Review: LEGO Forma 81000 Koi

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View image at flickr

LEGO Forma is a new initiative for the company: an experiment in crowdfunding, on the Indiegogo platform. The first project launched last September and a total of 6,674 'perks' were claimed before it ended in November.

I believe the general idea of launching a product in this way was that the company hoped to attract people who would not normally think of buying a LEGO set for themselves and who haven't touched a brick since they were kids: young trendy creative types, perhaps. How many were actually bought by those new to the product and how many by seasoned AFOLs, I don't know...

Essentially, the perks were a LEGO set of an animatronic fish, 81000 Koi, plus three skin packs that wrap around the mechanism in the main set to create other species.

My perk, the super box containing the main set plus the three add-on skins, arrived this morning, so I hereby bring you one of the first reviews on the 'net...


Box and contents

The super box consist of 81000 Koi, plus 81001 Shark Skin, 81002 Splash Koi Skin and 81003 Ink Koi Skin which come in thin envelopes.

View image at flickr

The flip-top box of 81000 Koi's will be familiar to those of you that have Architecture or Ideas sets

View image at flickr

The design is plain and simple and in fact the back is virtually blank.

View image at flickr

Inside are the parts, two die-cut plastic sheets, the instructions and a thank you note.

View image at flickr

The set contains about 280 pieces which come packed in three bags. As you can see they are 95% Technic.

View image at flickr


Parts

The project made a big deal about the design and production of the one new part in the set, this pin designed to hold the skin sheets in place. In reality, it's just another new piece, no different to the hundreds of others that are produced each year.

View image at flickr

The skin is printed on fairly thick plastic sheets so the individual parts are sturdy and crease-resistant once removed from them.

One sheet is printed on both sides:

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

The other just on one. The die cutting is crisp and precise and all the parts can be removed easily, although care needs to be taken around the intricate edges to avoid damage.

View image at flickr


Construction

With just 274 pieces it's a quick and easy build to those that are familiar with Technic but to those that are perhaps seeing Technic pieces for the first time -- the intended audience -- it'll probably take a bit longer while they become familiar with the parts and how they connect.

View image at flickr

The base consists of a simple, clever and compact gearbox that converts rotation of the silver handle into a 'wiggling' motion. The tan gear at the front of mechanism in the picture below is pivoted so that when rotating the handle anti-clockwise it engages with a gear underneath and wiggles the top, while rotating it clockwise does nothing.

View image at flickr

The fish's skeleton is built as a sub assembly before connecting it to the base.

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

Stating at the tail, the plastic skin pieces are wrapped around and connected to the skeleton using the new pins. It's all very straightforward and actually very satisfying seeing the fish take shape.

View image at flickr


The completed model

Once the skin has been wrapped round the body a few hinged parts are added at the bottom to attach the pectoral and pelvic fins.

From the the left side, it looks fantastic.

View image at flickr

It doesn't look bad from the right-side, either, although the pieces behind the dorsal fin spoil it a bit.

View image at flickr

As you rotate the handle to wiggle the fish large holes are exposed in the side which isn't ideal but unavoidable.

View image at flickr

View image at flickr

View image at flickr


Video

A picture paints a thousand words, they say, and in the case of this set, a video paints a thousand pictures, so here it is in motion:


Add-on skins

The add-on skin packs contain two printed plastic sheets, a small instruction book and, usefully, a bag of the new pins. This means that, should you wish, you could build copies of the main model from parts in your collection -- apart from a few re-colours there's nothing rare in it -- and have all four fish on display.

Splash Koi:

View image at flickr

Shark:

View image at flickr

Ink koi. You are encouraged to colour this in yourself. You'd need Sharpies or similar markers to do so, though.

View image at flickr


Verdict

I've always been a big Technic fan, but the endless stream of vehicles in the regular product lineup gets very boring when you've been collecting it as long as I have.

It's refreshing, then, that the system is being used to create something a bit more original, imaginative and appealing than things on wheels or with wings.

So, I think this is a fantastic set, which I hope will be the first of many. Will it appeal to the young trendy creative types LEGO is targeting? Maybe. It will depend on whether they were expecting a 'traditional' LEGO experience. To the uninitiated there's nothing obviously LEGO about this but I'm not sure if that's a good thing or not. It's certainly a great introduction to Technic and simple mechanisms and it will make a great conversation piece on their desks.

View image at flickr

Unfortunately, if you didn't back the project you won't be able to get hold of this except from scalpers listing it on eBay and BrickLink. Expect to pay more than they paid, which was $88 / £64 for the super box, $46 / £36 for the core set. In fact, expect to pay a lot more: some opportunistic sellers are hoping to achieve upwards of £500 on eBay.co.uk already!

We'll bring you pictures of the other species soon.


This set was purchased with my own money so as always all opinions expressed are my own.

46 comments on this article

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By in United States,

You know, at first I was a bit skeptical of this theme, but I guess it’s not such a bad idea. It’s different from anything they’ve done before—that’s for sure. I don’t know for sure if I’ll get one, but I’ll definitely give it some thought.

That price though... hopefully it will be cheaper if they release it on a wider scale. I’ll just have to wait till then thus decrees my wallet.

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By in United Kingdom,

Great review! The shark will look superb on display next to garmadon Garmadon GARMADON

Please put this on general release soon, LEGO... Your fans deserve it.

EDIT: the prices on eBay are already sickening. Scumbags.

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By in Netherlands,

The model is irrevocably great, but not for this price. A very hard pass for all but the most dedicated fans (and fortune souls with deep wallets), I reckon.

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By in Canada,

"Arrived this morning"!! Thanks for getting a review out so quickly, Huw! As this is project is really quite different, I think it's great -- shows the versatility of the medium.

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By in United States,

Sigh, what a great model, too bad I’ll probably never afford the eBay prices. I do hope they release it worldwide

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By in United States,

It looks good but isn't really my type of set.

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By in Singapore,

Something about the virtually blank back (or underside?) of the box with just a simple, understated "Add a splash of creativity to your day." really resonates with me. On the other hand, it feels a little too much like Apple for my tastes.

Unfortunately I was unable to back this product, but I would have loved to have this with the shark skin. At least I still have my sand blue shark from #4506-1 and plan to pick up #31088-1 in a future purchase.

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By in United Kingdom,

Some unscrupulous individual has listed one for £900 on eBay #greed

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By in Iceland,

That video just changed my mind on this. That swimming function looks perfect.

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By in Germany,

I really like the idea and the execution of this. When I was a kid I also made a kinetic model of a fish with Technic parts and cutout bits of light cardboard I painted myself. Quite similar to this actucally, although of course the mechanism was much less sophisticated.

As for those prices on ebay. I can't really imagine anyone would pay the scalpers' prices. I mean, no offense, but anyone doing would be a total idiot. Like Huw said, there's nothing special about the parts themselves, apart from the new pins, and I guarantee you those will make appearances in official sets in future.

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By in United Kingdom,

regret not 'crowdfunding' this last year now.....

wonder if they'll do something similar again in the future with crowd funding?

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By in Serbia,

Very interesting set for sure, thanks for the review, Huw! Now I wonder if LEGO is testing this crowdsourcing/crowdfunding thing for a future project? Just remembered the AFOL Designer Program too, which is based on a similar idea, I'm curious what will be the outcome of that too. :)

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By in United Kingdom,

Scalpers? None of the sets/skins met their backing targets - there was ample opportunity to acquire these.

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By in Canada,

^ Ample opportunity if you live in one of a few specific countries, you mean.

I will never understand why such a large, profitable, global company would put up a indiegogo campaign for just a fraction of their customers. Sure doesn't seem like a way to maximise profits.

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By in United States,

I anxiously await receiving mine though I think it was delayed in the US a bit.

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By in Netherlands,

I love that they added more of the connecting pins to go with each sheet. Very considerate.

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By in Norway,

Too bad it wasn't available in Norway (or elsewhere outside US and UK). Really HATE when LEGO does that, as with the asia-exclusives nowadays. One thing is what available in-store(s), but they could easily made them available online at [email protected]
I would buy it just as a display piece and as a gift to a fishy friend.

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By in United Kingdom,

Just built this myself this afternoon after an unexpected very early morning DHL delivery. Great model - simple but effective technic motion and the skin does give the model a very organic look. My only complaint is that I needed to bluetac the model down to the table to enable turning the gears without holding the base - but I think it would need a large and heavy base doubling the price to do this. Also is this the first LEGO set whose box does not show the actual model???

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By in Canada,

Can't wait!!! looks super, love the idea. Well done!! and thanks for the review.

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By in United Kingdom,

someone just sold one on eBay for a more realistic £45. Prices slowly dropping though. hopefully in the next few days I'll be able to pick one up

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By in United States,

Man, I wish I'd thought of ordering the shark skin and Bricklinking the rest. That was the only one I wanted, since my school's mascot is a shark, but the price of the base set plus the extra skin was more than I was prepared to pay.

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By in United States,

It needs a motor

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By in United Kingdom,

While one may have sold for £45, another went for £154. Asking prices will be all over the place until the market price is determined. But only about 800 of the super boxes were sold in the UK so who knows what that will be.

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By in United States,

I wasn't sold on this when it was announced and still am not--I almost got one, but only to hold onto for the future. It's sure to be rare, but I just don't think it's going to be rare -and- desirable. Guess we'll see. To all those looking for one, I hope you can pick it up at a reasonable price. Hopefully the usual fools on ebay won't make any sales and will have to lower their prices.

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By in United States,

I hope lego makes an actual series out of these.

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By in Australia,

I bought one and have it being shipped to a friend in the USA, they will on ship to me when it arrives.
Given global economy and postal services, people who wanted one just needed to organise themselves a little better.

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By in United States,

I'd be so tempted to hook that up to a motor and a sound chip that played "Take Me To The River".

(Look up the Big Mouth Billy Bass if you don't get that joke.)

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By in United Kingdom,

Great review - especially when done today!

Mine arrived 6.30pm this evening - certainly looks intriguing and I'm not much of a Technic builder so will be interesting to put together. Will likely end up on my desk at work - I feel that this is going to be the destination of a lot of these!

Ebay prices are currently mad, but whilst I don't know what the final number of these produced was I expect it will come down.

I think that there are pdfs of the skins up - seem to recall reading this in the last day or so - is there a good way of attaching these without the 'new' pin? That way anyone could just go and bricklink the parts and build their own!

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By in United States,

@willobee498:
They were just testing the waters with this set, to see if this format would even work. Limiting it to only two countries solved a couple problems for them. The first is shipping. UK copies may have shipped domestically (but if they didn't, Denmark is right nearby), and it sounds like US copies will once they get everything into the US. They don't have the ability to do domestic shipping for every country, and without that ability then everyone starts paying Australian prices. There might be legal issues with presenting this offer in some countries. They're producing this right after the Christmas crunch and January launches, so production time is at a premium right now (and as someone pointed out, the reason they reduced the available number of kits across the board may have been because they needed to finalize the size of the part runs and reduced limits gave them a hard number to work with).

As for the various complaints about scalpers, here are a few things to keep in mind. They cut the number of kits by over half, which means a lot more people could have gotten in on this but didn't. One person already pointed out working a deal where they bought a kit to send to someone in the US, who will then forward it on to wherever they live (more expensive than being able to buy it as a US/UK resident, naturally, but more predictable than eBay prices). There is, of course, a trust element there, so this one is probably easier with someone you've known for a while, and ideally met in person at some point. Scalper prices are going to be all over the map. Listing it for over 10x the original price may seem insane, but if you're the only game in town, you might get a nibble. If others are listing it for far less, people will probably buy those up first, but with such a limited supply there's always a chance that a potential buyer will hear about it really late and have no other options to buy a copy.

Really I only see three situations where someone has a legitimate reason to feel like they were shut out of this. They may not have heard about it until it was too late to buy a copy. They may have needed to save up to afford it and found the reduced number of kits were sold out by the time they could take the plunge. Or they may just not have a way to make an online purchase (but chances are that's more of an issue with their parents than The LEGO Company). Well, maybe a fourth. I still really want that hammerhead skin that they chose not to make...

@astrakhan:
I get it. I'm not even remotely amused by it...but I get it. Those fish are terrible, and I'm saddened that they're trying to make a comeback.

@jhs8swd:
Yes, they released PDFs of all four skins, so the only problem bit is the new pin. I see from the closeup that the pin doesn't pinch the skin against the frame, but rather leaves a small space where the hole on the skin can sorta "float". My original idea was to use the half-pin capped with a 1x1 round tile, but that may not be the best solution. Another option is to use that same pin but plug the bar from the 1x1 round tile w/ bar into the stud of the half-pin. This won't give you quite as much space for the holes on the skin, but the tile is wider than the panhead on these pins, and you can get it in clear. As for final numbers, here's what I was able to come up with from the Indiegogo page:

3964 Superkits
2110 Koi sets
295 Shark skins
160 Ink Koi skins
145 Splash Koi skins

If you break down all of the Superkits, this breaks down to:
18,566 total sets
6074 total Koi sets
4259 total Shark skins
4124 total Ink Koi skins
4109 total Splash Koi skins

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By in Australia,

It's all just a bit ... bizarre really, isn't it? It reminds me of one of those joke-mounted fish, that you press a button and he starts singing to you.

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By in Canada,

Purple Dave, I agree there are ways for people to buy the set if they really want it (enough to pay more than regular price), and truth be told the sets only mildly interest me. My issue is with a company making it difficult to buy their product, and using a crowdfunding website as a preorder system.

But hey, whatever, they have the marketing know-how I don't. Let's sell a unique set to only a handful of the consumers, but pump out a new Brickheadz every other day for the masses. Yipee.

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By in Canada,

Thanks for the quick video added to the review. I’d like to see more added in like this when the set reviewed has an interesting moving feature.

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By in United States,

@willobee498:
You're talking about the same company that's been pumping out SDCC minifigs for almost a decade. At least in this situation, people had the option to buy it direct if they wanted, instead of being forced to resort to the secondary market. We see this as a once-in-a-lifetime chance to get these sets, but I guarantee you they just see this as testing the waters. They just want to know if this is a viable way to release stuff that doesn't really fit the regular lineup. They did the exact same thing with Cuusoo when they released the first two sets exclusively in Japan, and after being satisfied that it was a viable platform, they took it in-house and opened it up to the world. Whatever they decide to do with Forma going forward, expect that it will not involve keeping it exclusively for the US/UK markets.

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By in Canada,

SDCC exclusives suck as much as this, and are equally scalper fodder available only to some people. Neither is ideal.

And really, I would love if Lego did this "testing the waters" business (if only they didn't have a team devoted entirely to market research) on their own website and on a worldwide level.

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By in United States,

Thanks for the review! I’m only slightly regretful about not ordering one during the crowdfunding. I couldn’t quite pull the trigger. It’s definitely a cool and unique display piece!

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By in Australia,

The pricing is silly, but the concept is interesting. It feels like Technic has unnecessarily boxed itself in to making only vehicles. Making mechanisms that portray all manner of subjects from the natural world would breath much needed fresh air into the Technic system. From Orrery’s of the solar system to animals and entire scenes from the natural world. It does feel they need to get JK Brickworks’ Jason Allemann on board for this theme though, if he wasn’t an inspiration than he has certainly been working in tandem to this creative approach to using Technic for many years. He has proved his popularity on the Ideas platform and really deserves a shot at being an official designer.

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By in United Kingdom,

Would be cool if LEGO released a Forma dragon, preferably European though Chinese/Japanese would work, too.

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By in Sweden,

So basically a technic theme with animals? Would be cool to see different animals built with technic pieces, and trying to have accurate articulation. Let's hope it comes true (: (except for the horrible price...)

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By in Netherlands,

Fun set IMHO. Small typo (in the article and in one of your tweets): it's Indiegogo, not Indegogo :)

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By in France,

Thanks for the review. Personally I don’t think that the fish motion is very realistic.
Check out JK Brickworks revised model of a kinetic shark that is also 100% brick built.

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By in United States,

When does it come out in the US? I need it.

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By in Poland,

The biggest no no for me was a price, I loved the design but it had to be at most half the price... we are poor here in PL ;3;

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By in United Kingdom,

Fully agree with jdm. For those who don't want or can't get Forma, Jason Alleman's alternative (https://jkbrickworks.com/swimming-shark/) looks and moves much better IMHO. And it's pure Lego...

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By in United States,

@Reinier:
Right. Indegogo is the dancer girls.

@Michel W:
It's better, but it still doesn't feel right.

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By in Philippines,

I'm a Lego traditionalist so to speak and I think creatively, this is a let-down from Lego.

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