REVIEW – LEGO Ideas: Steamboat Willie [21317]

Manufacturer: LEGO
RRP: £79.99 / $89.99
Release Date: 1st April 2019
No. of pieces: 751
Build Time: 1 Hour, 40 Minutes approx.


Disney Mickey Mouse fans will love this LEGO Ideas 21317 Steamboat Willie building toy marking the 90th anniversary of the most famous cartoon character ever. Mickey Mouse made his screen debut in a 1928 black-and-white animated short film called ‘Steamboat Willie’, which was also the first Disney film to have synchronized sound.

This LEGO brick version of the S.S. Willie features steam pipes that move up and down and paddle wheels that rotate when the boat is pushed along. The boat’s bridge has room for a minifigure and play-inspiring nautical details such as the ship’s wheel, life buoy and buildable bell. On deck there is a working crane to lift the ‘potato bin’ cargo aboard and this unique toy building set comes with Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse minifigures, each with special silver-colored decoration, plus a parrot figure.

Hot on the heels of ‘The Flintstones [21316]‘, LEGO Ideas set, we’re treated to another household favourite in the form of Mickey Mouse aboard ‘Steamboat Willie [21317]‘. Outside of The Disney Castle [71040] and LEGO Juniors sets – oh, and the LEGO Minifigures – this is the first ‘proper’ Mickey (and Minnie) set since the small range was released back in 2000.

For this set, fan designer, Máté Szabó went right back to the roots of Disney’s original Steamboat Willie short, researching the original designs, and reducing the number of elements in the model, making it more simplistic, but fiercely loyal. As always, the main LEGO design team (John Ho and Crystal Bam Fontan) addded their official magic to the set, adding the trademark design tweaks, build flow and graphical accents. We also wanted to throw a specific nod to Crystal for her genius inclusion of the silver design accents on the ship’s name, date and Mickey and Minnie’s clothing – it lifts the uniformity of the black and also ties in with some of the silver brick pieces, too.

As for the set itself, kicking off with the box; we loved the black and white artwork, juxtaposed with the red LEGO logo and Yellow ‘Mickey Mouse’ text – it really makes the box pop and looks quite striking. Actually seeing it on the shelves of the official LEGO store, it almost calls to you!

The build was incredibly enjoyable; there were a number of sections we particularly loved putting together – namely the main deck of the ship and the steamboat paddles. The layering of the hull of the ship was quite satisfying, and surprisingly quick to put together. Likewise with the paddles; the way they all just snap to the web wheels and simarlarly snap onto the sides of the ship are fantastic.

Although this is a black an white build, in a rather poetic way, the main mechanism which moves the paddles and funnels are all built from blue, green, yellow and red LEGO colour pieces – all hidden under the central area of the ship’s decking. So while, on the surface, it’s a true representation of the black and white cinematic roots of Disney, you know that at its heart lies the technicolour, beating heart.

Steamboat Willie has a number of awesome features, including a working fishing / shipping winch at the rear of the boat, a modest ship’s kitchen – complete with pot, pan and hammer, a ships wheel, life buoys, a bell and an on-board parrot. You also get the Mickey Mouse and Minnie Mouse Minifigures; Minnie comes with addition of a guitar and sheet music accessories! There’s also a separate Mickey ears plaque with the 1928 date on it, an unusual but totally welcome addition to the set and you can prop it up on lay it flat to display the minifigures.

The big star of this set is undoubtedly the mechanism; when you move the boat forwards or backwards, the steam pipes move up and down just like they do in the short, and the paddle wheels rotate at the same time! It’s all incredibly loyal, magical and…well…Disney!

There’s something so right about LEGO and Disney’s pairing; two pure franchises, loved by generations the world over, and something that you will continue to love, no matter what age you are. We’d like to think that if Walt Disney was still alive today, he would heartily approve of this set, and one can only hope that more Mickey related sets can be released in the near future.




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