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When Did LEGO Get Funny?


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7 replies to this topic

#1 Offline Master Inika

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Posted Jan 02 2019 - 09:04 PM

The idea behind this topic is best described, I think, by juxtaposing two different fictional characters: Darth Maul and LEGO Darth Maul. They are, in fact, distinct individuals. Darth Maul is a non-comical character in Star Wars of whom a LEGO minifigure was designed and released in 1999. LEGO Darth Maul, based on Darth Maul, is a goofy braggart who sings along with his theme song as he introduces himself. LEGO released a toy of this character, too, but unlike the case with Darth Maul, the minifigure isn't a version of him, the minifigure simply is him. In short, Darth Maul as a LEGO minifigure isn't the same thing as LEGO Darth Maul.

The most well-known example of this is LEGO Batman, who, in The LEGO Batman Movie, while piecing together various parts of previous Batmans (Batmen?) is clearly a new creation, commenting on those previous Bat-persons. When I look at the original Darth Maul minifigure from 1999, or the mid-2000s Batman minifigure, I just see LEGO's take on that character, but when I look at modern minifigures of them, I see different characters from the originals. I'm not saying this is necessarily a good thing or a bad thing, just that it's a fairly new experience for me.

Has anyone else experienced similar transitions as I have? As far as I can tell, this phenomenon can be dated to 2011, with the release of LEGO Star Wars: The Padawan Menace. Do you have similar dates, or other characters you feel similar tension regarding?

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#2 Offline Toa of Gallifrey

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Posted Jan 02 2019 - 09:34 PM

Probably been a thing since the first Lego Star Wars game back in '05


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#3 Offline Pohaturon

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Posted Jan 03 2019 - 11:13 AM

I misread the topic title as 'When Did Lego Get Furry' and was thoroughly confused.

 

:kakama: 


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#4 Offline masterchirox580

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Posted Jan 03 2019 - 04:53 PM

I'd say Lego have had comedic themes for quite some time. A good example would be the first Lego Island game which had a very comical style to it. However throughout the 2000s this was the exception rather than the norm. Obviously bionicle took itself very seriously as did other notable themes such as exo-force and Knights Kingdom. Other themes such as Mars Mission and castle had a neutral tone where the source material was neither edgy nor comedic. I'd say Lego became more comedic during 2010 with the minifigures line and hero factory and seems to have stayed the same since. My theory as to why this was is down to the change in the perception of childhood. Let me explain. Apparently during the height of Bionicle's popularity Lego intentionally made the themes edgier so that they would appeal to older buyers. This was part of a pretty sophisticated strategy. Lego knew that if older kids were buying their products it would make the sets seem cooler to the younger audience and thus widening their age demographic. However in the 2010s there has been a trend of kids getting out of the market for these products at earlier ages. Nowadays the general consensus is that childhood cuts off at age 12 and in some cases as early as age 10. So I believe what Lego did was change their strategy as less and less older kids were buying their products and thus making the whole "edgy" marketing tactic obsolete. So I think they made the tone of their stories softer in order to appeal to that younger demographic head on and forget about appealing through the coolness factor. Remember though this is just my theory on why this change likely occurred and nothing I have said is concrete. 


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#5 Offline Radiant Avokhii

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Posted Jan 04 2019 - 08:45 PM

Not to mention with some specific examples like Darth Maul, or Darth Vader in the LEGO games and sets, the original media is too violent and thematically dark to appeal to young audiences or their parents. I'm not sure parents would appreciate it if there was a "Death of the younglings" set with an Anakin Skywalker minifigure. Hence why they only alluded to it in the LEGO magazine comics by saying "Anakin put the younglings in time out!" 

Trends in media and marketing tend to cycle around and repeat themselves. Cartoons used to all have happy endings, and then with the new golden age of animation (Chowder, Adventure Time, Misadventures of Flapjack, Steven Universe, etc), content creators got tired of the endings they were told. So they made bittersweet, melancholic, and sad endings to their cartoons, and that heavily pervades the themes of their shows. I wouldn't be surprised if in a few years LEGO cycles around to trying to appeal to older kids and teenagers with edgy stories, themes, and design language in their sets. Maybe with that will come a renaissance for Bionicle or constraction as a whole. But who knows. 


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#6 Offline Master Inika

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Posted Jan 04 2019 - 09:51 PM

Not to mention with some specific examples like Darth Maul, or Darth Vader in the LEGO games and sets, the original media is too violent and thematically dark to appeal to young audiences or their parents. I'm not sure parents would appreciate it if there was a "Death of the younglings" set with an Anakin Skywalker minifigure. Hence why they only alluded to it in the LEGO magazine comics by saying "Anakin put the younglings in time out!"

Great, now I'll never be happy until I see the day LEGO releases set 84031 Death of the Younglings.

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#7 Offline Chronicler06

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Posted Jan 05 2019 - 10:15 PM

I kind of thought that Lego was always funny. The games of the late 90s (Lego Island and Lego Racers), certainly showed elements of quirky humor that I'd expect out of Lego media these days. However, now that you mention it, I'm starting the think that maybe there was a period of time when Lego had less humor.

 

By around the year 2002, the big themes were Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Bionicle. Looking back to the early 2000s in particular, I'm actually having a hard time trying to find as much humor in the various forms of Lego media in those days compared to today. (Who knows, maybe one of the reasons Galidor was such a terrible failure may have been due to a lack of humor, but that's just speculation on my part.) However, by the later part of that decade, quirky humor eventually became more widespread to the point that it's now practically a staple of Lego media.

 

So when exactly did the change occur? First, consider the Lego video games in the mid 2000s: Bionicle Heroes in 2006 certainly had plenty of humor (numerous cutscenes have the Piraka losing an arm or a leg and they reattach it like it's no big deal), but from what I've seen of the 2003 Bionicle game, there's almost no humor to speak of. There's also the Lego Star Wars games (prequel trilogy in 2005, original trilogy in 2006, and both combined into Complete Saga in 2007), and now that I actually think about it, the very first one of those apparently has notably less humor than the later one did, although even that first one still had some funny moments. By the time of the next Lego video game (Indiana Jones in 2008), it's already obvious that there's the tons of quirky humor that we still see to this day.

 

In fact, if we focus only on Bionicle, there's actually quite a notable difference in the amount of humor between the early years and the later years. With these thoughts in mind, my personal opinion is that the most obvious sign of this transition may have been the antics of Matau in the second (2004) and third (2005) Bionicle movies. Here, we have story events meant to be quite serious, but then there's this one guy who practically steals the show with all kinds of funny remarks and actions. In later years, almost every major character has at least one funny quote each year (and of course, let's not forget guys like Vezon).

 

Come to think of it, 2004 and 2005 were also the years when Lego narrowly avoided falling into bankruptcy, so I suppose you could also say that embracing quirky humor in their media may have been one of the things that helped save Lego.


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#8 Offline Lyichir

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Posted Jan 07 2019 - 11:06 AM

As far as I can remember it's never NOT been a thing. The Lego video games have been packed with humor dating back to the first one (Lego Island). And even before that, the Lego Mania magazine comics tended to feature plenty of humor. Even for licensed themes like Lego Star Wars, the earliest sets featured silly comics in the instructions, often involving whichever character was featured in the set getting into some sort of crash or scrape and having to rebuild their ship into an alternate model better equipped to deal with whatever pickle they'd found themselves in.

When you get down to it, they're toys. There's an inherent childishness to them that is better off embraced than avoided.

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