Whatever Happened To Classic LEGO® Themes? Part I: Prelude

The last time I was having a chat to adult visitors at a public exhibition (remember those?), something came up on more than one occasion: LEGO® Themes these days are not what they used to be. It used to be pretty simple – you’d build the set (and it was probably Town, Space or Castle. Unless you were a bit younger – then it may well have been a Pirates set) – and you’d pull it apart and build something else. It might be one of the alternate builds on the back of the box, it might be something completely different. It may not have even been related to the original theme.

These days, many sets thrive on 3rd party IP, and the majority of the in-house, story-driven themes are tied in with either an animated series or an overly complicated app.

For those of us yearning for a simpler time, in a world where things have become increasingly complicated, things are looking bleak! Unless you want to go straight to the 4+ sets.

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What Are The Most Popular LEGO® Themes? Annual Report Review

Every year around this time, the LEGO Group presents its annual report: taking in all aspects of the company. The document always includes a small paragraph or two on which themes performed strongly in a given year.

While the metric used to define this performance has not been presented to the public, it gives us a good idea of the sorts of material that pepople are buying, and which themes are strong sellers. Prompted by some online discussion, I have gone back to 2011, and tracked down the strongest performing themes for the last ten years, as referred to in The LEGO Group’s annual report. What we found out may not come as a surprise at all. Or perhaps it will?

Join us while we look through the last 10 years – we will look at the themes directly referenced in the annual report, look at some of the highlights, and maybe even evoke some mild feelings of nostalgia along the way..

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The Successor to 31313 MindStorms EV3 is 51515, not 41414: Emma’s Summer Play Cube [Unanticipated review]

It was a simple enough mistake.

Anyone could have made it, really. The new Mindstorms Robotics Invention kit has been in the wild for a few weeks now: a new paradigm for LEGO Mindstorms, and I am curious to take a look at it sometime soon. Set 51515 is set to replace the 31313 EV3 as the LEGO Robotics set of choice at some point. Probably when the EV3 enthusiasts have all moved on to using Arduino…

But this wasn’t the problem I found myself with. So… when I was asked if I wanted any LEGO picked up, while a friend was out shopping,, I had a failing in my internal logic. I remembered that the third generation of Mindstorms, EV3 was set 31313. I also remembered thing that the new set followed a similar pattern, and it was the fourth generation.

And so I asked that if set 41414 could be picked up, that I would be grateful.

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The Lego Group And National Geographic Inspire Kids To Develop Creative Solutions For Real Life Environmental Challenges

You may have noticed that some of the recent (coming in August to North America) releases of LEGO City and LEGO Friends have been cobranded with the National Geographic brand.

The new City: Deep Sea Explorers, as well as Friends: Jungle Rescue subthemes have been developed in collaboration with National Geographic to encourage children to explore the world, and consider their own ways to solve some of the problems that we are facing, going forward.

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Listening in with LEGO® Audio Instructions [Emma’s Art Studio 41365]

A couple of months ago, the LEGO Foundation Launched a pilot program to test audio instructions – a tool to enable visually impaired children to build LEGO® sets. In the current pilot program, Audio Instructions are available for LEGO Classic: 11001 Bricks and Ideas, LEGO Friends: 41365 Emma’s Art Studio, The LEGO Movie 2: 70821, Emmet and Benny’s ‘Build and Fix’ Workshop and the LEGO City 60207 Sky Police Drone Chase. I had a copy of 41365: Emma’s Art Studio, provided by the LEGO Group at my request earlier in the year, close at hand, so I thought I test the system out.

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The Rambling Brick’s Advent-ure #24

Here we are, and it is the twenty fourth of December. Since the first of December, we have been visiting the ways in which different LEGO® sets have been but together to celebrate the Christmas Holiday Season. Why have I been doing this? This year is the twentieth anniversary of the release of the first LEGO Advent Calendar. If nothing else I would have just reviewed an advent calendar from each year. But in fact I have found myself spoiled for choice. And I have left things out – I have not really tackled Brick built, non Santa decorations from the early days of the century; I have not mentioned the baubles containing seasonal micro builds; and I remain puzzled about the LEGO Japan exclusives from Christmas 2004. So today, I have chosen a subject that has been getting more and more interesting every year: The LEGO Employee Christmas Gift.

These sets have been produced since 2008, although the 2008 and 2009 sets appear identical, despite seperate set numbers. Initially a simple heart, the constructions have become more elaborate: with subjects having historical significance to the company – either through their direct subject matter, or commemorating a significant anniversary within the company. And you know how I love my significant Anniversaries. [ please note: if you read past the break, there is a spoiler shot of the Box for this year’s Employee Gift. The content will not be revealed.]

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The Rambling Brick’s Advent-ure #22

We have a few days to go, and a couple of themes to look over as we approach the end of our Advent-ure. Regular readers might recall that this is the 20th anniversary of the first LEGO Advent Calendar, and we have been surveying Christmas holiday themes and set from across the years.

We have seen a number of different brick built Santas over the last couple of weeks and today I would like to look at a subject that has been across many licences and themes in 2018: Brickheadz. This year we have seen a Brickheadz double pack featuring Mr. and Mrs. Claus – 40274 A hot seller, it has been difficult to track down, frequently being out of stock at the LEGO online store.

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The Rambling Brick’s Advent-ure #20

Today we continue out journey through Christmas Holiday seasonal sets with a quick look the 40223 Snowglobe. Released in 2016 as a gift with purchase in 2016, it has 215 parts, and comes with a Santa minifigure. Santa stands on a brick built plinth, along with a Christmas tree, sealed in with white round tiles, which fail to suspend themselves magically in the air, as shown in the box art…

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The Rambling Brick’s Adventure #19

Yesterday, I struggled to work out the nature of the the decoration that was unwrapped in yesterday’s Friend’s Advent Calendar, and an astute reader pointed out that his daughter felt it was a micro version of the 40139 Gingerbread House released in 2015. Having had that pointed out to me, I cannot unsee that version of the truth. So today, I thought I’d have a quick look at some of the gingerbread houses that have been produced as seasonal sets over the years.

According to Wikipedia, baking gingerbread was exclusively the domain of specialised gingerbread bakers, except at Easter and Christmas times, when anybody was allowed to bake it! Ginger bread houses became a popular construction in Germany during the early 1800s after the publication of the Brother’s Grimm’s Hansel and Gretel, where the witch’s candied house became the centrepiece of the story. Some food historians claim they were already popular at the time, and the the Brothers were writing about something they had regularly seen.

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The Rambling Brick’s Advent-ure #18

Today, as we continue our adventure, I thought I’d briefly consider some sets that money can’t buy. Except on the secondary market.  Let’s have a look at some sets that have only been released as Gifts with purchase, but designed to help build up the winter Village.


3300014 Winter Sleigh Ride was released in 2011, along side the Winter Village Cottage, and available as a gift with purchase.  It again features a lamp post as well as four minifigures, although one has to wait, as the sleigh only has room for three!

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