The Frosty Review

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View image at flickr

This article has been written by guest contributor Jason "Joefish" Railton:

In England, we have a quirk of historical climate to thank for the Victorian dream of a white Christmas, with thick snow all around to sleigh through and make jolly magical snowmen. Then there's Greg Lake's 'I Believe in Father Christmas' on the radio each year to remind us that it usually just keeps on raining.

So while a few might still 'look to the sky with excited eyes', I ask if 'the snowmen we get we deserve'...


So, Christmas has come and gone and for many of us, the snow has yet to arrive - if it ever will. But at least now, while we shoo those last partridges from the pear trees, I won't be spoiling anyone's advent calendars. Much. You see, we find a new attempt at a snowman every year in our advent calendars, and each time there's that feeling that they still haven't quite cracked it yet. Let's take a look and see if there's anything we can do to help.

Now I'm not talking about brick-built snowmen; last year's 40093 Snowman was delightful, as was his reindeer friend (you see, those close-together eyes can work, but only on a chunky figure). And we've seen some great polybag snowmen too. But when it comes to making ones small enough for our minifigures to play with, the record is not so good. Let's begin with a look at the most recent offerings from the 2016 advent calendars.


CITY gives us one with convincing stick arms and a scarf frozen in the horizontal position, but an oddly angular base and narrow body with over-hanging head. The lack of carrot nose, or any facial features, will be seen to be a common theme. The shiny helmet is a nice rare part, but casting a man of ice as fighter of fires seems oddly inconsiderate.

Friends gives us something more akin to a train driver - though again, standing on a hot footplate seems a short-lived career choice for our frosty friend. To further the image he almost appears to be made from train parts himself - a boiler for a base and linkages for arms. A more worrying explanation, that those are indeed skeleton legs, does not bear thinking about.

Lastly for this year, Star Wars gives us a comedic offering. We have a realistic rounded body with narrower head - I shall assume that's a real helmet rather than question the integrity of fashioning one from snow. We also have a nose! Though a red chilli pepper substitutes for a carrot. But ultimately, a fully armed and operational battle snowman might hardly be trusted to play nicely with the children.


So, have past advent calendars been any better? Well, not really. Past CITY calendars have given us these disturbing constructs - taller than minifigures and with oddly configured arms (in 2008, 2009 and 2010). The first wields a broomstick in an aggressive manner, as if chasing off the very children who made him. The second, though having a pleasing minifigure scarf, features oddly grey parts and has been run-through with a broom handle. Perhaps this is some superstitious act to prevent him springing to life at the stroke of midnight, or from flying to the North Pole to meet Santa without filing a proper flight plan with Air Traffic Control, but it just seems cruel. The third features eerily skeletal arms, but at least has a wilted orange carrot for a nose. Now one must respect the capital sporting of top-hats all-round, but overall, these sinister conical designs just jog too many memories of Dalek invasions past.


CITY has given us some slightly more structurally sound snowmen with domed bases in 2014 and 2015, yet the first sports a bowler hat more in the manner of a thuggish bodyguard than a city gent, and has again been run-through with a pole. His companion uses sticks for arms, has a more gentrified scarf and hat, but is made taller by the odd inclusion of a black plate. The narrow bodies and overhanging heads (with no noses) are still notable failings. Perhaps Friends can do better?


Well, in Friends calendars (2012, 2015), the Heartlake City-Girls seem to prefer to decorate their snowmen with flowers rather than scarves. The first model seems a little better than those CITY ones, yet the second seems spoiled by an attempt to make the mid-section rounder. From the front view, that disc succeeds, but an angular view spoils the effect. Again, no noses.


Back in 2012, CITY gave us this more life-like chap. Perhaps uncannily so for some tastes, with his lifelike arms but cold, faceless, erm, face. Although maybe this is a minifigure in disguise, standing perfectly still to jump out and surprise passers by. Then crying "It's only a prank! It's only a prank!" when they report him to the police. Maybe the 70s hands-in-pockets torso would be better. But here we see the problem with the LEGO carrot - the attachment point is at the narrow end, so fitting it to a snowman leaves the fat end sticking out - as if he has some sort of trumpet for a nose.

Friends, in 2013, gave us a Mary-Poppins inspired cheeky scamp of a chimney sweep in snow - the domed base, scarf and mauve woolly hat giving him a friendly appearance. Though the gripping hands seem a little uncanny. Like some sort of animatronic robot rather than a simple child's effigy of snow and twigs.


And lastly, some guest appearances. Whether this is a snow-droid or a repainted R2-D2 has been a matter of debate since his appearance in 2012. But the printed carrot actuator arms are commendable nevertheless. Now Olaf has not appeared in an advent calendar, but can hardly be ignored. This is perhaps the best way his character could be realised - the moulded head is nicely detailed but leaves him top-heavy. He does bring us one generous gift - the unicorn horn in orange is an ideal 'inverted carrot' nose, and the 41066 Sleigh Adventure gives us several of this part.

So, in conclusion, LEGO's minifigure snowmen have been weighed, and have been measured, and have been found - well, a bit rubbish, really. Sorry, but in my most humble opinion, we have yet to see their masters of design master this particular seasonal regular. Surely someone could at least design a printed snowman face, with orange carrot nose and coal eyes and mouth? It could be re-used every year to improve many of the designs we've looked over.

But in the end, I'm only a critic, and the life of the critic is all too easily refuted with an accusatory "I'd like to see you do better". So, here then, is my offering to the wintry world of LEGO - a glimmer of joy for your minifigures in this cold season. An original snowman model for the wonderful readers of Brickset.

Happy Building to all. And to LEGO? Bring on 2017!

View image at flickr

 

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36 comments on this article

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By in Norway,

I never realized how many snowmen Lego actually made

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By in Australia,

Fantastic article! Will definitely be trying out your design with the Christmas village next year. Well done and many thanks

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By in Australia,

Oh thank you, I have thoroughly enjoyed this article!! And I do like your snowman, he is definitely a cut above the rest!! A printed snowman face would be fantastic, as would a beanie with a pom pom on top :-)

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By in United Kingdom,

Great article, Jason! Very amusing :-)
I think your snowman is the best of the bunch, for sure.
I might have used brown droid arms as snowmen often have arms made from twigs.

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By in Netherlands,

You forgot the snowmen from 10199 and 10249!

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By in Germany,

Great article. I like your snow man a lot, but sorry: the best design is still to come.

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By in United Kingdom,

^ They are just as appalling as the others!

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By in Australia,

I don't know. Maybe a brick-built snowman is just one of those things that's hard to do in the medium of angular plastic construction pieces?

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By in Denmark,

Wow, what a well-written article!!!

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By in United States,

This is a great article both in style and in subject.
For some reason, I remembered a snow man built with a skeleton minifig head, but after checking, I think that's something I just happened to see (that was really unsettling).

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By in United States,

Oh you guys are just being too overly critical. With an advent calendar, that custom snowman could never be made with all those instructions on that tiny card. I've never really had a problem with the snowman I got in 40124, and I even made one of the "appalling" kinds like from 10199 and 10249 back in 2013: https://www.flickr.com/photos/mclegoboy/11465286023/in/dateposted/

But you know, I'll also destroy my argument by saying that I live in Florida. I'd be grateful if I got the ability to make any kind of snowman, even if it looked like what you guys are complaining about.

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By in United Kingdom,

great seasonal article Huw!

12th paragraph down spelled "snowman" as "snomman" by mistake

However, I did get a good chuckle reading the word "snomman" out aloud, so if I were you I might consider leaving it spelt incorrectly :D

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By in United Kingdom,

Thanks for the great comments - I wasn't sure if my style would be appreciated! It is all meant in good humour, as the advent calendars do have limited parts counts and LEGO's designers do work wonders - usually ;-)

@merman - well spotted. I did stick to advent calendars so I missed the snowman in the Winter Toyshop(s). I shall duly pass the blame back to a failure of tagging in Brickset! Those snowmen do have a dome base and a disc front and back, which looks like a stack of large rolled snowballs, but still look very precariously balanced. And why the grey at the bottom? And the publicity image for 10249 shows an entirely separate minifigure holding the carrot nose!

@omnium - that part doesn't exist in brown, but you're definitely onto something. Anyone with the 2013 Star Wars Calendar should have two dark brown arms on their pilot droid, which I may swap in on future snowmen! But I thought I was already pushing it for rarer parts with the orange horn piece. A regular carrot for a nose is quite amusing on this guy, but an orange or red claw / chilli pepper works OK. You can clip the arms on the other way up, or one up and one down if you like, to make him more expressive.

@Peanuts - what do you know that we don't? ;-)

@mr_piggle - that jogs a memory too. I wonder if anyone else can track down any appearance of a snowman with a skeleton face? It may not have been an official LEGO set, perhaps someone's MOC?

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By in Singapore,

Missing a few polybag snowmans!

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By in United Kingdom,

^ The article just considers minifig-scale ones...

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By in Austria,

Thank you for the article, I was wondering what all the different snowmen looked like.

Is there any particular reason for using black arms on your snowman?
It seems the white variant of that part is way more common.

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By in United Kingdom,

@recce - There are quite a few polybag and Christmas special snowmen builds and sets, and they're often pretty good! But they're all far too big to put next to minifigures.

I mentioned Olaf but not Marshmallow nor the tiny snowmen in the new Ice Palace. They have printed faces, but not traditional snowman ones. I also missed the rather odd one in the 40222 Build-Up set , and 2015's asymmetric snowman in 40124 Winter Fun. Perhaps someone has being doing some extra tagging lately?

I will admit I've just found one which I quite like.
http://brickset.com/sets/FR561512-1/Winter-Fun
Not too tall, fairly stable in construction, and you could maybe stick a minifig scarf on him instead of a flower. A printed face and he'd be great!

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By in United Kingdom,

@DoomedACE, snowman arms are traditionally made from twigs so brown would be better but the part hasn't been made in regular brown, and dark brown ones are uncommon as @joefish stated above.

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By in United States,

A very entertaining article, though now I have Greg Lake’s ode to Christmas stuck in my head. I really enjoy articles like this that compare elements from various Lego sets over the years. I do like your version (especially the head). However, I think I prefer the 3-tiered design as in 10249, and the use of the brown twigs for arms. Happily, that is the joy of Lego, as each of us can design our own version to suit our fancy.

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By in United States,

Great read. Mine are huddled together in one corner of the Holiday display.

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By in United States,

I like the ones that use minifigure parts, or the ones with round domes as a base and a scarf.

However I did once build a 9.5 foot snowman so taller than a minifigure is okay. :)

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By in United Kingdom,

@Joefish
There was me thinking they were common and that I had loads :-)
I just looked and I only have two in my spares tray, probably from #75002 (released in 2013) or more likely, the 2013 Star Wars advent calendar.
This year's City Advent calendar contains 4, and in other 2016 sets, there are 3 in 75823 Angry Birds Egg Heist and 1 in 41173 Elvendale School of Dragons.
Still, it's a nice design with black or brown.
And I reckon you could make a really fat one with one of these domes :-D
http://brickset.com/parts/4655282

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By in Hungary,

I always wondered how many snowmen are there, so this is a great article!
Your design is the best, and I think it could fit into an AC window. And it has 23 pieces if my counting is right, which is O.K.

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By in United Kingdom,

@tomahawker - in further reference to Greg Lake, the original text in the intro was 'the snowmen we get we deserve'! But I guess it sounds a bit peculiar if you don't really know the song so I think it got chopped by the sub-editor... Huw! ;-)

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By in United Kingdom,

^^ You are right, it made no sense to me so I reworded it!

Now that it does I'll change it.

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By in United Kingdom,

Does Snow Chewbacca count? Or the CMF Yeti.

And as regular minifigures don't have noses, surely the correct way of doing a LEGO snowman is also noseless!

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By in United Kingdom,

@Merrick - well spotted! Voodoo snowmen! Or 'Baron Snowmedi'? Please yourselves...
Those simple 2x2 round columns with a dome on top work perfectly well as snowmen. And we now have a round brick with technic holes in the sides, so a white one could have twigs stuck in it for arms. You'd need either white technic half-pins, or white apollo plates to adapt the holes down to the right size. Or you could push those new minifig hand-held studs into the holes and clip a droid arm on to the hand-grips. But again, you really need a printed head to finish it.

I do love the scarecrow in that set though.

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By in United States,

Great article! I think overall I like the Friends advent calendar snowmen over the CITY ones. Yours is quite good!

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By in United States,

Such a funny article! Very well done!

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By in United Kingdom,

Great read, I came up with what I think is a quite elegant solution for a simple minifig scale snowman, Same domed base as usual, A red 1x1 round plate, White minifig head then whatever hat you prefer, Shame I couldn't think of a way to add arms but its a simple solution.

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By in Norway,

This was really funny, and the snowman well designed!

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By in United States,

Nice article. Made me laugh.

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By in United States,

This is awesome, I liked the asthromech a lot.

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By in United States,

@Merrick Thank you! My memory feels so validated right now (which it desperately needs because it's all fogged from a cold). I knew I'd seen those scary snowmen somewhere outside my nightmares. ;P

I do wish they'd just print up a snowman head, since snowmen are in at least two sets annually.

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By in Canada,

Great article. I made an advent calendar for my kids this year and made the same observations whilst researching models!

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