Friday, August 11, 2017

The Brick Miser: Lego Cars 2 Lightning McQueen & Mater

Well, I've already shown you what the Plug n Play side of things has to offer in the way of Disney Cars tie-ins, and seeing how I actually own some Cars Lego and this is most likely the last chance I have to talk about Cars stuff since I highly doubt they'll make a Cars 4, guess I might as well do a quick review of it. So before this series stalls, let's talk about Lego's Lightning McQueen and Mater sets!

Name: Cars 2 Radiator Springs Lightning McQueen/Cars 2 Classic Mater
Distributor: Lego
Model: 8200/8201
Pcs: 35/52

As of this writing, I still haven't seen Cars 3. ...And I really don't have any plans to. Cars was boring, Cars 2 was fun but out of place, then there was Planes which was even more cliched than the first Cars, then Planes: Fire and Rescue which looked so stupid I didn't bother to see it, and now we have Cars 3, which looks like it's about Lightning McQueen being "too old for this crap" and passing the buck to someone younger. Honestly, those movies don't interest me, because I've seen this story a million times and it's always the same thing. The main character is humbled again, he doesn't want to quit, but he can't deal with anything anymore, so he finally realizes it's time to hang up the cape and let the youngsters take over. Maybe when it comes to Redbox, I'll take a look, but I don't feel like I'll be missing anything by skipping this one.

 Why am I bringing up Cars 3 when I'm featuring something from Cars 2? ...Because at this point, I don't have anything else to say about this series. I already went over my thoughts and feelings about it in my Disney Interactive Cars Coloring Book and Cars 2 reviews, and I feel like I've given this series more credit than it deserves. It's a mediocre movie franchise with a mediocre story and mediocre ideas for toys that they made a mediocre theme park out of and some mediocre short films about. The whole thing's a cash grab. That's it! It's pure greed and cynicism developed only to give people something safe and recognizable so they'll buy their junk and make more money than the other Pixar movies COMBINED!

 Still, I guess it's not the worst or purely cynical thing Disney's ever made...

Ok, sorry, I guess I'M the cynical one here. It's just that after featuring 3 things(including these) in the last month all based on a movie series I couldn't care less about, I'm a little drained of anything positive or even constructively critical to say about it. I just wanted to finally jump on a current bandwagon(since I've missed all the others this year) and clean out the stuff I have related to Cars, since this is most likely the last time any of it will ever be relevant.

 So today, I'm going over the last Cars-related thing I have in the house. Then we can wash our hands of this series and talk about... I dunno, fidget-spinner brick sets or something.

As you may have noticed, I don't exactly have the boxes for these. I bought these second-hand a LOOOOONG time ago, back before I was even sure I wanted to do a show/blog based around brick sets and the Plug n Play games I have a strange obsession to collect. So I never had an intention to talk about them until now, when I remembered I owned these while digging out the other Cars stuff I featured. Don't worry, I'm not somebody who's going to base the packaging score around something I don't have like I'm unfairly blaming the original company for it.

And I guess we can talk about the FRONT of the box! ...Though all it really is is the model we're going to get Photoshopped in front of a blurry racetrack for McQueen and a dusty desert town for Mater. Not exactly the excitement the movie gave us, but considering the response Cars 2 got, I figure nobody wants to be reminded of all the action anyway.

As it says on the box, this set indeed comes from Lego, making it only the SECOND Lego entry we've had on this blog after the Star Wars Rogue One Hovertank back in December! ...I totally plan these things, you know...

The first Cars building brick sets were actually created by Mega Bloks, who also first held the licenses to Marvel(before Disney bought it) and Pirates of the Caribbean. And while I don't have any sets to confirm this, what I've found produced by them look similar to larger Duplo bricks, so Lego has first dibs on "regular" Cars brick sets.

 Cars 2 was the first Lego-created Cars-themed line, due to their deal with Disney only being finalized around 2010, four years after the first Cars and right before Cars 2.

This, of course, wasn't the first time Lego worked with Disney, as they also produced the Mickey Mouse Lego line and Winnie the Pooh Duplo line back in 2000, but it was on a much smaller scale with only a few sets each.

They produced their Star Wars and Indiana Jones sets before Disney acquired Lucasfilm in 2012, so that didn't count yet.

But when they got their licenses from Disney, you better believe they went nuts! Sets based on Toy Story, Pirates of The Caribbean, Disney Princess, and those mystery bag minifigures soon followed, with dozens of sets produced for each in a partnership that continues to this day.

And that includes the Cars line with over 40 sets produced just between 2010-11!

Including some Ultimate Builds of the main characters. ...For that small number of grown collectors who actually wanted a full-sized McQueen and Mater in their house, I guess.

 And the line was recently revived for the Cars 3 movie. ...Though under the "Juniors" label, so they're basically just shrunken Duplo sets.

Now we could joke about the fact Lego decided to invest so much into Cars 2 of all movies, but at least that movie was successful and the latest in a ludicrously lucrative lineup.

 Which is more than can be said for their Prince of Persia and Lone Ranger licensed sets. To this day, Lego seems embarrassed to talk about them, going so far as to remove all mentions of any involvement with those franchises from most printed material.

Still, I guess it's not as bad as Kre-O snatching up the license to Battleship...

Oh, and Lego also produced sets based on the Cars spinoff Planes*. They're Duplo sets though, so I guess they don't matter.

*Does anyone else detect the irony of producing a Duplo set based on a PG-rated movie?

Anyway, it's important to note that these aren't just McQueen and Mater, but "Radiator Springs" Lightning McQueen and "Classic" Mater. Just in case anyone got them mixed up with "Thunderin' Steve" McQueen and "Newfangled Contraption" Mater.

And while the sad onion face probably escaped with the rest of the box, they still have the warning that it's "Not for children under three years."*

*Ah, it feels good to finally have a set with warnings I can nitpick again...

Yet the age recommendation starts at 5 years.

Anyone between those ages has a traffic cone shoved over their head while a guy in a generic race car chases them around town. ...I'm out of practice!

Alright, we have two sets to put together and it shouldn't take long to do*, so let's burn rubber!

*Good thing too. I'm still recovering from the Block Tech Fast & Furious showcase...


And after a transition nowhere near as long as last time, we have our two main Cars characters! And after the budget designs of the Block Tech Fast & Furious sets, it's good to see some more custom pieces in play.

Several of the pieces are custom made for these sets, especially for Lightning McQueen, so they can more accurately match their movie designs. They're rather large pieces as well. The two pieces for Lightning McQueen I'm showing here take up nearly half of the entire model, with most of the other pieces being smaller 1x2 and 1x4 bricks. Maybe I should be upset that you're not getting more pieces for your buck, but since they're higher quality than most other companies and custom bricks were needed for detail to these mini sets anyway, I won't be.

Besides, as we learned from Block Tech, more pieces don't always equate to a nicer looking model...

And look at that! Actual paint jobs instead of stickers! SOOOOOO much nicer and natural than sticking a sticky piece of paper on a brick that will dry out and fall off in a year or two. ...I do know that since it's painted on, it's more prone to scratching and is much less replaceable than a sticker. ...But let me have my first euphoria for a brick set in months...

But while the paint job is very professional, there are a few slip-ups. While Mater's eyes look just fine and a nice shade of white

McQueen here has a slight case of pinkeye*.

*Which is somehow more noticeable with the naked eye than through a camera. ...Quite similar to how actual pinkeye is, come to think of it.

Now for the actual models. Lightning McQueen here is VERY well put together, with the custom pieces adding to the overall smoothness of the model. If it wasn't for the plates on the sides, the top half would almost be seamless, like a race car should be.

For some reason, the paint job has his eyes facing to the left rather than in front, making it pretty hard for him to concentrate on the road. I've never raced before, but I'm under to assumption that if you're cease facing forward even for a second, you're the next pile of flaming wreckage they sweep off the track.

It's no more awkward when I try to position him to look at me...

And with that mouth, I can't quite tell what emotion he's expressing. It looks like the split second between when he was just having a good day, then he just realized something horrible that ruins his week...

Maybe he saw the reviews to Cars 2?

As for paint jobs I CAN interpret, they actually bothered to print "Lightning McQueen" on each side of McQueen's head*

*What exactly constitutes a head for a car?

And the company logos on either side. ...Whatever they are! I think they say "Hi-Volting", "Mood", and "No-Stall", but it's a little too blurry to make out. Still, I'm impressed they kept it legible enough to make out letters!

Though he's probably "fuming" inside since his exhaust pipes are also painted on...

The sides of McQueen make a slightly illegal connection, as they connect via the holes in the middle of the plate as opposed to the sides. While I've seen this connection in a few third-party sets, this is a rare occurrence for Lego.

 Just in case you missed the big "95" on his head and sides(which is the year Toy Story was released if you didn't already catch that Easter Egg)

They also plastered it on top of one of his headlights*. ...Defeats the purpose of headlights a little, but I'm not a world-famous race car, so what do I know...?

*Which I assume are actual headlights and not the stickers he had in the last movie. ...How he went through life up to that point without headlights, I have no idea. What was his life like as a kid without headlights. ...Are there even kids in the Cars universe, or do they just roll off the assembly line fully grown and with their purpose already implemented? ...These movies raise more questions than a 9/11 conspiracy theorist...

No taillights either. Sentient cars must have more lenient rules of the road than the ones with human parasites controlling their every movement.

Also, being a race car, his tires are as thin and smooth as the Blue Lightning's or Red Shadow's.

Yet somehow, he's able to pull off the spin-out without wearing them out instantly! ...Can this world have ANY rules? And I'm talking about the movies, not my stop-motion shorts. ...The latter's a given.

Oh, and they gave McQueen a road cone. ...That was nice of them. ...Though I think it would have worked better packaged with Mater...

Speaking of which, next, we have Mater, who's a lot more blocky than McQueen and quite obviously made out of smaller Lego bricks, but that was mostly what he was in the movie, so we won't hold that against him.

And hey, his eyes are actually on straight! ...You'd think THIS would be the character unable to face forward, but I digress...

Though again, I don't quite understand his expression here. I'd say what LOOKS like is happening to him, but since I try to keep my content relatively "All Ages" to an extent, I'll instead say that it appears he walked in on McQueen and Sally sharing a kiss.

Heck, put them together and it looks like McQueen's reacting to Mater's latest gizmo that was supposed to more effectively wash and wax the hard to reach areas, but instead dunked Fillmore into a vat of grease. ...And already, I've thought up a more interesting plot for the first movie...

I find it cute that they remembered that Mater only has one headlight. ...But seeing as how he's a car, why he never got it replaced after having it torn off by the mob(if that episode of Mater's Tall Tales is to be believed) I'll never know...

It must be nice that a car can just paint on their business card, as they remembered to include "Tow Mater Towing and Salvage, Radiator Springs" on his side, in much more legible writing than McQueen's. ...Though doesn't that equate to "Ambulance and Mortician" in this universe? ...Just imagine Larry the Cable Guy landing that job. People would run screaming from the hospital even if they couldn't run or scream!

Though maybe he'd get better business if he'd actually use some of his earnings and get his rear bumper replaced. ...Yes, I'm telling Mater to get a new butt. Har har har.

Like McQueen, and thankfully not like most of the Block Tech vehicles, he also has smooth rubber tires, though two differing sizes in this case. The front tires are much thicker than McQueen's, while the back pair are skinnier, but about as large around as the front. You'd think with a tow truck, the larger wheels would be on the back part, but I digress.

And you thought McQueen's "Lightyear" tires were high end? Mater has exclusive Lego-branded tires!

Unfortunately, this endorsement also requires him to wear mismatching tire rims, so it's difficult to position him correctly between the studs on my brick table! ...Ok, to be fair, that's the way it came when I bought it second-hand and I don't have a spare piece to fix it, so I can't exactly blame them for someone else's incompetence.

What I CAN blame them for is this awkward asymmetrical wheel positioning. While the front tires have a more curved axle, the back tires have a shorter straight one, despite both tires basically being the same size.

This means Mater's back tires are slightly raised more than the front, making him lean forward a bit. I don't know if this is common with tow trucks, but my OCD mind is reeling from this lack of consistency.

And it's not a tow truck without an adjustable boom & winch. ...Unless it's one of the more modern flatbed trucks, but let's not be pedantic*. I do like that it's adjustable and the hook swings freely from a ball joint.

*Because we haven't been the slightest bit pedantic anywhere in this review, have we?

All the better to tow away junky, outdated, loud pieces of kitsch crowding up the street.

But in case you thought they might have forgotten Mater's talent for driving backwards, they have you covered there too with adjustable front mirrors. ...They forgot the mirror portion, but at least they can be placed in front of Mater's eyes or out to the sides.

All the better to show off during a poorly animated race!

And there you have the Lego Cars 2 McQueen and Mater models. A pretty simple overview, but they're based on pretty simple characters from pretty simple movies. There's not a whole lot to them, but considering what they're based on, that's no surprise. ..Still, I guess they could have been worse.

 ...Much worse...


Quality: It's Lego quality, the standard to which I hold all other brick sets. Everything fit nicely, the plastic was high quality, there was variation in the bricks, the paint jobs were phenomenal, and they created some custom pieces where they would do the most good. However, in this case, I am subtracting a point for McQueen's pinkeye.

Design: The accuracy in recreating these characters in brick form is REALLY good! It's to scale, the paint job is expert, it's mostly seamless, and they look almost exactly like their movie counterparts. I'm especially impressed with the attention they gave to the paint job and how they not only added the text, but made it legible even at the size they printed it. Having custom bricks for a set is also a major bonus in any case, as they not only add detail to the set, but give it character, a uniqueness that no other set has. The fact that they have working wheels is a major plus as well. I really should give these full points for how well they look and function, but I am going to subtract one point for the awkward tire placement for Mater.

Creativity: They're both based on existing designs, so I can't praise them for any gimmick or variation. However, I will give them points for the custom Lego bricks and for actually violating their building rules with the side plates for the sake of accuracy, since that was a surprising move for Lego. Besides that, there's not really anything that sets them apart from other Cars toys. They needed missiles or a spring launcher or an "Includes Superfluous Accessory We Just Made Up Never Actually Shown In The Movie" to really stand out. As is, they're pretty, but they're also pretty basic.

Readability: Once again, Lego is the standard I compare other brick set manuals to. Colorful, detailed, easy to read, and no confusion as to what goes where. No complaints.

Packaging: Even though mine didn't come with any packaging(besides the front of the box, which does me a whole lotta good), I can still judge the box based on other listings. The box is pretty basic, with the Photoshopped character over either a racetrack or desert town background on the front, while the back just shows the character next to a list of parts contained inside. It does its job and that's all it does. It needed an action scene of a race or spies or something along those lines to really get you pumped for this set. As-is, there's really no reason to keep the packaging(unless you're an obsessed brick hoarder like I am.)

Compatibility: ...Lego


Yes, lower than most of the other categories because I don't actually use them to determine the final result. These sets are ok. Very high attention to detail and very high brick and paint quality, but there's nothing particularly exciting about them. If you just want some Lego cars to play around with that have a little bit of character to them or you're a completionist and you want to collect every Disney Lego set out there, these are fine to own. Of course, these have also become relatively pricey collector's items, so you could also hunt them down for a quick buck. Otherwise, just pass over these sets like I'm going to pass over Cars 3. ...And if they DO make a Cars 4... I don't care, I'll review something Angry Birds related instead.

Alright! We finally have all the Cars stuff taken care of! Next time, I'll tackle another dying fad.