More than seventy Harry Potter sets have been produced since 2001, depicting a broad range of different locations and vehicles from throughout the series. However, 75953 Hogwarts Whomping Willow is focused upon a new scene as Harry and Ron begin their second year at Hogwarts, having travelled to the school using a Flying Ford Anglia which belongs to Arthur Weasley.
This journey is one of my favourite moments from the entire Harry Potter series so I have been looking forward to this set very much. Not only does it include the Whomping Willow and the Ford Anglia but the set also comes with a large section of Hogwarts Castle that can connect to 75954 Hogwarts Great Hall. The selection of minifigures is very appealing as well, hence my considerable excitement for this set!
This version of Harry Potter is exclusive and sports a lovely plaid jacket over a sand blue shirt, matching that in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. The jacket's red, dark red and dark blue colour scheme looks great and I love the intricate texture of Harry's new hair piece. His lightning-shaped scar is visible through a parting in the hair while the minifigure's head features a frightened expression on one side and a nice smile on the other.
Ron Weasley is also dressed in casual clothes for his journey to Hogwarts, wearing a knitted jumper with white stripes on both sides. The tiny frayed details on the jumper are lovely and I love Ron's double-sided head which features smiling and scared expressions as well as some freckles. His dark orange hair piece looks brilliant too and the minifigure comes with a reddish brown wand. Harry, meanwhile, carries a dark brown wand.
Two more Gryffindor students are also included, the first of whom is Hermione Granger. This minifigure is excellent, featuring a brand new hair piece which is exceptionally detailed and looks absolutely perfect when compared with the film. Her dark bluish grey jumper and striped tie look great too and I am quite satisfied with Hermione's two faces, although a frustrated expression might have been more appropriate than this terrified one.
Seamus Finnigan has not appeared in any previous Harry Potter sets so I am delighted to see him here, wearing a standard Gryffindor jumper and black trousers. His double-sided head includes happy and sad expressions which are fine but I would have preferred an alternative face featuring some soot, reflecting Seamus' tendency to cause explosions when attempting spells. His spiky hair piece certainly captures that aspect of the character! Hermione and Seamus are both equipped with dark tan wands.
The brand new Professor Snape minifigure definitely captures the character's severe disposition. His double-sided head features an angry grimace on one side and a frown on the other, with one eyebrow raised in frustration. In addition, this black hair piece appears suitably greasy and closely matches the professor's appearance during the movies.
Snape wears particularly heavy robes so I am somewhat disappointed that he does not include a fabric cape here. I like the printing on his torso and legs though, featuring a black jacket over a lovely purple shirt. The designs line up nicely across separate elements and the figure looks good when compared with the source material, despite lacking a proper cloak. The intimidating Potions Master comes with a black wand.
Argus Filch may not be a member of Hogwarts teaching staff but he plays a significant role throughout the series, often coming into conflict with Harry and his friends as they break school rules. Remarkably, this is only his second minifigure and it compares very favourably with the earlier rendition from 2010's 4842 Hogwarts Castle. Filch's dark bluish grey jacket and striped waistcoat look great and I like the metallic silver keys hanging from his belt, although dual-moulded legs would be preferable to this printed pair.
However, the minifigure's hair piece is certainly its greatest strength. This element was originally created for William Shakespeare in The LEGO Movie Collectable Minifigures but it suits Argus Filch perfectly, representing the thinning hair on top of his head as well as the bushier areas at the back and sides. Both of his facial expressions look brilliant too as one conveys the caretaker's mistrustful nature while the other appears rather malevolent. Filch comes with a pearl dark grey lantern but his cat, Mrs Norris, is not included.
The Completed Model
Arthur Weasley's flying car, an enchanted Ford Anglia 105E Deluxe, has appeared at minifigure-scale in two previous sets from entirely different eras. 4728 Escape from Privet Drive was released in 2002 while 4841 Hogwarts Express came out in 2010 and I think both previous models were superb, given their respective ages. However, this version is better than either of its predecessors. The designer has definitely captured the Ford Anglia's distinctive shape and its medium blue colour scheme is absolutely perfect.
The car measures 11cm in length so would not look out of place beside a modern LEGO CITY vehicle. I love the 1x6 wheel arch that forms a curved radiator grille at the front and the trans-yellow headlights look lovely, matching the film closely. The number plates at either end of the model are equally faithful to the source material and pearl silver elements are used along the bumper so complement the wheel hubs.
Past models of the Ford Anglia have been unable to capture the shape of its wheel arches but this one looks fantastic from either side, making use of an unusual building technique as the 1x1 slopes in front of the forward wheels are laid upside down on tiles. This structure is then locked into place using a few plates over the top. The wing mirrors are correctly positioned and I like the doors which are printed with a white band to match the stripes on the car.
There is space for two minifigures with short legs inside, with one standing at the steering wheel while the other is placed behind the driver. Left and right seats would have been ideal but this is an excellent alternative and you could stand the two minifigures in offset positions. Furthermore, the interior is easily accessible as you can remove the entire roof and the rear windscreen in a single section, as shown below.
I love the trans-orange and trans-red lights at the rear of the vehicle, as well as the boot between them. Another number plate if placed here and the boot opens smoothly on a hinge, revealing luggage space for two reddish brown suitcases. The angled pillars beside the rear windscreen are the only area of the model which looks slightly awkward to me, although they approximate the shape of the real car and it would be difficult to improve upon this design. Nevertheless, I am very pleased with the new Flying Ford Anglia!
The Whomping Willow has not appeared in a LEGO Harry Potter set before and looks marvellous here, measuring just over 18cm in height. Its dark brown and reddish brown colour scheme works nicely and is accented with a few elements in various shades of green which feel quite realistic. Four dark brown tendrils are wrapped around the gnarled trunk and these look great, lining up beautifully with some stickers on the half cylinder pieces underneath.
A hidden passageway leading to the Shrieking Shack is situated at the base of the Whomping Willow and its entrance can be found on this model. There is just enough room to fit a minifigure through this orifice and the tree is built on a 10x10 octagonal plate with a hole at its centre, allowing you to raise the Whomping Willow and construct a passage underneath. I hope the Shrieking Shack itself will appear in a future wave of Wizarding World sets.
This dangerous plant will attack absolutely anything that strays within reach of its branches so includes a dial at the base to control the Whomping Willow's rotating branches. The simple Technic mechanism is quite well hidden and it works perfectly, causing the four branches to rotate. You can also articulate the limbs individually as they are connected to the trunk using ball joints and the smaller branches at the ends of the boughs can be twisted too.
The articulated branches provide plenty of support for the Flying Ford Anglia, allowing you to recreate its crash landing in the tree from Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I think the two models look fantastic on display together, although the green flower stems plugged into the limbs are often knocked out of position. I would therefore be inclined to remove these stems altogether as I think the Whomping Willow looks equally impressive without them.
Despite its name, most of the 753 pieces found in 75953 Hogwarts Whomping Willow are dedicated to a section of Hogwarts Castle. This structure is larger than I was anticipating, measuring just over 35cm wide and 27cm in height. Its colour scheme of tan and dark bluish grey matches 75954 Hogwarts Great Hall exactly and I like the differing heights of the model, reflecting Hogwarts' rather chaotic appearance in the film series.
Medium nougat masonry bricks are sprinkled across the walls and a few stickers are used to add some extra detail, where necessary. These angular walls look superb and I like the hinges which connect the main tower to its shorter neighbour. Several light and dark bluish grey slopes form rocks at the base of the structure and this area of the castle also features four green leaves which are only available in this colour in one other set!
The enchanted Ford Anglia drives away and enters the Forbidden Forest, following its encounter with the Whomping Willow. This section of Hogwarts accordingly includes an archway for the car to escape the Training Grounds, where the Whomping Willow is situated during Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets. I love the textured roof on a tower above the archway and the walls continue to look brilliant, although a couple of flaming torches could have been included for even greater accuracy to the film.
Unlike 75954 Hogwarts Great Hall, this set is not intended to recreate a particular section of Hogwarts Castle. It instead focuses upon Harry and Ron's arrival at the school for their second year so includes Professor Snape's office, where the students are taken after Filch discovers them entering the castle. The office includes two portraits on the walls alongside shelves of mysterious potions and a golden candle stand.
Snape's desk includes an inkwell and two printed tiles, one of which features the Wingardium Leviosa charm while the other shows a headline from the Daily Prophet. The pearl gold lamp makes ingenious use of a dark bluish grey wheel at its centre so looks magnificent and I like the two lanterns hanging on the wall. The area above Professor Snape's office is simply an open walkway with some crenellations along its front.
A large potions classroom is located on the other side of the archway. This is extensively furnished with further shelves and a dark brown barrel containing a broom. A small container in the wall holds a green frog which might also be identified as Trevor, Neville Longbottom's toad who frequently wanders off on adventures throughout the castle! The pillar at the centre of this room looks great and I like the vaulted ceilings as well.
Even more potions are stacked on rows of shelves in the next chamber. I am impressed with the angled shelving units that make efficient use of the available octagonal space and the paintings on the walls look fantastic. I do not believe these depict characters from the Wizarding World, in which case they are probably based upon members of the design team. Another candle is placed on the table in the middle of the classroom beside two pearl dark grey cauldrons, one of which appears to be exploding with a trans-neon green flash!
The next floor includes the Gryffindor dormitory where Harry and Ron sleep. This feels completely out of place above the Potions classrooms but it offers great play value and is decorated with a Gryffindor banner, represented by a sticker, on the wall. The beds are reasonably small but fit a figure with short legs comfortably and the candle between the two beds looks good. While a more substantial rendition of the Gryffindor dormitory would have been welcome, I do like this compact version.
Most of the towers found across Hogwarts Castle include conical roofs and there are few rooms which can occupy such a small space. The Owlery is a perfect solution, including a perch for Hedwig as well as a quill and a blank piece of white parchment. It would have been nice to see another owl in this set as only two different variants are included across the entire Wizarding World range and Hedwig looks rather lonely by herself.
The four structures which make up this section of Hogwarts are connected using Technic pins so they can be rearranged easily. Moreover, you can link this model to 75954 Hogwarts Great Hall, creating a much larger building which is shown in the image below. The two sets were almost certainly designed together, albeit not necessarily by the same designer, so they look marvellous from the exterior when combined. The interior layout is less cohesive as the floor heights are different and the rotating steps inside the Marble Staircase are obstructed by a lamp in the potions classroom. This can be removed very easily though.
While the above configuration is the only one shown in the instructions, you can also connect 75953 Hogwarts Whomping Willow to its larger counterpart at the opposite end of the Great Hall. This does not work as well in my opinion as it does not exhibit the most appealing aspects of 75954 Hogwarts Great Hall. Even so, I am glad of the alternative.
The new Wizarding World theme continues to impress! I love the Flying Ford Anglia in Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets and am very satisfied with this model of the famous car. The Whomping Willow looks wonderful too and its rotating function is enjoyable, although a couple more branches would have been welcome and its reliance upon stickers across the tree trunk may bother some LEGO fans.
Furthermore, I like this section of Hogwarts Castle. Its authentic tan and medium nougat walls match those in 75954 Hogwarts Great Hall and the interior is richly detailed, despite there being only limited space available for furnishing. The minifigures are excellent too and the price of £59.99 in the UK or $69.99 in the US seem fairly reasonable, maintaining the good value which is evident across the entire Wizarding World range. I would therefore have no hesitation in recommending this set.
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This set was provided for review by The LEGO Group but the review is an expression of my own opinions.