Featured Ideas Reviews

Retro-Review – Yellow Submarine (21306)

In our first retro-review, we take a look back at the 2016 LEGO Ideas set "Yellow Submarine".

The LEGO Group recently announced a new series of LEGO Art sets, designed with the adult collectors in mind. One of the four sets in the initial launch is The Beatles – a mosaic-style image that you can build into John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Unfortunately that means you need to buy four sets, at €119,99/ $119,99/ £114.99 each, to build all four Beatles. Like real art, the new series is certainly designed for the serious LEGO collector.

But the new Beatles art set got me thinking about the last time – and the first time – that The Beatles appeared in LEGO form. That was just a few years ago in 2016, in the LEGO Ideas set Yellow Submarine. I’ve been meaning to start a new series of reviews that look back at iconic retired LEGO sets, and what better way to kick it off than Yellow Submarine.

If you take a look at our blog post A History of Great (LEGO) Ideas, Yellow Submarine was one of two sets to be approved in the Third 2015 LEGO Ideas Review. (The other set was another iconic LEGO Ideas set, the Apollo II Saturn-V rocket.) Yellow Submarine was released on November 1, 2016 with 553 parts and a price of €59.99 / $59.99 / £54.99. Today you can buy it on websites like Amazon and Walmart just under $200, or ebay for under $150.

I bought the set pretty late in it’s release cycle, as a birthday present for my daughter. She’s developed an interest in both vinyl records and classic rock music and has put together a pretty respectable collection of record albums. So Yellow Submarine was a great excuse to pick up this LEGO set before it went into retirement.

Yellow Submarine sat unopened for more than a year until my daughter went to college, when she finally built it and displayed it in her dorm room. She’s home now for the summer so I dug Yellow Submarine out of the basement to rebuild and take the photos for this review. (As a side note, I’ll be interested to see if my daughter reads my blog and calls me out on this.)

The Package

The instruction booklet is 152 pages, with 137 sets. Like all LEGO Ideas sets, it includes a short description of the 1968 cartoon film Yellow Submarine on which the set is based, as well as a brief profile on fan designer Kevin Szeto and LEGO designer Justin Ramsden. In the fan designer profile, Kevin describes the inspiration for the build, “As an amateur musician and songwriter, I have always been drawn to the music of the Beatles. The Yellow Submarine is bright, fun, and colorful, which also makes it a good subject to translate into LEGO form.”

The minifigures

The small display stand with a printed 2 x 4 “Yellow Submarine” tile is built first, in bag one. Bags 1 through 4 each come with one of the four minifigures – John, Paul, George, and Ringo, respectively – and bag 5 comes with Jeremy, who is described online as “a strange little brown-furred being with a blue face, pink ears and a fluffy, rabbit-like tail”. The minifigures are well-designed and faithful to their movie and real-world counterparts.

Bag 1 (John)

Bag 1 builds the display base for the minifigures as well as the base of the Yellow Submarine. You can start to see the SNOT techniques that hold together the front, rear, and sides of the ship. You also notice the colorful parts that are included inside the build. This is one of my favorite features of the set, and one of my favorite features about LEGO in general. I love what is hidden inside the set, and like it’s movie namesake, Yellow Submarine is full of bright vibrant color. In fact, there are 30 different LEGO colors in the 553 pieces that make u the set. Rotten Tomatoes describes Yellow Submarine as “a joyful, phantasmagoric blend of colorful animation and the music of the Beatles”, and this is apparent in the LEGO build.

Bag 2 (Paul)

Bag 2 continues to build up the exterior of the submarine, with “Bright Yellow” and “Flaming Yellowish Orange” making up the primary exterior colors. Bowed plates and roof plates are used to give shape to the shape, and along the bottom of the picture below, you can make out 1 x 2 plates with slides that are used to both provide texture for the submarine and cleverly hide a gap between the side plates and the bottom. The submarine’s interior is also beginning to take shape with bag 2. A seat and classic steering wheel are provided for the driver, and 1 x 2 “jumper” tiles are provided to seat the rest of the band.

Bag 3 (George)

Bag 3 completes the interior of the submarine with some great printed tiles. Like many of the higher-end LEGO builds, not a single sticker is found in this set. The exterior continues to take shape in bag 3 with more roof tiles added to the build, and a large dome piece used to form the front of the submarine. Sets of four 1 x 1 transparent red round tiles are used to represent the portholes on the cartoon version of the submarine.

Bag 4 (Ringo)

Bag 4 builds out the rear of submarine, with two red propellers on the bottom and a white rudder at the top. Technic parts are used to help hold everything in place. The roof of the submarine is also started in bag 4, and then completed with bag 5, so we’ll look at that in the next step.

Bag 5 (Jeremy)

The fifth and final bag completes both the roof of the submarine and the display base. The roof has four periscopes which can be rotated slightly around. Another very clever detail on the roof is the four red sausage parts that are used to build the railing around the periscopes.

The base is primarily a round white plates used to build a display stand for the submarine, which can be mounted on four transparent 2 x 2 round bricks. The completed set is very faithful to the cartoon submarine from the classic 1968 movie. The roof, as mentioned, can be removed so the four Beatles can sit inside the submarine. It’s a tight squeeze given the amount of space, but they fit. A second compartment in the rear of the submarine can be opened to place the Beatles’ accessories. A 2 x 2 white jumper plate on the base gives Jeremy a place to be displayed.

The verdict

I’ll be honest, and I hope I don’t ruin my credibility here, but I’m not the biggest Beatles fan in the world. Don’t get me wrong, I love their music and I understand their significance in the history of rock and roll. But I was born 4 months after The Beatles broke up, and I’ve never been a very musically inclined individual. Even buying Yellow Submarine for my daughter was an impulsive purchase, when I saw it in Barnes and Noble and knew it was already retired and I’d probably never see it again at retail price.

That being said, it’s a fun build although not terribly complex that remains very faithful to the movie. The printed tiles are exceptional, as is the design of the four minifigures. The LEGO color palate provides the perfect compliment to the movie colors, and I loved the various colorful parts that are hidden inside the build. The use of the sausage parts to make the railing on the top of the submarine is also an inspired touch. There is a decent amount of playability to the set, but this is most likely a display pieces for the avid Beatles and music fans.

The set is recently retired so if you don’t have one yet, you may still be able to find it for a bargain. As a LEGO Ideas set, it may not be the best build ever but it’s sure to satisfy The Beatles fan in your life.

Do you have Yellow Submarine in your LEGO collection? What do you think of the set? Let us know in the comments below, and be sure to subscribe to the BrickGeekz Blog for all the latest news and updates from the LEGO world.

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