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Why so much love for Fabuland?


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#1 Aanchir

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 09:11 PM

I just wanted to ask this question that's been bugging me for a long time. What's the root of AFOLs' love affair with the Fabuland theme? It's a great theme with a creative concept, but at the same time it violates many of the values that AFOLs tend to cherish.

For starters, many of the parts are extremely juniorized. Yes, the theme is at a larger scale than most minifigure themes, but that doesn't exactly excuse parts like this that are really limited in their use both physically and aesthetically (or, taking things to the extreme, parts like this). The parts in general are about as juniorized as those in Duplo, and even Duplo uses more reasonably-sized window and door pieces most of the time.

Also related to the part I just linked to, there's the issue of stickers. I've seen a lot of stickers in the Fabuland theme, and that's generally something that AFOLs can't stand (I know there are others like myself who prefer stickers to prints, but I'm going with what's perceived as the majority opinion here). Many were STAMPs (Stickers Across Multiple Pieces), something I don't think anybody likes.

The figures in Fabuland are not minifig-scale, which is something that tends to be one of the main criticisms AFOLs have of themes like Belville and Jack Stone. Many of the figures and parts use fairly obscure colors that were almost never used outside this theme, and yet these colors aren't as universally hated as new colors added to today's palette which AFOLs consider "unnecessary". Even the colors that were common in those days like red, yellow, and blue are used for extremely illogical things, yet the color scheme criticisms of today's themes like Power Miners and Atlantis never seem to touch Fabuland

Fabuland was above all else a story theme, which is a criticism often leveled against today's themes. Many AFOLs tend to prefer the level of free imagination offered by older themes like Classic Space, where minifigures had no names or unique faces. Some of the most story-intensive themes, like BIONICLE and Knights' Kingdom II, are also some of the most rejected by the AFOL community. The story was told in part through books and a TV series, and yet there are some AFOLs who feel that even with its video games today (in which brick-building abounds) LEGO deviates from its core products and core values.

Is the love AFOLs have for Fabuland just ironic, like how some people enjoy films like Plan 9 From Outer Space for their overall badness? Is it just a matter of Fabuland being a historical curiosity that only a few AFOLs have in their collections, and that they like to show off? Or is it all just nostalgia? Will AFOLs fifteen years down the road be huge fans of Jack Stone and 4 Juniors/4+?

I'd like to hear people's thoughts and opinions. I'm not by any means a Fabuland hater by any means, and I would in fact love it if AFOLs would be more open to the themes I enjoyed growing up, like BIONICLE and Knights' Kingdom II. At the same time, though, Fabuland's AFOL fanbase seems disproportionately large compared to many more recent themes with lots of similarities, and I've never quite understood how this came about.

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#2 Ralph_S

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 09:23 PM

I don't quite feel the need to build Fabuland MOCs myself, but it is one of the few lines that LEGO produced for which I have some nostalgic feelings. As a child I had a lot of the sets. At the time, minifigs were all pretty much the same, all with smiley faces and with just two types of hair. Compared to minifigs at the Fabuland figures had a lot more character and I played with them for years. I still have 30-odd of them.

I think you are right in your observation that a lot of the criticism that is directed at some of the more modern lines can also be applied to Fabuland, but in their criticism of current lines quite a few AFOLs seem to forget that the sets aimed at kids and that what is important to an AFOL may very well be utterly irrelevant to the children the product line is aimed at. They themselves may have a sense of nostalgia for Fabuland, for instance, that is mainly based on how much they loved the sets when they were kids themselves, and when features they might now criticise in current sets were irrelevant to them as well.

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#3 Fugazi

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 09:44 PM

This is an interesting question, and I'm probably not the most qualified person to answer since I've never built a Fabuland MOC myself. However I am one of those attracted to the theme, and I can perhaps comment on some of your points.

First of all, I'm not sure that Fabuland is such a big deal in the AFOL community. Fabuland MOCs on EB are few and far between, and the Fabuland MOC index is not as long as you would think. We talk a lot about it, but how many of us really build Fabuland? The recent Fabuland-based mafias have helped bring Fabuland back in the active topics, but it's all the work of one member! :sweet:

Then there is the Fabuland Edge. It's the dichotomy between the intended innocence of the theme, and the worse human flaws that MOCers mix in humorous and caustic creations. SlyOwl, Hinckley, Sir Nadroj and other pioneers have introduced us to this style which is now inseparable (in my mind at least) from Fabuland. What many admire in Fabuland as a theme today is actually the cutting edge where these genial MOCers have taken the theme, a twisted and perverted world so full of humour and humanity, more than the original universe of childish fables.

But perhaps the major point I would like to make is that you're trying to analyse this much too rationally. Fabuland is a love affair, based on sympathy, nostalgia, and admiration for some awesome MOCers. When love strikes, rational considerations such as part juniorisation and sticker usage become very much secondary. :sweet:
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#4 Haltiamieli

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Posted 07 June 2011 - 11:16 PM

You pose an interesting question. I remember Fabuland fondly from my childhood, so for me the nostalgia is inevitably a big part in explaining why I still like it (though I don't have much interest in building/playing with my few surviving Fabuland bricks and figs now).

But I also do think Fabuland was quite a well designed theme, where most of the things that you list, normally abhorred by AFOLs, did serve the big picture and thus maybe redeemed themselves. The parts were big and specialized, but the theme was for younger and less building-oriented people than System. Less useful for serious building, but fine by themselves. The figs were kind of original and fit the theme, when Belville figs for example just look like poorly executed Barbie-ripoffs to me.

And one thing that saves Fabuland from the usual negativity, I suspect, is also that it didn't replace anything, it wasn't really replaced by anything and it wouldn't replace much anything were it ever reborn. It was a separate thing, it existed in a different bubble. Any new Castle line will always be attacked/disliked because it supercedes the earlier ones "which were better", marks the decline of the whole theme, has useless parts or at least is a lot worse than our hopes and dreams for it were. Even Belville could be seen as a barrier that thwarted more AFOL-friendly "girly"-themes from appearing.
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#5 Aanchir

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 12:10 AM

View PostHaltiamieli, on 07 June 2011 - 11:16 PM, said:

And one thing that saves Fabuland from the usual negativity, I suspect, is also that it didn't replace anything, it wasn't really replaced by anything and it wouldn't replace much anything were it ever reborn. It was a separate thing, it existed in a different bubble. Any new Castle line will always be attacked/disliked because it supercedes the earlier ones "which were better", marks the decline of the whole theme, has useless parts or at least is a lot worse than our hopes and dreams for it were. Even Belville could be seen as a barrier that thwarted more AFOL-friendly "girly"-themes from appearing.
Well-said. Although it doesn't at all explain why AFOLs love Fabuland and hate Jack Stone, which had a similar level of design complexity, had similarly-well-designed figs, and didn't really replace anything. I suppose that many Jack Stone vehicles didn't have the same "cutesy-ness" as Fabuland vehicles, though. And of course, given that Jack Stone and Fabuland alike had very different aesthetics from System sets of their respective eras, the fact that Fabuland used stickers and Jack Stone used prints may have worked to the former's advantage. After all, you almost never see Fabuland stickered pieces or Jack Stone printed pieces in MOCs.

This topic was partly inspired by this review which was recently posted. There's nothing wrong with the review in any way, but I was struck by the jarring contrast between this and other areas of discussion on Eurobricks. Far more complex System sets have been brutally torn apart by reviewers for the slightest signs of juniorization, and yet in this set the three non-figure parts are treated with a great deal of dignity and respect. Not once was it even mentioned that the trike could easily have been made of smaller pieces, and the only negative mention of the piece count was concerning the price per piece (which, being typical for Fabuland sets, was not treated harshly at all, in contrast with how often themes like BIONICLE are berated for having a poor price-per-piece).

Perhaps another factor in play is the general "kiddiness" of Fabuland. Looking at a Fabuland set, it's totally obvious that it's designed for kids younger than ourselves. And thus we have an easier time judging it from that perspective. On the other hand, when we see an Indiana Jones set, our gut reaction (perhaps slightly embellished) is, "Awesome! I love Indiana Jones! This set must have been designed just for me!" With higher expectations naturally come greater disappointments. And as AFOLs, our sense of what is childish becomes a little distorted. LEGO World Racers was clearly designed to appeal to kids, but since we AFOLs are so used to building LEGO vehicles, the design principles (which surely are no more egregious than other "battle vehicle" toys on the market) are judged from an adult perspective.

Thanks, everyone, for your insights!

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#6 Rick

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 06:10 AM

View PostAanchir, on 08 June 2011 - 12:10 AM, said:

Well-said. Although it doesn't at all explain why AFOLs love Fabuland and hate Jack Stone, which had a similar level of design complexity, had similarly-well-designed figs, and didn't really replace anything.
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It's part nostalgia - undoubtedly - for a generation of AFOLs in their 30s, although many younger AFOLs also appreciate the theme. But Fabuland also was never intended to be realistic and is instantly reminiscent of a carefree Richard Scarry type world.

#7 Izzy

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 06:31 AM

This topic has been done to death years ago.  :enough:

As for my two cents worth. Of course no-one is going to complain about junoirised parts on sets with such a young age range. That would be like complaining that DUPLO pieces are too big. You have to love it for what it is. A bright, imaginative fantastic little world full of absolutely gorgeous little creatures with amazing personalities.

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#8 Hinckley

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 06:47 AM

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#9 Fugazi

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 06:52 AM

View PostShadows, on 29 February 2008 - 02:56 AM, said:

Fabuland is a state of mind.
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#10 Peppermint_M

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 08:07 AM

Love for Fabuland. For many AFOLs, the feelings of nostalgia for the theme is strong. They recall their childhood days when life was warm and rosy (and as such, incorectly recalled) and a handful of builders continue building the theme. For others it's the anthropomorphised animal characters. Some find them cute and others find them a little subversive and thus more fun than regular old figures.

Then we move along to the next set of questions posed. Jack Stone has no nostalgia value for these guys. Some of them came across the sets just as their Dark Age was waning, they are horrified by the how it isn't what they played with as a child, it isn't their personal favourite theme brough back from the past. It was simply a stepping stone system for younger builders that most pernickity old AFOLs just took as an affront to their love of LEGO. For some AFOLs, it was what kept them from leaving their Dark Age.
Mark my words, when those kids who had Jack Stone grow up, if any become AFOLs, there will be a return to that scale and figure for some. They'll seize upon an unusual, a unique idea and of course the nostalgia for their lost youth (Which is another reason there are AFOLs in the first place).

The Knights Kingdom II sets also had one simple failing: They weren't classic castle. They were not what AFOLs wanted (ie, the same again please, nothing new thanks). The story and "juniorisation" are only cited as reasons to avoid them looking like kiddies along the lines of "whaa, whaa, mean TLG made a theme that wasn't like what I wanted/had as a child". Personally, KKII kept me from a dark age, I loved castle but the last iteration (Fright Knights) had been deemed too creepy for me, these new ones were perfect, the creepiest thing being a scorpion on the baddie knights. I was able to buy castles again (until Exo Force, then it was all Mecha).

Stories told about the characters in Fauland are different to modern story telling themes. While today, the entire adventure/story is mapped out (but not in town of castle it seems) for all to see and lends a cohesive play experience for children but allegedly limits storytelling on their own. Fabuland simply told stories about their characters, it was by all means not the only thing that the characters did. Oh, and story criticism, when levelled at Bionicle is simply an extra thing to add to the against column to avoid most of the Againt group looking like five year olds screaming "It's not like the lego I had!".

To be honest, Fabuland isn't my thing either. At 22, there is no nostalgia for it, I was still teething on duplo blocks way past the final sets of the series. I had some figures as hand me downs from an older friend of  the family, they were slightly disturbing and I somewhat ignored them. When I found out what they were, I made a token attempt at some MOCs and then moved along. Recently (in the succesful persuit of a pony) I aquired some figures. Lionel Lion is pretty pimp yes? I just had to make a small MOC for that figure. Otherwise, I can take or leave 'em.

Mostly, the nostalgia makes people positive about the theme. A good review of a set is allowed. "Harsh criticism" of new sets has rarely been evident (in fact often times, the reviewer is fine, you the op are often the most harsh against review, set or reviwer) and the personal opinions on a set are just that. The Reviewers own personal thought. The inescapable facts like price are the only things that can be used against if a reviewer really likes a set. No review can really be objective, unless a simple set synopsis is posted. (And then there would be hand wringing over it not helping someone make a choice over sets to get).

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#11 Jaymercury

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 08:37 AM

I don't know aanchir, I find this a really hard post to write, not because I have fabuland love doubts or anything, but just because I don't really see why it needs to be made. I just think you've taken afol concerns of today and applied them to something irrelevant. I don't love lego because it applies to some rules we've made up.

Edited by Jaymercury, 08 June 2011 - 08:38 AM.


#12 Aanchir

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 01:58 PM

View PostRick, on 08 June 2011 - 06:10 AM, said:

Let's see...
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It's part nostalgia - undoubtedly - for a generation of AFOLs in their 30s, although many younger AFOLs also appreciate the theme. But Fabuland also was never intended to be realistic and is instantly reminiscent of a carefree Richard Scarry type world.
The problem is that Jack Stone also wasn't intended to be realistic. However, it wasn't going so much for a cutesy aesthetic as much as an adventurous Rescue Heroes-type cartoon feel. Even at age 11, I personally liked that (my little brother was within the age range for those sets at the time and I was very happy to see him building with what I considered a quality toy). The fact that it emphasized creative building to solve problems was pretty great as well (my family has a promotional Jack Stone videocassette which, while nowhere near as fun as today's LEGO movies, really demonstrated the message and image the theme was trying to go for).

View PostIzzy, on 08 June 2011 - 06:31 AM, said:

This topic has been done to death years ago.  :enough:

As for my two cents worth. Of course no-one is going to complain about junoirised parts on sets with such a young age range. That would be like complaining that DUPLO pieces are too big. You have to love it for what it is. A bright, imaginative fantastic little world full of absolutely gorgeous little creatures with amazing personalities.
The problem is that people tend to ignore age range on most LEGO themes which are also intended for kids. Is there a cutoff point at which you stop having any sympathy for kids' capacities for building? A point at which kids are expected to either tolerate AFOL-level sets or quit building altogether? And also, themes like Jack Stone and 4+ are often berated harshly for the same type of juniorization.

View PostPeppermint_M, on 08 June 2011 - 08:07 AM, said:

Love for Fabuland. For many AFOLs, the feelings of nostalgia for the theme is strong. They recall their childhood days when life was warm and rosy (and as such, incorectly recalled) and a handful of builders continue building the theme. For others it's the anthropomorphised animal characters. Some find them cute and others find them a little subversive and thus more fun than regular old figures.

Then we move along to the next set of questions posed. Jack Stone has no nostalgia value for these guys. Some of them came across the sets just as their Dark Age was waning, they are horrified by the how it isn't what they played with as a child, it isn't their personal favourite theme brough back from the past. It was simply a stepping stone system for younger builders that most pernickity old AFOLs just took as an affront to their love of LEGO. For some AFOLs, it was what kept them from leaving their Dark Age.
Mark my words, when those kids who had Jack Stone grow up, if any become AFOLs, there will be a return to that scale and figure for some. They'll seize upon an unusual, a unique idea and of course the nostalgia for their lost youth (Which is another reason there are AFOLs in the first place).

The Knights Kingdom II sets also had one simple failing: They weren't classic castle. They were not what AFOLs wanted (ie, the same again please, nothing new thanks). The story and "juniorisation" are only cited as reasons to avoid them looking like kiddies along the lines of "whaa, whaa, mean TLG made a theme that wasn't like what I wanted/had as a child". Personally, KKII kept me from a dark age, I loved castle but the last iteration (Fright Knights) had been deemed too creepy for me, these new ones were perfect, the creepiest thing being a scorpion on the baddie knights. I was able to buy castles again (until Exo Force, then it was all Mecha).

Stories told about the characters in Fauland are different to modern story telling themes. While today, the entire adventure/story is mapped out (but not in town of castle it seems) for all to see and lends a cohesive play experience for children but allegedly limits storytelling on their own. Fabuland simply told stories about their characters, it was by all means not the only thing that the characters did. Oh, and story criticism, when levelled at Bionicle is simply an extra thing to add to the against column to avoid most of the Againt group looking like five year olds screaming "It's not like the lego I had!".

To be honest, Fabuland isn't my thing either. At 22, there is no nostalgia for it, I was still teething on duplo blocks way past the final sets of the series. I had some figures as hand me downs from an older friend of  the family, they were slightly disturbing and I somewhat ignored them. When I found out what they were, I made a token attempt at some MOCs and then moved along. Recently (in the succesful persuit of a pony) I aquired some figures. Lionel Lion is pretty pimp yes? I just had to make a small MOC for that figure. Otherwise, I can take or leave 'em.

Mostly, the nostalgia makes people positive about the theme. A good review of a set is allowed. "Harsh criticism" of new sets has rarely been evident (in fact often times, the reviewer is fine, you the op are often the most harsh against review, set or reviwer) and the personal opinions on a set are just that. The Reviewers own personal thought. The inescapable facts like price are the only things that can be used against if a reviewer really likes a set. No review can really be objective, unless a simple set synopsis is posted. (And then there would be hand wringing over it not helping someone make a choice over sets to get).
Great post. I guess it is true that reviews in general tend to be positive, since the reviewer generally has already decided they like the set before they make the choice of buying it. It was just the overall lack of any sort of negativity in the review that caught me off-guard.

I don't have much else to say besides that "in the successful pursuit of a pony" has a nice ring to it. It would make a good album name, perhaps. Don't ask me what genre it'd be. :tongue:

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#13 Pandora

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Posted 08 June 2011 - 04:12 PM

View PostAanchir, on 08 June 2011 - 01:58 PM, said:

I guess it is true that reviews in general tend to be positive, since the reviewer generally has already decided they like the set before they make the choice of buying it. It was just the overall lack of any sort of negativity in the review that caught me off-guard.
As the author of the review you mentioned, I feel I should comment.  If you read the review you should notice that I explain why I personally am a fan of Fabuland, and that it relates to having, albeit not very much, Fabuland as a child.  I am an AFOL of a certain age, and those within my age-range tend to be those who are Fabuland fans, though not exclusively, and in fact that review received very little attention overall.  If you also read some of my other reviews you will notice that I am not always favourable in my appraisal of a set.  I should also state that it was done as part of my Reviewers Academy training, however I chose to review it because it had not been reviewed and indeed because I thought it was a nice set, however I do make a few small criticisms.

View PostAanchir, on 08 June 2011 - 01:58 PM, said:

The problem is that Jack Stone also wasn't intended to be realistic.

The problem is that people tend to ignore age range on most LEGO themes
I don't really see problems here.  I really don't think it is that surprising that a bunch of adorable animal characters would receive enduring love, and even if they do, does it really matter that much?  Age ranges are completely ignored all over these boards, because when you're an adult fan of LEGO all bets are off.

There are so many Fabuland resources around, the MOC index, the reviews, the comics and the Mafia games, and I would suggest that having a bit of a read through some of those will give you a better insight into why there are a notable number of EBers who feel differently to you.
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#14 AndyC

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 07:02 AM

Fabuland had animals, Jack Stone/4+ had people. When you think of people and Lego, you inevitably think minifigures and so the Jack Stone approach just seems wrong. By using animal characters, Fabuland was basically exempt from that comparison so people are more likely to judge it on what it is, rather than compare it with System themes. There's also the fact that the Jack Stone figures look ugly, wheras Fabuland characters are just uber-cute.

Juniorization isn't really a fair argument to level against a theme that was basically a stepping stone between Duplo and System, again the distinct 'style' of Fabuland helps here to make it very clearly a seperate thing. It's no different to the fact you don't see juniorization complaints levelled at Duplo. Being visually distinct is an important aspect here because it leads to a very easy separation in the mind.

As far as story elements go, I don't really think you can compare Fabuland, which had simplistic stories designed to basically give kids a starting point from which to begin their own adventures and the likes of Bionicle, which has complex backstories and interactions. Not that I'm suggesting the Bionicle way is worse, as a kid I loved Transformers for many of the same reasons, but it's a lot harder to get into the story if you weren't there at the time. I don't really buy into the idea that having some backstory restricts imagination, but I can see that for those who do the Fabuland approach seems less constraining.

I don't think you can entirely discount the way some builders have taken Fabuland and somewhat subverted the theme with a strangly dark twist either. I doubt you could really accomplish the same using any other theme as the starting point. With minifigures or even Jack Stone, it just wouldn't work. The aesthetic of little animals in quaint houses contrasting with deeply sinister overtones is something that appeals to a dark sense of humour.
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#15 Lordofdragonss

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 03:29 PM

I am the kid from 90' so I never get a Fabuland set from shop. All Fabuland Lego I got from my cousins, and bricks were in terible state. Only some windows and Fabfigs (yay new term!)were ok. I thought they are non Lego... but when I get old Lego catalog- everything changed! I wanted all Fabuland sets! Why? I love how easy with those pieces you can build nice houses, and how much amazing pieces sets had. I was really disapointed when I noticed that I can't buy those sets... :cry3:

Now I search far and wide on Polish sites to get at least some this Fabulus sets! :wub:
Why I still love them? Great and adorable characters, nice parts and great designed sets with a lot of playability without "traps"! I hope someday they will bring back this theme!

Edited by Lordofdragonss, 09 June 2011 - 03:32 PM.

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#16 Rumble Strike

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Posted 09 June 2011 - 09:36 PM

As a child Fabuland at the time was too much like Duplo to me in that it seemed a lot more simple (and, yes, childish) than the System stuff I liked, such as Town and Space.  So I never had any as a kid.

However since playing in Hinckley's Fabuland Mafia I have developed a new appreciation for it  :classic: to the point where I'm looking to pick up a set or two on eBay.

I think I agree with its defenders here - it is much cuter and at the same time more subversive than the later ecquivilents Aanchir mentions.
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