Essex memories of the minifigure at 40
In 1978, Disco was dominating the charts, mobile phones were non-existent and the Internet was still more than a decade away. It was also the year the very first LEGO minifigures went into production. Fast forward to today and those inaugural characters have evolved nearly as much as the world around them, offering endless roleplay possibilities. So, as one of the planet’s tiniest icons celebrates its big 4…0, Essex Life looks back at the long-lasting legacy of LEGO and asked you, our readers, for some favourite LEGO memories THE STORY OF THE LEGO MINIFIGURE EVOLUTION
It all started in 1974 when the LEGO building figure was launched, made mostly of large square LEGO bricks with moveable arms but immoveable legs. This was followed in 1975 by LEGO stage extra figures with solid torsos, immoveable arms and legs, but no printed features. Basically, very different to the LEGO minifigures we know and love today! Not that we had to wait too long for them to arrive, with 1978 ushering in a new era of LEGO minifigures equipped with moveable limbs and simple facial expressions comprising two solid black eye dots and black painted smile. Fast forward to
2018 and there are now more than 650 unique faces in the collection.
FROM 20 TO 8,000
To begin with, there were around 20 different LEGO minifigure characters, including a police officer, doctor, firefighter, knight and astronaut. But in the four decades since, the number of minifigures available has risen to more than 8,000. To put that into context, if the global population had grown at the same rate, there would now be nearly 144 trillion of us living on Earth!
THE PERFECT HEIGHT
Take away the hair or any other headpiece and LEGO minifigures are exactly the same height as four LEGO bricks fitted together. This means they fit perfectly into the LEGO System in Play. Oh, and if you stacked them head to toe, you would need 20,750 to reach the height of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.
JACK OF ALL TRADES
Over the years, LEGO minifigures have shown they can turn their hand to pretty much anything. From pirates to paramedics, engineers to elephant keepers, veterinarians to Vikings, there have been thousands of different minifigure characters. Three LEGO minifigures even blasted into space onboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft in 2011.
Did you know the traditional yellow colour of the LEGO minifigure’s head was chosen based on focus group feedback in the early and mid-1970s saying this was preferable to white ones? Since then, minifigures have become increasingly diverse – from the first figures with natural skin tone in 2003 (Lando Calrissian from Star Wars and NBA basketball players) to 2016’s inaugural wheelchair. LEGO minifigures have also done their bit for unstereotyping gender roles with the likes of female firefighters and ninjas, through to fathers equipped with baby carriers.
‘The number of minifigures available has risen to more than 8,000’
THE DECISION OF PRECISION
Did you know that eight different moulds are used for the production of every minifigure? Two sets of these moulds are the same in design but reversed to mould the right and left minifigure arms and legs! The precision that goes into these moulds is exceptional, and because the original moulds are almost identical to the ones used
today, minifigures from 1978 can be mixed and matched with the more modern characters from today!
MORE THAN JUST A FIGURE
LEGO minifigures may be made for fun but there’s a serious side to them as well. By offering an endless choice of roleplay possibilities, they’re designed to let children play inventively, engage with different emotions and tell their own stories
RIGHT UP TO DATE
The real success story of LEGO has been its constant ability to adapt and be at the forefront of innovation and creative play. This year LEGO Minsdstorms is set to top the toy store charts by giving children the power to create and command their own robotic LEGO creatures, vehicles, machines and inventions! By combining LEGO elements with a programmable brick, motors and sensors, children can make their
creations walk, talk, grab, think, shoot and do almost anything you can imagine. The set comes with building instructions for 17 awesome LEGO robotic designs including a humanoid robot, a shooting scorpion, a slithering snake, a fork lift, a race truck, an electric guitar, a walking dinosaur and many more! Each robot comes complete with its own unique features and a program that controls the robot’s behaviour!
BELOW:Space travel has inspired both children and LEGO
ABOVE:The timeline of the LEGO minifigure