BLACK FRIDAY BARGAIN!: $1.25 Build-It Mini Figs

The stars of two of Nickelodeon’s most successful shows are available at Dollar Tree, in building block form, for the low, low price of $1.25 each. Come on in and let’s see if they’re worth it.

The turkey is eaten, the wine has been drunk, and the guests have all gone home. All that’s left to do this Thanksgiving is indulge in one last celebration of American overabundance. It’s Black Friday, god damn it. The day when we perform the most American of all Thanksgiving rituals: buying shit we don’t need just because it’s on sale. So let’s see what I found.

Just like last time, this year’s Black Friday bargain is not really a Black Friday deal at all. $1.25 is the regular price of these sets, as well as nearly everything else at Dollar Tree. But I like the idea of helping people find cheap, quality stocking stuffers, and I’m willing to stretch the truth to help you stretch your dollars. I’m kind of a saint that way. A dirty, lying saint.

We’re going to start with the Turtles, because these mini figs aren’t nearly as good as the SpongeBob series, and I believe in saving the best for last.

It is rare to see even Lego print something on the thin side of a plate, let alone a manufacturer of knockoff parts. And when you do see it, it’s usually relegated to ugly manufacturers marks that add nothing to the model. But each Turtle in this series comes with two bandana pieces, one with pupils in the eyes as seen in the ’80s cartoon, and one with plain white Batman-style eyes, as seen in the action sequences in most of the Turtles’ later animated series. That’s an impressive little extra that makes me like these sets just a little more than they deserve.

What I mean by that is that these are not as well built as they should be. Each sub-assembly is solidly designed except for the torso. Unfortunately the torso is what holds the entire figure together, so this weakness is particularly problematic. Even worse, all the Turtles use the same build, so none of our favorite heroes in a half shell are very easy to play with.

Why does Donatello look like angry Stay Puft?

These models are just okay. They’re not particularly impressive to look at, and, like I said, the structural integrity is severely lacking. Simply trying to place their weapons in the Turtles’ hands caused each of these figures to fall apart. That torso design is really an issue.

Here’s the problem. Those two 1×1 bricks with hollow studs on opposite sides are just not sound. There’s nothing holding them together at the bottom, which is where the hips are. Attempting to swing the legs tears the poor Turtle to pieces.

This problem could have been avoided altogether by simply using a combined 1×2 brick, as seen in the inset, instead of two separate bricks. Lego makes these bricks, but as far as I can tell they are not available in dark green, which would match the shells. Despite the lack of color coordination, if you’re serious about playing with these figures it might be worth your time to swap in a 1×2 brick with studs on the front and back. These mini figs would definitely benefit from the structural stability.

Speaking of stability, these things don’t stand up too well, either. The shell makes them back heavy, and the foot design offers no heels for these guys. So I used the extra bandana pieces as stabilizers. It works well, and has the added bonus of helping me to be sure I don’t misplace them. It’s not a perfect solution, but these are far from perfect designs. Seeing as they could barely stand on their own without additional pieces, I think it was a pretty clever use of available parts.

Okay, let’s move on to yellower pastures. The Ninja Turtles were a bit of a letdown, but the SpongeBob builds were a win across the board. Let’s check ’em out.

Inside the bags you’ll find another bag full of parts, and an instruction booklet for assembling the mini fig. Inside the SpongeBob bag you will also find a sticker sheet. More on that later. For now, we build.

Since this is The Sci-Fi Guys, and we are all about some mechanical marvels, I should point out that, apart from the head, Squidward’s design would make a really excellent robot. And it’s FAR more stable than the Ninja Turtles designs.

Remember before when I said that most printing on the thin sides of plates are ugly manufacturers marks? Poor Squidward really got the shaft on this one. Not only is there a ugly black text on one of his head pieces, the printing wraps around both long sides and one short side. There’s no way to hide it. This is just sloppy craftsmanship. How does nonsense like this make it past the design teams? Apart from NASCAR fans, no one wants to see your corporate logo feces all over their toys.

Patrick has two little cones for legs and he stands up on the small ends. Yet, somehow, he is more stable than the Ninja Turtles. No joke.

I’ve mentioned elsewhere that I don’t put stickers on my bricks. Legos are meant to be versatile, and stickers make them much less so. Also, some stickers break down over time, leaving nasty adhesive on my toys. No, thank you. SpongeBob, however, was an unidentifiable yellow rectangle on feet without them. Also, these sets are disposably priced. If it came down to it, I could toss these pieces and not feel it, so I went ahead and labeled Mr. SquarePants. I have to admit, it makes all the difference. I’m not sure why they didn’t just print these pieces like they printed Patrick, Squidward, and the Ninja Turtles. Seems kind of arbitrary.

Even with their flaws, these are quality figures. I can’t imagine a SpongeBob SquarePants fan, nor a fan of Lego, who wouldn’t enjoy putting these guys together. These are solid little models and a lot of fun to make. Unless you’re a hard core Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles collector, I would probably leave those sets on the shelves. The pieces are well made, but the models are poorly designed. The SpongeBob SquarePants sets, on the other hand, are fantastic, and I would proudly drop these in anyone’s stocking.

Things from Dollar Tree don’t normally have the greatest manufacturing standards, but these are legitimately quality building blocks. The plastic is sturdy yet appropriately pliable, and the stamped/printed parts are particularly well made. The quality of these pieces is so good, in fact, that I’m going to officially declare that Just Play Build-It Mini Figs Work With Lego!

Welcome to the family!

Thanks for joining us, and if you spot any Black Friday deals you think we should check out, drop us a line in the comments and let us know what it is!

Speaking of overabundance, I found these sci-fi Thanksgiving images, now we don’t know what to do with ’em. Bellevue doesn’t want ’em, and I’m afraid to put ’em in the lock-up. And I know you guys are into this stuff, so I figured we’d check with you. Enjoy.

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