Sale of the set is slated to start 01 September. In a decidedly odd move, Lego is holding back on the official announcements until tomorrow, 31 August, emphasised by an on site countdown. In addition, they've posted a video in which the Phelps brothers (Fred & George) demonstrate the buildable QR code that will provide access to special content as of the 31st (there are instructions available, or we can skip that step and simply scan the sample provided (see below)). Expectations are it will give us access to premium content related to the set's development and a virtual tour.
There were some leaked pictures of poor quality out about a week ago, and in light of the timing, one might assume the official response has seen to leaking excellent quality pictures of the renders of the set. They also 'inadvertently' let the product description for this set go live on their site. Although they've since removed it, google cache ever so usefully archived it, and stonewars.de has the full description text. We now know it will contain 5544 pieces. At minifig scale, this is good Lego value; contrast it with the Hogwarts Castle (71043) 6020 pieces (the second largest set ever released) for (what's expected to be) the same price in nanofig scale. Generally smaller pieces are cheaper and the inclusion of minifigs ups the price (16 vs. 4), so no complaints on that front. This will make DA the fourth largest set in the Lego collection, and presumably an easier build than the castle.
So what are we getting? It's an over a metre long, modular display of six stores from Diagon Alley. The modularity is a nice touch, and permits easy reorganising of the street, and better movement, display and storage of the set. The shops represented are Ollivander's (with an all new wand box 😊), Scribbulus, Quality Quidditch Supplies, Flourish & Blotts, Florean Fortesque's Ice Cream Parlour, and Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes. We're also getting entrances to the Daily Prophet and Knockturn Alley. Disappointingly, no Gringotts or Borgin and Burkes, as can be found in the 2011 Diagon Alley set (10217). I'd also have preferred to see a Leaky Cauldron and the entrance to Diagon Alley given the price. I know I'm not alone on that front, and it's unlikely many people had Scribbulus on their want lists. (Hermione, hush.) It's conceivable, however, that Lego will release a Gringotts set (possibly with dragon) as part of their seventh year / DH wave.
Lego has done some reshuffling of the store order (originally: Daily Prophet (technically entrance only lol, so appropriate; see the google maps link below), Gringotts, Scribbulus, Ollivander's, Wiseacre's, Fortescue's, Flourish & Blotts, and WWW) and also replaced Wiseacre's in the original lineup with a Quality Quidditch Supplies store, suspicious minds might suspect in order to reduce the piece count required. Let's face it, it's much cheaper to dot about a few brooms than it is to represent the collection of things Wiseacre's had on offer. (And Quidditch (somewhat inexplicably) remains popular with a segment of the population.) That said, they did a great job representing the weird broom shapes. I didn't expect to like that (brooms, boooring), but I do.
We also now know which (14) character minifigs to expect: Rubeus Hagrid, HBP / DH Fred Weasley, HBP (DH ?) George Weasley (we can't see his ear in the available pictures), CoS Molly Weasley, CoS Ginny Weasley, CoS Ron Weasley, CoS Hermione Granger, CoS Harry Potter, CoS Draco Malfoy, (CoS) Lucius Malfoy, CoS Gilderoy Lockhart (sadly no longer blond), Ollivander, Florean Fortesque, Hedwig, and the long sought after Daily Prophet Photographer Bozo. (Don't mind me, I'm just salty they've included a Daily Prophet entrance without a Rita Skeeter. Considering the scene in CoS with Lockhart mugging for the cameras, I'll grudgingly acknowledge Bozo is probably a better fit, but I'd still have liked to see her in this autumns's Collectible Minifigure Series.) So beyond the decided lack of Rita... Other disappointments are 1) no Arthur Weasley to argue with Lucius, 2) only one of the minifigs has printing on the legs (Lucius, and it merely reuses Severus' legs at that), 3) Draco and Lucius could / should be lighter blond and the elder Malfoy's cane is underwhelming, 4) only six of those fourteen minifigs have posable legs because they've gone with a mostly CoS representation, and the kids' legs (as well as Hagrid's and Bozo's legs plus Molly's skirt) are static.
But on the good news front, the Lucius, Bozo, Lockhart, and Florian Fortescue minifigs are new to this run of HP Lego (Florian and Bozo are altogether new, appearing for the first time as minifigs), it's nice to have the twins in an older edition (particularly as we're getting a Weasleys' Wizard Wheezes store), and Ollivander had only previously appeared in a very limited run GWP. Nice touch: he has a different print from the GWP, which means rabid collectors will still value both versions, while the character is simultaneously more accessible for the casual collector. (They've apparently done the same with Ron in the Advent calendar.) It's nice, too, that Fred and George have distinct prints. We're also getting the first ever Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff Quidditch uniform jerseys, which is a cause for some celebration, and they've effectively included two extra minifigs as mannequins in the Quality Quidditch Supply store, upping the count to sixteen.
The interiors are beautifully done. I'm seriously impressed by the design choices. That said, I don't have words to describe my mortification at the colour scheme, and in a completely baffling decision, they unfortunately seem to have orientated their palette and design towards the film studio set.
If you've never seen it before, google has made it possible to virtually tour the set. (This is seriously awesome. Go on, give it a try; it's truly lovely.)
In most concept art, Diagon Alley had pointy roofs. The architecture tended towards two story English Tudors, properly wonky pitched roofs, with nary a pastel or naff front in sight. I've known enough places that look like that; it feels right. On the set, the roofline was a mix, and as long as the cameras kept low, it was unclear how many buildings had which style of roof. Sadly in the Diagon Alley set, they've gone with the absolutely disastrous set lighting (PINK! LILAC!) and made many of the roofs flat topped. It looks like an American cowboy / western attraction that's been relocated to the pastels of South Beach, Florida. For... reasons. Probably.
No, just no.
Decidedly lavender google maps set tour
The actual Lego design front (above) and back (below) views
A Fan Study in Design
I might have been able to stomach the purple from the WWW if that were the extent of it, but the QQS's pink... Yikes. It's all well and good for a studio tour, but as a brick colour... Not so much. I can't help sitting there calculating the number of pieces I'd have to replace to make it palatable. 😕 Fan and eurobricks user Msjol has done some colour renderings of the build. (I'm rather partial to the Williamsburg blue.) It's interesting to see the difference it makes.
FAN EDITS - NOT THE OFFICIAL DESIGN
The reception on the forum has been mixed. For one thing, the box art has been panned. The angled shot of the build simply isn't flattering, it gives too much visual weight to the QQS while obscuring the Fortescue's and Flourish & Blotts module, and when that angle and photos with improper colour adjustments are all you have to go off of... Most likely the strange design was caused by limitations of the box dimensions. The set is long and thin, the box is not. Making matters worse, generally people seem more impressed with the interiors, and that's just not how people tend to display their sets. Consensus is the wide expanse of pink is an affront, and it's an issue of both colour and scale. (Had the stretch of wall been smaller, it would have bothered people less.) It's interesting trying to follow the designers' thinking, attempting to arrive at better solutions, or unexpectedly finding oneself embracing the same decisions.
FAN EDIT - NOT THE OFFICIAL DESIGN
Avid HP Lego modder Mic Mac has taken the experimentation a step further, and played about with the layout in photoshop. (I can also recommend taking a reccy through his album of MOCs (My Own Creations). The baby thestrals are adorable, and his reimaginings of the castle are truly well done.) In the original film set (see the google maps link above), QQS had one wide window for displaying brooms; here Lego has given us a wide window for brooms and a small one for a Quidditch uniform / mannequin, which seems an excellent decision. It also adds some irregularity to the shop fronts, which is crucial in a DA rendering (especially as Ollivander's and Flourish & Blotts are symmetrical) and often difficult to inject into a Lego build. Centring the entryway permits the pink to be foreshortened on the first floor, but costs us some of the wonkiness, and makes a broom display window less effective. And while I vastly prefer a different roofline for the Daily Prophet, I can understand that the increased piece count, both for two extra walls and the roof tiles, presumably drove the decision away from that solution. It clearly isn't easy to solve, and I can't help wondering to what extent the Coronavirus and the changes it brought for many of us in our daily work environments may have played a role in a design that feels somehow less polished than usual, an unfortunate reaction on my part to one of Lego's most expensive sets.
Anyway, I'm looking forward to hearing what the designers have to say and to seeing what people come up with as modifications to the build once the set is released. It's not long now... 😊