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Licensed Theme Resentment

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I'm sure this is well-tread ground but I really don't care for the now long-running era of Lego in which licensed themes rule supreme. As a kid who grew up with Bionicle, Alpha Team, Rock Raiders/ Power Miners, Lego Island, Knights Kingdom, and even Galidor, it kinda bums me out that Ninjago and Hidden Side are the only non-city islands in the sea of licensed themes with defined characters and settings. I'm probably just being a boomer but I resent Lego now primarily being a producer of merchandise for movies and video games. 
I don't fault Lego for this, this is certainly more profitable than their own in-house themes of old and they have responsibilities to their employees and whatnot. I think I just don't like the grim reality that most people view a product as more valuable if it is connected to a pre-existing pop culture property.

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Jaller Inika looks like C-3PO and I hate it.

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I know what you mean. I miss the era of original IPs but also get why it had to end, too. In hindsight, they all were kind of similar. A lot of them just sort of were variations of "color-coded protagonists go on an adventure." It was good for a time.

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"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
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-- Turaga Nokama

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I never thought of that, but good point. 
 

Whether you know or not, I do know that back in the 1990s, Lego was suffering bankruptcy. It started making Star Wars sets, but couldn’t do any good for it. It tried making Slizers/Throwbots and RoboRiders. Even though that these three themes were successful, they could do Lego any good, and Slizers and RoboRiders were soulless without actual stories. However, Lego needed to create a theme with an actual story, and that happened to be Bionicle. Bionicle itself saved Lego from bankruptcy in 2001. Bionicle was one of Lego’s most successful and famous themes in history. However, it got cancelled twice in the 2010s among with many others. I have a list of them: 

 

I pity these themes of Lego’s. They have some good stories, yet Lego never enforced them and then cancelled them brutally. Lego was focusing the licensed themes a lot, probably because they are pre-existing popular stuff. Ninjago is doing okay, but I doubt that Hidden Side would last long. It would last either 2-3 years. It doesn’t have a TV show. 
 

if Lego had focused on its own original franchises more, things probably could have been different. There wouldn’t be cancelled plans much, and the themes would have gotten something better if they last longer and properly, like having better installments in their stories and perhaps get actual TV shows and console video games. The 2010s was a horrible decade for these guys. I wish Lego could give these themes extra chances. There are a lot of people complaining about it, even over the Internet, like Facebook and Twitter. :(


I like Lego, Bionicle, and Hero Factory!:)

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Posted (edited)

Ehhh, I really am not bothered by licensed themes that much. Other than Star Wars, Superheroes, Minecraft and  Harry Potter; none of them are evergreen. I.E. a lot are just flash in the pan for a year or two like Angry Birds, Ghostbusters, etc. that just last a few years. 

Looking at the current 2020 lineup, we have non-licensed:

  • Creator/Creator Expert
  • Architecture
  • Classic
  • City
  • Dots
  • Friends
  • Ninjago
  • Hidden Side
  • Technic
  • The rumored LEAF theme (Monkey Kid?)

Although Speed Champions is technically a licensed theme since Lego has to license to use the brands of real life car makers, I would still consider it to sort of fall in non-licensed since we have no major characters in it like Star Wars and its not based on a particular story... its just a car model. As for the "original action themes" we have Ninjago, Hidden Side, and LEAF all on deck this year; and three-four action themes per year seems pretty standard for Lego in most of my lifetime (A few sample years to highlight... in 2004 Bionicle, Racers, Castle and Alpha Team were the only non-licensed action themes that year. 2008 was Bionicle, Exo Force, Racers and Castle. 2013 Ninjago, Hero Factory, Legends of Chima). 

Of course not to mention Ideas. Yes it has produced plenty a licensed set (Wall-E, Ghostbusters, Minecraft, FRIENDS, Back to the Future, etc.) but so many are unique original ideas. The pop-up book, ship in a bottle, Barracuda Bay, the Saturn V and ISS, the fishing store and the tree house! Its amazing to see some of the unique stuff coming to market thanks to Ideas. 

So yeah licensed themes are pretty dominant right now, but I really can't say they have detracted much from the number of original themes Lego normally does. Yes looking back as a whole its easy to think of "wow look at all the original stuff Lego used to do!" if we start clumping different eras together, I know Knights Kingdom II, Throwbots & Roboriders, Western, Life on Mars, Alpha Team, Exo Force, Pirates, Power Miners & Rock Raiders, Galidor and of course Bionicle all come quickly to my mind... but I have to pause and realize those themes all released over a span of 8-9 years or so. Not only that... but some of them *cough* Galidor, Jack Stone *cough* were absolute turkeys. Taking the time to look at it year by year, I honestly feel that while Lego has more licenses, their original in house IP's have not slown down at all. 

If anything, licenses are good for the brand as a whole. It attracts people who might not pick up a more generic Lego set by enticing them with their favorite characters, and hopefully their experience with the product is good and they want to come back for more. My first sets were other than a single Town rocket and one Rock Raiders vehicle, all Star Wars. In short, I don't think I wouldn't have discovered Bionicle, Exo Force, Life on Mars, and even Galidor... had I not already been getting Lego because they had Star Wars sets. 

I mean really my only wish lists for Lego right now are a) Bionicle Gen 3 or a new Constraction theme (but that seems unlikely at this point), and b) a dedicated return of a Trains theme or at least an expansion of Lego Trains available under Creator Expert and City. I think "a" is wishful thinking at this point, but "b" has a solid chance of happening now since Lego has actively redesigned some old Train elements to be easier to produce and manufacture. 

Edited by Xboxtravis
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Neil Peart: 1952-2020
"The future disappears into memory, with only a moment in-between. Forever dwells in that moment, hope is what remains to be seen."

Check out my G2 (with G1 inspired characters) short storys: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/21497-vakamas-tale-a-g2-story/  and http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/22164-takuas-tale-a-g2-story/?do=findComment&comment=1062114

 

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That Trolls and Minions even exist is sinful in its own right; however, I don't think all these licensed themes are necessarily outcompeting original stuff. Lego's had a lot of licensed themes for years; if we sit tight, some mainstay licensed theme will die off eventually, or a gap will form in things Lego can make viable products out of, and that'll allow something original to fill the void. Who knows, maybe even SW will die in a couple decades. The world seems to be starting to lose interest in it, if only a little.

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Rule #1: Always listen to Kek.

Rule #2: If you break rule #1, kindly don't.

Rule #3: EVERYBODY TYPE IN THE CHAT "AVAK IS A STUPID TRIGGER"

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Posted (edited)
23 minutes ago, Sir Keksalot said:

...some mainstay licensed theme will die off eventually, or a gap will form in things Lego can make viable products out of, and that'll allow something original to fill the void.

I mean look at Harry Potter. There was a solid few years with zero Harry Potter sets between Deathly Hallows 2 and the IP's return in Lego Dimensions. It's not that Lego ever lost the Potter license, it's just they stopped producing it for a while, so it certainly can and has happened in Lego already. 

Speaking of Lego Star Wars, I doubt it is going to really slow down anytime soon. Between Disney-Lucasfilm's two partners for Star Wars toys Hasbro and Lego; Lego has been the more... consistent... performer between the two these last few years. Its as simple as the product they turn out, action figures are very character based; where as Lego focuses on playsets and vehicles. Even back with Force Awakens when the Disney era of films was at its most hyped and well received; Hasbro already had a lot of shelf warmers out. I think Constable Zuvio's action figure has become somewhat of a meme among Star Wars collectors because he sat on shelves for years, and hardly sold at all. 

A trip to my local Wal-Mart is pretty telling, Hasbro's Star Wars section has been almost edged out by Marvel, DC, and Fortnite action figures. There are more WWE figures for crying out loud than Star Wars in the local action figure aisle these days! They really only have a few Star Wars action figures, maybe a toy lightsaber or two, and a single vehicle set at a time in Wal-Mart regularly. In comparison the Lego Star Wars stuff is fully stocked with nearly the entire product range, is constantly getting in new product and selling new product. I think Lego is better able to weather the fan debates in Star Wars because Lego has always been about the vehicles and play sets. Sure somebody might hate Rise of Skywalker, but its hard to deny that the new Falcon set is nice, or the A-Wing is a neat $30 set. Not a lot of people saw Solo, but that doesn't matter when the Lego sets such as the Imperial train heist are so unique and cool looking. In comparison, if people don't like the film characters there ain't nothing Hasbro can do to sell those Constable Zuvio, Admiral Holdo and Jar Jar Binks action figures, especially since $20 is a common price for a Black Series figure these days. In comparison, no Lego fan is going to complain if Jar Jar is say packaged into an awesome MTT set, or Holdo in a Resistance base playset because the individual character is not the main draw for a Lego set. For the price of one Black Series action figure, I can get a simple battlepack from Lego with four Mandalorian minifigures and have enough left over to grab a polybag or Collectible Minifigure too.

Lego puts out the better product than Hasbro, and it shows. The fact Lego Star Wars is consistently one of their highest performing lines right up there with Friends, Ninjago, and City is telling. In comparison all those articles you see about "Are Star Wars Toys Not Selling Enough Anymore?" are almost exclusively focused on Hasbro and their action figure line.  

Edited by Xboxtravis
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Neil Peart: 1952-2020
"The future disappears into memory, with only a moment in-between. Forever dwells in that moment, hope is what remains to be seen."

Check out my G2 (with G1 inspired characters) short storys: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/21497-vakamas-tale-a-g2-story/  and http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/22164-takuas-tale-a-g2-story/?do=findComment&comment=1062114

 

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1 hour ago, Xboxtravis said:

 In comparison, if people don't like the film characters there ain't nothing Hasbro can do to sell those Constable Zuvio, Admiral Holdo and Jar Jar Binks action figures, especially since $20 is a common price for a Black Series figure these days. In comparison, no Lego fan is going to complain if Jar Jar is say packaged into an awesome MTT set, or Holdo in a Resistance base playset because the individual character is not the main draw for a Lego set. For the price of one Black Series action figure, I can get a simple battlepack from Lego with four Mandalorian minifigures and have enough left over to grab a polybag or Collectible Minifigure too.

The only way to truly test this theory is if LEGO were to release an amazing set containing just Constable Zuvio, Admiral Holdo, and Jar Jar Binks as minifigs.

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"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
"
-- Turaga Nokama

nichijou2.jpg

Click here to visit my library!

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I mean I already have minifigures of Holdo and Jar Jar... so bring it. :P


rsz_920x920.jpg.cfb485e9446c2acd41c6b8319e3f00c5.jpg

Neil Peart: 1952-2020
"The future disappears into memory, with only a moment in-between. Forever dwells in that moment, hope is what remains to be seen."

Check out my G2 (with G1 inspired characters) short storys: http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/21497-vakamas-tale-a-g2-story/  and http://www.bzpower.com/board/topic/22164-takuas-tale-a-g2-story/?do=findComment&comment=1062114

 

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13 hours ago, Xboxtravis said:

So yeah licensed themes are pretty dominant right now, but I really can't say they have detracted much from the number of original themes Lego normally does. Yes looking back as a whole its easy to think of "wow look at all the original stuff Lego used to do!" if we start clumping different eras together, I know Knights Kingdom II, Throwbots & Roboriders, Western, Life on Mars, Alpha Team, Exo Force, Pirates, Power Miners & Rock Raiders, Galidor and of course Bionicle all come quickly to my mind... but I have to pause and realize those themes all released over a span of 8-9 years or so. 

You have a point there. It's easy for me to just clump together my childhood themes but if we just take one year from my childhood, I see that the variety of original sets we got was not unlike what we get today.

In 2002 we got sets from:

  • Alpha Team
  • Bionicle
  • Belleville
  • Creator/Creator Expert
  • Galidor
  • Island Xtreme Stunts
  • Jack Stone
  • Racers
  • Sports
  • Spybotics
  • Studios
  • Technic
  • Town

Along with a few re-releases of:

  • Western
  • Castle
  • Pirates

The licensed themes at the time:

  • Star Wars
  • Harry Potter
  • Spider-Man (sub-theme of Studios)
  • Bob the Builder (Duplo)

We also are getting parts for Spike

The licensed themes for this year:

  • Star Wars
  • Harry Potter
  • Marvel Superheroes
  • DC Superheroes
  • Disney
  • Super Mario
  • Minecraft
  • Minions
  • Speed Champions
  • Trolls

 

13 hours ago, Xboxtravis said:

Not only that... but some of them *cough* Galidor, Jack Stone *cough* were absolute turkeys. 

You say that, but as someone who was 5 in 2002, Galidor and Jack Stone were some of my favorite themes at the time :smilewinkgrin:. However, if you remove those unsuccessful ventures, you get about the same number of original themes, so I see the point that although there are now more licensed themes, there aren't fewer original ones. I would also agree that Ideas has essentially filled the gap that rereleases left, especially with that latest pirates set.

I think my reaction just came from the volume of licensed sets and just assumed that they were replacing original themes as opposed to the apparent reality that they are merely adding to the variety. I guess I hadn't factored in just how much bigger Lego is now.


Jaller Inika looks like C-3PO and I hate it.

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I go to Disney world a lot and have noticed the same trend there as well. Take EPCOT for example, when it first opened in 1982 there were no licenses or "Characters" as we say in our circles. You heard me right they had no Mickey Mouse meet and greets of any kind in the park. The World Showcase was accurate representations of world cultures and the Future World was mostly educational rides showing the history of the world. This started changing in the 90s and 2000s When characters and franchises started creeping in and slowly started taking over the park: for example the Living Seas which was supposed to be an underwater research base (think Aquazone) had most of the educational themes except the actual aquariums removed and the attraction was retheamed to Finding Nemo. But the worst offense was what happened in Norway. Disney replaced the original ride Maelstrom: a High Seas Norweagen Adventure, a ride about Norweagen history and mythology featuring Vikings, trolls, and the whole ride being narrated by Odin, with  a ride based off of their mega hit Frozen because it was inspired by Norway. What I am trying to say is that the theme of franchises replacing original ideas is not just happening with Lego, its happening almost everywhere. I fear an oversaturation of brands and franchises are depriving the young generation of a plentiful imagination. When I was young I marvelled at the generic lego Knights and pirates, and at Rides like Maelstrom and Spaceship Earth where I learned that Vikings did not have horns on their helmets and was amazed at the splendors of ancient Egypt, Greece and Rome. Now the stories are being told to children not them imagining it themselves like I did. If any of you have time check out videos of the rides I mentioned on Youtube they are really cool and amazing. 

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Absolutely agreed, the reliance on licensed themes has completely changed design philosophy for the worse among other things. Stagnation is rampant in Lego's offerings at this point.

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I agree with a lot of what has been said, but the sad truth is there's often more profit in a story people already know than in one they don't. If there wasn't there wouldn't be as many licenses as there are.

I do wonder whether another Bionicle or Ninjago will or would happen again.

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It's a bit of a mixed bag for me.  On one hand, I think it's pretty cool that if you're a fan of superheroes, or LOTR, or other IPs, you can get your favorite characters as Lego sets and put them in whatever wacky settings you build with the rest of your sets.  That's something awesome that younger me couldn't have imagined happening!  Kids these days... but I find it hard to begrudge them something like that.

On the other hand, I do miss original themes with slightly more serious storylines like Bionicle, and particularly Exo-Force.  While Exo-Force never got nearly as dark or deep as Bionicle did, it was pretty clear it was supposed to be more than a seller of plastic bricks.  Sellers of plastic bricks don't get experimental mech designs and manga-style web comics.  That's the sort of thing I'd like now that I'm older, cool builds with some nice storytelling for all ages, beyond getting you to buy more sets.  I am a sucker for cool robots... but then again, I suppose I'm not the target audience.

I wonder if that's why people like Ninjago so much.  Storytelling, cool builds, and the occasional giant robot thrown in for good measure.


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My blog: The Jaga's Nest

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On 4/27/2020 at 12:47 PM, Bonkle said:

Absolutely agreed, the reliance on licensed themes has completely changed design philosophy for the worse among other things. Stagnation is rampant in Lego's offerings at this point.

Not to mention that most of the licensed themes have few sets, and some of this sets have too many stickers rather than prints, which is kind of lazy in my opinion. Most of those themes ended shortly for reason, like a franchise being over or just to promote a franchise for a year. Angry Birds, Toy Story, Powerpuff Girls, and the Middle-Earth franchise are examples of that. 
 

Star Wars never stopped and has much more sets. 

 

DC Comics and Marvel are in between due to promoting movies.


I like Lego, Bionicle, and Hero Factory!:)

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TBH, the most resentment you'll find for licensed themes coming from my corner is the sheer amount of them put forward as LEGO Ideas projects. It just always rubbed me the wrong way that this super creative "get your own set published" platform was almost immediately used to jumpstart a host of licensed themes that otherwise couldn't justify a full wave (I remember one of the first sets pushed through was the Back to the Future DeLorean).

Mainly, it bugs me because the licensed projects seem to take the wind out of the sails of the kinds of sets the platform was clearly designed for. Thankfully stuff like the pop-up-book a while back, or this year's Pirates of Barracuda Bay, are still able to reach the threshold regardless. And I can only imagine the amount of paperwork the one-off licensed projects create for LEGO (and no doubt line the pockets of the licensees, who probably don't need it).  

That said, I don't mean this as an attack against the licensed LEGO Ideas projects that do make it through; I have full confidence that the designers of those sets deserve the positive clout they receive. It's just a shame that those designs seem to take a backseat in favor of whatever new minifig's in the box.

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5 hours ago, Mukaukau Nuva said:

TBH, the most resentment you'll find for licensed themes coming from my corner is the sheer amount of them put forward as LEGO Ideas projects. It just always rubbed me the wrong way that this super creative "get your own set published" platform was almost immediately used to jumpstart a host of licensed themes that otherwise couldn't justify a full wave (I remember one of the first sets pushed through was the Back to the Future DeLorean).

Mainly, it bugs me because the licensed projects seem to take the wind out of the sails of the kinds of sets the platform was clearly designed for. Thankfully stuff like the pop-up-book a while back, or this year's Pirates of Barracuda Bay, are still able to reach the threshold regardless. And I can only imagine the amount of paperwork the one-off licensed projects create for LEGO (and no doubt line the pockets of the licensees, who probably don't need it).  

That said, I don't mean this as an attack against the licensed LEGO Ideas projects that do make it through; I have full confidence that the designers of those sets deserve the positive clout they receive. It's just a shame that those designs seem to take a backseat in favor of whatever new minifig's in the box.

Well, I sure feel bad for liking the TRON: Legacy Ideas set now...


"You are an absolute in these uncertain times. Your past is forgotten, and your
future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
"
-- Turaga Nokama

nichijou2.jpg

Click here to visit my library!

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15 hours ago, Master Inika said:

Well, I sure feel bad for liking the TRON: Legacy Ideas set now...

'Tis only my opinion. I felt very "back in my day" as I was writing it, so I think the stance I took was rather harder than I actually feel.

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