THE HISTORY OF THE LEGO MINIFIGURE.Reading Time
According to the manufacturer, a Lego minifigure is a small, posable figure of a person or being. In the B1 studio we have 129 up on display, not to mention the Lego constructions and books we also have adorning our shelves. However, that’s just a small fraction of 4 billion that have been produced since their introduction in 1978 (this number is true as of 2006, and Lego fans have calculated that by 2019, minifigures will have outnumbered humans).
The Lego Group was founded in 1932 by Danish carpenter, Ole Kirk Christiansen. The word itself derives from the Danish words “leg godt”, meaning “play well”, and “lego” also means “I put together” in Latin, and “I connect/tie” in Italian. In his carpenter’s workshop, Christiansen made wooden products such as stepladders, ironing boards, stools and toys, the first of which was a wooden duck!
The Lego products transitioned through to wooden decorated bricks and then, in 1946, they became the first company in Denmark to buy a plastic injection-moulding machine. Throughout the 40s they made board games, plastic balls and, just before the decade was out, the Automatic Binding Bricks. From that day until the present, these building bricks have allowed Lego and their fans to construct every building known to man, and even those that aren’t.
BRINGING LEGO TO LIFE.
But there was one thing missing from the Lego production line. They had the cars, but who was driving? They had the houses, but who was living in them? And so, the minifigure was born. It’s hard to think that Ole Krik Christiansen never lived to see even the first of the Lego people, as he died in 1958.
The minifigure predecessors, the Lego family, made their first appearance in 1974. They were made up of five members (mum, dad, granny and two kids), had jointed arms, hair styles, smiling faces and hands that held each other. Unfortunately, size was a problem and even though they were incredibly popular on the market, work started straight away to scale down the Lego humans.
BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD…
The designer of the time, Jens Nygaard Knudsen, began by filing and sawing at existing bricks, and in 1975 produced the next Lego figure. Although it was the right size, standing at 1.5 inches tall (exactly four Lego bricks tall), it had no moving parts and simple arm-shaped bulges on either side of its body. It was back to the filing for Knudsen, and after 50 different prototypes, finally, the perfect solution was found in 1978.
A LEGO LEGEND!
Lego minifigures are made out of a plastic called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, also known as ABS. It is melted and then poured into moulds to produce the head, torso, arms, hands, legs, hips, and any accessories which are required for the character. After every part has been meticulously decorated, the legs and hips are snapped together, as are the arms, hands and torso. With standard figures, the user will get to assemble the head, upper body and lower body, which also allows for inter-changeability and personal design, just like the bigger constructions. The process of making any lego figure usually takes more than a year, from the initial sketches and brainstorming, through to the design and manufacture.
The Lego minifigures as we know and love today were brought out in three lines: Town, Castle, and Space. Although the female figures had fancy black hair, the male minifigures all wore hats (or space helmets and head armour!) until their hairpiece was designed in 1979.
With more lines came more fancy accessories. Over the 1980s we saw the development of the first top hat, brief case, helmet visors, and castle series welcomed forestmen and knights with crossbows. In 1989 the first pirate series was also produced, complete with corseted ladies.
Although there were to be many more series released over the decade, 1999 was to change Lego forever. Before the century was out, the first Lego Star Wars series hit the shelves, giving birth to a partnership that would produce not only figures and sets, but books, video games and animation over the years to come.
Lego fans have calculated that by 2019, minifigures will have outnumbered humans
As the new millennium began, so did the rise of the licensed play themes at Lego. Not only were more Star Wars series produced but along with it Harry Potter, Spiderman, Ferrari, Batman, Spongebob Squarepants, Indiana Jones, Superman, The Lord of The Rings, Hobbit, X-Men, Avengers, The Simpsons and Ninja Turtles. The latest of these licensed collections, produced last month, is the Disney Series, containing eighteen of the most loved characters (we have 9 already in the office, but watch this space). This has lead to speculation as to whether Lego will produce sub-themes for each of the new Disney blockbusters to be released, given their reputation for following film franchises.
AIN’T NO STOPPING THEM NOW!
This wasn’t to say that it was the end for Lego’s own original series, however. The town, castle and space sets are still going strong, evolving to create more elaborate creations; from modern day people, to supernatural creatures and historical figures, from any time, world or race. Gone are the days of the yellow barrel-head with two eyes and a simple smile. If you’ve learnt one thing about Lego and its minifigures, it is surely that the possibilities are endless.
THE LEGO MOVIE.
Minifigures have featured in video games since 1997, and even have a style of stop motion named after them (“brickfilm”). But in 2014, the minifigures hit the big time, starring in their own feature length film, The Lego Movie. Voiced by a star-studded cast, the film was a huge hit with fans, winning a flurry of awards including a BAFTA for Best Animated Film and several awards for song “Everything Is Awesome”. A sequel is said to be released in 2018 as well as Batman and Ningajo spin-offs in 2017.
Unsurprisingly, the most sought-after minifigures are those that had a limited production run. This of course makes them the most expensive ones too. In 2007 for the 30th anniversary of Star Wars, a series of C-3POs were produced including bronze, sterling silver and only two gold versions. I’m sure the owners won’t be parting with those any time soon, though. If you have one of the 5,000 Mr Gold figures produced in 2013, make sure to hold onto it; the genuine ones are setting on eBay for anything up to £650…
There’s one thing owning them, but have you ever wanted to BE a Lego minifigure yourself? Well now you can… just like Mikee did. Lego Mikee is quite the modern man; he commutes on the tube, enjoys a pint with his mates in the pub, and travels the world, snapping selfies as he goes. What a life. Make yours today at www.minifigs.me .