Celebrating 20 Years of LEGO® Star Wars: Advertising Archive

In which it becomes apparent that the LEGO group are celebrating the 20th Anniversary of LEGO Star Wars. With some of their Archive material, as well as some of my own, from a simlar era, we look at the Early Days of the Star Wars print ads.

LET ME TELL YOU A STORY. Forty two years ago – a Long, Long time ago, in a galaxy not so far away… Star Wars was released on an unsuspecting world. Fan based consumerism would never be the same again.

A LEGO X-wing fighter, circa 1982. It contains a Kenner Luke Skywalker Action Figure, as well as a brick built R2-D2

Star Wars consumed 9 year old me. I read the novel, again, and finally saw the film at the cinema for my ninth birthday. The Belgrave Cameo Cinea, in March 1978 for those playing at home. Drawings, LEGO models and action figures. I couldn’t get enough. I had a ‘making of’ magazine – covering movie history, the special effects, and some of the concept artwork by Ralph McQuarrie, and more still by the Brothers Hildebrandt. Eventually my brother and I managed to combine LEGO with our actions figures. Fast forward to the future…

Twenty Years of LEGO Star Wars

This week we celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the arrival of LEGO Star Wars: The first IP franchise remains popular after all these years. With around 700 sets, over 1000 different minifigures, five video games, several television and web series, the range of LEGO branded Star Wars memorabilia is starting to rival that of the film itself…

I found the 1999 Australian LEGO Catalog for the first half of the year at a garage sale a few months ago. This was published around Christmas 1998 – and available early in the year. Imaging seeing this cover, without an internet full of spoilers…

Inside, we find 3 pages dedicated to the new range – with five sets to be featured in the initial drop.: but April is still several months away when we get the catalog (May June for release in Australia), and we have heard that Episode One will be released in early June… The final page of the Star Wars section of the catalog teases us with the notion of forthcoming sets.

The LEGO Group has celebrated the anniversary by releasing a large number of media assets from the early years of the licence, as well as a bit of history. I shan’t overwhelm you with it all right now. Lets do it over a few posts.

“LEGO play and Star Wars is a dream collaboration for us, and we feel privileged to have one of the strongest fan communities out there who continue to inspire and challenge us to push the boundaries. This 20-year milestone is really a dedication and testimony to our loyal fans who have built, reimagined, battled and shared their LEGO Star Wars adventures with us for two decades. Twenty years on, the Force is still with us and there’s still so much more to come.” 

Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, creative Director of LEGO Star Wars.

LEGO Star Wars was first introduced at the International Toy Fair in New York in February 1999 and has been captivating fans ever since. An impressive 13 sets were launched that year, as well as a LEGO® MINDSTORMS™ Droid developer kit. Over the years, many crowd pleasers have been released, including the first version of the Chewbacca™ minifigure. This was a triumph in itself because of its challenging design. The design team came up with the idea of creating a head with fur covering the back and front of the torso, which has been used in many minifigure designs since.

“Our collaboration with the LEGO Group remains a huge success because it allows people to explore the Star Wars galaxy in a very unique way. Whether you’re meticulously building the Millennium Falcon for a display shelf or reimagining the battles with LEGO Star Wars models, the LEGO Star Wars range allows us to engage with fans of all ages who find the Star Wars galaxy as special as we do.

Derek Stothard, Vice President of Licensing at Lucasfilm

Marking the 20th anniversary, the LEGO Group just released five special sets featuring iconic ships and exclusive throwback minifigures in tribute of the LEGO Star Wars history. The new sets – which debuted on April 1st – are a recreation of some of the most iconic and popular sets from the last twenty years, along with a new subtheme: Action Battle. The LEGO System in Play means that Star Wars devotees can build and bring to life some of their most beloved themes and characters – from Wookiees to Ewoks, Princess Leia to Han Solo and more – for even more intergalactic adventures. We shall be looking at some of these anniversary sets, and comparing them with models released over the years in coming weeks.

Into the Archives.

Today, I will look at archive images of advertisements, and early publicity shots. I’ll sneak in a couple of scans from my own 1999 catalog too. Later in the week we shall look at the developments in minifigures that we have seen in LEGO Star Wars over the last two decades.

A draft of the LEGO Star Wars logo.

Many of the early advertisements in the Archive documents distributed are written in German. I have done my best with a little artful manipulation of Google translate… but some of the idiom may be a little flawed.

Use the Force.
Now comes a new creative power in our galaxy
Experience the adventures of Luke Skywalker with the original LEGO Star Wars models or discover completely new worlds of your own.
Together with LEGO you are unbeatable – even for Darth Vader

The First Drop

We were teased of sets arriving in the first half of the year, although in Australia they did not arrive until May or June – almost immediately before the release of Episode I. These early sets still carried the ‘System Branding’ on the box artwork. The X- Wing Starfighter 7140 was re-released as 7142 in 2002, essentially the same set, but without the ‘System’ Branding.

The first page in my catalog that year told us the classic fighters were ready for us to command. and they proceeded to produce on of the first ‘Uglies’ depicted in visual media. These scavenged vehicles, blending elements from both X-Wing and Tie fighters featured in the Rogue Squadron novels in the latter part of the 90’s.

These sets started small, but covered the iconic star fighters and small land vehicles. There was scope for further development, and indeed improvement: the faces were still yellow, hair styles limited, and all of these sets featured precisely no female characters. Still, the builds captured the essence of the craft. We had to wait until at least April for the sets to arrive. (Technically, I was firmly embedded in my dark ages, studying for post grad exams. I do believe I saw these the shops and thought ‘Cool!’ But it was years before I would consider buying LEGO sets for myself.

WE were teased about forthcoming sets relating to episode 1, almost as soon as we heard about the initial drop:

from the Australian LEGO Retail catalog, HY1 1999

Further advertisements capitalising on the new release followed, and sets from the next wave, focussing on Episode 1: The Phantom Menace received the focus. We had a new and sinister Sith Lord to be concerned about. And the various Star Wars Licence holders started to join forces… appearing on the same shelves as other Star Wars Toys – not just LEGO, or Action Figures…

The FORCE is with you.
A new danger threatens the POWER …. but LEGO will defeat the evil.
Build and play the brand new Star Wars movie after. Use the power of your ideas and experience the most exciting adventures of the universe.
With LEGO and your imagination you can not be beaten. even for Darth Maul.

This article from a German Toy Trade magazine discusses the combined Star Wars themed Shelving that LEGO and Hasbro can be displayed on, side by side.

Galaxy Star Wars in the Trade Approach
In the context of a long-term and cross-category product presentation, Hasbro and LEGO have decided to collaborate on the Star Wars theme.
The Star Wars promotion display by Hasbro and Galoob are part of the Galaxy Star Wars, an interactive adventure world that offers toy retailers a product presentation appropriate to the theme.
For the first time, a new presentation concept was realized here in cooperation between the strongest license holders Hasbro and LEGO, which, in addition to its galactic design, is characterized by its flexible modular design. The high-quality store concept allows the problem-free expansion or, the consumption of individual elements and thus allows an individual adaptation to the different trading needs. Still some technical data: The shelf unit has a standard width of 125cm, the shelf height is 225cm. With a total height of 300cm, the store requires a ceiling height of 350cm.
You can find more information about Star Wars on the internet at http://www.hasbro.de

Or to put it simply… the Star Wars Toys will all be on the same shelves, whether they are action figures or LEGO sets!!

Moving forward, we see new builds, new sets and new types of sets.

The newest of the Greatest Saga of the Universe.Simply galactic. Brand new from LEGO Star Wars. The Dangerous Combat and Destruction Droids and, of course, the Millenium Falcon. All with powerful features to survive in the eternal struggle between the good and evil power in the universe. Build it together- may the Force be with you.

Time has moved on, and the range of LEGO Star Wars sets has grown, as has their size! Certainly fans can’t wait to see what the next wave of LEGO Star Wars sets, and especially the larger Ultimate Collector Series sets, which were first seen in the year 2000, offering a greater challenge for more mature builders. It can’t be too long before we find out about this year’s May the Fourth UCS release…

Until next time

Play Well.

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