Scientific projects have proven fairly successful across the LEGO Ideas theme, producing some brilliant sets. 21320 Dinosaur Fossils continues that pleasing tradition and includes interesting versions of some ancient creatures. They seem distinctive when compared with earlier models and appear reasonably authentic.
However, these dinosaurs deviate dramatically from the original LEGO Ideas project submitted by Mukkinn. White pieces have supplanted the proposed tan colour scheme and the predominant Technic construction techniques have been replaced too. Nevertheless, I love prehistoric animals so this set seems quite appealing.
Box and Contents
The packaging is made from thick cardboard stock and includes an opening flap, following the precedent established by previous LEGO Ideas sets. Its colour scheme appears relatively dark which feels appropriate for a museum environment, although this may not stand out on shelves. Furthermore, I think the posing of the skeletons could have been improved as the Pteranodon looks slightly awkward.
Six numbered bags are found inside, along with three instruction manuals which focus upon individual animals. Five stickers are also included which is disappointing as LEGO Ideas sets frequently contain printed pieces. The instruction manuals provide interesting information though, including interviews with Jonathan Brunn and Niels Milan Pedersen who are the fan and set designers respectively.
Niels discusses having developed new elements since 2008 and 21320 Dinosaur Fossils accordingly represents his return to model design, based upon an exceptional interest in dinosaurs. These models are white rather than tan and that colour change is also explained, apparently resulting from numerous pieces being unavailable in the original colour.
Each dinosaur is constructed at approximately minifigure scale, hence a paleontologist accompanies these fossils. This character consists wholly of existing pieces but looks great, including an attractive dark brown hair piece which is only available in four earlier sets. The wonderful moustached head is even more scarce, originating in 70632 Quake Mech from The LEGO NINJAGO Movie.
The torso looks marvellous too, featuring an attractive shirt with a dark green collar that returns from 60202 People Pack - Outdoor Adventures. The dual-moulded dark tan legs with reddish brown boots are similarly appealing and multiple accessories are provided, including a functional magnifying glass for inspecting fossilised remains.
An unusual minifigure specimen, known as LEGO Sapiens, is displayed beside the extinct creatures! This minifigure sports an appropriate reddish brown fedora and is mounted on a black base, thereby corresponding with the other exhibits. Unfortunately, the metallic gold identification plaque is formed using a sticker but this remains an enjoyable inclusion.
The Completed Model
Fossils offer invaluable information about prehistoric animals. Some research equipment is therefore available for play, including pearl silver tools, an egg, a cup and a black pen which is represented by lipstick. These accessories are kept in a medium nougat crate with an opening book that features an annotated bone on the page inside.
Three fossilised skeletons are included and these differ considerably in size. The smallest represents Pteranodon longiceps and looks great on display, capturing the proportions of the original animal with respectable accuracy. This creature was not featured in Jonathan's submission but including an avian model was certainly sensible, given its distinctive appearance when placed beside the others.
Each model is positioned on a black stand, contrasting with the white bones. I like the metallic plaque attached to the base, although that is formed using a sticker which is unfortunate. In addition, the click hinges which connect the Pteranodon to its base are not absolutely secure so the skeleton sometimes tilts forward, as demonstrated below.
Curved slopes are employed to reasonable effect across the head. This design does resemble the Pteranodon, although its skull should be significantly narrower and the vital fenestrae are omitted. I think it would be difficult to include these details at such a small scale but the model looks awkward without them in my opinion. The opening beak and prominent cranial crest are both pleasing though.
Furthermore, the neck includes two joints that provide ample articulation. These small ball joints are only available in light bluish grey and dark bluish grey so stand out within the model. Nevertheless, I think they can be overlooked quite easily because actual dinosaur skeletons generally include metal pins which link the bones together. The ribs are excellent too but the sternum is missing.
Additional hinges are positioned along both wings, thereby enabling the creation of some impressive swooping displays. They cannot fold into a quadrupedal stance but that may have compromised the whole structure, especially since those joints would appear near the hands. On that basis, I am fairly satisfied with this rendition of Pteranodon longiceps, although it is my least favourite of these models.
Triceratops horridus is undoubtedly among the most celebrated herbivorous dinosaurs and this model is larger than its avian counterpart, measuring almost 29cm in length. Its stance appears fairly realistic but the knees seem slightly too close together. However, the proportions are accurate when compared with the original animal so this fossil looks magnificent on display.
While the winged Pteranodon is elevated above its base, the larger dinosaurs are integrated directly with their respective display stands. That arrangement contrasts with the original project which relied upon narrow pillars beneath each creature. I appreciate the omission of those stands but choosing to connect the limbs to the base prevents any articulation in the legs, unfortunately.
These dinosaurs are named for their three pronounced horns so capturing those accurately was vital. Thankfully, the designer has achieved that, improving upon Jonathan's model where the central nose horn appeared somewhat indistinct. Moreover, the shaping of the beak is fantastic and I like the bony frill, although the spines along its edge seem more similar to Pentaceratops than an adult Triceratops.
I am similarly impressed with the scapula and coracoid bones situated around the Triceratops' neck. This structure appears relatively realistic but the forelegs should be positioned further forward so they rest below the hinges on this model. The hind legs are appropriately located though and the ribs look marvellous. Ideally, more would have been included but eight ribs seem adequate here.
Several 1x2 plates with vertical teeth represent vertebrae along the back of this creature, forming an elegant curve that corresponds with authentic examples of the genus. The tail incorporates extensive articulation while the triangular ischium underneath looks brilliant too. This shape has been replicated using 1x3x2 arches and the result is extremely effective, completing an attractive model.
Numerous popular dinosaurs exist but the Tyrannosaurus rex surpasses any other species and this skeletal rendition looks quite spectacular! It measures 41cm in length when the tail is fully extended and includes fantastic detail, particularly around the head. The body exhibits some immediate issues though as its rounded shape has not been replicated and the ribcage seems very small.
However, the feet have been ingeniously designed to disguise the Technic components that connect the Tyrannosaurus rex to the base. Their resulting shape seems realistic, suggesting that the dinosaur is standing on its phalanges and therefore matching extant footprints. Another plaque is attached to the base and looks nice, despite being represented by a sticker.
Considerable attention has evidently been focused upon the skull and it looks magnificent, featuring accurate shaping and three separate fenestrae which are perfectly positioned. The white 1x2 window arches are particularly impressive and the 2x3 rock element which represents the nose looks superb, recreating its shape from actual specimens.
The mandible is connected using two droid arms and can open, as demonstrated below. I think this function has been integrated nicely and the neck articulation offers some motion, although its arched shape is unusual. The largest cervical vertebra cannot be lowered which restricts the available poses, although that arrangement also provides important support to the head which is comparatively heavy.
Unfortunately, the body shaping varies quite substantially when compared with many Tyrannosaurus rex fossils. The pentagonal 2x3 tiles certainly replicate the shape of its coracoids and the arms seem reasonably accurate as well, featuring two elongated fingers on each hand. However, there is a large structure at the centre which does not resemble the original dinosaur and the ribcage looks much too small.
Supporting structures are necessary when constructing LEGO dinosaur skeletons and replicating the hollow ribcage of the original animal would be extremely difficult. Even so, I think this design could be improved, especially if the stanchions from Jonathan's project had been employed as they negate the requirement for bulky structures at the core. Moreover, the gastralia which should be located beneath the ribcage are completely missing.
The hips appear authentic though and I like the dewclaws on the back of both legs. Furthermore, the tail looks marvellous, featuring intricate texture and multiple joints which permit extensive articulation. Once again, 1x2 plates with vertical teeth create the spinous processes while larger teeth are placed along the underside and represent chevrons. These seem to terminate abruptly but their presence is appreciated.
Various dinosaur skeletons have been submitted to LEGO Ideas and 21320 Dinosaur Fossils should therefore prove popular. These models certainly include some wonderful detail and look attractive on display but I think there is some potential for improvement. The skeletal structures appear very bulky when compared with actual skeletons and including further supports would have removed the need for such robust cores.
Furthermore, focusing exclusively upon the Tyrannosaurus rex, Triceratops and Pteranodon is rather disappointing. The original submission features an excellent selection of dinosaurs but these animals are already available in various sets, albeit not in their fossilised skeletal forms. Something more unusual, such as Stegosaurus or Spinosaurus, would have been preferable. The unique aesthetic of these fossils is appealing though and I think the price of £54.99 or $59.99 seems reasonable.
I hope you have found this review informative. Let us know by liking this article and share your opinion of the set in the comments below.
This set was provided for review by The LEGO Group but the review is an expression of my own opinions.