There is perhaps little more recognizable than a LEGO Minifigure. They’re an inch and a half tall, yellow, fully positionable, and have all kinds of hats and accessories that hurt like hell when you step on them barefoot. They’re an essential part of the LEGO ecosystem these days. Interestingly enough the first bunch of LEGO sets in the 1960’s didn’t have any figures – they were strictly geared towards building homes and cars. It wasn’t until 1975 that a minifigure similar to what we have now began to take shape. And then in 1978 the familiar figurine was born and has been the face of the company since. LEGO Minifigure Year By Year: A Visual History is a mega encyclopedic chronicle of the history of those little guys. And as usual, DK has done their due diligence and put together a fantastic book bursting with details, beautiful color, and lots of behind the scenes information for kids and adults alike. Obviously minifigs are a huge part of my photography hobby so this book was doubly awesome.
Like in most DK LEGO books the front cover is expanded in depth to contain some special minifigs available only with purchase. This time there are three iconic ones from the annals of LEGO history: an old-school townsperson, a Stormtrooper, and a newer version of a robber. They aren’t exclusive figures, but hey – free!
The book starts off with a couple quick pages about the evolution of the minifig (where I got some of the info above), and looks at the details of minifigs, as they are anything but standard these days! The “How Is A Minifigure Made?” section was particularly interesting to me. All three of these sections are a two-page spread but should have been more. The first, “Bringing LEGO Play to Life,” would have benefited from more photos from the 60’s and 70’s as the sets were being more developed. I love the small picture of the minifig’s patent, though. Some interviews with the people responsible for the creation would have been nice. I would have liked to see a lot more photos of the manufacturing and design process in the last section.
Now on to the meat of the book: the timeline through the decades.
After a brief four-page timeline from 1974 to the present, readers are shown a very basic evolution of the little characters with some good trivia below. For instance the first top hat was in 1980, the first crown was in 1995, 1999 saw the birth of LEGO Star Wars, and in 2005 was the first Viking helmet. It’s not a ton of info, merely tidbits to get you salivating for the goodies in the forthcoming pages. The rest of the book is laid out year by year, with a short introduction page at the beginning of each decade. LEGO sets go through more transformations that most people realize. Each page brings a ton of fabulous information about the minifigs released that year. There is a bunch of superfluous info as well – such as pointing out the universally known Red Cross symbol for medical uses as “medical symbol.” The good stuff ends up balancing out the useless stuff. As you can see the facing pages layout is easy on the eyes and flows nicely. Every year is on the left with a paragraph of design or development details from that particular year ranging from what were the new hot sets, what was successful the previous year, or what was being discontinued this year. Looking through the years I was surprised how long it took for the minifigs to develop as much as I thought I remembered. It really wasn’t until the mid-late 90’s, when I was in high school and no longer spending a lot of time with LEGO, that many of the new faces and detailed torsos came about. And once LEGO Star Wars hit – all bets were off. The explosion of creativity from the LEGO folks for not only the minifigs but the building sets as well was huge.
The book takes readers through all the years up until 2013. I will say the closer you get to the present the more colorful and elaborate the page spreads get. Kind of a no brainer since the minifigs have been getting more and more elaborate – but still managing to retain that simplicity of what they were originally.
Sprinkled throughout the book are one-off page spreads with some fun mini-timelines of their own. There’s a “Mad About Hats” (see below), “A Cut Above” (all about hairstyles), “Heads Up Everyone” (how the head has evolved), “On The Move” (minifig’s transports), and a few others as well. They make good breaks in the sections and have a little extra fun information.
Once again DK has served its fans well with the LEGO Minifigure Year By Year: A Visual History. LEGO continues to prove its products are not just for children and DK continues to offer books both children and adults can enjoy. I admire DK and LEGO partnering to bring excellent reading material to publishing. I can only imagine how long we will need to wait before a Volume 2 comes!
LEGO Minifigure Year By Year: A Visual History: A
Available at DK.com: $40.00 direct
I just like to throw out a huge thank you to either/or/both Google Chrome, and WordPress because at about 12:04am as I was finishing the last third of this post, the power went off and on – just quick enough to turn off the computer. Obviously I panicked and feared I’d lost a good chunk of everything since I had no idea when WordPress did it’s last auto-save. But much to my surprise and elation when I restored my pages in Chrome, everything was still here in WordPress. I’d lost nothing. Phew. Love you guys!