Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars Begins! Day 1

Welcome back to another year of the Battle of the Licensed Advent Calendars! What’s become a sort of tradition for us is now in its 3rd year on newfoundlug.ca. The battle pits the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), Star Wars (SW), and Harry Potter (HP) advent calendars against each other in a just-for-fun comparison to determine the winner for the holiday season. Each day, the consensus best build gets 2 points, the second best build gets 1 point, and the remaining build scores 0 points. After Day 24, the calendar with the most points is crowned champion. Follow along with us as we embark on our 24 day journey. May the best calendar win!

Day 1- MCU

Steve: On the First Day of Christmas the MCU gave to meeeee – A unique Star Lord Miniiii!

Stephen Churchill returns as the MCU Advent calendar enters its sophomore year with “Guardians of The Galaxy” theme to tie into their new Christmas special. Disney got to get that market synergy! As only their second year, we still don’t have a lot of history to judge the MCU entries by – lets open door #1.

They start things a bang again – opening up with Peter Quill as Star Lord in a unique minifig.  The figure has a solid torso print, and includes gold parts for the jet boots.  The lack of arm or leg printing is a letdown, and the alternate face is a frown instead of the armoured “faceplate” some other Star Lord figures have used.  It’s true to his appearance in the Disney+ Special though, and is overall a solid fig.

Day 1- SW

Pat: Seasoned and salty Star Wars advent reviewer vet Pat here back with another year of the battle of the licensed advent calendars. This is Star Wars’ 12th year of LEGO advent calendars, and with it my 12th year of purchasing them. Though the quality of contents and calendar have fluctuated over the years, they have always been great additions to Star Wars collections (in my opinion), and are synonymous with the Holiday season.

As mentioned, the Star Wars advents have historically been good, even great, but suffered from a weak year in 2017 and only pretty good calendars since, more or less. This is indicated by its standings in the battle of the advent calendars, where it is yet to win 1st against the ever-festive Harry Potter and the fresh ideas of the new Marvel advents. Despite a strong finish in last years’ “The Mandalorian”-themed calendar, the Star Wars advent calendars are frequently held back by their inclusion of weak microbuilds, non-festive elements and generic minifigures. Hopefully this year Star Wars will finally bring home the gold!

The calendar is off to a good start with nicely stylized boxart featuring the three minifigures I believe to be the exclusives of the calendar (though more on them at later dates) and an AT-AT walker in a Santa hat and beard. Looks like they could be celebrating Life Day on Endor! Traditionally, the Star Wars boxarts have been a bit cartoony and attempted to fit in a variety of builds of the advent, but I found this A) ruined the surprise sometimes, and B) ruined the festive artwork of the calendar. So this is a welcomed progression for the box!

Now, to check behind door/day (I use these synonymously) number 1!

We kick off the calendar with a microbuild – it would have been uncharacteristic of the Star Wars advents not to! Here we have a pretty sweet build for a Republic Gunship seen in Episodes 2, 3, and The Clone Wars. This is a model we’ve gotten a few times before from advent calendars in 2011 and 2013, but both of those used an identical, basic build, which this 24-piece behemoth puts to shame. The build utilizes some nice Studs-Not-On-Top building (SNOT) to create the hull of the ship, and a window to achieve the open-concept cabin design. The bucket handle used for the cannons is effective enough, and the 1×1 trans clear tiles on the wings used to reflect the Clone bubble-turret laser cannons are a nice touch. I don’t really think the technique for the engine intakes is effective; White bars are a bit too thin and “hover-y” off the build for my liking, but its still a very effective micro. Special shoutout to this little modified 1×1 I’ve never seen before and would have been such an asset in building custom droids in the past.

Overall, solid start for Star Wars! Hope it keeps it up!

Day 1- HP

Matt: This is the 4th year of the Battle and also Harry Potter’s 4th Advent Calendar. HP is no longer the new kid on the block (that goes to MCU) and with that comes the risk of repeating certain builds. HP has historically put off strong calendars, though I would argue that the quality has been slipping since its inaugural 2019 calendar.

Last year, HP started a new concept by making the calendar into a game board with their calendar mini-builds. This was a novel idea that no other calendar has pursued to date. While I think this does add another level of play and intrigue and certainly brings value to the product, it likely doesn’t factor in much for the basis of this Battle. 

More than anything, I’ll be looking to see if a common theme or trend develops. In 2019, the calendar focused on Year 1 of HP. In 2020, the focus was the Yule Ball in Year 4. Last year’s 2021 calendar sort of “reset” with a Year 1 “Journey to Hogwarts” emerging as the main theme. So overall, we can’t say there’s been a trend to date- in fact, I’d call it sporadic at best.

That said, let’s see how HP kicks off the 2022 season.

Behind door 1 is an espresso maker. Nope, wait, let’s check that again. It’s 12 Grimmauld Place, the ancestral Black family home. Wait, scratch that, this is the Hall of Prophecy in the Ministry of Magic. Yes, surely that’s what it is. No? Then what is it?!

Answer: Ollivander’s wand shop on Diagon Alley.

Wow. Never before have I been so bewildered by an HP microbuild to the point where I didn’t actually know what it was attempting to represent. I’ll be frank, I had to search the internet to get other opinions on what this build is. The consensus is that it is the famous Ollivander’s, represented here in microscale.

A couple things to point out here. If you didn’t own the massively expensive Diagon Alley set, you’d have a hard time comparing the similarities between this rendition and the “to scale” version found in that set. I do own Diagon Alley, and even I couldn’t make the connection. Apparently the “drainpipe” and the 1×2 transparent cylinders “gave it away.” I beg to differ. 

Ironically, this was one of the more complex micro builds I’ve had to make to date in an HP calendar. Yet the phrase “much ado about nothing” springs to mind. Another minor gripe for the hardcore enthusiast- why use two 2×2 tan plates together, when a single 2×4 tan plate would have sufficed, and given the build more structural integrity? Minor gripe, but maybe it says a bit more about LEGO “cutbacks” than anything.

Overall, I’d consider this one of the weaker entries to start a calendar in recent memory. Microbuilds always rank lower on our homemade hierarchy of rankings (minifigures first, everything else behind them) because they usually end up in the bulk pile. A small build can be great when it’s to scale, or usable for a minifigure (e.g. a piano, a table, etc.) but in this instance, that isn’t the case.

Verdict

A clear order emerges today, with MCU taking the first full 2 points of the season with a Peter Quill minifig, followed by a faithful SW micro build. Pulling up the rear in a distant third place is HP’s micro build offering.

With that, the score starts off as:

MCU- 2

SW- 1

HP- 0

To be continued…

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