LEGO occasionally produces sets which are only available in certain markets. The recent Chinese New Year range has elicited particular attention as these models look magnificent but are being sold exclusively within the Asia-Pacific area that encompasses East Asia and Australasia.
The decision to limit their availability is certainly disappointing, especially since Chinese New Year celebrations take place around the world. Nevertheless, I have been able to purchase 80102 Dragon Dance on the secondary market and believe that it is worthy of discussion as this is undoubtedly an interesting set.
Five minifigures participate in this dragon dance ceremony, the first of whom is suitably dressed for the Year of the Pig. This costume was originally created for the Piggy Guy from the Collectable Minifigures range and I am delighted to see it return. The headgear remains unaltered, featuring a moulded snout and ears along with printed eyes and an opening to show the smiling head underneath.
Some pink highlights are printed on the torso but it does not include a curly tail on the reverse, unlike the original minifigure. This example looks good though and I appreciate the contrasting black hands which represent trotters. The feet include complimentary designs that also appeared on the popular Piggy Guy minifigure from 2014.
The other dancers wear traditional red uniforms, featuring a lovely orange and yellow dragon emblem across the front. They also include small fastenings on each torso and sport a yellow belt around their waist, perhaps reflecting the close connection between dragon dance and martial arts. However, the minifigures do feature unique facial expressions.
In addition, the dancers' headgear differs as two minifigures wear bandanas while the others include top knot hairstyles. Both elements were designed for The LEGO NINJAGO Movie and they look great here, as one might expect. The consistent red colour scheme seems suitable too as red is traditionally associated with prosperity and Chinese New Year celebrations.
The bandana piece is particularly interesting as its rounded top initially depicted a bald head in the sixteenth series of Collectable Minifigures. On this occasion, the rounded area is black so presumably forms part of the bandana. The minifigures do not come with accessories, instead focusing their attention on the dragon!
The Completed Model
Bright colours dominate this model and it looks spectacular, measuring almost 34cm in length from the edge of the base to the dragon's narrow tail. This mythical creature closely resembles those on display at real dragon dance events and incorporates a dancing function which is activated by rotating a black crank at one end of the base, underneath the tail.
The internal mechanism is relatively simple, consisting of several colourful cams which are connected to a central axle. These cause each section of the dragon to rise and fall as the crank rotates, creating an attractive flowing motion. Sixteen vibrant coral 2x2 round tiles are situated within the base and they are only otherwise available in 70828 Pop-Up Party Bus so it is pleasing to see them here.
A reddish brown box conceals this mechanism and provides an elegant base for the model. The pearl gold windows along either side look marvellous and match the elements found in 80101 Chinese New Year's Eve Dinner. Furthermore, olive green 1x1 round plates are hidden inside this structure which is an enjoyable surprise as they have not been produced in olive green before.
Dragon dance performances traditionally involve several dancers, one of whom carries a pearl which symbolises wisdom for the dragon to pursue. That is cleverly represented using a spherical piece that was originally created for BB-8 and is decorated here with impressive metallic gold and reddish brown designs. The pearl also rotates as the crank is turned, faithfully recreating their typical spinning motion during the dance.
This dragon bears some resemblance to 70734 Master Wu Dragon from 2015 which is not surprising as both sets were designed by Nick Vas. Its distinctive whiskers are formed using scroll elements and flame yellowish orange tails from Unikitty while scorpions and frogs represent the horns. Neither animal has appeared in tan previously and they look brilliant here, authentically replicating the appearance of many East Asian dragons.
Several printed elements are found in this set, including the dragon's unique eyes and its arrowhead-shaped scales. These decorate either side of the body along with 1x1 heart tiles and flame yellowish orange sausages! The resultant design is incredibly intricate and I love the golden tassels which are situated on each flank of the dragon, especially since they move around with the dancing function.
Eight segments are included and there are handles for the same number of minifigures to support the dragon, although only four are actually present. Nevertheless, four is an adequate quantity in my view and the dancers look superb, standing out against the black poles but not detracting attention from the dragon which should always by the focal point of a dragon dance.
The dragon's tail is connected using a click hinge and a clip, granting some motion which is welcome for creating dynamic displays. Even so, its most interesting feature is perhaps the red motor element inside. This piece has existed since 1985 but has not been produced in red, until now! Fourteen dark bluish grey shields are also used during construction of the body and they have previously only been available in dark red and white.
80102 Dragon Dance is an exceptional model. It looks absolutely fantastic on display, featuring some excellent printed elements and pieces which have not appeared in their respective colours before. I like the undulating body motion as well. This could have been implemented more smoothly, although the current design looks reasonably realistic when compared with real dragon dance performances.
Unfortunately, this set is not available around the world. I can understand why that decision was taken as certain products which target a specific audience, such as Thanksgiving sets, appear to struggle in other regions. However, the extraordinary quality of 80102 Dragon Dance distinguishes it from similar seasonal products and I would definitely recommend adding this set to your collection, if possible.
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