LEGO Harry Potter attends the Yule Ball with 75948 Hogwarts Clock Tower [Review]


When LEGO revived the Harry Potter theme last year after a seven-year hiatus, one set was notably missing: a minifigure-scale Hogwarts Castle. Of course, we did get the stupendous microscale 71043 Hogwarts Castle , but we’d come to expect a regular set labeled “Hogwarts Castle” as LEGO had done at least four times previously. However, this time LEGO had something much more grand up its sleeves. Afterall, there’s no way to have a proper Hogwarts Castle at minifigure scale without it breaking both your bank and your back. Beginning with the excellent 75954 Hogwarts Great Hall and continuing with 75953 Hogwarts Whomping Willow, LEGO is releasing a sweeping minifigure-scale Hogwarts bit by bit, with each segment modularly fitting to the next. 75948 Hogwarts Clock Tower is the third in the series. With 922 pieces, it retails for US $89.99  |  CAN $119.99  |  UK £84.99 . It is available starting July 1 in North America, though it has already been available in Europe.

The revived Harry Potter theme has been playing a mad-dash game of catch-up to whip through the movies–because yes, the sets are based on the movies, not the books–in order to get a new generation of LEGO Harry Potter fans up to speed with all their favorite moments. Last year’s Great Hall was based on The Philosopher’s Stone , the first movie, while the Whomping Willow followed we a scene from The Chamber of Secrets . In building the modular Hogwarts LEGO has skipped right past the third, The Prisoner of Azkaban . Hogwarts Clock Tower is set during the Yule Ball in The Goblet of Fire , when two rival wizarding schools are visiting Hogwarts for the Triwizard Tournament.

The box and contents
With its contents spread across just six numbered bags, the quantity of medium and large-sized elements is apparent right from the start. The instructions and two sticker sheets are packed together in a sealed bag, while two large octagonal plates are loose in the box. They will form the base of the dancing platform, which is the central play element for the set.
The sticker sheets follow the usual pattern for the Harry Potter sets, featuring lots of wall decorations. The bookshelves would be better off brick-built, but that much detail is hard to fit into the confined spaces of Dumbledore’s already crowded office. However, it’s a real shame to see both the Sorting Hat and Fawkes the Phoenix as flat stickers, since LEGO already has excellent 3D versions of them. The second sticker sheet is transparent for the bathroom’s stained glass window.




The set has few unique elements apart from the minifigures, but two new prints do find their way in for the clock faces. The larger face is similar to the one from 10253 Big Ben , being printed inside-out on the convex side of a 6×6 dish, but sports a new, more magical design. The smaller clock face is printed on a smooth shield. The shield allows it to avoid the unsightly stud in the center, unlike most previous LEGO clock faces. Combined with its traditionally elegant design, it’s sure to become one of the most popular LEGO clocks.





The build
The build starts with the ballroom dance floor, where a geared mechanism helps the dancers twirl and spin. The base is a 10×10 octagonal plate with one of the new small turntable bases, upon which another identical octagonal plate sits. The top plate has five of the new “splat” gears around it, which also sit on the new small turntable bases. The center gear is locked in place once the central column is attached to the rest of the castle. All of this motion combines to make a kind of planetary gear system, where the smaller gears spin on their axes as they orbit the center.




The set is organized into three modular sections, which can be rearranged in any order. The dance floor and a fireplace combine to make the first section, along with a few standalone items like the tables and Christmas tree.
The next module is a short two-floor affair, with the Prefects’ bathroom on the bottom and the Headmaster’s office above. The bathroom is where Harry Potter opens the golden egg with Moaning Myrtle’s help during the first challenge of the Triwizard Tournament. The bathroom looks nice, but the tub isn’t big enough for a minifigure, and sadly the set doesn’t include the golden egg.

This is where the large sticker for the mermaid stained glass window belongs, and with very careful sticker application it looks great.
The second floor has a paired down version of Dumbledore’s office. Considering the tiny footprint, it looks great, though as I already mentioned even more of the details should have been brick-built rather than stickers.
The last section is the set’s namesake, the clock tower. The tower sacrifices a bit of realism to have better architectural details on the front. In multiple places the windows are blocked with bricks in an attempt to scale down the details. From the front, the tower is four stories tall, while inside it houses only three.




The bottom two stories comprise a piece of the great hall with the Goblet of Fire and its carrying case on the bottom, and a slice of Alastor Moody’s Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom above. The top floor is a small section of the Gryffindor boys dormitory, and also the backside of the clock.




As I’ve reviewed sets over the last several years, I’ve noticed LEGO furniture improving at a remarkable pace. I was very impressed with the furniture in Stranger Things: The Upside Down , and the furniture here, though simple, is similarly lovely.


The complete set
LEGO hasn’t produced a version of Hogwarts’ clock tower since 2004, when it appeared in the second LEGO iteration of Hogwarts Castle, so it’s a welcome portion of the castle to see back after so long. The set has to be understood in its context, though, because it’s not trying to be a perfect architectural model, but rather a playset that can provide a setting for lots of minifigure scenes.
And it’s definitely not perfectly accurate. It mashes up portions of the castle haphazardly. Dumbledore’s office, the prefect’s bathroom, the Gryffindor boys’ dormitory, the ballroom, the great hall, and the Defense Against the Dark Arts classroom are spread out throughout the castle and not all located adjacent to one another, or even all in the vicinity of the clock tower.

However, Hogwarts contains a lot of interior rooms that don’t play any particular role in the story, so a perfectly accurate model wouldn’t make a great set with memorable locations. Not many fans are looking to spend nearly $100 to get unnamed classrooms, closets, and storerooms.




Still, not every room included here is interesting. Especially compared to the Great Hall set from last year, the bit of the Great Hall here is downright boring. Perhaps it’s intended to be another room, but the presence of the Goblet of Fire with its blue flames hints that it’s depicting the scene where Harry’s name was pulled from the cup. Whatever it is, there’s not much to it. Fortunately, the other rooms mostly make up for it.

The Yule Ball is the primary theme for the set, with each of the minifigures sporting their dance finery. The ballroom isn’t particularly impressive as an architectural design, since its primary purpose is as a play feature, but with the addition of the tables and Christmas tree the setting looks appropriately festive.
The tables and tree are beautiful designs, with the tree, in particular, being among the best LEGO Christmas trees yet. The unicorn horns for the icicles on the tables is a great design we’ve seen in fan models, while the shaping for the ice sculpture is simple but effective.

The dance floor looks far better in practice than it does in static pictures, with the figures delightfully whirling about. The one thing it’s missing is a better way to activate the motion; it’s sorely missing a geared in crank with which to spin the dancers.

It’s best to think of the set as an exterior architectural model paired with a series of internal vignettes, just as the recent Jurassic Park gate is. And the exterior does look nice. Even with its exterior scale being slightly smaller than minifigure scale, it’s still a bit small. But let’s not judge it too harshly for that; it’s easily the best minifigure-ish scale LEGO Hogwarts exterior yet, with lots of detailing.

The clock looks great, and the hands on the large face can be turned (together) from a crank on the back. The hands are made with two minifigure wrenches, and together with the crank, you can set them to display any time.




 
The three sections of the castle each connect to each other with two Technic pins, just like the previous two Hogwarts sets. The instructions show the three sets paired together with their modules in the same order as the individual sets, but you could mix and match to create other shapes.




Once all three are connected, they form a sizable length of Hogwarts. Hopefully as LEGO continues to release the sets, they’ll produce pieces that allow for a more accurate layout of Hogwarts. LEGO has told us that they can only advertise sets as being compatible with each other if the sets are currently in production, but while LEGO won’t speak of future plans for the line, it seems they intend to keep producing these modular Hogwarts sets for a while even after the older ones like the Great Hall are no longer offered.


The minifigures
The set includes eight minifigures, all of which are exclusive designs for this set. As we’d expect, they’re excellent designs with intricate printing for their Yule Ball finest and will make this set an easy buy for any hardcore LEGO Harry Potter fan.
After countless versions of Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, and Hermione Granger over the years, these new outfits are a welcome addition. Ron and Harry each have the new medium height legs, while Hermione has a printed 1×2 brick for a short dress. Perhaps a reader can prove me wrong, but as far as I’m aware this is the first time LEGO has used a printed 1×2 brick for a dress.
All three minifigures have double-sided heads and back printing, though sadly Hermione’s dress brick is printed only on the front. Hermione’s hair appears for the first time in brown, and is only the third time it’s been in a set at all, following two appears in dark orange and light yellow in the Collectible Minifigures line.




Professor Dumbledore sports regal light purple and white robes with gold highlights. Cedric Diggory, meanwhile, follows suit with Harry in a traditional black tuxedo, though the print differs slightly from Harry’s with a black bowtie instead of white.
Again, both minfigures have back printing and alternate faces, although with the large beard Dumbledore’s face is mostly covered. The key difference is that one side has glasses across his nose while other doesn’t. It’s the same head used for Dumbledore in the Great Hall set.




Finally, we have the three guests to Hogwarts, Viktor Krum from the Durmstrang Institute, and Madame Olympe Maxime and Fleur Delacour from Beauxbatons Academy of Magic. While Victor has appeared before in a set (though just once back in 2005 ), both Fleur and Madame Maxine appear here for the first time. In a different outfit, Fleur also appears in this wave’s 75946 Hungarian Horntail Triwizard Challenge , but Madame Maxine is so far exclusive to just this set. Fittingly, her dress does not use the standard dress block, but a printed 2x2x3 slope, giving her a towering stature.
As with the other minifigures, each of the three guests have back printing and alternate faces. Fleur’s dress is a low point on the minifigure designs, as it’s completely devoid of printing on either side.





Conclusion and recommendation
The 75948 Hogwarts Clock Tower is a solid entry to what I’ll call the minifigure-ish scale modular Hogwarts. On its own, it’s far more of a playset than a particularly impressive showpiece, but I love the idea of collecting a bigger version of Hogwarts through a bunch of sets. This isn’t the first time LEGO has done the modular Hogwarts, but it’s far better executed this time. Although I don’t mind the inaccuracies of the rooms from throughout the castle being brought together here, I am disappointed that some rooms like Dumbledore’s office are included, because it means it’s probably not likely that we’ll get a standalone set of the Marble Staircase Tower with a bigger version of his office.

Ultimately, this is an excellent set for two camps: The first is those who are interested in collecting all of the sets of the modular Hogwarts. If this is the only such set you buy, you’ll likely be disappointed, so it’s an awkward set by itself. But when combined with the rest it’s pretty cool and will hopefully only get better. The second camp is made of minifigure collectors, and with all eight figures being exclusive, and one being a totally unique character, it’s hard to say this isn’t a great set for minifigures.
With 922 pieces, the set sits about where we’d expect for its price point, though none of the non-printed pieces are unique to this set. Ultimately, this is a good set, but except for the figures it doesn’t stand out among the recent Harry Potter sets in the way the Great Hall did. I’ll enjoy having it my collection, but it’s not one to elicit oohs and aahs.

75948 Hogwarts Clock Tower contains 922 pieces and 8 minifigures. It is available from the LEGO Shop Online starting July 1 for US $89.99  |  CAN $119.99  |  UK £84.99 or from Amazon . It is also available from third-party sellers on Bricklink and eBay . 
The LEGO Group sent The Brothers Brick an early copy of this set for review. Providing TBB with products for review guarantees neither coverage nor positive reviews.