2008 marks 30 years of Minifig fun, it was in August 1978 that Lego produced the first Lego Minifig, and no surprise to the fans of the MiniFig, Minifig customization happened not long after that. The Lego MiniFigs we are referring to here are the minifigs that have movable arms and legs in 1975 the precursor to the Minifig was launched, it was a simplistic variant with no arms and looked similar to an mannequin.
Since the first Lego minifig was created by Jens Nygaard Knudsen a Lego employee since 1968 who came up with the minifigs after over 50 prototypes the very first mini figure, a police man was created, the Lego Police man mini figure is still one of the most popular MiniFigs created by Lego, with over 41 versions appearing in over 104 different Lego sets in the last 30 years, several variations on the basic Lego minifig have developed over the years, covering a wide variety of popular themes. Some of the most ground breaking were the creation of Lego Ghosts, Lego women, Lego characters based on films, Race illustrating minifigs, and anime influence minifigs. To date there are over 4,000 official unique designs of minifigs all based around the 1979 US patented design, as Lego Mini Figs are design with 7 different interchangeable elements it’s estimated that there are over 8 Quadrillion combination’s.
Through this massive success of the Lego mini fig, which literally turned around the company’s prospects, Lego has since launch collectable mini figs, the most notable being 10,000 Lego mini fig versions of C3PO cast in 14K gold, to mark the Star Wars 30th anniversary in 2007, amazingly these are billed to be worth over USD$200 each!
The popularity of the Lego minifig has meant that the minifig population has grown to around 4 billion! Thats 3 times the population of China, good thing they don’t eat! There are literally enough minifigs to surround the world over 4 times, and the population is growing with 4 minifigs being sold every second around the world, a growth rate of over 122 million a year.
In 1989 the Pirates series show wooden legs and hand hooks as well as the first distinguishableÂ facial characteristics marking a shift and keener commitment to making Lego minifigs more unique. Between 1989 and 1997 female characters as well as role specific minifigs (such as the ghost) were created, In 1997 the first racial minority was produced by Lego – the Indians for the western series, this change was marked by the costumes and face prints, 1999 showed the success and endorsement by the Star Wars empire which saw the launch of one of the most successful lines of Lego created. The Significance of this for the Lego minifig was in the creation of minifigs that represented actual characters this lead to innovations in minifig design that cumulated in 2003 with the creation of real people depicted as Lego mini figs, notably NBA legos based on real life basketball players including Kobe Bryant. As a result of the popularity of Film based lego such as Star Wars, Batman and Spider Man, many actors have also be ‘minifiged’, however only two have been enshrined in minifig-dom twice – Harrison Ford (Indiana Jones & Han Solo) and Alfred Molina (Satiop & Doc Octopus), additionally Manga saw a raise in popularity which resulted in rubberized hair created for minifigs and more animated mang-esq expressions.
In 2008, just in time for the 30 year anniversary of the Lego minifig, a single custom minifig redefined the world perception of Lego and exposed the customization of Lego as a legitimate and publicly recognized part of the Lego minifig’s history, the controversy that revolved around this particular Minifig was two fold, first it was the first individual mini fig to hit international new press and second it was a minifig with recognizable weapons, including an AK47 produced by Brick Arms, a small company that formed part of the minifig customization community. Lego were quick to point out its Politically correct stance and distance itself from the Mr White Bandit creation, however the effect of this press was a massive increase in mini fig customization and ultimately the creation of Customminifig.co.uk.
See the current range of minifigures at the Lego Shop now.