First came the Lego brick, then in August of 1978 came the "minifigure". To celebrate the 30th birthday of the Lego minifigure here are ten things you probably didn’t know about them, their history and the original figure…
The very first minifigure was a police officer, followed by a fireman, a nurse, astronauts, medieval knights, a gas station attendant and a construction worker. Of all of the minifigure’s roles, the police officer is most popular, with 41 different versions appearing in 104 sets over the last 30 years.
Who Made It?
A single employee, Jens Nygaard Knudsen a Lego employee since 1968 came up with the figure after 50 prototypes. The first ones were carved from LEGO bricks, their later cousins were cast in tin. At the time the company was in crisis and his minifigure literally breathed life into the bricks.
Most Expensive One?
10,000 14K Gold Star Wars 30th Anniversary C3P0s were randomly inserted into lego sets in 2007 and each is worth about $200.
Where are the Ladies?
Like the Smurfs, the number of unique male to female minifigs ever designed (where the figure is specifically identifiable) is about 18 to 1.
How Many Types?
There have been nearly 4,000 unique minifigure designs. There are more than 8 quadrillion (8,181,068,395,500,000) possible combinations of minifigures that can be made using all of the unique parts over the last 30 years.
How Many are There?
Minifigures represent the world’s largest population, more than 4 billion people strong, making it 3 times larger than China, 12 times larger than the United States and 120 times larger than Canada. Since the modern minifig’s current form was introduced in the late 1970s, LEGO has produced enough minifigs to circle the Earth at least four times.
Globally, 3.9 minifigures are sold per second, 365 days per year. That’s an average of over 122 million per year!
Minifigures generally feature six parts (widely referred to as tools in the toy industry): head, torso, hips, arms, hands, and legs; these six parts allow seven points of articulation: swivel head, swivel arms, swivel wrists, and swivel legs. Minifigures are usually packaged as four separate parts in Lego sets: head; torso, arms and hands; headgear; hips and legs. Since 1963, Lego pieces have been manufactured from a strong, resilient plastic known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS. In order for pieces to have just the right "clutch power", Lego elements are manufactured within a tolerance of 2 µm.
In 1997, Native Americans became the first minifigures with recognizable ethnic identities. These were also the first figs with explicitly drawn noses When the minifigure was first introduced 30 years ago, it was given the iconic yellow skin tone to reflect the non-specific and transcendental quality of a child’s imagination.
Characters were generic "space" or "town" people but in 1999 the very successful Star Wars line was launched with characters based on specific characters. In 2003 there were NBA legos based on real life basketball players including Kobe Bryant. Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones & Harrison Ford) and Alfred Molina (Satiop & Doc Octopus) the only two actors who have had two distinct characters produced as official LEGO minifigs twice.
The first modern minifigures were released in 1978, with seven different figures in Castle, Space, and Town themes. For the next 11 years, minifigure heads were produced with a simple facial expression, rendered as two solid black dots for eyes and a smile, also painted in solid black. In 1989, minifigures in the Pirates theme were produced with different facial expressions. The Pirates minifigures also included hooks for hands, as well as peg legs; this was the first departure from the traditional body parts.
|1975 – The precursor to the modern minifigure, without movable arms or legs.|
|1978 – The first minifigures are launched for the themes Town, Space and Castle. There were seven different figures to start with.|
|1989 – The world of the minifig changed. The new pirate theme brought different face patterns, and even different leg and hand elements, though the classic smiley still held sway in most themes.|
|1990 – The ghost was introduced as the first specialized fig. This figure had a specialized ghost body and a black head.|
|1992 – Specialized face patterns started showing up in themes like town, space, and castle.|
|1997 – Native Americans became the first figs with recognizable ethnic identities. These were also the first figs with explicitly drawn noses|
|1999 – With the new Star Wars characters the minifigure makes its first appearance in a specific role. This personification of the minifigure is later extended to LEGO Harry Potter, and other series.|
|2003 – For the first time in the history of the minifigure its yellow facial coloring is replaced by a more authentic skin co lour. In LEGO Basketball there are both dark and light players.|