Review: #75954 Hogwarts Great Hall
With the first wave of 2018’s Harry Potter sets retiring this year, let’s find out whether this iconic set is worth picking up before it is too late.
History of the Harry Potter Great Hall sets
To date LEGO has depicted the Great Hall in three other sets, but none of these sets are builds of exclusively the great hall. All other Great Halls that have been built in LEGO are part of a larger Hogwarts Castle build, with some of them being the full castle while others just a few rooms. Starting in 2001 with #4709 Hogwarts Castle, to 2010 with #4842 Hogwarts Castle all the way to 2018 with #71043 Hogwarts Castle we see how each designer built this iconic room using their own flair and creativity.
About this set
Amongst the first wave of Harry Potter sets released in 2018 was #75954 Hogwarts Great Hall. This set comes with 878 pieces, many of which were unique and new at time of release and comes with a price of $99.99 (£89.99) giving this set a price per piece of 11.4c (10.2p). This ratio seems higher than the usual 10 cents per piece that LEGO uses as a price guide for sets, but just one glance at the box you can see that the price is justified.
This set, along with the other sets in the Harry Potter line have a cool quirk to them. This being that they are designed to be connected together like the modular sets are. Looking at the side of the build you will see places to insert technic pins into this set allowing the builder to connect it to any of the other sets in the line. The recommended connection for this is with #75953 Hogwarts Whomping Willow.
The build process
Bag 1 – The Mirror of Erised
Due to the sheer number of minifigures in this set the first of the six bags we build in this set included mostly minifigures. Minifigures aside, the first build we do in this set is the Mirror of Erised. The first Mirror of Erised was released in 2001 in #4702 The Final Challenge and came with Professor Quirrel. Nearly two decades later, with higher quality parts and printing we see it again. This mirror is brick built and uses window pieces with reflective sticker to give a real mirror aesthetic to the mirror who would have thought that mirrors are reflective). Of the sticker sheets included in this set one entire sticker sheet is used for the mirror. At first I was hesitant at the thought of including stickers, but to keep costs lower I welcome these stickers as they add depth of details to the otherwise plain mirror.
The mirror pieces included with this depict Professor Dumbledore with a pair of socks, Professor Quirrel with the Philosopher’s stone, Harry and his parents and Ron as Quidditch champion. Each of these mirrors are notable reflections seen in the movie and can be switched out whenever you like. Alongside the mirror are the animals that we build. These will be discussed in the animals section later. The final thing we build (if I can call it that as it is already built) is the boat. This uses a boat piece that I have not seen for a few years.
Bag 2 – The foundation
The next bag is where the fun begins. In this bag we build up the foundation and base of the Great Hall. Focusing on the interior along with some of the rocks at the base we build the ground floor of the Great Hall, the courtyard, the tower along with a dock. Building this gave me Deja vu of when I built #71043 Hogwarts Castle as a lot of the techniques used for detailing in that build is used here. Despite the word Great in the name of this hall we can see that LEGO had to scale down the size for this set. There are four sets of tables, one for each house which can seat three students each and one table for the teacher that too seats three minifigures. The teachers table can be modified to seat five however, something that I have done in my build using my spare chair pieces. Something immediately noticeable that is a shame is that despite having seating none of the minifigures can actually sit at the tables due to their legs not being able to move. I wish LEGO had decided to use the movable short legs that they released in the Harry Potter minifigure line in this set as it would have greatly enhanced it. As it is foundation, we don’t yet see any real details build up for the exterior, however the interior is quickly taking shape.
Bag 3 – So many windows
Moving to the third bag there is only one word I can use to describe what we build next. Windows. This set comes with 40 window frames and windows, something I have never seen so many of in one place. The colors used in the windows and window frames really contrast the lightness used in the castle walls making it aesthetically appeasing. Having been spoilt by the stained-glass windows in LEGO’s larger Hogwarts Castle set I was slightly disappointed to see that these windows were not stained.
Another word that can be used to describe this part of the build is repetition. In order to create the uniform look of the castle we repeat the same pillar and window build along the wall eight times, but in the end it is worth it. By mixing up colors between 5Brick YellowTan and 38Dark Orange, along with switching up the use of plain bricks and masonry bricks we get a very clear exterior wall toe the Great Hall. The slopes, whether upwards facing or downwards facing, give a very rustic and gothic feel to this castle. This look is very appealing to the eye and immediately we can see this forming into a nice display piece. this set is built in a way that should you decide to pick up a second copy of this set you can very easily extend the great hall to make it even bigger.
When you look at what has been built from the inside, we can immediately see the effect that the walls and windows have on the interior. The interior feels very spacious and is well lit while still feeling dark at the same time. A very good metaphor for the Harry Potter franchise in general.
Bag 4 – Detailed arches and spines
After having not built figures for a bag we get back to it bag four. Alongside figures this bag focuses on detailing and begins to create the roof and entrance to the great hall. By using more slopes but this time in 194Medium Stone GreyLight Bluish Gray we see even more contrast between the colors. I like how LEGO has moved away from the old 151Sand Green color for the roof and opted for a more realistic looking color. Looking at the front we see small statues hidden in the arches beside the door and two grand big LEGO door pieces. Looking at the piece history we see that this piece in 192Reddish Brown only exists in 11 sets to date so is a rare piece. I don’t think a better piece could have been chosen for this door however as this is the right piece for the build. Along the side of the wall we can see the 1×1 pyramid tile used to add yet more detail and sharpness to the structure. I am a big fan of the designer’s choice to make this set contain a lot of sharp edges, while at the same time using cylinders to smooth out other sections. This design choice is very deliberate but adds to make the features of the castle pop out at you while you build.
Bag 5 – A bountiful feast
Nearing to the end of the build we begin to add the finishing touches to the great hall. On the exterior we build up the roof using a now common plate and slopes technique. Unlike in the past where cheese slope pieces are used for roof tiling, we instead use a roof tile piece so that we have slopes on either side. This simple roof gets the job done while adding details. Unfortunately, the roof itself is a little flimsy while building it as we make use of two large plates but only secure it on one edge. Luckily once placed onto the structure this flimsiness does not really matter as the roof now rests on other parts. Adjacent to the Great Hall is the beginning of Dumbledore’s tower. This bag only builds the foundation of this tower but through use of the spiral staircase part we can start to see how figures can travel up to the classrooms in this tower.
Turning to the interior we start to build up the banners and the floating candles. This set comes with two banners but four stickers so each of the houses can be represented by turning the banners around. While building I debated whether I should just place two stickers and order additional banner parts so that I can place all four in this scene but opted against it. Should you wish to display all four banners it is possible with some modification so keep that in mind before adding the stickers. Between the banners are the floating candles. To blend in with the ceiling dark pieces are used, and as seen in the images it really gives off the floating effect. It would be cool if the pieces used were transparent to sell the floating feeling, but since this piece is not in production, I am sure that small change would have driven the price up. The dollhouse effect of this castle makes it very easy to pose figures in the great hall, however part of me wants to pick up another copy of this set and modify it so that we have an additional windowed wall that we can slide open and closed to reveal the interior of the hall. Despite being scaled down, the Great Hall itself is very spacious and fits a wide variety of tables and chairs, a fireplace along with wall and ceiling decorations to give it a very cozy feel.
Bag 6 – Dumbledore’s Tower
The final finishing touches for this set come with the tower. The tower itself is four levels tall, yet only has one set of stairs to reach the first and second level so imagination is needed when wondering how the minifigures get higher. The same dollhouse effect of the Great Hall is employed here letting us see the potions room, artifact room and Dumbledore’s office in the upper levels of the tower. Dumbledore’s office is also a temporary resting place for the mirror of Erised. When placed in its holder it hides the inside of Dumbledore’s office and Fawkes the phoenix, something that might be for the better, but this can easily be removed to show the interior. As the walls use curved panel pieces there are minimal bricks used and thus detailing can be difficult. To get around this the designers make use of masonry stickers that are stuck on these panels to simulate brick. For all the detail that went into the Great Hall it is a shame that stickers were used here, however with cost in mind LEGO did the best they could to add details. What is brick built however is the rounded roof. The roof itself is creatively built, just like with other Harry Potter sets and makes use of slope pieces and angle tiles to give a curved effect that is detailed with roof tiles through use of studs, wedges and tiles.
When it is all put together and filled with figures the great Hall is bustling with life and details. Yes, there are shortcoming in design decisions and repetition, but when we turn it around we can see that no matter what angle you look at this set from it is full of energy, detail and picturesque. Using the spare parts available in this set I created a mount that allows Nearly Headless Nick to fly above the students in the Great Hall and fit all the figures in for their great feast. The combination of sharp edges, spires, slopes, points and curves add a variety of detail to this set and really captures the look of a castle.
To add texture and keep costs lower the designers opted to print a variety of stickers rather than use printed parts in this set. The stickers in this set are mostly used for the Mirror of Erised, with an entire sheet being used just for this model. The remaining stickers in the set are used for banners or to add brick texture to the curved panels. The stickers used for the mirror are printed on glossy reflective sticker paper which creases easily so be careful when placing these stickers as you want to get it right the first time to avoid damage.
Aside from the aesthetically appeasing structure a big stand out point of this set are the included minifigures. This set contains 10 minifigures. A large number despite being a large set. The figures are split into five students and five adults. The selection of figures is chosen carefully to include a large number of major characters from the movie, allowing us to have a full cast of important characters just by buying one set.
Of the included students we have the main three, Harry, Ron and Hermione along with Draco and a new character, Susan Bones. Each of these characters come in house sweaters colored appropriately for their houses. The Gryffindor sweater is a common piece used amongst many sets but the Slytherin and Hufflepuff sweater are unique to this set, making it difficult to make a lot of custom students as the prices will be high. The Ravenclaw sweater torso piece is not included in this set but was included in the collectible minifigure line. The figures each come with two faces so should you want to change their expression you simply need to turn their head around.
Alongside the main students this set contains four teachers and a ghost. These being Professor Dumbledore (portrayed by Richard Harris), Professor McGonagall, Hagrid, Professor Quirrel and the ghost of Nearly Headless Nick. As we can see, the selection of adults in this set is great, covering many of the main characters. The Hagrid figure included in this set makes use of a new mold to make the figure larger and unlike previous iterations the designers opted to go back to the traditional LEGO hands for Hagrid rather than using custom hands that included fingers. Funnily the Hagrid figure uses half sized minifigure legs to ensure his height is accurate, something that felt odd when putting together but works when done. The Quirrel minifigure in this set is a great upgrade over the only other version of this figure released in 2001, with a grotesque Voldemort as his alternate face. A very nice print that accurately captures the character. My favorite of the minifigures is the Nearly Headless Nick minifigure. Not only does this minifigure accurately capture the facial expressions of John Cleese, but the torso and legs are printed in a shiny silver color giving this figure a nice gloss. Each of the figures are printed both with front and back printing in intricate detail for their faces, legs and torso.
If you were to pick up this set alone you would already have almost all of the main teachers that are available in the Harry Potter line, with the exception of the teachers in the collectible minifigure line. An alternative way to pick up a bunch of these figures is through #75964 LEGO Harry Potter Advent Calendar. A review for which can be found here.
For all the rave that is the structure and the minifigures the biggest downfall of this set in my opinion has to be the animals. This set comes with two molded animals: an owl and a rat, and two brick-built animals: a Basilisk and a Phoenix. Even though I don’t prefer the decision to switch to brick-built animals, the designers did their best to capture the essence of both creatures. This was probably done to keep costs low and to add an additional build experience within the set this set. Nonethess, they are disappointing compared to molded animals.
The original molded Fawkes the Phoenix produced in 2002 still holds up well to date, however coming in at over $20 we may just need to settle with the brick-built rendition included in this set. If you think Fawkes the Phoenix looks out of place, you really won’t like the Basilisk. The segmented body, size and color look out of place in this set; I wouldn’t have recognize this as the Basilisk if it wasn’t explicitly called out to me. Just like with the 2002 version of Fawkes, the 2002 Basilisk from the Chamber of Secrets set also included a molded Basilisk that is much more recognizable. When compared side-by-side, the molded creatures are clearly superior.
I would have preferred removing the brick-built creatures and lowering the cost by $5-$10. The Basilisk is a particularly strange addition to this set as there is no Chamber of Secrets in sight. Instead, they should create a new Chamber of Secrets set, since we have not seen one in nearly two decades!