The big Lego news at the New York Toy Fair this week was that Lego is balancing its hopefully-girl-friendly Friends line with another line in which there are somewhere between 0 and 2 female characters.
The Lord of the Rings license was actually announced a few weeks ago (and some set images have leaked already), but this is the first picture of the minifig designs. I have to say: those are, without a doubt, Lego minifigures based on the Lord of the Rings movies.
A lot of folks are mad excited about this and that’s totally understandable; there’s a sizable fanbase for LotR. I’m not part of that group — I’m one of the sole nerds who doesn’t get aroused at the thought of the Riders of Rohan — but I can certainly understand the enthusiasm.
The LotR announcement also doesn’t really affect me because, as I’ve said umpty-jillion times, I don’t buy for sets. I wouldn’t buy, say, a Mines of Moria set because I don’t have any interest in constructing a miniature Mines of Moria. If that set has some really cool pieces in it I might be interested, but I’m not going to want it for the set qua set.
There’s something else, though.
God knows I’m put in my time on the Lego front lines, defending the brand against the charges of lack of creativity, fighting back against “the new sets have all these special pieces and can only build the model on the box” nonsense. But still, the licensed stuff is really starting to grate on me.
There’s a new-ish site called Lego Cuusoo (I don’t know what a “cuusoo” is or means but that’s what it’s called). It’s a sort of Kickstarter for Lego. You can suggest a Lego set (or theme), people can vote on it, and if it gets to 10,000 votes, Lego will take a look and consider actually making it. That’s pretty neat. Here are some of the things proposed on there that are getting votes now: Back to the Future, The Legend of Zelda, Macross, 2000AD (the British comics), Phineas and Ferb, Xenogears, Shaun of the Dead. So many existing properties. People really want to see Lego versions of things they already know (the top project right now is Lego Minecraft, a Lego version of a videogame that is like Lego.)
Inexplicably, there are also a number of proposed projects involving Star Wars. Maybe I’m ruined by going through the seemingly-endless parade of storm/clonetroopers on Flickr every morning for Lego Diem, but I cannot imagine who out there is thinking that there isn’t enough Star Wars Lego sets.
Granted, there are a fair number of non-existing projects on Cuusoo: some wild west modular buildings, baseball stadiums, some cars. But the stuff that’s really getting the attention is all based on existing movies, comics, videogames, and such.
I know more than anyone that these sets, were they to exist, would be constructed of individual parts that could be used to make other things. If they existed and I bought one, that’s exactly what I’d do with it. (And I’m also aware that I’ve built “original” stuff based on Star Wars, Space Cabby, and The Royal Tenenbaums.) I know how excited I was when the Star Wars sets were first announced, so I should be able to still connect with this feeling. Obviously the licensed stuff is very popular and people want more of it, so I’m in the minority here. And for the reasons above, it doesn’t even affect me all that much. I still buy bricks and still build my own thing and don’t really worry about whether something originally came from a Harry Potter set. Anything that puts bricks on store shelves and keeps Lego going works for me. So I don’t know why this bugs me as it does.
I also realize that there are a lot of non-licensed themes that are really cool. I like the current alien invasion sets, I enjoyed Space Police, and I liked Atlantis as well. I’m really excited for the colors in the Friends sets, even. Two of Lego’s biggest lines were Bionicle and Ninjago, two themes so original they defy comprehension.
So this is a non-issue. I don’t know why I’m even talking about it. But there’s something there, something I can’t put my finger on, which keeps nagging at me.