With new Harry Potter LEGO Sets and Collectable Minifigures occupying the Zeitgeist, I look back on ways in which our minifigures have been innovated through their use in this theme over the years.
When we recently looked at the new Harry Potter Collectable Minifigures, we had a look at the new leg elements – the ‘miniskirt’ and mid length legs. These new elements are a great inclusion during this, the fortieth anniversary of LEGO Minifigures. I found myself wondering ‘What other innovations in figure design have we first seen in Harry Potter?’ We have seen so many different characters and creatures since the series first appeared in 2001: house elf, giants, goblins and trolls, as well as humans. To adequately depict these characters as minifigures form, a number of modifications to the standard form were introduced. Some of these we now take for granted.
The First (Second and Third) Double Sided Head Print
I have recently returned from Japan BrickFest 2018. The fourth Kobe Fan Weekend took place on Rokko Island, in the port city of Kobe, near Osaka and Kyoto (Just as Geelong is near Melbourne, but with more frequent trains). Organised by Edwin Knight, and members of the Kansai LEGO Users Group (KLUG), this event is a LEGO® hub event for Asia. Exhibitor’s attended from all over the world – predominantly countries around Asia, but the USA and Australia were also represented.
I arrived on Friday afternoon and set up in one of the two gymnasiums used for the display, accompanied by the majority of builders visiting from overseas. We shared the space with the Great Ball Contraption, a brick built monorail and a train layout. LEGOLAND Japan had a display, and there was also an area to get your hands on some bricks and just build! The other gymnasium had many exhibitors from around Japan, and a theatre had larger scale models from members of the Kansai LEGO Users Group.
I had taken my NEXO Classic Spaceships. [imagine the 1978-79 Classic Space Sets built with NEXO Knights elements and colours] This was the third time I had displayed them this year, but the first time they had travelled more than 1000 km from home. ….I set about the task of discovering how my models had survived at the hands of international baggage handlers, as well as myself bouncing between multiple railway stations.
I set up my terrain and installed the lighting. Everyone I met was extremely friendly, offering words of encouragement as my various models were unwrapped in more pieces than I remembered them being in when I wrapped them up.
In the name of ergonomics, I would get up and walk around for a few minutes between rebuilds. In real life I would steal the chance to look around some of the other exhibits in the hall: Mechs were gathering next to me, tanks behind me and next to me, beside me, were some amazing bricks that opened and unfolded, and played air guitar. In between were an amazing array of characters.
Iowa by Dung Mike Wen-Kang
Final Fantasy Vii characters, by Benjamin Fong
The Little Mermaid by Timothy Ng
Usagi Yohimbo, by Jae Moon
By Benjamin Fong
Character builds dominated the exhibition halls: some were BrickHeadz, many were not. Unfortunately, I had no idea who many of them were. Some were from manga and anime, others from history and video games. Some I suspect were from real life. There was a remarkable level of attention to detail for relatively small models, and I think there are a number of factors which contribute to this. Continue reading →
In which I explore the ever evolving structure of the basic minifigure over the past 40 years and realise that there are a remarkable number of variations on the seemingly ‘normal’ elements, that many of us take for granted. There may be some obsessive measurements taken.
The LEGO® Minfigure turned forty years old this month. You may have heard about it. You might have purchased a celebratory Collectable Minifigure. Or seventeen. During the course of following up on some classic sets from both my own, and other people’s childhoods, I have come across signs of possible deliberate reimagining of some classic sets in the City range. While looking at these sets, I have found myself looking at minifigures from different eras. Much to my surprise, the differences between this figures are significantly more than skin deep.
While discussing these things with one of my suppliers, she pulled out her box of minifgure heads, pointed to some old smileys and asked ‘What do you think of this?’ If I didn’t know better, I would have said that some of these heads seemed a little more square than others. Now, BrickBunny has been around the traps a bit longer than I have, so I am not surprised that she knows about these things.
Intrigued, I returned home, full of investigational vigour, and got out my trusty loaned Canon EF 50mm f/2.5 macro lens, and realising the need to go further with attention to detail, attached the extension tube for life size conversion. We were going in close. Really close.
One of the great things about the last few months has been sunny weather, and the chance to build outside during the day, rather than just inside at night (Quick reminder for northern hemisphere readers, it is summer here, and holidays finished only a couple of weeks ago). What became apparent is that when building under sunlight, the trans fluoro reddish orange elements (also called Trans Neon Orange on bricklink) tend to become brighter in the sunlight, with an eerie glow. This was not obvious when working under an incandescent lamp at midnight. It turns out that these transparent fluorescent colours are, intact, fluorescing.
In which, on discovering the reappearance of teal in the LEGO colour palette, I go in search of “Stafford’s Choice.” Have any colours been sacrificed in order to allow teal to return? Let’s tick off the colours as we review some of the recently announced new sets for 2018…
Mark Stafford is a senior designer with the LEGO Group. Recruited from the fan community, he joined the company over 10 years ago and has had a hand in many of the action themes over that period of time. Themes such as NEXO Knights, Legends of Chima, Space Police 3, Ninjago, Alien Conquest, Power Miners and Atlantis, to name but a few. He also helped to turn Peter Reid’s Exosuit Ideas submission into a set.
At Brickvention in 2014, Mark gave a talk talking about a challenge he faced in his early days as a designer: Early in his career at LEGO he was put to work, sharing his love of mechs, on the EXO Force line.
One of the first sets that he designed was the Dark Panther – 8115. And it was here that he was given a challenging decision: The initial models left the set leaning towards one of red, orange, purple (medium lilac) and teal (bright blueish green). If teal were to be chosen, purple would be deleted from the current colour palette; if he chose to use purple, then teal would be deleted. Had orange or red been used then both teal and purple would have vanished from the LEGO palette for the foreseeable future. Continue reading →
As well as supporting the regular themes, 2017 has been a big year for LEGO tying in with cinematic releases, with both inhouse and external IP. By the end of the year, we will have seen a new Star Wars movie, Wonder Woman and Justice League movies, The LEGO Batman Movie and LEGO Ninjago Movie released.
This post was provoked, in part after reading a comment about the relatively low female representation in the Collectable Minifigure sets recently released. I thought it would be interesting to revisit the question of gender distribution in some popular LEGO themes, and see if there were any significant shifts in trends over the last 12 months, when I last reviewed the numbers. The impending release of the Ideas set ‘Women of NASA’ is also of interest, as it certainly demonstrates a desire to see inspirational female role models immortalised in LEGO form.
I would like to look specifically at LEGO City, overall, as well as broken down into its major sub themes; The LEGO Batman Movie; The LEGO Ninjago Movie, and also LEGO Friends. I would also like to look at LEGO Star Wars sets released since the Force Awakens… Continue reading →
A few weeks ago, I started to consider the use of colour in Elves sets, particularly Spring Yellowish Green. This led to a discussion of colour theory in general. We talked about the colour wheel, and how colour themes might be derived using complementary colours; split complementary colours, analagous colours, triads and tetrads, amongst other things.
This is all very well if I have a colour wheel, and I am looking to produce my own pigment, I hear you cry, but we are using LEGO, and the colour palette is pretty clearly defined. But how do the colours we have relate to this? Continue reading →