With their round hands, distinctive heads and expressive faces, LEGO Minifigures – the official name of the people who populate LEGO sets and builds – are instantly recognisable. But where did they come from, and how did they become so iconic? Come take a walk down (LEGO-brick-paved) memory lane…
The first LEGO Minifigure
The Minifigure (or Minifig, among LEGO fans) we know and love today was first released in 1978, but it was the culmination of two decades of play.
In 1958, the LEGO Group patented its now-legendary interlocking stud and tube design, allowing it to produce basic – though at the time, revolutionary – sets like the Town Plan series. This series came with four tiny police officers posed in different positions, designed to ‘direct traffic’ through the Town Plan.
During this time, children were also using LEGO bricks to construct their own figures – though these brick-built ‘people’ did not have any moving parts or facial features.
Still, the LEGO Group recognised the demand.
In 1974, the Minifig’s larger predecessor, the Maxifigure, was released. It was a new kind of building figure made from basic bricks and plates, along with a movable head and hinged arms. The heads included printed faces and even special hat and hair elements.
The following year, the LEGO Group released the Minifigure’s closest relative. These figures were the same scale as current Minifigs (the LEGO Group realised the Maxifigures were far too big) but had solid torsos without separate movable arms, solid and unmovable legs, and heads without printed features. What they did have was a small variety of headpieces like caps, pigtail hair and cowboy hats.
Finally, in 1978, the first modern Minifigs were released as part of the Castle, Space and Town sets. The torsos, legs and arm pieces were interchangeable – a stroke of genius from designer Jens Nygaard Knudsen – and they had two dots for eyes and a curved line for a smile. There were no gender or racial components, as the intent was that these factors could be determined by the child’s imagination.
The Minifigure had officially been born.
Love Minifigures? We’ve got a HUGE range on our website – check out our Minfigs & Animals tab right here.
Changing things up
Variations on the classic Minifigure didn’t come until 1989, when the launch of LEGO Pirates saw Minifigs with hooks for hands and peg legs. Minifigures also began showing different facial expressions, hair and makeup, and even sunglasses around this time.
In 1990, a ghost became the first non-human Minifig to be produced and was also the LEGO Group’s first glow-in-the-dark element. The same year, the first Minifigure to wear a dress was produced. In 1997, another break from tradition, saw Willa the Witch Minifigure display an open mouth with more detailed eyes rather than the simple expression that had featured on Minifigures before her.
Another big change came in 2001, when the first double faces and reversible heads were introduced. By now, the LEGO Group had also started producing Minfigures with different-shaped heads as part of their LEGO Star Wars range.
Later, Minifigs of different scales were with the release of Microfigures in 2009 and the birth of the first Minifigure baby in 2016.
You can also stop by our showroom to Make Your Own Minifigure for just $4 each (or three for $10). Each Minifigure includes four parts: the hat/hair, head, torso and legs. You can even pick up a bag of accessories for $4.95, Find out more about visiting our showroom here.
Licensed LEGO Minifigures
It’s no secret that the LEGO Group’s licensing deals with global franchises have helped them expand their appeal. It was through partnerships with movie franchises like Star Wars and Harry Potter that Minifigures of different sizes and skin tones began to be produced – in 2002, the Yoda Minifigure was the first with short legs and, from 2004 onwards, all licensed Minifigures no longer had yellow faces.
In 2010, the LEGO Group listened to their devoted fanbase with the launch of the Minifigure Collectors line – a LEGO theme comprised of ‘blind bag’ collectible Minifigures from movies, sports, history, fiction or jobs and hobbies. These collectible Minifigures (CMF) come with an accessory and have uniquely printed body parts.
After realising the star power of the Minifigure alone, the LEGO Group released its first blockbuster movie – THE LEGO MOVIE – in 2014. With it came a whole new range of Minifigures to collect!
We wonder what the next chapter in the Minifigure story will be?
Five fast facts about the LEGO Minifigure:
- The rarest and most valuable LEGO Minifigure is a 14-carat gold reproduction of Boba Fett – only two were produced by LEGO in 2010, and they’re worth $11,495.95USD according to Guinness World Records.
- In 2004, the LEGO Group reported that they had produced 4 billion LEGO Minifigures in total (making Minifigures the world’s largest population group!)
- The first Minifigure wheelchair was introduced in 2016.
- Batman is believed to be the character with the most Minifigures.
- Many say that Chris Pratt has the most Minifigures made in his likeness (three) but it’s actually Dee Bradley Baker with nine (thanks to his many roles in Star Wars).
Did you know that you can get three Minifigures and accessories delivered to your door every single month as part of our Monthly Master Builders Club? You’ll also get a great selection of wheels, windscreens, plates bricks and smaller parts, and even a mixed bag of extras – all for $35/month, plus FREE SHIPPING! Click here to find out more.