lego friends 41305

Review: LEGO Friends 41305 Emma’s Photo Studio

Inspired by my foray into the LEGO City theme last week, I decided this time to expand my horizons and review a line of LEGO I’ve never purchased or photographed before: LEGO Friends.

The LEGO Friends theme has been controversial since it first launched in 2012, largely for being stereotypical about gender (a problem we’re still facing today even outside the Friends theme). It’s clearly marketed as a “girl’s toy,” with its bright purple boxes, wide range of pink and pastel colors not found in other LEGO lines, “minidolls” in place of traditional minifigures, and scenarios specifically targeted at a female audience. These often include boutiques, cupcake and frozen yogurt shops, and many cute animals (Bunnies, puppies and ponies, oh my).

You won’t find the various Friends characters fighting fires, going on jungle adventures, or traveling to space. Those are reserved for the “boy” sets in blue boxes on the other side of the aisle (insert massive eye roll here). It’s hard to look at the Friends line and not see the stereotyping. I’m ashamed to admit it, but this distinction has largely kept me away from them. I’ve always been more interested in the Star Wars, superhero, or Creator themes, and assumed that the Friends sets had nothing to offer me.

I was glad to find that that’s not necessarily the case…

Emma’s Photo Studio

For my first trip into the world of Heartlake City (the fictional place in which the LEGO Friends line exists) I chose to review set 41305 Emma’s Photo Studio for two reasons. Firstly, at just $9.99 USD it’s one of the more affordable kits, meaning that my experiment, if failed, wouldn’t have been that big of a loss. I was also drawn to the promise of a photo studio with a handful of camera accessories to add to my collection.

lego friends 41305

The 96 piece set comes complete with a photography backdrop adorned with yellow flowers and a brown pot on which to place Chico, Emma’s adorable bluish gray cat. Atop the backdrop are two cleverly constructed studio lights.

lego friends 41305
These lights show that Emma’s serious about photography

 

I had the most fun and success when playing with this backdrop, the accompanying umbrella light, and Emma’s camera on a monopod. While I found the purple, flowery backdrop itself highly limiting for photography, I discovered that with a bit of modification, it provides an excellent base for a photo studio.

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Alternate setup #1: Now THAT is a professional setup!
lego friends 41305
Alternate setup #2: Simply replace the purple backdrop with a different piece that rocks.

The umbrella piece was my favorite of the entire set. While dark blue instead of the traditional white or black, it takes the photo studio aesthetic to the next level, and is useful as a plain ol’ umbrella as well!

lego c-3po r2-d2
R2 really does have a gadget for every occasion

I was less successful with the other two builds in this kit, Emma’s photo printer and beauty/grooming station. At first glance, I thought the printer would be more versatile, but the colorful buttons and cat photo on the front sticker are pretty limiting.

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For the purposes of this set, the printer is a great touch. I love its basic construction, so I think I’ll try modifying it for future shots.

lego friends 41305

The grooming station fits the set well, and while I didn’t get any great test shots with it, I am looking forward to playing around with its accessories, the blue hair brush in particular. I’ve found that the accessories will be the largest allure for the Friends line for me in the future. You simply don’t see accessories like this in the Star Wars, Creator, or even LEGO City themes.

The Minidoll

lego friends 41305
Emma

The most off-putting aspect of the LEGO Friends line for me is the use of “minidolls” instead of minifigures. I simply don’t like their design, and find it frustrating that the LEGO Group thinks it necessary to create a different version of the classic minifigure that’s specifically “for girls.”

For starters, the legs don’t move independently, they both move as one and only in one direction: forward. I guess minidolls don’t walk, they simply sit or stand. Second, the arms are thinner and angled differently than a minifigure’s, and look a bit awkward when extended. Gone too are the round heads, replaced instead with humanoid faces with noses and large eyes. I’ve always liked skin-toned LEGO pieces, and actually like the detail in the facial features. But… these minidolls just don’t look like true LEGO to me.

lego friends vs lego minifigure
Minidoll vs. Minifigure

I found Emma to be difficult to photograph, and doubt I’ll find an occasion to do so beyond the confines of this review. I do adore her hair piece though, which will fit traditional minifigs, so keep a look out for that in the future!

lego friends 41305
Emma’s got a nice camera too!

Chico

Chico the cat is the true star of this set (he is, after all, the subject of Emma’s photos!) and I found him far less frustrating than Emma herself. His design is much different than the cats in other LEGO themes, which I notice to be true of all the animals in the LEGO Friends line. He’s not only posed differently, but has a small hole on top of his head allowing for accessory placement. Emma has a few of them on her hair piece as well.

lego friends 41305
Say “Chico!” I mean, “cheese!”

Chico sits atop a flower pot piece that I will definitely be swiping from this set to use in future photos. He also comes with a box of cat treats, which I had fun photographing.

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I’m excited to add Chico to the menagerie of LEGO cats already in my collection. You can bet that I’ll be keeping my eyes peeled for other interesting animals in the Friends kits. While mainly adorable, I found that his pose lends itself to more dramatic shots as well, specifically his tail.

lego friends 41305
Rain, rain, go away…

The Verdict

So, has 41305 Emma’s Photo Studio changed my mind about LEGO Friends? Not really. However, it has placed the entire line more firmly in my radar. I’ll try to be less dismissive of it in the future, mostly for its animals and accessories. I also now have my eyes on several larger sets, in hopes of tweaking them to fit my particular style.

Have you found success photographing the LEGO Friends line? What do you and don’t you like about this controversial theme? Leave your thoughts in the comments below! 

-James

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Published by

thereeljames

Just a grown up kid still obsessed with Star Wars, superheroes, and toys.

9 thoughts on “Review: LEGO Friends 41305 Emma’s Photo Studio”

  1. Lego friends hair pieces are great, and can fit reasonably well on a minifigure. I used a curly brown haired one so I could have an somewhat accurate mini figure cake topper 🙂 I actually think the friends figures are cute.

  2. I agree with all of what you said, in particular about the minidolls and the difficulty working with the colors, except for one thing… Friends Minidolls actually went on jungle adventures 3 years before City Minifigs did. There have been two adventure subthemes, the oldest being a jungle theme.

    Despite the many critics I can make against the Friends line, there’s many I can do against City too. I’ve got to admit there are also some good things that came out of Friends and City would strongly benefit from following the example instead of focusing so much on vehicles.

    1. Oh wow, I didn’t know that about the Friends jungle sets! I’ll have to look into that.

      I totally agree with your criticisms of the City theme as well. I don’t purchase them very much because of how vehicle-centric they are, and I wish they would diversify so that we don’t see so many firefighters, police, etc. I miss the variety of the “LEGO System” sets that were available when I was a kid.

      I think ultimately, both themes could learn things from the other.

  3. At first I was very skeptical of the Friends line but I’ve actually grown to like it. As Reiterleid mentioned above, the City sets focus mostly on vehicles (too much IMHO). The Friends line has more settings and scenes that I can use in photos. They did have an awesome jungle theme a couple years ago, as well as a large tree house last year. My favorite Friends set so far is the Heartlake Hospital. I love all the different rooms and all the wonderful details in each scene. Although I have to admit that the first thing I did was replace all the pink and light purple parts with dark blue and grey. Then I replaced all the minidolls with minifigures and now I have a wonderful hospital for my LEGO city 🙂 (which is a good thing since the gymnast minifigs get injured often).

    Lynn

    1. I loved your hospital shots! They were part of the inspiration for me to check out the Friends theme, which I had long overlooked until I saw what you could do with them. As I mentioned in my review, I’m definitely keeping an eye on some of the larger sets now. As you said, with some swapping out of pink and purple parts for darker or more neutral colors, you can fit these buildings in nicely with the City sets, and nab some great accessories along the way!

  4. I think the friends get everything cool!!! Yacht? Got it. Sailing yacht? Yep. Full-size rock & roll RV? Got it. Hotel!?!? Oh ya. Swimming pools, restaurants, houses with fridges/stoves/blenders, skiing chairlift!
    Orrrr another police station, coast guard boat, or the 3rd version of a licensed spaceship…pew pew. I say Friends for the win!!!!

    -Paul
    @bricksailboat

    P.S. – They even have noses!

    1. You’re absolutely right, Paul. The more I research the Friends sets, the more I see that they have a wide variety of scenarios and accessories to offer that I didn’t even know existed. I too am tired of LEGO City’s various police stations, fire stations, and coast guard boats.

      It took me a while to notice the noses. They definitely wouldn’t work on a traditional minifig, but they are pretty cute on the minidolls!

  5. I read your review right after I read Richard Jones’ analysis, so forgive me if I mix the two in my comment.

    I mainly collect and therefore buy minifigures rather than whole sets. The main reason is the lack of space for big (or small) sets; financial difficulties being the close second. Ever since the Friends series came out, I’ve called them”girl’s Lego” – and not in a good way. I was a grown up by then, and never having the physical outlines of a mini-doll, even as a child, I had serious negative thoughts towards them and their implications. Besides, their faces seemed too fancy for my taste, and the fact I liked the yellow, ethnic-less skin more didn’t help either.

    However, the variety of animals they had was much more than the System sets, and so I started buying the animals and the occasional small set. While the proportions were a bit out of scale, similar things could be said about most Lego animals (I’ve never seen a cat as high as my thighs) so it was easier to accept. Still, the mini-dolls were never played with and were always placed at the back row of the ‘extras’ baseplate.

    While I enjoy the colors, the animals and the accessories of Friends sets, as long as those “oh-so-perfect” mini-dolls exist, I will never like the overall series. Small or big, I still enjoy building and playing with Lego, and still have adventures with my minifigures. Those girls, even though they smile all the time, look like those who’d make fun of a fat kid with braces and glasses, so thanks, but no thanks.

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