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What could Bionicle's story been like if it wasn't controlled by the toys?


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Think about it - Half of Bionicle's story is justifying the decisions that the set designers made. I'm not sure many of you recall, but there was a huge discussion as to why the '04 Matoran had partially-silver Kanohi, and Greg found himself cornered by fans demanding to know the specific reason why, and he seemed to have a difficult time coming up with an answer that didn't contradict pre-established lore. In reality, the answer was just that the set designers thought it looked cool. There's a hundred other examples like this, like Takanuva becoming giant in '08, the Kanohi Inika being disturbingly organic, and whatnot. Plus, needing to introduce a whole new cast of characters each year and only focusing on the ones who currently had sets was a big constraint on the story.

I'd really like to see what Bionicle could look like if it didn't have to bend over backwards to accommodate the whims of the toys. Don't get me wrong, I love the toys, but I'd really like to know what Bionicle could have looked like if it was story-first/sets-later instead of the way it is.

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The thing is toys fueled the story, story fueled the toys; etc. Almost impossible to imagine Bionicle without both aspects. 

 

The only comparison I can make to a toyline story sans toyline, is IDW's Transformers comics. It is firmly rooted in 80's G1 Transformers lore, but 30+ years separated from the original toys allowing more creative freedom in the storytelling. Maybe someday we might see that for Bionicle if we are lucky. 

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Bionicle without the toys was basically just all of the serials Greg did on the side. Characters lost their weapons, changed appearances, mutated or died, etc. and were thus no longer bound by the way they were portrayed in set form. 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Non-existent.

 

Edit: To further elaborate, it was always meant to be a multimedia franchise. That was a huge portion of its appeal. LEGO was not doing so well at the end of the 1990s and they needed something big to get ahead, so they took a gamble on this. The promotional effort was probably pretty expensive, considering the fact that they partnered with Universal Music, ordered two video games (one of which fell through) on brand new consoles (Game Boy Advance and GameCube also launched in 2001), and had a then-fancy Flash site with an elaborate online game that expanded over time (most browser-based games at that time weren’t elaborate at all, they were mostly puzzles and stuff). Speaking of which, the 2001 storyline alone was was told through various media. Unlike later years, you couldn’t just focus on one medium and get a fairly complete summary of 2001’s story. 
 

So basically, you can’t have the story without the toys. And in BIONICLE’s case, at least, I think that the story really fueled toy sales, so I highly doubt it would have lasted more than a few years without the elaborate story.

Edited by Cheesy Mac n Cheese

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  • 2 weeks later...

I think writer (not necessarily the Bionicle writers; as has already been noted, the idea the story could have continued w/out toy sales driving it is pretty outlandish) could have done a lot w/out being attached to toys. For instance, I think you'd have a greater degree of character development for the original 6 Toa. They were our protagonists for the 1st 3 years, ofc. But we could have followed them beyond that if there's no need to sell Toa Metru or Toa Ignika sets.

Moreover, I think you'd continue to have a more Tohunga/Matoran-centric story. I can't imagine 2001's Tohunga & Turaga sets were among the highest sellers, & the small-sets of subsequent waves would get increasingly little focus & characterization in the story-proper. 

I think, in general, the original story bible (whatever was contained therein) would have been followed more closely, given there would be nothing else to go on. But exactly what that would entail is a somewhat debatable; I know there are varying interpretations of what direction the story was intended to go from the very outset (beyond those elements that did make it into the later story, such as the Mata Nui Robot, obvs.)

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If I could jump back in, if it were created as, say, a movie, or a TV show, or even a book, there is always the possibility that toys would be made anyway. And when a franchise strikes a toy deal, even if the toy line is not the core aspect of the franchise, the story is inherently influenced by the toys, anyway. Ever heard of the word “toyetic?” It’s when movie and TV artists specifically design something, be it a character, vehicle or building, to be appealing enough so that kids would want a toy based on it (thank you, Freakazoid!). For decades, people have accused Lucasfilm of creating Ewoks solely to sell toys, for example.

Edited by Cheesy Mac n Cheese

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  • 3 weeks later...

I think one of the biggest changes that we might see is having less characters, or at least less "main" characters, with each individual character getting more spotlight time. So we might have Toa teams of 4 instead of 6, as was originally planned.

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I wouldn't say that the Bionicle story was controlled by the sets at all. In the earlier years, yes, but the main story for Bionicle already existed before the set design was nailed down, so even that would be dubious.

Yes, certainly plenty of story decisions were made because of a set element, however, at the same time, the characters we got in set form are only a third of all the named characters in the actual Bionicle story. Krakua, Helryx, Tuyet, Kanohi Dragon, the Toa Mangai, the Toa Cordak, to name a few and lets not forget a whole population of Matoran elements we never even saw in set form.

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At the very end of its lifetime, Bionicle's story was basically attempting to survive without the toys, between The Powers that Be and The Yesterday's Quest. I found those stories very good (while they were still going) and I would have been happy to see them continued. It was just a conflict of interest with LEGO and Greg that made it difficult to finish.

So I think that yes while the toys got the ball rolling, the story would have been just fine without them. :)

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  • 3 weeks later...
On 7/15/2021 at 2:43 AM, Tattorack said:

In the earlier years, yes, but the main story for Bionicle already existed before the set design was nailed down, so even that would be dubious.

The original story bible was thrown out around 2005, and after that, they made it year-by-year. Even then, it was rough outlines as simple as "The Toa go underwater to fight new aquatic villains to search for the Mask of Life." Everything else was based around the sets, like the Barraki being mutants. 

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17 hours ago, Lorentz said:

The original story bible was thrown out around 2005, and after that, they made it year-by-year. Even then, it was rough outlines as simple as "The Toa go underwater to fight new aquatic villains to search for the Mask of Life." Everything else was based around the sets, like the Barraki being mutants. 

I don't know if its accurate to say the whole story bible was thrown out, but definitely with Bob Thompson's departure they followed the original story bible a lot more loosely from 2005 on out. We do know though when the Ignition trilogy was planned in Faber's original pitches (2005-ish after Bob left) did show they knew 2006 would be on Voya-Nui and 2007 would be their water year and 2008 their "swamp/air" year. So there was still some rough planning taking place years in advance, even if not Bob's original story beats. 

Edited by Xboxtravis

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Not to mention that the core story of Bionicle, of the residents being in a giant robot that they must awaken, was still around.

Besides, Bionicle has been around for so long that eventually the story bible evolved. That's the same with every long running franchise.

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  • 4 weeks later...
  • 2 weeks later...
On 9/2/2021 at 1:30 AM, Heyzorks said:

if bionicle wasn't controlled by the toys,

the only heroes would be the toa mata, probably.

Nah, we'd get the Inika/Mahri for sure as well. Probably skip the Metru though, or save it as a full-prequel soft-reboot after the main story is wrapped up.

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