Nostalgia is a funny thing. It can both be responsible for that warm, fuzzy feeling of familiarity and it can cloud your judgement. For the past 20 years, LEGO builders have seen three series of iterations of LEGO sets that capture the magical world of Harry Potter. This anniversary provides us with an opportunity to mediate on why the theme has been so successful.
I’ve been collecting LEGO Harry Potter sets from the first waves in the early 2000s. Apart from an inexplainable blip with The Prisoner of Azkaban, I’ve always kept abreast of the latest ways in which the designers have rendered the wizarding world of Harry Potter in LEGO form.
With LEGO I subjected the world of Harry Potter to my own explosive imagination. Combining various Hogwarts Castle sets (a brilliant mix of 4757, 4842 and 4867 with a few other smaller sets), I staged the finest battles for Hogwarts you can think of. With new figures and buildings released in the second series in 2010 – including Luna Lovegood, Professor Flitwick and Bellatrix Lestrange, to name a few – I replicated scenes from the films and books with my own personal touch.
We’re currently on our third iteration of this theme, with the first coming from the early to mid 2000s, the second coming in 2010-11, and the third starting in 2018 and now fully fledged as it expands each year. With three attempts to capture this world it’s inevitable that we’re now seeing some repeats. The latest 76389 Hogwarts: Chamber of Secrets has a new Great Hall, which builds on 2018’s 75954 by including the Chamber of Secrets. I’m old enough to have owned the first version of the chamber (set number 4730), but to see it re-done in such a stylish and creative way that also pays homage to the older sets is a pleasure.
Because this is the joy of LEGO Harry Potter – we wait to see how the buildings have changed. Where some sigh with frustration upon learning that we’re getting a new X-wing Starfighter with a slight colour variation, with Harry Potter there comes an excitement. What will be different? How will the minifigures change? Who will we finally see in LEGO form?
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Think of last year’s 75980 Attack on the Burrow. I own the older version of the Weasley household from 2010 (set number 4840) and thought it couldn’t be better. But the innovative design of the newer set captured the Weasley’s wonky house brilliantly.
Indeed the theme lends itself to some of the best aspects of LEGO design. We’ve now seen two very successful Collectible Minifigures waves, are increasingly seeing minifigure packs, have counted down to Christmas with some advent calendars and have built some adorable BrickHeadz. Location sets allow a plethora of details whilst the vehicles are distinctive enough to mark them as distinguished from their every-day counterparts: how often do you see a purple bus, for example? The Hogwarts Moments sets might not fulfil everyone’s desire for minifigure-scale sets, but again they look different, as do 75979 Hedwig and 76394 Fawkes, wonderful automaton sets that strikingly captured the elegance of animals. How often can we say that about LEGO?
And who can forget the glorious 71043 Hogwarts Castle and 75978 Diagon Alley, which respectively in their scale and vibrant colour schemes (among many other positives) represent the very best of what this theme and LEGO can be.
I’ve also recently loved the rich colour scheme of 75958 Beauxbatons’ Carriage, the ingenious design of 75952 Newt’s Case of Magical Creatures and the warm, comforting design of 76388 Hogsmeade Village Visit. LEGO Harry Potter is nothing if not varied.
Meanwhile the modular parts of Hogwarts castle released annually each have a distinctive style – the solid 75948 Hogwarts Clock Tower is a marked difference to the gothic elegance of 75969 Hogwarts Astronomy Tower. As we populate these sets with figures from the Collectible Minifigures theme and elsewhere, there’s a distinct feeling of actually building this magical world and I can’t help but think back to my childhood years and the battles staged in a Hogwarts that looks very different to the Hogwarts that the LEGO Group is creating today.
For me, that’s what LEGO Harry Potter does best – it plays to our nostalgia of not only the film and the world but also of those sets and hours spent playing from bygone years.
I eagerly await each year’s releases to see the buildings and figures that are to be included in the next wave of Harry Potter sets because I know the designers will do a grand job. From finally seeing fan-favourites Kingsley Shacklebolt and Nymphadora Tonks to the unexpected Professor Sinistra, or indeed enjoying the new 76395 Hogwarts: First Flying Lesson and 76386 Hogwarts: Polyjuice Potion Mistake that focus on specific scenes from the films, the possibilities for this theme feel endless. Where it will go next or for how long the series will go is unsure, but I look forward to being on the journey with other fans.