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Just is case it's passed you by, this June the Queen will be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee and to celebrate the Early Learning Centre have released a special edition Happyland set imaginatively titled The Queen's Jubilee Set. At £5 this is one of the cheapest Happyland sets available but it is also one of the hardest to get hold of. My nearest, physical ELC shop has had it in stock several times but sold out within days, while the website has also sold out on more than one occasion. Checking on Ebay, they are available there, but at highly inflated prices of up to £15, which in my opinion is simply ridiculous. After a lot of searching and finding that neither the ELC website nor my local store had any of the sets in stock, I discovered that the ELC was now a seller on Amazon and this particular outlet had five sets in stock (with free super saver delivery), so I ordered two, one to play with and one to put away.
Even though I had read the product description and knew that there were very few pieces in this set, I still couldn't help but wonder “is that it?” as I opened the packaging to reveal a small box with a transparent window to reveal the three pieces inside. Although I must say that the interior of the box is quite decorative, with its cardboard stage and curtain, it was difficult to remove the pieces without damaging the backdrop. Rather than using plastic ties to hold the pieces in place, pegs and elastic bands are utilised, which while making a nice change doesn't actually make it easier to remove them (and the very thin elastic bands are a safety hazard in themselves).
As I've said there are a total of three pieces in this set, the Queen, herself, a corgi and a table laden with a celebration cake. All three pieces are formed of the same rubberised material used to make all of the Happyland characters, with the detail painted on. The Queen herself is instantly recognisable with her silver grey hair, crown and very particular dress sense and she is nicely detailed, I especially like her white elbow length gloves and gold necklace. But, and this is a big but, she is identical to the Queen character in the Royal Wedding set and I do mean identical, the clothes are the same and so is the jewellery. Personally I think this is a little slipshod and a bit of a cop out on the Early Learning Centre's part, especially when you add to this the fact that while the corgi is very cute and identifiable in a cartoon-like sort of way, it is also identical to the one in the Royal Wedding set. The final piece in the set is actually one that we didn't already own, and is a blue table topped with a three tier cake, again I'm a little disappointed with this piece, I don't know why but I thought it would look just a little more special and maybe it would have been better if the cake could be removed from the table.
With the pieces being between five and ten centimetres in height they are the perfect size for little hands and are far too large to cause a choking hazard. The packaging itself recommends this set for children aged between 18 months and 4 years, and while I'd say the upper limit was about right, I would have been perfectly happy for Freddy to play with these before he was 18months, in fact he's been playing with Happyland toys since he was about ten months old. At two years old, Freddy is just starting to develop his role play skills and I must say he was pretty keen to get hold of this set as soon as he saw it. After exploring each of the pieces and asking me what they were he immediately incorporated them into playing with his other sets, which involved the Queen going to the funfair, which was probably a lot more fun than anything she's actually got planned on her itinerary. There's no way I would say that this is a favourite set, but the pieces do get played with on a regular basis, especially in conjunction with one of his many other Happyland sets. I do appreciate that as the Queen follows the same format as those in other sets (including the hole in the base) it can be used in conjunction with the other sets, which adds an enormous amount of play value.
As well as allowing Freddy to play with this set on his own, I also spend a little time using the pieces as props to help talk about the upcoming celebrations (that we'll be attending). We've taken the Queen on visits to the Happyland Sunflower School, where she's eaten cake and let her dog be stroked, she's had a ride on the Country Train, and of course she's visited the Funfair. This is something I love about all the Happyland sets, the way they can be used to help introduce a child to everyday and even special occasions. And this set is fantastic for talking about the upcoming Jubilee celebrations, which are likely to be something completely out of their experience.
All in all I am fairly disappointed in this set, which is a shame as I'm normally very vocal in recommending Happyland sets. While I would possibly recommend purchasing this if your child doesn't already own the Royal Wedding Set, the fact that two out of the three pieces have simply been recycled unchanged, means that I am unwilling to do so if they do own the Royal Wedding. In fact the only reason that I would recommend this for those that already own the Royal Wedding set is to put it away as an investment that is likely to increase in value over the years. So I'm giving the Happyland Queen's Jubilee set a disappointing two stars out of five and will finish by saying “Shame on you ELC for not even attempting to disguise the fact you're simply using up left-overs from the Royal Wedding set”.
You'd have thought they could have made more effort - after all, you mentioned that the Queen is identical to the one in the other set so it sounds a bit generic. Obviously nothing to make it stand out specifically as a Diamond Jubilee set.
hogsflesh 15.05.2012 21:14
So it costs too much and is of little actual use? Just like the real thing, then.