Home / Features / Heads, shoulders (no knees or toes) – The LEGO Minifigure turns 40

Heads, shoulders (no knees or toes) – The LEGO Minifigure turns 40

It is the big FOUR-O for LEGO’s iconic minifigure, and so, to celebrate a milestone birthday of this global icon we look back with our fully 360 degree rotating heads at its older relatives…

How we wish Minifigures evolved
How we wish Minifigures evolved

No matter how much I want the evolution of the minifigure to follow the popular depiction, the reality is quite different. In fact, before the mid-seventies, making a figurine out of LEGO meant building it yourself… But along with flared trousers, Bagpuss and the music of Abba came something of a revolution: prefabricated people, no less, in the Homemaker theme – as typified by the LEGO Family of 1974.

She doesn't even recognise herself in that mirror
She doesn’t even recognise herself in that mirror

.)

At the top of each is a 2×2 part onto which fits a large head and two somewhat cumbersome ‘shoulders’. The bodies of these figures comprise a mix of standard bricks and plates, while the legs utilise straight or sloping pieces to create trousers, skirts and – in the case of 1977’s roguish cowboys – bowed legs!

 

Have you tried those boots in a Fabuland brown?
Have you tried those boots in a Fabuland brown?

While modern LEGO people don’t owe much to these ‘big figs’, they did help create one evergreen legacy: the word minifigure! That’s because their successors are so definitely ‘mini’ next to their Brobdingnagian counterparts…

 

When I was a boy all this was acrylonitrile butadiene styrene
When I was a boy all this was acrylonitrile butadiene styrene

Available from 1975 to 1977, the original minifigure appears a limbless, expressionless golem next to the iconic design. Truth is that if ever you want to depict a LEGO figure in peaceful death you could do a lot worse than use one of these.

 

We're smiling Mrs Gilbert but actually we have terrible news!
We’re smiling, Mrs Gilbert, but actually we have terrible news!

Among the most significant breakthroughs in the minifigure’s evolution was the decision to print smiley, wide-eyed expressions on every head in the LEGO world from 1978 onwards. The fact that all the figures of the era wear the same happy-go-lucky look as they mooch about in Castles, Space and City sets in no way diminishes their charm. Minifigures also came much more to life in 1978 as that was the year that gave us movable legs, arms and hands – the basic figures as we now know them!

For the launch of the 1989 Pirate theme it was necessary to give the seafaring vagabonds moustaches, beards, hook-hands, peg-legs and eyepatches. Proving popular, the different looks set a precedent and unquenchable thirst for variety – and there have since been countless variations on the basic design… These include realistic flesh tones, rubber heads, heads with two faces, aliens, robots and thousands of costume characters. Indeed, it might be time to start wondering how soon it’ll be before LEGO people outnumber humans… You do know they’ve begun to reproduce, right?

 

Goodness! Doesn't she look like her mother?
Goodness! Doesn’t she look like her mother?
1978 original gets a makeover
This was the NYC cop who started the four decade global domination of the minifigure
 LEGO minifigure factory
A Limited edition LEGO Minifigure factory – Spend over £55 in a LEGO store and bag one yourself

 

About Deej

Magician. Hypnotist. LEGO fan... You're not likely to meet many people more happily geeky than writer Deej Johnson! Every now and then, though, he inflicts his interests on others, so here we let him write about LEGO... Better that than watch a card trick.

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