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What makes 2001 so special?

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Hi, guys! Well, you see, we have seen a lot of Bionicle fan projects that caught our attentions lately. Specifically, there are a lot of Bionicle Lego Ideas projects and some fan games. They all are based on the 2001 storyline. Let’s summarize: 

1. There is this Lego Ideas project where the Toa Mata are in brick form while keeping some of their 2001 parts: 

2. There is this Lego Ideas project where the Toa Mata are Brickheadz. 
3. There is this Lego Ideas project where there is a USC version of Toa Tahu Mata. 
4. There is this Lego Ideas project called Toa Temple something where the Toa are minifigures while there is a giant 2001 Matoran head. 
5. There is this Lego Ideas project that shows a map of the island of Mata Nui. 
6. There is this Lego Ideas project that Tahu in a diorama. It’s getting reviewed. 
7. In YouTube, there is this guy named Vahnro who made two animations featuring Toa Pohatu and Toa Kopaka. One is where Pohatu emerges from his canister. The other is where Pohatu and Kopaka take on a bunch of Kohrak. 
8. Since this video game called Bionicle: The Legend of Mata Nui got cancelled, fans wanted to fix and complete it because they were anticipating for it. There is a version called Rebuilt 1.0. Check it on YouTube. Nice graphics, and they, meaning The Beaverhouse and Litestone Studios, are still working on the poor game. 
9. Some of you guys in this website made some brick-built Toa Mata. 
10. There is a fan game called Bionicle: Masks of Power. 
11. There is a fan game called Bionicle: Quest for Mata Nui. It’s coming. 
12. There is a fan game called Bionicle: Trials of the Great Spirit. 

The fan stuff is one thing. As honorable mentions, when Bionicle progressed, it made some references to the 2001 storyline: 

1. In 2006, the Piraka used the Toa Mata’s canisters to get to Voya Nui. 
2. In Bionicle Heroes, the Toa Inika use the Mata’s weapons for starters. 
3. In Toa Nuva Blog, Gali was using the Great Telescope to observe the Red Star, which is a reference to the Mata Nui Online Game. 
4. In 2008, there were flashbacks of the Toa Mata doing their first missions before they ended up in Mata Nui. 
5. In Bionicle: The Legend Reborn, when the Scarabax beetles were scattering when the former Great Spirit Mata Nui arrived, it’s like in the first Bionicle comic, where Kopaka arrived while there were Ussal crabs scattering. 
6. Mata Nui was taking about the Toa Mata a little bit. Tahu Nuva changed back to Tahu Mata. 
7. Bionicle G2 has a lot of references to the 2001 storyline while its starred the Toa Mata as the main protagonists. 

Plus, in The Lego Movie in 2014, Wyldstyle mentioned Bionicle a little bit. 

Now, my point is this: what makes 2001 so special? Why don’t fans or Bionicle’s creators talk about other storylines or other constraction themes, like Hero Factory, in their projects (I asked the guy who made the diorama if he could make one for HF, but he asked why not I do it, but he’s the genius, so I believe he should do it. I don’t think I can do it. Lol.)? Is it because fans are upset about the cancellation of TLoMN? Well, I can say this: 2001 is where everything has started, and it’s classic, like the first Sonic the Hedgehog game in 1991. Look at the Sonic the Hedgehog movie in 2020. It’s primarily based on the the first game rather than others. Even Captain America from Avengers: Endgame went to see his first girlfriend in the past. The Toa Mata are the first main protagonists in Bionicle before the Turaga of Mata Nui, pre-Toa-Inika Matoran, Takua, and Mata Nui had their turns. Plus, Bionicle is the very theme that saved Lego from bankruptcy in 2001, and it’s one of Lego’s most popular and successful themes. Bionicle is the first constraction theme to actually have a story, and it was one of the longest-running themes. The Toa Mata are the first Bionicle sets to be made. They are like the Avengers from Marvel, Justice League from DC Comics, the Autobots from Transformers, from the Ninja from Ninjago. They are promoted in Lego theme parks. They have more looks than other Toa teams. Bionicle G1 is the best constraction theme there is, the second place goes to Hero Factory (it needs to have its 10th anniversary celebrated somehow for its great efforts). Bionicle introduced gear boxes. I believe Hero Factory, Ninjago, and Mixels were trying to follow G1’s foot steps, even when they had their first years. Apparently, the 2001 storyline is the face of Bionicle in the fans’ eyes. I would agree with that. 

Even if Bionicle is gone twice, constraction is gone, and G1’s story is unfinished (I dearly hope they can be brought back somehow), fans like to look back to 2001. Bionicle is still because of that and fans still remember and love Bionicle. Why we have BZPower for? Because of this, you know. Would you think that fans making their fan stuff would convince Lego to immediately bring back Bionicle again, even for its 20th anniversary in 2021? Bionicle is fan favorite theme, so anything like that can happen, like how the Scotsman from Samurai Jack appeared in the TV show’s Season 5 because he is called a fan favorite character while fans waited 13 years for SJ to have the Season 5 and end its story. Some companies tend to listen to fans generously. 

So, yeah.

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

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16 hours ago, Lenny7092 said:

Now, my point is this: what makes 2001 so special?

I can think of a few things, from my perspective:

  • Childhood nostalgia. The big one, of course; but I feel like, even taking out the giant rose-coloured lenses, there are merits to it beyond that.
  • World-building. This was when the idea of Matoran having actual individual cultures and ways of life was at its peak, and it was certainly one of the biggest draws to the story, in hindsight: compared, in particular, to 2006 and onwards, where each location just had one generic Matoran village with no real cultural distinctness from any of the others, and a geography that never felt fully open to exploration to the degrees that MNOG allowed. Plus, as much as it fits the Patchwork Map trope to a T, the way Mata Nui was laid out with the various elemental regions made it the most fascinating world to explore, when you could go from inside a volcano to lush jungle to freezing mountaintop in a matter of minutes, with each feeling like the location had more going on than just what you saw.
  • The atmosphere of mystery, the 'there's something more going on beneath the surface here' feeling. I don't know that any of us back there suspected GIANT ROBOT was the thing literally beneath the surface, but there was such a sense of this just being the tip of a much bigger story: we were given just enough to tantalise the imagination, without telling us so much that it destroyed that feeling. For me, at least, that's quite the addictive feeling; part of why I'd return to '01-based stories so easily is the expectation that they could almost take that start point, that mystery, and run with it in a different direction this time, and tell a whole new kind of story: 2001 just has that feeling to me that, implausible as it is, stories based around it could well do just that.
  • The characterisation... mostly as supplied by MNOG, where it focused on the little matoran nobodies as much more relatable than the big powerful Toa. Cool as the Toa are, the Takua and Macku and co. are permanently established as my favourites due to that early focus on them.
  • Add to that the fact that it was fresh and new and different; it couldn't be pointed at as a rehash of itself, as subsequent years were sometimes accused, because there had been nothing before to compare it to. No-one had had the chance to get tired of it yet, the way they sometimes did in later years, because it was the freshest thing on the block from Lego: and I suspect that's the reason that, for a lot of people, 2001 is the 'face' of Bionicle, because it captures that sense of fresh and new and mystical in a way that subsequent years didn't always manage to. I know that's a big part of it for me, at any rate.


But those are just my thoughts! And I kinda rambled all over the place with them, so... :shrugs: Make of them what you will, I guess ^^

Edited by That Matoran with a Vahi
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"New legends awake, but old lessons must be remembered.
For that is the way
of the BIONICLE."

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It was the world-building, and mostly MNOG for sure... With it we couls catch a glimpse of how matoran society and culture worked, easily immerse ourselves in that world. None, and I mean none of the other years had this much visual world-building that we got with 2001.

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I have to be careful when I think about 2001; it wasn't something I experienced firsthand, since while I started getting Bionicle sets in and around 2002, I didn't get into the story until around 2006. What I knew about Bionicle prior to that time was filtered through the movies, the occasional older comics I obtained (mostly 2005 ones for whatever reason), and the 2007 Encyclopedia. I don't think I played MNOG until around 2015 or so. Prior to that, I don't think I had any impression of 2001, positive or negative. 

So, it's quite telling that once I did play MNOG, I started seeing 2001 as a halcyon age. That's a lot of baggage for one game to handle. 2001 has a lot going for it in terms of nostalgia; being positioned at the very beginning, when everything about the Bionicle story is simple and easy to understand, it's a very approachable time in the franchise's history (it may be the only approachable time in the franchise's history). 

And for the returning fan, it's so far removed from any element of the CANON that may be deemed (with the benefit of hindsight) to be disappointing. Bionicle (and some of its fans) can become extremely deferential to its own canon, but the MNOG absolutely refuses to defer to canon to its own benefit (though it's not like there was much canon to defer to in 2001). 

That 2001 can be summed up so simply in the MNOG is also part of its benefit. The forms in which "complete" accounts exist for the other years varies; each year has the books, of course, but the books are easily the least accessible (and least enjoyable) version of each story. '03, '04, '05, and '09 have movies, which like the MNOG tell a complete story, but IMO only Legends of Metru Nui reaches comparable levels of storytelling that MNOG does, and it doesn't really get all that close (and it could never be very immersive anyway given it's a movie). '06, '07, and '08 have web animations that do an impressive job of giving us an impression of the story (especially with such short running times) but they are hardly complete stories. MNOG remains the most satisfying "complete" account. 

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Yeah MNOG is just hugely important to the 2001 story. 

A few of the things that helped set up 2001 that worked in its favor:

  • A unique setting with a sense of mystery
  • Unique toy design and collectible aspect
  • Unique art and advertising

The reason I mention those things in particular... is they are all things the 2015 reboot also had to a sense. But while the 2015 reboot felt shallow, 2001 got a surprising amount of depth thanks to MNOG. Remember MNOG was not always intended to be the flagship, the Legend of Mata Nui with its Toa focused gameplay was. But now that we have Legend of Mata Nui rebuilt and able to play... its pretty obvious that it is a super flimsy story in world building other than just being able to see the locations in 3D it really has no strong character interaction. 

The key to MNOG though is putting your character not in the role of a Toa, but back in the shoes of Takua returning from Tales of the Tohunga. Yes its not immediately obvious that you are playing as Takua in MNOG (its not really even made clear until the end of the game actually), but playing as a "normal guy" actually helps to ground the world in a way the Toa focused media never could. As such when Takua talks to other Matoran its not the hero worshiping tone the Toa get while talking to the Matoran, but instead a bit of a personal one on one talk because Takua and the other Matoran are more or less peers. Its a quick insight into how the world works, who inhabits it, what the heroes are fighting for, and what the goals are. Finally when Takua joins the Toa in their final battle against Makuta as a witness on the sidelines, its both incredibly important to offer what that scene looked like from the view of a "common person" watching from afar; and foreshadowing Takua's future role as the Seventh Toa. 

Basically Takua plays a role pretty similar to Bilbo, Frodo and the other hobbits of Tolkein work. He is the common man, thrust into adventure almost not entirely by choice but by circumstance. He has no super powers, no extreme fighting skills, and has to instead rely on his guile and intelligence to survive. His personality is enough of a blank slate for a child to project themselves into, I think all of us especially after playing MNOG feel like we are Takua in a sense similar to other blank slate video game characters such as Master Chief or Chell. But seeing Takua's actions, it hints at a noble but surprisingly cunning and inventive mind. When the Chronicler's Company forms too, we see that up close in other Matoran. The Chronicler's Company is not the "A-team" of Matoran, other than Macku and Hafu none of the characters in the group got a physical set form until 2003 and even then several never were released. But, it again pays off the world building. We see Takua's little band of misfits going along and using creative problem solving to solve challenges and obstacles in their path, then all fighting heroically to the end at Kini-Nui to buy the Toa below a few more seconds of time. Its cool, and as a story telling device I find it almost more compelling than the Toa action we got in that same year (although it also enhances the Toa action by clarifying who the Toa were fighting for).

When G2 gets knocked for being shallow... I think that is a big factor why. The 2001 Toa didn't have much more personality than their 2015 counterparts did. But what really fleshed out the original 2001 world were those side characters, the Matoran and Turaga that MNOG in particular highlighted and fleshed out. Having the sense that there is a world beyond the story, be it the Husi's at market, the flute players in Le-Koro or the miners toiling in Onu-Koro just makes the world feel alive. In a few quick minutes in MNOG you can get a lay of who the characters are, what the world is like and how the Matoran live their daily lives. Bionicle past 2005 or so never really fleshed it out again that well (Metru-Nui barely gets a pass, since the tourist guidebook written for 2004 does a lot of work to try and make Metru-Nui feel more alive). Voya-Nui, Mahri-Nui, Karda-Nui, etc. were really all more set pieces... cool with a few vital NPC's but nothing to explore and learn beyond the initial scene. Okoto in the reboot hit the same issues, we didn't learn until it was to late what life was like on Okoto; and by the time we had enough worldbuilding to start to flesh out the place the line was cancelled again. 

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On 5/16/2020 at 9:58 PM, Mukaukau Nuva said:

I have to be careful when I think about 2001; it wasn't something I experienced firsthand, since while I started getting Bionicle sets in and around 2002, I didn't get into the story until around 2006. What I knew about Bionicle prior to that time was filtered through the movies, the occasional older comics I obtained (mostly 2005 ones for whatever reason), and the 2007 Encyclopedia. I don't think I played MNOG until around 2015 or so. Prior to that, I don't think I had any impression of 2001, positive or negative. 

Similar with me. I got into Bionicle in 2003, and only really started understanding the earlier years around 2007, yet very quickly the earlier years retroactively became nostalgic for me. I call this proto-nostalgia: fond memories of something you didn't actually experience.

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future is an empty book. You must find your own destiny, my brave adventurer.
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  • 2 months later...

Man. You guys are so obsessed with MNOG. I get that it’s only a big medium to tell the 2001 storyline just because The Legend of Mata Nui was cancelled. It has some good parts, like exploring the island and seeing the Matoran’s perspective. I get that, but it would have been nice if something else like that would have the Toa’s perspective because the Toa are the main protagonists overall. The MNOG also included the Toa’s fight with the Makuta, and it was the only thing to tell that. Pitiful about The Legend of Mata Nui.

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

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  • 2 weeks later...

As someone who was with BIONICLE from the start in 2001 and who still has strong memories of that time (I was 12 years old), I think I am qualified to chime in.

There is a lot of context to this time period that will of course vary from person to person, but I speak as a United States, small-town citizen who was already a LEGO Maniac of many years by the time BIONICLE appeared on the scene.

First of all, remember BIONICLE released in Europe first. All the Toa and Turaga were widely available at the start of 2001, while people in the USA and Canada had to wait until July 2001. Regardless, if you were like me and got some 2001 LEGO sets (like Life on Mars) for Christmas in 2000, you undoubtedly saw BIONICLE advertised in the catalogs included in the box. These were not teaser images; these were the original six CGI images of the Toa. No words or descriptions were given other than their names and "BIONICLE", so it was very enigmatic from even a casual perspective. I had seen the Throwbots in 1999 and Roboriders in 2000, though, and they were equally-enigmatic, but once you bought the set, the mystery wore off really quickly and it just became a strange addition to your collection. This would not be the case with BIONICLE!

So, in the USA, in lieu of sets, we were hooked on the story first. The BIONICLE website was live in early 2001, so you could learn about the whole original legend, the Toa, the Makuta, and more without owning a single set. Plus, there was a music page for making sounds inspired by BIONICLE and the island of Mata Nui. Finally, there was the much-lauded third component, the Mata Nui Online Game. Unlike the worlds of the Throwbots and Roboriders, you could actually enter and explore the world of BIONICLE...whatever that was. And as you did, more mysteries presented themselves. It was like exploring a new place when on vacation. It seems like around every corner, some new and exciting could pop up to engage you.

Of course, LEGO did allow for a trickle of actual BIONICLE sets to the USA before July. In March, LEGO Mania Club members could buy Tahu and Vakama for $10. That made BIONICLE truly real for me, building and holding the characters I had only glimpsed in animated form online. Then in May, the same club made all six Turaga sets available, which I also got, duplicate of Vakama be darned!

A bigger feature in May, however, was the release of the first BIONICLE DC comic, #1: The Coming of the Toa, wherein we all finally got a firsthand look at the Toa personalities as expressed by themselves in their quest for the masks. It introduced us primarily to Kopaka and Pohatu, as well as Tohunga Matoro and Turaga Nuju. But it really was all about Kopaka, and he was so...cool, he is still my favorite BIONICLE character today.

So you see, by July 2001, I (and likely many others) had slowly been introduced to the world of BIONICLE by increasing degrees of promotion, marketing, and product. It was a wonderful strategy, because by July, I was giddy with anticipation to obtain the other six Toa, the Rahi, and (eventually) the Tohunga. I entered the Build Your BIONICLE website contest and practically taught myself HTML coding over the summer in order to compete! Anything I found with BIONICLE on it, I got. And as the story rolled on through the comics and the MNOG, I became so invested in the storyline that there was no way I wouldn't see it through to the end.

The 2001 BIONICLE line was special not just because it was the first, but because LEGO (through marketing and promotion) worked hard to make it feel special, like a major series of events. I'm not saying LEGO stopped doing that in BIONICLE's subsequent years, but by the reality of having already introduced the world, a lot of work was lifted off their shoulders so they could focus more on promoting new characters (i.e. sets) instead of the world in which they inhabited. But you only cared about the characters because they "existed" in a unique and fascinating world that, before you could buy the sets, invited you into it. So because of that, 2001 is very special!



2004 - 2011

"There are a thousand ways I could bore you...and only 942 of them will put you to sleep. Permanently"

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i think it's the charm and aesthetic ov Bionicle 2001 that really does win over a lot ov it's fans! the looks and functionality ov the toys, accompanied by a rich, dense, wondrous story, really made fans cling on to the theme (like a girlfriend you just can't get rid ov, lol!)! the aesthetics and the atmosphere ov 2001 (along with awe-inspiring lore) had a great impact on Lego and they continued it for many years until it's untimely (and rather premature) death! 2001 was (and still is) my favorite year for Bionicle! everything about it; the aesthetics, the atmosphere, the games, the story, the sets... it's just... it's so surreal! it's amazing! 

and, you know, despite Bionicle's many faults/changes and whatnot i am eternally grateful to have experienced such an amazing Lego theme! it has a very special place in my heart as the theme that shaped my childhood! sure, i collected Lego sets before Bionicle (with many exceptions including Slizer/Throwbots and Roboriders, i regret not getting any ov those, lol), and sure as heck collected other set's from other themes (Technic is amazing! :)),but Bionicle was the theme i truly felt the most happiness with! and it sucked when it died twice, but i forgave Lego for cancelling the greatest Lego theme ever! here's a life lesson; sometimes it's best to forgive and forget! i abide and live by this lesson as i have learned to forgive those who have wronged me (including Lego) and forget about what they did! 

anyway, Bionicle 2001 was really an eye-catcher! and i never regret getting into the theme to begin with! ever since (back in Springfield, Missouri (were i was born)) we went to McDonald's and got the Happy Meal, inside (besides the food) was either Huki or Onepu (cuz' those were the only Tohunga/Matoran i managed to get at the time) and ever since then i discovered the website, my parents bought me the Toa, and i was hooked on Bionicle forever! my point is i am grateful for the sets i got and for Lego keeping it going as long as they did! Bionicle was (and still is) a huge influence on many people (including me) and i enjoyed every minute while it lasted! 2001 was the best year for Bionicle! if you disagree, i challenge you to prove me wrong! :) 

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Over the years, Bionicle became an increasingly more and more complex story:

2004 brought us to a massive city (officially housing unknown "thousands" of Matoran, but with an urban sprawl and build-up large enough for many millions), a city where not everyone got along and the lines between good and evil were blurred. The "good" Turaga and his law enforcers turned out to be evil. The hero Toa Lhikan was killed off (or at least, we thought he was), just like the rest of his Toa team (except Toa Tuyet, who was yet another "good" character that was turned evil). The Matoran, the obedient adherents to Unity, Duty, Destiny, had fought a very disunited and undutiful civil war for 400 years against one another, and each of the six Matoran character sets for 2004 was a direct rival of one of the Toa Metru and had selfish motivations at best, treasonous motivations at worst.

Later years saw the creation of alternate timelines, crazy new elements and abilities, a shift in focus from masks to weaponry and equipment, the Order of Mata Nui was secretly way smarter and more powerful than the Toa teams all put together, the whole universe was a giant robot, there were other planets with different physics and customs. In trying to keep the current story fresh and exciting, LEGO seemed to increasingly try to outdo its old work, often to the detriment of those early stories. Oh, you thought Takanuva was cool? Here's a whole tribe of Light Matoran. And now they're turning into Bohrok! Now Takua/Takanuva is no longer a unique character and the entire story of 2002 and early 2003 is rendered unnecessary. That's just one example. Likewise, the increasing number of powers and weapons made the original Toa Mata and Toa Nuva look weak, when they were supposed to be the chosen ones, and the increasing number of characters and factions made the Toa teams collectively an increasingly smaller rudder in directing universe-altering events, except when one was occasionally needed to be sacrificed in order to revive Mata Nui. When Vakama told the Toa Nuva in 2003: "You are not the first Toa!" - that was huge! There were six other Toa at one point? As the story went on, it turned out that there were literally hundreds of Toa running around at various points in time - that makes the six Toa Nuva way less special and cool.


This is not at all meant to be a complaint about the later story - I discovered Bionicle long after 2001, and the more complex story is both rich and fascinating. But one of the big reasons that I believe 2001 always had and always will have a special charm is because of its simplicity. After years of investment, I still don't understand all the Dark Hunters/OoMN lore, but I do love and understand the 2001-2003 Mata Nui Saga.


Where are we? An island, in the middle of an endless ocean, with six biomes each exemplifying a different element.


What's going on? There's these villagers who are good guys, but right now the animals are fighting them. The animals aren't evil, but they're being controlled by an evil bad guy, since the evil bad guy put the good guy king to sleep.


What are we gonna do about it? The six heroes have to show up and work together with the good guys to stop the bad guy and the animals and wake up the good guy king. The villagers can't do much on their own, but the six heroes can each control an element, and they can combine their strengths - sometimes literally combining - to beat the bad guy.

The Turaga need the villagers to protect them. The villagers need the Toa to protect them. The Toa and Tohunga villagers both need the Turaga to lead and guide them. No one person or group is self-sufficient - that's why they need to have unity. Everything is at stake - no one can afford to forget his or her duty. The war has gone on for eons, but the prophecy of the Toa is finally being fulfilled - there is hope that now, the island's destiny can be secured from the clutches of the evil Makuta, and Mata Nui can awaken.


The setting for 2001 isn't crazy complex - it doesn't need to be. The six Wahi are interesting enough, and are full of unique and memorable locations, locations that would be altered and expanded by the events of 2002 and 2003. The conflict isn't some eight-sided war with plot-twisting betrayals - it's good versus evil, and the only traitor is Ahkmou (curse him!). The heroes don't need jetpacks or miniguns or submarines or fighter jets or interdimensional portals or roller skates (lookin' at you, Umbra...), just being able to control the elements is already cool. If you wanted a more complicated story, you had all the Kanohi powers and the Kaita, but if you didn't want to dive into all of that you could keep it simple with elemental abilities. Some of the heroes were super-powerful beings with unnatural abilities. Some of the heroes were seemingly average Tohunga/Matoran who went on to accomplish above-average heroics (I really liked that the Chronicler's Company were later made outright Toa in the 2006-2007 story, with the exception of Macku). Some of the heroes were elderly non-combatants, who though unable to fight on the battlefield, continued winning the war through their vast knowledge, effortless virtue, and preservation of the old traditions and stories.


There weren't a ton of characters in 2001. Nor were there a ton of locations. Nor were there a ton of abilities. But everything that was there, was important. It all mattered. And that's what made it so special.

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  • 2 weeks later...

While others have already said much of what I feel in regards to 2001 Bionicle, I wish to add/reiterate that what made it special to me was that it was so different and new compared to anything else. Even to this day, it's incredibly unique. Even though I was only around 8 or 9 years old and didn't fully understand it at the time, the world of Mata Nui as viewed through the MNOG was deep and alluring. Even without the online game, the feeling of buying, building, and thereby being introduced to Bionicle by my very first Toa bought at a Kohl's in 2001, Pohatu, was magical. There wasn't really anything else like it at the time, and I loved the fact that you could disassemble sets and make your own creations out of them.

I felt that as time went on the focus from the original, more robust designs of the original Toa and their Nuva evolutions waned as the newer sets became more "floppy" and weren't as rigid, able to stand well on their own, etc. When you compare the mechanical action and design of a Bohrok to that of something like one of the Toa Mahri, the Bohrok could actually hit with enough force to knock off a Kanohi while the one of the Mahri could only shoot a projectile and sometimes sagged under it's own weight. The lore became more convoluted and shifted focus away from the original Toa, and around 2007 I stopped buying new sets. I know that in the following year the focus shifted back to the original Toa, but because of the direction of the designs and the lore (as I saw it at the time) going way off track from the original Toa Mata/Nuva, I lost interest. Though I've watched Bionicle over the years from afar, I never really could bring myself to buy another set until it was announced that Bionicle was ending. I bought one of the Stars set, a Tahu, and was extremely disappointed with it. After that, I stayed away from Bionicle for a long time.

Bionicle will always hold a special place in my heart, and that is because of what it was when I was first introduced to it in 2001. If you or anyone else like the later designs and lore of Bionicle, then I'm glad-- life is about enjoying what you enjoy. I'm merely stating why I started to dislike the direction Bionicle was taking circa 2007, and why 2001 was so special to me. Ultimately, it is in fact a subjective thing. 

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  • 4 weeks later...

I do tend to view 2001 Bionicle with a lot of nostalgia; it was a huge defining focus of my childhood growing up, and even as the official story moved on, I was still writing stories and talking about it on BZPower years and years later.  So I am very biased about the first year of Bionicle, just getting that out there.

And the crazy thing is, it very well could not have worked.  Lego was throwing all sorts of ideas at the wall to see what would stick.  Throwbots / Slizers did well enough, but there was also Galidor and Jack Stone in that same era (generally), so not all of them were winners.  But they managed to strike gold with Bionicle, something I'd be willing to say they haven't been able to do with any other home-grown theme besides Ninjago and TLM.  But Bionicle had plenty of ridiculous notions to it that still make AFOLs hate the theme; so I'd have to say that a little luck was also involved on Lego's part.  I mean, there have been other one-shot themes that had good sets and a decent story with a movie or show, but they eventually ended, and it's surprising that Bionicle ended up lasting for as long as it did instead of fading away after a year or two.

In general, while the sets did improve over the years, 2001 had a lot to offer without really being compared to previous waves.  Sure, Slizers did buildable characters, and the Rahi were similar to technic Cyber Slam sets.  But the Rahi had complex functions and cool animalistic looks that hadn't really been done before.  And the Toa builds weren't as varied as the Slizers, but all six were very distinct from each other and their color blocking was done very well, which helped separate their characters, and they had simple but effective functionality.  And then there was collectability.  I'm sure Lego did a lot with collectible sets and figs in the 90s, but man the collectible Kanohi masks were just so infectious, you just had to get more.  And $2 packs were pretty affordable and widely available, so everybody could easily start building their collection.  The toys themselves fit into the action figure niche that Lego really hadn't tapped before.  Yes, they were widely different from almost anything Lego had done before, but they were cool enough that they sold well.  It was the right toy design at the right time.

And yes, the story mattered immensely, with the comics and MNOLG really building up the world and characters and narrative, allowing you to play out the story with your sets as the Toa fought the Rahi and searched for the masks.  It does boggle my mind just how "lightning in a bottle" the whole situation was; the game and movie got canceled, forcing the side Matoran game to suddenly handle the brunt force of the story, but the Templar people did an amazing job at telling this compelling story even with all the restrictions they had (in regards to violence shown, animation speed from slow internet of the time, the huge rush to get new content out, and 9-11 happening in the middle of it all.)  It worked out so amazingly well and I don't think the franchise would've survived if it hadn't been for that game.  It's importance isn't to be dismissed, and it's all the more impressive because it was not supposed to be the flagship game for the theme, but it handled the burden admirably.  (To be fair, the comics were also very well done in 2001, and they were what first got me hooked into the story, but the MNOLG was what got me invested in it.)

But looking at the deeper story of the Toa on Mata Nui, it had a lot of deep mystery and great lore going for it.  And it had one advantage that other years lacked; cultural appropriation.  In retrospect, knowing all the ideas and name they stole from Maori culture is very off putting.  Maori and Polynesian culture is very interesting in and of itself, and you gain a lot of that mysticism through Bionicle's first year... but the fact that they were making a profit off the concepts from another culture is very distasteful.  They certainly veered away from such things later on, as the various character names became more ridiculous. (Turahk, Keerahk, Voporahk, Reidak, ext.  At least in later years they started referring animals with stuff like Carapar and Chirox, but then you also had Mutran and Stronius.)  People say that the overall themes of 01 were better, more mystic, ext, and a lot of that comes from them setting up a story without diving into the particulars (Metru Nui, Great Spirit Robot, Brotherhood of Makuta).  And there's a lot of Faber's concepts that stand out on their own, with hero capsules healing a buried giant robot.  But a lot also comes from borrowed Maori culture, and while it made for a great story, it still wasn't the right thing to do for a toy theme.  Lotta mixed feelings here.

Anyway, that's some of my ramblings from the early years.  TLDR: The stars aligned for everything for Bionicle, with good sets and a good story, presented very effectively by the MNOLG, but it also had the distasteful advantage of taking elements from Maori culture.


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Whilst I wasn't old enough to follow along with Bionicle at the time of its inception, in retrospect, the 2001 sets have this kind of mythological feel to them. They're so basic and bare-bones compared to later Bionicle sets, yet a lot of the core principles were already being explored, and the Toa masks themselves will always be iconic to me. I remember finding a Miru Nuva whilst wandering around a Bionicle pick-and-mix place in Legoland Windsor when I was seven or eight years old. It felt like stumbling upon a bit of archaeology, and whenever I look through my parts boxes and stumble upon a half-constructed old Toa Mata I got from an ebay bundle or something at some point, it's quite fun to rebuild it and remember what came before. 

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18 hours ago, CommanderKumo said:

It's difficult to quantify beyond saying "It's magic". The other users above me seem to have put it into words much better!

Given the more mystical feel to it, I think this is a good and snappy take too. Looking back on it and how the story was being put together, it felt like it could've gone anywhere - doubling down on the mystical tribal feel to things, instead of going for the Sci-fi stuff we ended up with. I've always liked some of the more techy elements they implemented in the end but maybe something more magical, literally, would've been interesting too. 

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