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'Stiff' Minifigures: Were they just intended as a stop gap?


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#1 Hrw-Amen

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 04:53 PM

If I remember it was about the mid 1970's when LEGO first started to make those odd little proto-mini-fig things that were just a torso and chest with a head and no printing.

Prior to that if I had wanted LEGO figures actually made from LEGO I had used 1X1 bricks with 1X1 round bricks and a 1X1 plate as a hat or hair. A much smaller scale but then the cars and buildings were much smaller as well so they seemed about the right size.

Then it does not seem to have been long before proper mini-figs came to be in sets, in fact I think I only got a couple of sets with those armless, faceless, ones in them before the proper ones turned up.

So was it always the intention of TLG that those proto-mini-figs would only be around for a year or so until they started to replace them with the real thing and if so why did they opt knowing that, to bring them out in the first place? Why not just wait and go with the proper mini-figs straight away?

Or was it a case of they tried them first, found children did not like them so looked for something better?

Edited by Fugazi, 02 October 2012 - 01:05 PM.
changed title to clarify


#2 davee123

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 05:14 PM

I don't believe they were intended as a temporary solution, but they weren't around for as long as LEGO would have liked them to be.

When LEGO developed the 'modern' minifigure, one of their staff left to go work for a competitor. Since LEGO feared that their idea might be copied, they rushed the minifigures out to market before they were ready. That's why you'll see some sets like the #600 Police Car, where the figure doesn't even fit inside the vehicle.

My guess is that if LEGO had more time, they would have maintained the "stubby" figures for another year or two.

I expect that the reaction to the stubby figures was positive enough for them to warrant a more versatile figure. Hence, it was probably always a possibility, but not a foregone conclusion that they'd release something fully pose-able like the modern figure.

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#3 Rufus

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 09:30 PM

View PostHrw-Amen, on 26 September 2012 - 04:53 PM, said:

Then it does not seem to have been long before proper mini-figs came to be in sets, in fact I think I only got a couple of sets with those armless, faceless, ones in them before the proper ones turned up.
More than a couple!  The armless torso appeared in just under fifty sets between 1975 and 1977.

I agree though that those three years were a short time-span in the grand scheme of things.  My guess is that the 'plain' minifigures were popular enough to spur the LEGO Co on to produce the articulated minifigure, rather than being a failure.

#4 Rick

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 09:33 PM

View PostRufus, on 26 September 2012 - 09:30 PM, said:

The armless torso appeared in just under fifty sets between 1975 and 1977.
And together with the modern minifig in set 1592 (released in 1980 in the UK and 1983 in the Netherlands). :wink:

#5 LEGO Historian

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Posted 26 September 2012 - 10:17 PM

Interesting questions, and I can't argue with any of the replies... thanks for that little anecdote Davee... didn't know that one.

These "Miniig Stiffs" as I fondly call them came out in 1975, but didn't work out quite right.  The hats and the heads didn't change by 1978 (except for adding faces).  But the upper and lower torsos were awkward, and could not be made to do anything.  In fact they could not sit down.  One had to dismember them in order to do that.  Sets 696 and 617 show that awkwardness....

http://www.peeron.co...-1?showpic=9657

http://www.peeron.co...-1?showpic=9804

One of my favorite sets was the Coast Guard sets of 1977-78.  In continental Europe/Britain/Australia it came out in 1977 with the stiffs in set 369....
http://www.peeron.co...-1?showpic=7238

And in USA/Canada it came out in 1978 with regular minifigs....
http://www.peeron.co...-1?showpic=7237

The minifig stiffs were discontinued in 1978 with the one exception already mentioned.  The 1592 Weetabix (UK) and UNOX Soup (Netherlands) 1592 Town Square Set did have a minifig stiff as a statue in the middle of town... with black hat, black minifig head, and black upper and lower torso...
http://www.peeron.co...-1?showpic=5761

I don't think that when these came out that TLG planned on them being temporary.  Perhaps feedback from retailers and children caused TLG to change the design.

Back in 1957 German retailers were complaining to TLG that the hollow bottom LEGO bricks were not versatile enough... so TLG invented the tube bottom brick to take care of this complaint.  Perhaps the minifig stiffs also received complaints as to their versatility... and soon changed for that reason.

One example where a quick change was not likely to do with customer tastes was the early 1970-74 granulated trees and bushes.  These were quickly eliminated because TLG found that young children were chewing on the granules... or in some instances they came off easily, and became choking hazards.

But when the minifig stiffs first came out... I don't think they did so with the idea of being temporary... maybe just "evolutionary" as they truly were...
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