door opening sequence in its design.
Emma in blue pajamas – It is hard to believe that we have not seen one of the Friends characters in pajamas up until now. How has this taken so long, with so many Friends sets taking place in homes and sleepovers in the clubhouse? What makes Emma’s pair of pajamas all the more perfect is that these are not Christmas-themed, so can be used year round. Let’s hope 2021 will deliver us the whole Friends gang in pajamas. It seems perfect given 2020 also brought us the mini-figure girl in pajamas in mini-figures series 20 (71027-15). Emma’s accessory is a hairbrush (3852b) which is probably a small disappointment given how commonly this is included in Friends sets, however it does fit in with the pajamas outfit.
Elf with bow – Since micro-dolls were new for 2020 and have only been available in the Disney theme up until now, this is a great introduction of micro-dolls into the Friends theme. In the mini-figure world, children are now possible with the shortened leg piece. So micro-dolls provide a solution as to how to include children in the mini-doll world. That said, the outfit on the elves is probably of limited use in non-Christmas scenes.
Despite the small piece count this set has a large number of exclusive pieces making it a nice addition to your pieces collection.
- 44860 Plate 1X1 W/ Holder in 37Bright Green
- 35634 Skirt, W/ Hip, No. 207 in 21Bright RedRed
- 35677 Torso, Girl, W/ Arm, No. 370 in 21Bright RedRed
- 67409 Hat, No. 38 in 283Light NougatLight Flesh
- 68937 Mini Doll, Head, No. 222 in 283Light NougatLight Flesh
- 35862 Torso, Girl, W/ Arm, No. 371 in 212Light Royal BlueBright Light Blue
- 65695 Mini Brush in 192Reddish Brown
- 67408 Micro Body, Pants, No. 8 in 151Sand Green
- 28661 Feather in 297Warm GoldPearl Gold
- 73792 Flat Tile 1X2, No. 304 in 1White
I’m impressed by this year’s Friends advent calendar. Some of the issues with previous years appear to have been resolved. It is a positive to move away from builds which double as Christmas tree ornaments and instead have a cohesive theme around a play scene. The figures and builds are also Christmas themed so can be added to existing Friends sets such as the Friends’ homes to add a festive spirit.
The mini-dolls and micro-dolls included have been extremely well designed. It is a great way to get hold of the micro-dolls introduced this year, even if they are both clad in an “elfy” costume. There are a number of good builds but not as many standout ones as I would hope. I would say the only remaining issue for LEGO to resolve is to up the piece count to enable a better quality of mini-build.
This advent calendar is a perfect addition to the Friends world for Christmas, which is why it earns our 4/5 Stars (Recommended) rating.
#75279 LEGO Star Wars Advent Calendar – Jeannie Jonas
As is the case with all Advent Calendars we have the traditional 24 minifigs and micro builds behind paper doors for kids to pop one open each day. Is anyone actually that patient? The set this year is slightly larger than last year’s 280 pieces coming in at 311 pieces. Last year’s set came out to 14 cents per piece and this year we are at just shy of 13 cents per piece. Not a huge gain, but an increase. Of those builds 8 are minifigs, 4 ‘built figs’ and 12 builds depending on what you count as a buildable figure vs a build. So, if you are looking at it price wise, one way to see it is that the minifigs come out to $5 each, the same price as collectible minifigures with the rest being bonus pieces!
Of the included 24 minifigs and builds, a whooping 21 are already shown on the box so little is actually left to be surprised about. Of those 3 not shown (no spoilers here) one is less than stellar; one is ok and one is actually pretty decent looking if you know what you’re looking at and don’t get it confused with something else that is a similar shape and color.
What is interesting about this year’s advent calendar is that it contains numerous references to this year’s Lego Star Wars Holiday Special which itself is a throwback to the old 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special that George Lucas insisted never happened and wanted destroyed. Check out this link for an interesting look at that rumor. At the time of this writing, Included in the advent calendar is a minifig of Poe with a Christmas themed knitted sweater with BB-8 on it, which is totally cool. As this minifigure is a copy of Poe from the Special this makes it the first time that an actual Star Wars advent calendar holiday figure is from canon unlike the R2-D2 snowman minifig or the BB-8 with the Santa hat from years past. All told there are 5 minifigs and buildable figs that are in some fashion Christmas related.
Top 4 Mini Builds
There are several builds that I’m not too thrilled with. There however are some strong builds in this advent calendar that do not fit this category. Coming with 12 mini builds and 4 brick built minifigures there is definitely something out there for everyone.
Lars Homestead – This is a medium level build for one of these micro scale models and does a great job at conveyance. Anyone who has ever seen the Original Trilogy will instantly recognize what this is and you want to see a Sandcrawler hulking next to it or some wayward droids shuffling about. What makes this even better are the pieces used.
RazorCrest – The Razorcrest build directly comes from the Disney+ Star Wars The Mandalorian. Overall, it hits every mark; good piece use, it looks like what it’s supposed to, it’s easily recognizable and even has some swoosh factor to it.
Pit Droid – While this set comes with four buildable figs / creatures, there’s really only one that stands out to me and that’s the Pit Droid from the original Episode 1, Phantom Menace. I’ve seen several variations on this and have a loaded pit full of the original ones from 20 years ago, I think this version is really well done and makes nice use of parts in reddish brown.
Darth Vader’s Castle – Wrapping up the best of category has got to be Darth Vader’s castle from Mustafar. But, what’s even cooler with this micro build is that there’s a second part to it which is a TIE Bomber! I think just the castle would have been nice, but tossing in the Tie as well really pushes this build over the top. If you look at it side by side with set 75251, it’s a spot-on match and a nice wave to Ralph McQuarrie’s original concept.
Top 2 Minifigures
This set comes with a whopping 8 minifigures which is great for an advent calendar. The minifigures in this set span a wide variety of movies and complement the mini builds very well. Unlike previous years this year includes some great exclusive minifigures as well. Unique figures aside. it makes sense to see both Luke and Rey as they are also direct tie-in to the Disney+ special seeing as they are both prominent in the trailer. Unfortunately however they’ve again added a Battle Droid into the mix. Does anyone really need another one? Lego could have used this opportunity to give us something really different, say a minifig of Ackmena, owner of a (the?) cantina from the original Holiday Special. Seriously, when else would we have a good excuse to get a fig of Bea Arthur?
Darth Vader – My pick for the top minifig in this set is easily the Darth Vader with his Death Star Christmas sweater which is just as cool looking. As of now, I’m not aware of Darth wearing that in the show upcoming show so it’s hard to say if this has any sort of tie-in with the upcoming special. He does though have the newer style of helmet that comes in two pieces which looks nice and his face has printing on it under the helmet. He comes with his cape and lightsaber, although it might have been even more fun to see his cape somehow match the sweater!
Poe Dameron – My second favorite minifig inclusion is Poe Dameron with his matching BB-8 Christmas sweater. While I’m not much of a fun of the new trilogy, I wouldn’t mind picking up a few of this minifig just for the printed torso piece. Note that both Darth and Poe’s torsos are printed on both sides and Poe has a double printed head as well so you can have him showing a frowny face when you toss snowballs at him!
Despite the large minifigure count this set contains a lot of repeated pieces and figures coming with just 3 exclusive pieces to date. Despite this there are still some great additions to this set.
- 76382 Mini Upper Part, No. 5307 in 21Bright RedRed
- 76382 Mini Upper Part, No. 5306 in 28Dark GreenGreen
- 53922 Plate 1X2 W/Stub/Along/Upper P in 194Medium Stone GreyLight Bluish Gray
There are several builds, like the Gonk Droid, where I scratch my head about their inclusion. With Gonk they included him last year and did a perfect job on that so I was surprised to see him again, so I wasn’t as impressed. That same feeling carries through on the set in general. There are a couple really awesome minifigs included, but most figs are common and not too hard to get in other sets. There are also a few good ideas for micro builds, but too many of them I looked at and felt “ehh” about although there were at least no weapons stand again this year. What does stand out are a few of the more rare or new pieces in colors we might not normally see which does add some value. So as much as I love Star Wars and LEGO, this set is a solid 3/5 star (Good) rating for me.
#75981 LEGO Harry Potter Advent Calendar – Koen Van Der Hoeven
To nobodies surprise the Harry Potter wave of LEGO sets has been a massive success and with that comes the second Harry Potter advent calendar. This year’s advent calendar captures the essence of the Yule Ball as it is portrayed in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. Right off the bat you can see that this advent calendar will come jam packed with rare and unique figures and pieces that fans have been dying to get. Rather than going over the top with purely Christmas themed builds the set designers made sure to pull inspiration from the movies and books when designing Christmas pieces, ensuring that all figures and builds exist in the Harry Potter Universe’s Christmas scenes. Due to this many of the builds in this set have their place even outside of the Advent Calendar. Will this advent calendar be a great addition to any Harry Potter fan’s collection? Let’s find out with my two mini builds and mini figures.
Top 4 Mini Builds
Unlike 2019 this set comes with 18 mini builds; a 2 build increase due to the fewer minifigures included in this set. Fortunately, the designers must have noticed that many fans did not like repetition and recolors of the same build as each mini build in this set is unique! A wide variety of techniques, pieces and colors were employed to make some stand out creations with the limited number of bricks in each day’s build. Without spoiling all of the mini builds, as the box does a good job at hiding them, I have picked out my top 4 highlighted builds from the set, picking out parts that are unique.
Gramophone Record Player – Ridiculously large and unrealistic! What more can you ask from a piece of technology in the magical universe? Everything from the needle to the disk to the wind-up crank has been meticulously designed with such few pieces bringing this mini build to life. You can almost hear the music blasting at the Yule Ball as you put this build together.
Fireplace – You can’t have a Christmas party without a cozy fireplace. This year the fireplace is built to attach to two other doors of the advent calendar enhancing what is a simple fireplace even further. The crisp burning logs are complimented well by the red and whites of the stocking that hangs over the fireplace. A very iconic festive vibe from a very simple build.
Grand Piano – Albeit simple the Grand Piano is a piece that stands out not only because of its grandiose nature but also because of the printed 1×4 piano keys tile. This piece to date exists in only 6 sets and is a very unique piece that LEGO fans have been asking for a long time. I wish however that this Piano was in Black rather than Dark Stone Grey to give of the iconic black Grand Piano look.
Drinks Table – A flashy build in this set is a drinks and snacks table. Filled with glasses, snacks and bottles of beverages you can imagine minifigures crowding to fill their bellies during the Yule Ball. This table comes in two parts and when combined with the other half not displayed on a box you can see a very nice Ice Sculpture built in the center of the table.
Top 2 Minifigures
The 6 minifigures in this set contain a mix of both new and old figures. Unfortunately, three of the figures in this set also exist in #75948 Hogwarts Clock Tower with no differentiation. This trend was the same in previous year’s advent calendar and calendars of other themes having mostly recurring figures with a few unique figures. Fortunately, however the non-unique figures only come in another expensive set so this is a good way to get some rarer figures more affordably. Amongst some strong figure choices two stood out as my favorite.
Harry Potter – Despite being a figure that is available in another set there is a lot that is great about this figure. From the versatile torso piece to the half-length movable legs. All the way to the unique printed Yule Ball tile. At first glance this figure may look plain and boring, however once you look into the details this figure is very versatile and usable in many MOCs should you already have a copy of this figure. The face and hair combination for this figure unfortunately sports no differences despite the scene however. When compared to the other duplicate figures in this advent calendar I feel this one stands out as the strongest of the bunch. A great way to pick up a figure that normally comes in a $100 set for less than $40.
Padma Patil – Of the six figures in this set three of them are new. Of these figures two unique figures are Padme and Parvati Patil, both of whom are similar figures. To date these figures are unique to just this set and have not been released in any other forms in history making this a unique inclusion. Despite wearing a skirt, the designers however decided to use a 1×2 printed brick piece as a “skirt” which in my eyes look a little odd compared to other figures. This was likely done to maintain a similar height of the other figures in this age range. From the gold flourishes on the Saree all the way to the Bindi on the minifigure’s head you can see that the designers paid a ton of attention to the details allowing the figure to stand out not just in a screen accurate sense but also culturally.
To date this set has a large number of exclusive pieces with even more pieces that are unique to just a handful of sets making it a great way to pick up some rare pieces.
- 76382 Mini Upper Part, No. 5364 in 323AquaLight Aqua
- 72391 Brick 1X2, No. 61 in 323AquaLight Aqua
- 76382 Mini Upper Part, No. 5347 in 322Bright PurpleDark Pink
- 69895 Brick 1X2, No. 60 in 322Bright PurpleDark Pink
- 69891 Mini Head, No. 3323 in 18NougatFlesh
- 76382 Mini Upper Part, No. 5348 in 353Vibrant CoralCoral
- 69893 Brick 1X2, No. 59 in 353Vibrant CoralCoral
- 69896 Flat Tile 2X3, No. 43 in 1White
As with every LEGO advent calendar you don’t buy the set solely for the bricks included, you buy it for the experience of having a mini build every day leading up to the 25th of December. This advent calendar provided a good mix of new minifigures and minifigures from expensive sets making it an inexpensive way to build up your Harry Potter line of minifigures. Unfortunately, due to the figures being character specific should you already own these figures then the repetition may not be welcome, unlike with Star Wars advent calendars where an extra droid or storm trooper has its uses.
Improving upon last year the designers did not repeat builds in different colors with every door being a new build, enhancing the experience. Despite all these figures being new for me and a great set in my eyes I can see fans being disappointed with repeated figures and the steep set price. As this is a great advent calendar especially for Harry Potter fans this set gets a solid of 3/5 stars (Good) rating thanks to the full experience provided. Seeing that this is the second Harry Potter advent calendar we have seen I expect to see another one hitting the shelves next year!