The ampersand makes all the difference. This model is exclusively available at Universal Studios, and I was lucky enough to have a fellow builder help me out with acquiring one without paying the eBay scalping prices. And I’m loving it. Not just because it’s a dragon (DRAGONS!!!), but also because of the wonky-wacky architecture of the Gringott’s bank building itself.
It wasn’t until I had been building the bank (which is the first part you work on) for a bit that I realized that this is just the top two floors of the bank building, not the whole thing. But that’s okay, it’s still pretty epic. And the way they executed the structure’s feeling of being just shy of falling apart, but still being incredibly sturdy, is just… awesome. If you are a big Harry Potter fan, than this is a must have. Especially given that the dragon, despite what you might think, is not just a duplication of the Gringott’s Dragon model. There is a lot in common, but they’ve made quite a few changes as well.
Notably: the wings are attached completely differently, with raised sections representing the first bones of the armsl the spine / back no longer spreads out in the middle to attach the wings to and is curved in a much different manner, the tail is narrow and pointy, and finally, the horns on the back of the head (on the sides) are much shorter. Phew, that’s a long list. I don’t know about whether there are more differences, but those stood out to me. Another neat thing you might have noticed above is the text on the back of the bank. Nice touch, Metal Earth, nice touch.
Oh, yeah, and I did have to replicate the decorative modification I made to the Gringott’s Dragon, with the chain around the neck and the shackles on the legs. I added that before I attached the dragon, because I thought it would be easier, but they tended to get in the way a whole heck of a lot, not to mention unwinding from around the neck. I ended up dropping a couple of UV-glue dabs on the chain to keep it from unwinding as I tried to wrestle the wings into the right shape at the end.
Is this a difficult model? Yes, most definitely. It may not be one of the most challenging models I’ve built, but it’s definitely up there. Some off that may be on me, some not so much. But I do suggest you get a good number of models under your belt before you take this one on. Obviously there are a lot of curves in this model, and they are complex curves as you shape the ring-like segments of the body on the dragon. They are not as simple as you might think. But in addition to that, there is quite a bit of odd angles and balancing / alignment challenges.
Unsurprisingly, this build is mostly like building two separate models. First you build the Gringott’s Bank building, and then build the Dragon, and finally attach them to each other. Just a few pieces cross that divide, with the dome and a couple of trim parts of the bank waiting until the end to be attached, along with the dragon. While working on the bank, your main concern will be alignment, weird angles, and making sure that you secure tabs in ways that do not block attachment of future parts. On the flipside, the dragon will test your patience and skills with so many curves, and parts that just don’t want to go where they are supposed to go (especially if you want the body to be a little more rounded at the top.
At the top of the build (and a little bit later) you’ll start by building the side-walls of the bank, complete with a layered window. And these are just nowhere near square on any corner or side. The instructions do call out, helpfully, that some of the folds on parts 2 and 4 are folded past 90 degrees. But they don’t mention the fact that the next fold down (the one closer to the front of the bank) is even sharper than that. The most useful thing you can do is look ahead to part 7 and where the side-walls will be attached to it. Oh, and be extremely careful with the edges you fold over on the window frame. It worked best for me, on the top edge, to hold the window in my pliers, and use my fingernails to bend the edge over. Usually, I grip the edge being folded, and lever over larger section of the part. However, the part is rather fragile.
Now all of that applies to both floors of the bank, as they are almost duplicates of each other (but leaning different directions). The following few notes share this quality, starting with the order of assembling the walls of the bank together, and attaching them to the floor of each level. Instead of joining the walls all together, then securing them to the floor, I chose to secure the side-walls to the floor first, then attach the front wall to the side walls. The main reason I did this was because attaching the front wall to the side walls with folds is difficult when they can flop about – it tends to lead to loose connections, for me, when I have to do that sort of thing.
The next thing to be careful about are the pillars (parts 9 and 28) that attach to the front of each level. First of all, take care not to mix up the parts between floors. They are very similar, but not similar enough. They are shaped to “lean” to one side, to the right on the first floor you build, then to the left on the next one. But you also have to take care not to fold these parts backwards. It’s quite easy to do on accident, if you are not paying attention closely. I know, because I accidentally folded one of them in the second set backwards, which caused it to lean the wrong way. Also, despite it saying that you can twist the tabs when attaching the pillars (with headers/footers attached, parts 10) to the floor, I would recommend that you fold over the tabs closest to the edge, as they can make attaching the trim underneath (part 21) rather frustrating.
Similarly, I found that it was a good idea to fold the tabs (rather than twist) on the front panel of the inter-floor layers (such as part 13 below), so they do not interfere with the proper alignment of the trim (part 14 in the example below). Ironically, I took note of that from before, but completely managed to miss the fold indicators just below that. When attaching part 15 to the top of the pillars, I twisted the tab. Something I later regretted, and had to attempt to do through a gap between part 15 and a piece of trim. The twisted tabs interfere with an alignment between two parts that are not directly connected together.
The rest of this section of the build is a lot of repeated steps as you build out the top floor of the bank. There is a little bit different, a little bit new, but nothing worth calling out, in my opinion. Instead, I’ll move on to the next area: building the dragon. Which starts with the frill that runs down the dragon’s spine. There are a couple of tabs on this that, when folded down, extend past the bottom off the pair of strips. I prefer to have them bent down, as opposed to being bent out, though. So I clipped the tips of the tabs off (just a little bit) after I had slotted the tabs through their slots, but before folding the tabs down.
Moving past that, you fold / curve the base of the spine, part 37, which is interesting, but not terribly difficult. There are a number of spots where it looks designed to have light folds, and other parts where it curves (you can look ahead to part 59 for how much to curve the tip of the tail end). Then the real fun begins… forming and attaching the segments of the body. This is a bit repetitive, in a way, but not monotonous, as it’s presents it’s own challenges, with each segment curving in a slightly different way.
The challenge is getting the curve right to get the five tabs aligned correctly and slotted home at the same time. I made this extra challenging for myself by attempting to add a bit of curve to the top of each segment. I thought it would lead to a more aesthetically pleasing appearance (which I somewhat think it did), but it made every segment that much harder to connect. I think it also caused the spine to deform a bit. Don’t be like me. Just do what the instructions say… or you might regret it.
That’s how I ended up with the busted tab. by adding the curve-in at the tops, I made it a tighter fit to get the tabs fully seated. And I had trouble with the one that the legs are attached to, as I said in a previous post. I tried once to get it fully seated, and failed. I unfolded and tried again, but pulled the tab clean off. And thus, this post comes a bit later than I’d planned, since I had to wait for replacement parts. That being said, I did manage to do one other thing before I broke that tab – build the legs. This did not go without it’s own struggles, of course. I was on a roll of mistakes of my own making, I should have known to stop.
The legs of this dragon (and the standalone Gringott’s Dragon) are some of the more frustrating legs to form in all the models I’ve built. First of all, the rounded ball at the top of the “thigh” is just as challenging as it looks. Domes are hard, half-domes attached to tapered cylinders are also hard. Then, the lower “shin” part of the legs is a tiny piece, which makes forming it into a tapered cone rather challenging. Add in the fact that one end is not “flat” and it connects to the leg in a really funky way, and it’s a lot of fun. It also only connects on two points, and the joint ends up feeling very loose (at least it did for me). I almost glued it to make sure that joint was solid, then remembered that getting the feet secured to the dome of the bank is a challenge (on the standalone model), so I left them loose and planned on taking care of any looseness after it was attached to the dome of the bank.
The final step in forming each of the legs is building and attaching the feet. Building the feet is not as hard as it looks, despite how strangely it is shaped. I found at adding a bit of an inward curve to the sides of the feet helped it align better, and I folded all the tabs outwards for a tighter connection. Folding them down / flat to the model is my usual approach, as it’s more aesthetically pleasing, but folding away/out creates more tension in some cases (such as this). When I have to fold out, I also try to roll the tabs over, which helps with the aesthetics. Finally, you need to attach the feet to the legs. It should be an easy thing. It is an easy thing. And I screwed it up. Twice. In a row. For some reason, my brain just really wanted those feet attached pointing backwards. So much so that I completely went with it and attached one of those backwards-footed legs to the dragon before I realized it was backwards. Don’t be me. Put them on facing the correct way (and feel free to use the 360 video above to verify which was is correct, because it still looks funky in the instructions to me).
So… back to waiting on replacement parts, and a note about requesting replacement parts. If you end up needing to request replacement parts, be smart – don’t just specify the part that was broken, specify any parts that are attached to the part that is broken, especially if they are parts that have the potential to break when separating from the broken part (while replacing it). Fascinations was kind enough to replace the whole sheet that contained the broken part, but that didn’t happen to include all the parts of the legs / feet. I had only selected the body segment, so I was super nervous that I would break tabs off when separating the legs from the broken one. Thankfully it came off okay, and I was able to attach it to the replacement segment just fine. Lesson learned, and thankfully not the hard way. FYI, I included the full repair sequence in the build videos that I always include, so if you want to see my mistake and the correction, it’s all there.
Back into forward progress on the build, I introduced far less of a curve at the top of the leg-connected body segment, and was able to secure it firmly to the spine. Yay! From there, it was more of the same, continuing to form and secure the body segments. None of the ones after that were nearly as hard as the leg-bearing segment, or the segment right before it. It was a good period of restoring my confidence. This worked it’s way out to the end of the tail, which I really thought they did a good job with on this version. It’s quite easy to form and attach, and I’m thankful for that.
Forming the head of the dragon is pretty straight forward, even if it’s interrupted by building the base of the dome of the bank. No, seriously, the instructions briefly jump back to building the bank between forming/attaching the bottom jaw and forming/attaching the top of the head. The lower jaw is pretty easy to form and attach. The upper part of the head is a little more complicated, but allows for some fun personalization. I added some small, shallow s-curves to the spikes coming off the back of the sides of the face, because I felt like it would add depth to the model. The challenging part is attaching the top of the face to the bottom. Especially if you bone-head the instructions and completely form the top off the head before attaching it. Aligning those tabs on both sides of the head and the top all at once, somewhat blindly… it’s a challenge.
But don’t you worry if you missed out on that challenge, because this model has something for everyone! It’s time to build the dome of the bank and attach the dragon to it! Domes are always rather interesting challenges, especially if you don’t have a good dome forming tool. But you might actually have something lying around that could work. Got anything small and spherical? Marbles, bouncy balls, bath bombs, look around… you might have something handy. Also, I like the fact that the instructions include suggestions to fold the slots over a bit to make seating the tabs easier. I do this every time I have to form a dome like this. But I disagreed with the instructions about a major point here… the alignment between the dragon and the dome when attaching the two together.
In the instructions, it shows that the pair of slots on the dome that the feet get secured to are on the back half of the dome, relative to the direction the dragon is facing. I spent a minute or two trying to figure out how to make that happen while still having the dragon facing downwards… and I don’t think it’s possible. No, those tabs need to be on the forward half of the dome. You can try to execute it as the instructions suggest, but I’m betting you’ll end up agreeing with me. Even the build of the model on the packaging agrees with me.
Attaching the dome mounted dragon to the bank building is easier than it might seem, but does put your ability to balance and handle the model to the test. Throughout the work with building the dragon, I bent the little arm segments that attach the wings so many times, though, that it didn’t seem out of place to do so in this process. A couple more trim pieces, and you are ready for the final challenge of the build: attaching and forming the wings. And possibly forcing the dragon to tip over forward.
If there was one thing I would love to see changed about this model, it would be the addition of an extra tab/slot at the end of the arm segments that hold the wings on. There are only two tabs holding each wing on, and while they are sufficient to keep it from falling off, a third tab would have made bending and wrapping the wings down around the building much less frustrating. Why? Because I kept bending them down and finding a huge gap between the end of the arm segment and the wing – not a pretty look. Especially after I spent a bunch of extra time before attaching the wings introducing some “sag” to the skin of the wings between the bones. That parts not in the instructions, but I really like trying to add those realism elements to the dragon models. Anyways… be careful when wrapping the wings down, cause they can easily start to feel disjointed from the arm segments that are securing them to the dragon (I used some UV-glue to convince the gap to stay mostly closed).
Of course, after that, I had one more challenge… fixing the dragon in the right position, as it really wanted to lean much farther forward than it seemed the instructions indicated. At first, I thought it was because of those loose knee joints, but as it turns out, those were good and tightly held in place, due to the stretch it takes to secure the feet to the dome. I ended up using some UV-glue at the contact point between the feet and the dome to secure the “best” angle for the dragon.
I forgot to mention earlier… I added the chains around the neck and the shackles with chains to the legs right before forming the top of the head and securing it. The shackles are a couple of spare cylinder pieces I found in my spare parts bin that were about the right size. If you watch the build video, you can see where I pull out several pairs I had dug out and decided which seemed appropriate at the time. Add in a little UV-glue to secure the chain, and viola! Shackled dragon!
And that’s that! I’ve build another dragon, and a really cool bank to go with it. One of the great things about this bank is that it’s all wonky, so if you don’t align things perfectly, it just adds to the chaos! This build took me just over 7 hours to build (including repair and modification time, but not including wait time on replacement parts). Feel free to use the build videos below for reference: