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…
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.
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!
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…
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.
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?