One year on from the initial launch of the Friends range and my own favourable opinion of City Park Cafe 3061, Heartlake has now expanded to include various buildings such as a marina, vet’s office, large stables, among others. After a summer focusing heavily on equestrian activities, the third wave of sets, featuring a broader range of themes, was released on 26 December.
I’ve kindly been asked to write another review for Brickset; this time of 41007, Heartlake Pet Salon, which is a mid-sized set priced at £29.99/$29.99 and has 242 pieces and two ‘mini-dolls’.
As you can see from the pictures below, the Friends boxes have retained their distinctive rounded sides, though the design of the five Friends at the top-right has been updated since the initial launch. As is usual, the front of the box shows the finished model with all minifigures while the back emphasises the multitude of accessories that are included with the set.
The parts are divided into two bags, and the box also contains two unbagged large light blue plates, one instruction manual and a small sheet of stickers.
There is a wide range of colours in this set, including some plates in one of my own favourite colours dark (or earth) blue, and it contains a few rare parts: arch brick 1 x 3 x 2 with curved top, modified brick 1 x 4 x 1 1/3 no studs, curved top, and round corner brick 3 x 3 x 2 dome top, all in magenta; 1 x 1 plate and slope 30, 1 x 2 x 2/3, in bright pink; brick 1 x 2 x 5 in aqua (yes, aqua despite my inexpert photography!); and finally a rather nice white round sign.
The two mini-dolls are Emma (one of the five main characters), in dark blue top and pink skirt, and Joanna, in a magenta and orange ensemble. Joanna’s braided hair is unique to this set and includes the usual hole for adding a hair decoration. Also included in this set is a very cute little white poodle, obviously the ideal customer at the Heartlake pet salon. I’ve lost count of all the new animals that have been introduced with the Friends range – some are ridiculously twee but this poodle counts among my favourites along with the hedgehog, squirrel and turtle.
The build is not difficult and does not really include any interesting techniques. At the end of bag 1, the structure of the building is complete and is surprisingly sturdy.
The parts in bag 2 add the interior details to the set. The finished model includes a grooming area (with a plume of dark blue grey feathers, which judging by a picture on the back of the box are supposed to represent scissors!), a display of cute pet foods, a stand filled with pet accessories, a till counter and a small bath.
I have to admit to feeling rather lukewarm about this set, though I am finding it hard to put my finger on why exactly. Visually, I find the colour scheme a little jarring; the mix of aqua, magenta, dark blue and bright pink is just one colour too many for me, so I may well replace the aqua parts with white instead. Also, the set seems to lack a well-defined function. As a pet salon, I expected the grooming area to be larger and more detailed (maybe my expectations were wrong – I’ve never been in this kind of establishment!) and yet half the interior was more along the lines of a pet shop. I also think the inclusion of another animal would help to improve the playability, so that each character could take care of an animal.
I placed this set alongside two earlier Friends sets in roughly the same price point (3061 and 3817) and in a similar style, with the glass frontage and curved roof, and in my opinion the pet salon came out the loser in terms of aesthetic appeal and charm and character.
In both earlier sets, the colours seem to complement one another better and the buildings have a clearer identity and function, which I think is absent in the pet salon. In conclusion, I think 41007 may well be the weakest set in this wave of Friends, and possibly one of the weakest of the theme so far. However, other sets from the current wave have continued to impress me (e.g. 41001, 41002) and I am looking forward to the summer releases (in particular 41005 and 41006), so I think the Friends line as a whole is still going strong and will continue to be a success.
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