jemm13

Fantasy themes, Elves, and how dolls got in the way.

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On 1/15/2019 at 7:43 AM, x105Black said:

Yeah, that's fair.  I don't necessarily think that what you've laid out is really the case for how the themes came to be.  I think it's more likely that they decided to take Nexo Knights in that direction at that time with the idea that Elves would be happening concurrently.  Since Elves was sticking to (a more girly version of) traditional fantasy, they could take the opportunity to branch out into sci-fi with Nexo Knights, giving them what is ostensibly a Castle and Space theme in one.  I think this may have been a less likely experiment without an Elves theme, and I think that any Castle theme that existed in place of Elves and Nexo Knights could have fallen somewhere in between the two.  Just a possibility, very wishful thinking on my part.

My personal feeling is that Star Wars probably had a lot more impact on the direction Nexo Knights took than Elves did.

I don't think it's a coincidence that the renaissance of LEGO Space beginning with Mars Mission and ending with Galaxy Squad occupies roughly the timeframe between the end of the Star Wars prequel trilogy and the beginning of the Star Wars sequel trilogy. Which leads me to think that the main reason LEGO avoided Space themes before and after that was to avoid any marketing for them being drowned out by the inevitable hype and marketing blitz associated with new Star Wars movies.

But do you know what we saw immediately after Galaxy Squad? First a very space-ish futuristic spy theme in the form of Ultra Agents (even including a returning character from Galaxy Squad), then a similarly space-ish futuristic knight theme in the form of Nexo Knights. I don't think it's a coincidence that THESE themes started showing up around the same time as the Star Wars sequel trilogy, either. Trying to launch a new space adventure series right when everyone's focused on Star Wars would be a pretty risky prospect — but applying that sort of futuristic design language to non-Space settings helps it feel less like a rip-off of a much more heavily publicized brand and more like something genuinely new and unique.

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I still personally never considered Nexo Knights or Ultra Agents a Space theme.

Just because they have similar design points in common to space, mainly bright contrasting colors and transparent cockpit windows, even City and Creator been closer to an actual Space/Astronaut theme.

That's just how I see it, still have those themes filled the void of no "Space theme" outside of Star Wars, for LEGO, yes for sure.

Ninjago has ninjas, high-tech, magic and monsters and isn't a space theme either. It's a huge hybrid of many sci-fi, fantasy and real world elements, I can't really go into detail as I haven't followed the story much.

 

Ultra Agents:

  • Ultra Agents is more like a Sci-Fi, high tech theme, with some supernatural, maybe alien villains and magic use.
  • Solomon Blaze is a former Galaxy Squad minifigure however, story elements being linked to Galaxy Squad certainly are closest to an actual Space theme it has been till now.
  • Anti-Matter was a former Ultra Agent (Morgan Lux), created a staff to fight evil but became a supervillain, so maybe supernatural/sci-fi but still no alien. Instead wanted to convert a city into servants with his portal machine.

 

Nexo Knights:

  • Nexo Knights has sci-fi high-tech knights, and fantasy Lava monsters summoned from books (magic), and Rock Monsters zapped to life by Lightning (magic).
  • Later for 2018 wave it had cyber-originated tech-infection monsters originating from some parallel "digital" dimension to infect all Knighton's technology.
  • The origin of the Vampire like monsters never really has been mentioned in great detail, but they do seem to have some form of magical origin as well.
  • There's even portals linking the 2 dimensions, the Knights have to gather the Merlok powers to seal the portals, and eventually Clay even jumps into the Digital world himself to defeat Monstrox for good.
  • The theme itself never goes to outer space, it just has Sci-Fi mixed with Fantasy elements, and Castle influences. 
Edited by TeriXeri

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50 minutes ago, TeriXeri said:

I still personally never considered Nexo Knights or Ultra Agents a Space theme.

I don't either, but I don't think that's what @Aanchir was saying; rather, that they share a lot of the same visual design language that your typical space theme would have: Ultra Agents had the jetpacks and ludicrous sci-fi villains--kind of like a Space Police, but on earth. Nexo had the brightly colored trans-color cockpits, a definite visual throwback to classic space, as well as downloadable powers (again with the bright transparent colors). Were these themes capital-S Space themes? No; the characters never visit space, don't talk about visiting other planets, etc. Do they share a lot of the same characteristics and elements? Of course. Its like the difference between the Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy--one is most definitely space-going, and the other, while being sci-fi/futuristic, remains largely earthbound.

What all this has to do with Elves and Nexo and Star Wars (IMO) is that that kind of futuristic aesthetic allowed Lego to make themes parallel to SW without competing with them. (An explicit space-going theme concurrent with SW might not even be possible depending on contractual agreements, for all we know.) Rather than put out a Space theme, Lego released a few themes that filled that high-concept, brightly-colored sci-fi void that SW didn't cover (by itself, SW is decidedly grounded and monochrome), leaving another gap in their lineup (medieval fantasy) that happened to coincide with another gap in their repertoire: a non-Friends (non-city) "girls'" theme.

My personal opinion is that since the minidoll was introduced, Lego and its designers has been itching to stretch their legs and see how the 'dolls could do in other settings. Given a few years of solid Friends sales, they put out others, first Elves, and then DC SH Girls, while also expanding the Friends line to atypical settings like go-cart racing, and now a hybrid 'doll-'fig combo with TLM2.

Additionally, I think that--since Lego loves their data so much, and that has by all accounts worked out for them--they wanted to get a good solid grip on how minidoll themes actually performed if they left the consistently well-performing arena of City. City has always been a top seller--jokes about the umpteenth Police Station aside--so TLG started there with Friends to be able to compare it to City theme sales (and prove their data that girls related more to the 'doll-as-avatar). To solidify their sales data, they needed to branch out, but wanted to see if they (the minidolls) could do the heavy lifting of carrying a fantasy theme. Do I think they deliberately avoided making a minifig-based fantasy/historic theme so they could leave the slate open for Elves? Yes, but that decision was made in tandem with the decision to go ahead with a non-traditional sci-fi mashup (Nexo), another theme I get the feeling TLG's designers had been itching to try for awhile.

In short, I agree largely with what @x105Black says below (sorry, I couldn't get the quote to attribute properly):

1 hour ago, Aanchir said:

I think it's more likely that they decided to take Nexo Knights in that direction at that time with the idea that Elves would be happening concurrently.  Since Elves was sticking to (a more girly version of) traditional fantasy, they could take the opportunity to branch out into sci-fi with Nexo Knights, giving them what is ostensibly a Castle and Space theme in one.  I think this may have been a less likely experiment without an Elves theme, and I think that any Castle theme that existed in place of Elves and Nexo Knights could have fallen somewhere in between the two

The concurrence of Nexo and Elves with a Star Wars resurgence was probably planned (at least loosely) out back in 2012 when LOTR/the Hobbit was supposed to be entering its final year of a two-movie deal. Harry Potter had finished the year previous (but had been on its way out for awhile), the minidoll had just been introduced, and Ninjago was projected to end the next year or so. Looking ahead, TLG didn't know Ninjago would persist and that Chima would prove itself and unworthy successor, that The Lego Movie would take off and produce spin-offs, but in those planning stages I bet they wanted to give their minidoll themes their best chance at success, so left a fantasy/historic slot open in case the minidoll sales bore out. They obviously have, and the rest is history.

Personally, I feel like Elves could keep going, even with Harry Potter and whatever other fantasy minifig theme comes up next, but I don't have all of TLG's sacrosanct data, so what do I know. I'm just glad we had Elves while it lasted, I look forward to whatever comes in the future, and hope Friends-in-Space becomes a major theme. I also hope to find someday the Elves sets I missed at a reasonable price on the secondary market, but that's an entirely different discussion.

Edited by rodiziorobs
Dang, that was a longer post than intended. *sorry*

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My feeling on Elves is that, I know Lego made the mini dolls to appeal to girls and that strategy worked, but I myself prefer minifigs ( I know, I'm not the target demographic), I have bought some of the sets for myself (I like the designs of the sets) and my sister. 

 

As for Nexo Knights, their essentially Lego Warhammer 40K and I have never considered them Castle, though I did like a lot of the sets and wish they had finished off the Vampire Wave before ending it.

WelcomeTo40K_190105_ALL_BGMM.jpg

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I'm probably the wrong person to ask about mini-dolls vs. mini-figs.  It took me decades to warm to the idea of articulated mini-figures replacing my old "slabbies."

I appreciate the role mini-dolls fill in drawing girls to Lego (and frankly, speaking as a former engineering professor, anything that gets young girls interested in building toys, design,  3-D visualization, etc. is a good thing) and I especially like the fact that the building experience offered by Friends and Elves, etc. is not "dumbed down" as some construction-toys-for-girls have been in the past (both in general as well as from TLG).  That said, I have to side with the voices that found mini-dolls in Elves to be a bit of a turn-off.  I was fine with the color schemes, the designs, even cutesy dragons, but the lack of articulation and limited customization options of the mini-doll compared to the mini-figure just struct me as a lost opportunity for the theme; not to mention the added factor of perpetuating a "Lego for girls/Lego for guys" mentality as opposed to "Lego for everyone."

I realize that the design of the mini-doll was very well researched and it has been quite successful in its goal of appealing to girls, but on the flip side, but I think it is a mischaracterization to think that mini-figs only appeal to boys and girls aren't interested in Lego without mini-dolls.  My daughter (3.5 y.o.) loves posing mini-figs and complains both that they don't have knee joints and that short legs don't articulate at all.  I gave her a mini-doll to play with to see what she'd do with it and she decided it was mannequin and put it in the window of a store.  In her world, posable mini-figs represented people, more rigid mini-dolls were props.

With all the clever things TLG has done for its collectable mini-figure line, I have to believe that they _could have_ done Elves with regular mini-figures, retained a strong feminine appeal to the line, and opened it up with more unisex appeal as well.  Figures aside, Elves had some very nice offerings that I could very easily see appealing to children of both genders, but then you add the figures back in and few 9 year old males want to be seen as the boy who plays with dolls; "action figures" sure, that's cool, but dolls?  

Stigmas die hard, both in society and in the minds of children.  

I think TLG saw dolls vs. figs for Elves as being the safe bet for appealing to the female market (at the expense of the male demographic - which, granted, was pretty well served by a lot of other themes) but I think it was also a missed opportunity to create a bridge between the two demographics.  I suppose "separate but equal" (Friends, Princesses, Elves, etc. v. Nexo-Knights, Ninjago, etc.) is a step up from "separate but not on par" (Belville, Click-its, etc. v. Pretty much anything but Galador), but the mini-doll is something of a double edged sword, it draws girls into the product "experience" but then risks isolating them in female-targetted themes rather than integrating them.

I remember playing with Castle themed sets as a kid.  My best friend, his sister and I all played together.  Even though knights are thought of as a guy thing, there was room in our narrative for princesses (and female knights) and elves and whatever else we wanted to imagine.  The sets were universal enough to have both male and (at least some) female appeal.  Looking at themes today, such as Elves versus Nexo-Knights, and things just seem a lot more gender polarized.  Mini-dolls play a big role in this.  The Elves line could have been a bridge to migrate girls who were introduced to Lego by Friends to get interested in other themes like City and Creator rather than consigning that audience to "doll-centric" offerings (DC Superhero Girls v. DC Superheroes, anyone? Do we really need both, or is this a "solution" to a problem of their own making?)

Elves had a lot to offer and I'm sorry to see it retired, but I think going with mini-dolls rather than mini-figures was a missed opportunity; creatively, artistically and sociologically.

 

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The Lego products i buy are like a piece of art to me. I love the smileyfaces and the whole cute design of minifigures.  The way vehicles and buildings are made to fit the minifigure scales is adorable. With the consistant design everything fits perfectly together for photomontages or displays. I love everything about that. Even when i was a child a big reason for putting mainly lego on every wishlist was the aspect of compatibility.

The minidolls don't fit into that universe. I could live with buying a good friendsset like the blue elves dragon and ignore the minidolls (or "minidoll" thinking about how few there are in the sets) but with the Manga eyes printed on the animals and the colours i mostly don't like 99,9% of the sets are completely uninteresting to me.

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On 1/23/2019 at 2:13 PM, ShaydDeGrai said:

I'm probably the wrong person to ask about mini-dolls vs. mini-figs.  It took me decades to warm to the idea of articulated mini-figures replacing my old "slabbies."

I appreciate the role mini-dolls fill in drawing girls to Lego (and frankly, speaking as a former engineering professor, anything that gets young girls interested in building toys, design,  3-D visualization, etc. is a good thing) and I especially like the fact that the building experience offered by Friends and Elves, etc. is not "dumbed down" as some construction-toys-for-girls have been in the past (both in general as well as from TLG).  That said, I have to side with the voices that found mini-dolls in Elves to be a bit of a turn-off.  I was fine with the color schemes, the designs, even cutesy dragons, but the lack of articulation and limited customization options of the mini-doll compared to the mini-figure just struct me as a lost opportunity for the theme; not to mention the added factor of perpetuating a "Lego for girls/Lego for guys" mentality as opposed to "Lego for everyone."

I realize that the design of the mini-doll was very well researched and it has been quite successful in its goal of appealing to girls, but on the flip side, but I think it is a mischaracterization to think that mini-figs only appeal to boys and girls aren't interested in Lego without mini-dolls.  My daughter (3.5 y.o.) loves posing mini-figs and complains both that they don't have knee joints and that short legs don't articulate at all.  I gave her a mini-doll to play with to see what she'd do with it and she decided it was mannequin and put it in the window of a store.  In her world, posable mini-figs represented people, more rigid mini-dolls were props.

With all the clever things TLG has done for its collectable mini-figure line, I have to believe that they _could have_ done Elves with regular mini-figures, retained a strong feminine appeal to the line, and opened it up with more unisex appeal as well.  Figures aside, Elves had some very nice offerings that I could very easily see appealing to children of both genders, but then you add the figures back in and few 9 year old males want to be seen as the boy who plays with dolls; "action figures" sure, that's cool, but dolls?  

Stigmas die hard, both in society and in the minds of children.  

I think TLG saw dolls vs. figs for Elves as being the safe bet for appealing to the female market (at the expense of the male demographic - which, granted, was pretty well served by a lot of other themes) but I think it was also a missed opportunity to create a bridge between the two demographics.  I suppose "separate but equal" (Friends, Princesses, Elves, etc. v. Nexo-Knights, Ninjago, etc.) is a step up from "separate but not on par" (Belville, Click-its, etc. v. Pretty much anything but Galador), but the mini-doll is something of a double edged sword, it draws girls into the product "experience" but then risks isolating them in female-targetted themes rather than integrating them.

I remember playing with Castle themed sets as a kid.  My best friend, his sister and I all played together.  Even though knights are thought of as a guy thing, there was room in our narrative for princesses (and female knights) and elves and whatever else we wanted to imagine.  The sets were universal enough to have both male and (at least some) female appeal.  Looking at themes today, such as Elves versus Nexo-Knights, and things just seem a lot more gender polarized.  Mini-dolls play a big role in this.  The Elves line could have been a bridge to migrate girls who were introduced to Lego by Friends to get interested in other themes like City and Creator rather than consigning that audience to "doll-centric" offerings (DC Superhero Girls v. DC Superheroes, anyone? Do we really need both, or is this a "solution" to a problem of their own making?)

Elves had a lot to offer and I'm sorry to see it retired, but I think going with mini-dolls rather than mini-figures was a missed opportunity; creatively, artistically and sociologically.

 

For DECADES, Lego has had sets out there with just minifigures in them.  They did not capture a great part of the female market, even though individual females would buy them.

 

When *I* got into Lego, Minifigures were not the "Normal" type of figure. My first figures were Homemaker. I wonder if Lego fans at the time would have been arguing against minifigs and how unrealistic their proportions were. And how it was so much more Lego-like to BUILD your own people and your own animals and even your own tractor. None of these specialized pieces that make it harder to rebuild the set if you lose one little piece...

 

So the experiment has already been tried, and failed for years. It's time to do something new. And something that really is getting a lot more girls into buying Legos and playing Legos than where they were in the "treat everyone like everyone likes minifigs best" world  (because if you just repeat it often enough, it will become true, right?)

 

Edited by Sarah

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So I just got my hands on 3 minidolls for the first time ever via a TLM2 prize I won earlier this year via a webshop promotion in January (Thanks to LEGO and Bol.com).

(Popup Party Bus, and Movie Maker sets)

First impression is that they are much smaller then I initially thought,  and I can certainly see myself grow into them.

I still think minfigs have more advantages as far as posing/armor/accesoires and such.

 

Edited by TeriXeri

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3 hours ago, TeriXeri said:

So I just got my hands on 3 minidolls for the first time ever via a TLM2 prize I won earlier this year via a webshop promotion in January (Thanks to LEGO and Bol.com).

(Popup Party Bus, and Movie Maker sets)

First impression is that they are much smaller then I initially thought,  and I can certainly see myself grow into them.

I still think minfigs have more advantages as far as posing/armor/accesoires and such.

The comment about expecting them to be larger is interesting to me, and reminds me of the many confusing comments I've seen that even if you got rid of the minifigures and replaced them with mini-dolls, the sets still wouldn't look right because the scale would be off.

Generally, both "minifig scale" and "mini-doll scale" are very flexible and often overlap. For example, most minifigure and mini-doll kitchen countertops are 2 to 2.33 bricks tall, and most minifigure and mini-doll beds vary between 2x6 for a basic cot or sleeping bag, 4x6 for a single bed, and 6x6 for a double bed. This is definitely not accidental, as a big factor in deciding the mini-doll's size seems to have been making sure they still scale well with many of the parts designed for and used with minifigures, like cabinets, trash cans/rubbish bins, door and window frames, motorcycles, skateboards, etc. It helps that the mini-doll's main differences from the minifigure (thinner waists and longer legs) are the same adjustment many "minifigure scale" sets already make, since many things like doors and vehicles would look unrealistically squashed if they followed the same proportional rules as the minifigure's unusually short and wide shape.

Ironically, I think in some respects the similar scale is a part of why the mini-doll HAS gotten so much criticism, since people believe that not having a different scale means it is unnecessary and has no reason to exist, whereas it is widely accepted that much more "off-scale" themes like Belville, Fabuland, Bionicle, Technic, and Model Team provide different kinds of building and play experiences than a play theme with minifigures possibly could.

Now, there ARE certainly ways that the proportions of Friends and City sets vary, but that often involves Friends sets being bigger to accommodate more interior detail, rather than on account of the size of the figure. By comparison, Town/City sets are often smaller and more sparsely furnished. Compare 3315 from the 2012 Friends sets to 8403 from the 2010 City sets, or 41015 from the 2013 Friends sets with 60221 from this year's City sets. They're more or less the same sort of subject (family home and cabin cruiser), but the Friends versions are not as heavily downscaled compared to their real-world equivalents, which raises the price but allows for a more detailed and playable interior.

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10 hours ago, Aanchir said:

The comment about expecting them to be larger is interesting to me

It just really surprised me on first sight, from never having seen one in person, and only in videos/pictures before which tend to be zoomed in, I thought they were a bit taller and not as thin initially.

Edited by TeriXeri

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I find the scale of minidolls closer to reality than minifigures.  It is especially noticeable in vehicles,  a two person car (sitting side by side) looks way too wide for minifigures, but much better for minidolls.

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3 minutes ago, MAB said:

I find the scale of minidolls closer to reality than minifigures.  It is especially noticeable in vehicles,  a two person car (sitting side by side) looks way too wide for minifigures, but much better for minidolls.

There are also some other differences that can help boost the sense of realism in sets and MOCs using mini-dolls:

  • Mini-doll height varies more between sitting and standing than minifigure height, since this height difference depends on the vertical measurement from the crotch to the base of the feet rather than the entire legs assembly. This means a traditional minifigure sitting on a seat higher than two and a half plates off the ground will look taller than a minifigure the same height standing beside them, whereas a mini-doll can sit on a seat up to four plates off the ground without being taller than another mini-doll standing beside them.
  • Mini-dolls with hair longer than shoulder length can often turn their heads more to the left and right than minifigures with the same length hair due to having smaller shoulders and less blocky torsos.
  • The top of mini-doll feet is larger and allows for more printed detail, such as buckles, laces, etc. Even if the top of minifigure shoes were printable, the lack of surface space on the top of the foot would make it hard to clearly differentiate between many styles of shoe or sandal (look at the elaborate and varied detail on some of the LEGO Elves sandal straps for some examples).
  • Neck accessories like capes, life jackets, or armor do not change the mini-doll's height, whereas they do change the height of minifigures.
  • As far as facial features go, the default mini-doll design language includes human-like skin tones, noses, and much more detailed eyes (with different colors for the sclerae, irises, and pupils), while minifigures with these features are rarer and usually specific to particular themes or subthemes. It also means colored eyes on a minifigure often look unusual or anomalous even if it'd be a relatively common eye color or unremarkable eye color for humans like Lloyd Garmadon's green eyes or Marion Ravenwood's blue eyes.
  • The mini-doll's more human-like skin tones and facial features also mean themes like Exo-Force or Knights' Kingdom II had a much greater dissonance between the more lifelike human characters in some of their marketing materials and the minifigures in the sets than in themes like Friends and Elves.

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Yeah, there were also those good articles in Hispabrick comparing aspects of minidolls and minifigs ... ending in a draw!

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