TheRedGuy, on 26 September 2012 - 07:45 AM, said:
Aren't you supposed to make your own story when it comes to toys? Making stories are what books and movies do, not a toy line.
That's arguable. A lot of tremendously successful toy lines have story-driven components, and in the case of most non-creative toys, the story is the one thing that gives a toy lasting value for many adult fans. As long as the significance of the toys to the story they inhabit isn't taking the place of quality toy design, and as long as there is effort put into making the story enjoyable rather than just a shallow advertisement for the toys themselves, then having a story is generally more of an asset than a liability.
Basically, think of it this way. What really separates a toy based on an existing story (like a superhero action figure) from a toy with a story crafted around it? One might argue that crafting a story around a toy costs more for the manufacturer than taking an existing brand, and that additional cost would cut into the budget for increasing the toy's play quality, but in this day and age the most desirable intellectual properties can be quite expensive to obtain licensing for, so it's hard to say whether designing a story based on the toy really ends up more expensive.
It should be noted that BIONICLE, The LEGO Group's longest-running theme with a continuous story, originally emerged partly in response to the success of LEGO Star Wars. Kids and adults alike loved LEGO Star Wars, but TLG didn't want this kind of story-driven success to be totally dependent on another company's IP, so they created their own.
And another thing to keep in mind-- most of the stories kids create with LEGO themes of any kind will fit into some kind of established universe. In the case of LEGO City or LEGO Castle, this universe is real life, more or less, with some creative liberties taken in its portrayal. In fantasy and sci-fi themes, the universe is invented, but unless it's a heavily story-driven theme then the invented universe is based more on archetypes kids will already be familiar with than on a truly unique combination of ideas. In the case of a licensed theme, the universe in question is based on a story imagined by another author. And in the case of a story theme, the universe is based on a universe crafted by the manufacturer. But any of these universes can be just as constraining to kids' imaginations if they are inclined to limit their thinking according to the universe presented to them. A kid who is only inclined to re-create aspects of the story being told to them by a toy company would probably also be inclined to re-create aspects of the world around them or of the stories their knowledge of fantasy archetypes are grounded in, with the same level of persnickety detail.
Getting this discussion back to Chima, consider this: would a theme like this really be possible without some kind of invented story? Blatantly animal-inspired vehicles of the kind we're expecting in this theme don't exist frequently in real life, nor do they exist as a commonly-understood archetype. Thus unless the theme were being based on an external license with similar attributes, the premise would likely have to be dismissed entirely in favor of something kids will be able to understand without a story as background.
This doesn't mean that a story as deep as Ninjago's has to exist, but there needs to be a story of some kind in any invented universe. Consider Exo-Force: if your premise is humans fighting robots (an archetype that kids can understand without much difficulty), there has to be at least the barest semblance of a story to explain what they are fighting over. Likewise in Aquazone, it's clear that the Aquanauts and Aquasharks are fighting over the theme's "treasure" (silver crystals), but there has to be a rudimentary story to explain why that treasure is important to both factions (besides, of course, that it is shiny).
Once you get to that point, any story you have exists merely to increase kids' involvement with the brand. Exo-Force's character bios and comics are not in any way essential to creative play with the toys-- all you need to understand is that human-hero-characters led by wise-human-leader-character are fighting robot-invader-characters led by gold-robot-leader-character to protect their home. But having a deeper story helps the brand stand out to its fans, building brand loyalty.