Lego’s 40th anniversary: What memories do you have of the iconic toy brick?

PUBLISHED: 16:42 14 January 2019 | UPDATED: 17:07 14 January 2019

Lego 40th anniversary

Lego 40th anniversary


In 1978, Disco was dominating the charts, mobile phones were non-existent and the Internet was still more than a decade away. It was also the year the very first LEGO minifigures went into production. Fast forward to today and those inaugural characters have evolved nearly as much as the world around them, offering endless roleplay possibilities. So, as one of the planet’s tiniest icons celebrates its big 4…0, Essex Life looks back at the long-lasting legacy of LEGO and asked you, our readers, for some favourite LEGO memories

The story of the LEGO minifigure evolution

It all started in 1974 when the LEGO building figure was launched, made mostly of large square LEGO bricks with moveable arms but immoveable legs. This was followed in 1975 by LEGO stage extra figures with solid torsos, immoveable arms and legs, but no printed features. Basically, very different to the LEGO minifigures we know and love today!

Not that we had to wait too long for them to arrive, with 1978 ushering in a new era of LEGO minifigures equipped with moveable limbs and simple facial expressions comprising two solid black eye dots and black painted smile. Fast forward to 2018 and there are now more than 650 unique faces in the collection.

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From 20 to 8,000

To begin with, there were around 20 different LEGO minifigure characters, including a police officer, doctor, firefighter, knight and astronaut. But in the four decades since, the number of minifigures available has risen to more than 8,000.

To put that into context, if the global population had grown at the same rate, there would now be nearly 144 trillion of us living on Earth!

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The perfect height

Take away the hair or any other headpiece and LEGO minifigures are exactly the same height as four LEGO bricks fitted together. This means they fit perfectly into the LEGO System in Play.

Oh, and if you stacked them head to toe, you would need 20,750 to reach the height of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

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Jack of all trades

Over the years, LEGO minifigures have shown they can turn their hand to pretty much anything. From pirates to paramedics, engineers to elephant keepers, veterinarians to Vikings, there have been thousands of different minifigure characters.

Three LEGO minifigures even blasted into space onboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft in 2011.

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Diversity Champion

Did you know the traditional yellow colour of the LEGO minifigure’s head was chosen based on focus group feedback in the early and mid-1970s saying this was preferable to white ones? Since then, minifigures have become increasingly diverse – from the first figures with natural skin tone in 2003 (Lando Calrissian from Star Wars and NBA basketball players) to 2016’s inaugural wheelchair.

LEGO minifigures have also done their bit for unstereotyping gender roles with the likes of female firefighters and ninjas, through to fathers equipped with baby carriers.

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The decision of precision

Did you know that eight different moulds are used for the production of every minifigure? Two sets of these moulds are the same in design but reversed to mould the right and left minifigure arms and legs!

The precision that goes into these moulds is exceptional, and because the original moulds are almost identical to the ones used today, minifigures from 1978 can be mixed and matched with the more modern characters from today!

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More than just a figure

LEGO minifigures may be made for fun but there’s a serious side to them as well.

By offering an endless choice of roleplay possibilities, they’re designed to let children play inventively, engage with different emotions and tell their own stories

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Right up to date

The real success story of LEGO has been its constant ability to adapt and be at the forefront of innovation and creative play. This year LEGO Minsdstorms is set to top the toy store charts by giving children the power to create and command their own robotic LEGO creatures, vehicles, machines and inventions! By combining LEGO elements with a programmable brick, motors and sensors, children can make their creations walk, talk, grab, think, shoot and do almost anything you can imagine.

The set comes with building instructions for 17 awesome LEGO robotic designs including a humanoid robot, a shooting scorpion, a slithering snake, a fork lift, a race truck, an electric guitar, a walking dinosaur and many more! Each robot comes complete with its own unique features and a program that controls the robot’s behaviour!

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Peter Barrett via Facebook:

Even now as an adult, I still buy and build LEGO and even had a Lego wedding cake.

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Felice Monk via Facebook:

My son always gets a LEGO Technic set at Christmas and builds his own remote control cars and vehicles using the kits. He created a car from The Dukes of Hazard, his favourite film, with all the characters and he also built a truck with a working crane.

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Tracey Harper via Twitter:

My mum kept all my sister’s LEGO from when we were kids. It was passed on to my son. He’s since added lots more and made many unique creations with it. Now 21, he still has it, along with a few Star Wars LEGO models.

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Nick Roberts via email:

So many of my favourite Christmas memories involve unwrapping a big box of LEGO on Christmas morning. I remember clearly spending hours on Christmas Day making a start on the latest sets with my dad.

Now I am sharing these same memories as I help my sons with their latest creations on Christmas morning or throughout the year. This special toy is fantastic for developing creative and problem solving skills, as well as being brilliant at bringing generations together. Of course, it is also just great fun!!

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