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Was I Too Optimistic?

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Bionicle Guru

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As something of a realist, I knew going into this year that fangirl and fanboy pipe dreams of "The Return of BIONICLE" for the 20th anniversary was crazy talk. As much as I love the original run of BIONICLE from 2001 to 2010, there was no way in Karzahni that LEGO was going to revive the theme just for an anniversary year. It's a major one, but still. BIONICLE is done. No need to "continue" the story or reboot it (2015 and 2016 showed how poorly the latter went).

My prognostication was we'd likely get something like a GWP or one-off trinket by the summer to commemorate the worldwide release of BIONICLE (Europe had the Toa and Turaga from the start of 2001, but the US and Canadian markets didn't see BIONICLE sets on shelves until July). On the lower end, I figured we might be lucky to see prints of, say, Kanohi masks on minifigure torsos scattered throughout CITY sets or sets from another theme.

Then I found out about this "20 Years of LEGO Harry Potter" nonsense. Wow, I mean, I know LEGO loves money (and I write that realistically, with no chagrin or sarcasm), but Harry Potter is beyond a cash grab at this point. Especially considering several years went by when LEGO didn't produce a single Harry Potter anything. Why celebrate that, of all LEGO themes?

But that's not even why I'm mad. It was the sight of a sticker on a piece in one of these anniversary sets that really spelled it out for me. In what looks like a star chart of constellations in whatever weird, transphobic, "magic" universe Harry Potter is set in, one of the designers snuck in a constellation that forms the shape of the Kanohi Hau, a symbol of BIONICLE as a whole.

Great. Bravo. Slow clap. See that BIONICLE fans???? BIONICLE LIVES!!! Happy 20th anniversary! Watch my YouTube video to see how LEGO CELEBRATES BIONICLE - SECRET COMEBACK?!?!?

Blood from a (Makoki) stone, people. I kept my expectations in check, but now, after seeing this "tribute" in one of the new Harry Potter sets, I'm beginning to wonder if I was the foolish BIONICLE fan too optimistic for LEGO to pay respects to one of the greatest themes they ever produced? Is this all we're getting for acknowledgment of BIONICLE's 20th anniversary? Or is there a leak to come of something just a tad more substantial?

We can only hope. If this is it, though, it will be a very sad footnote to one of the best original stories I've ever heard and participated in. Reduced to a single image in a set celebrating the 20th anniversary of another, non-LEGO, IP.

Well, there's always the 50th anniversary...

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I had no idea Lego was celebrating 20 years of Lego Harry Potter. After all these somewhat recent controversies surrounding JK Rowling, you'd figure Lego would want to celebrate a theme that hasn't really had its reputation tarnished. :\

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4 hours ago, Bambi said:

I had no idea Lego was celebrating 20 years of Lego Harry Potter. After all these somewhat recent controversies surrounding JK Rowling, you'd figure Lego would want to celebrate a theme that hasn't really had its reputation tarnished. :\

I will concede that in spite of the controversies around JK Rowling, nothing seems to have dampened fan enthusiasm for all things related to the books. At my local LEGO store where I used to work, Harry Potter sets flew off the shelves frequently. People of all walks of life snatched up sets large and small, and if they harbored private reservations about supporting Rowling in spite of herself, they never alluded to them. I guess Warner Brothers Studios is determined to keep "The Wizarding World" a "thing" that it can milk into perpetuity, just like the Lucasfilm of today plans to milk "Star Wars" for all its worth. In that case, LEGO has to play along otherwise they lose a good revenue stream. I did state matter-of-factly that LEGO loves money, after all.

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Ok. Rant incoming...

This might sound mean, but it's not intended as such. (It's also not a HP fanboy post; I can see why it's successful but I usually find myself bemused by it all...)

...

I don't really know why you're surprised that Harry Potter - a literal billion-dollar franchise with a huge worldwide following, ten (and counting) theatrical movie releases, several tourist attractions and a whole heap of naff merchandise - is getting picked for a 20-year anniversary over Bionicle - a franchise which has a famously niche subculture within the already niche subculture of AFOLs.

I also don't get why you're mad about Bionicle getting a little easter egg shoutout. You're mad because Lego isn't paying respects to the franchise, and to illustrate your point, you're giving us an example of Lego paying respects to the franchise...?

If you're mad that Lego has seemingly forgotten about Bionicle, then guess what; they haven't. They gave it a shoutout in The Lego Movie, Takanuva almost made into TLM2, concept art and the whole Toa Mata team are on display in the Lego House, Bionicle easter eggs are still showing up in other sets - heck, while it wasn't what most of us G1 fans wanted, they even gave us a whole new reboot with new sets, worldbuilding, artwork, animations, games and a Netflix movie.

Even today's Lego sets have Bionicle roots. Would we have so many different posable figure sets with towball-socket joints if Bionicle hadn't existed? I doubt it. Would Ninjago be the blockbuster theme that it is today without Lego learning the ropes with Bionicle? Probably not.

Even the people involved in Bionicle haven't forgotten. TTV is running canon contests with Greg. We've had people like Bob Thompson, Christian Faber, Stuart Sayger, Pop Mhan etc. coming out of the woodwork to do interviews. I mean, Faber's even trying to get his weird vision for a potential whole new G3 off the ground.

But Lego are a toy company. They exist to sell toys. They don't exist to pay tribute to every single one of their dozens of past themes.

G1 ended over ten years ago. G1's popularity was waning long before that. And G2 didn't meet sales expectations; in fact, it met them so badly that the last line of sets wasn't even universally released everywhere. (Yet Lego still felt it was necessary to wrap up G2's story instead of leaving it on a cliffhanger...)

Unfortunately, that makes it unlikely that we'll see another Bionicle set; even as a small tribute set. Not impossible, but not likely either. (I'd love a bonko GWP; but again, when you consider the whole consumer audience of GWPs, how many of them are actually interested in Bionicle?)

But even if Lego had completely forgotten about Bionicle - again, they haven't - do we actually need a new set from them?

The community is still building and posting their own creations online; not to mention fanart and other fan projects. Builders are still uploading bonko projects to Lego Ideas. We've had at least two attempts at a large scale 3D exploration game starring the Toa Mata, with the latest one currently in production and getting Lego's official blessing to continue development - how often does that happen with fan games that borrow existing IPs?

The fan community tracked down and released the cancelled Quest of the Toa; the white whale of Bionicle fans for more than a decade. BZP and TTV are still up and running. Communities are still interacting on Facebook, Twitter, Discord etc.  There's multiple wikis devoted to archiving the entire lore of the franchise. There's an entire site devoted to archiving the entire media franchise: games, artwork, animations, set instructions, even internal style guides that we were never meant to see.

I find Faber's 'the legend is in your hands now' stuff a bit trite, but I guess it's mostly true. Bionicle is the thing we grew up with, it's the thing we still love, and no amount of disinterest (or perceived disinterest) from Lego can change that.

Edited by Distorted
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No, it doesn't sound mean, but the rant seems more like the standard, boilerplate reaction leveled against the hordes of more unreasonable BIONICLE fans who are screaming into the void about a complete resurrection of BIONICLE officially from LEGO. You have conflated my (admittedly) rambling frustration regarding a tribute or homage (not a set and definitely not a whole branch of merchandise) with some greater disgust of BIONICLE being the shamed, hidden titan that LEGO buries while uplifting the Harry Potter franchise. You can read that into my blog, but let me tell you, I'm well aware of how internally LEGO honors BIONICLE as well as how fans keep extracting life from it in numerous ways. Frankly, that's not my thing. I lived for the official legend of BIONICLE, not whatever fans managed to extract hungrily from it (hence my "blood from a [Makoki] stone" comment). Good for them getting a "canon" appearance for some minor character or making the original BIONICLE PC game a reality. But as a life-long fan of LEGO, I will always first and foremost be interested in what LEGO (the company) releases. That's what matters. All I hoped for was a minor tribute. I address my anger at finding out the possibility that such a tribute, if it exists, may only be a tiny sticker in a completely different theme which is celebrating, ironically enough, their 20th anniversary.

I don't blame you for having the conclusions you did. But I figure if you took the time to write such an essay, I'd at least better follow up with an explanation of myself!

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