Sunday, September 22nd, 2013 at 8:22pm by Andrew, BZPower News Manager
DK and LEGO recently sent us a copy of LEGO Minifigure Year by Year: A Visual History by Daniel Lipkowitz, so we thought we'd review it for you all. If you like minifgures or the history of LEGO, this should be right up your alley. You can read on to see my full thoughts on this mighty tome.
The cover features 31 different designs, dating back from 1979 and going all the way to 2013. The rub is that three of them aren't just pictures - they're actual minifigures! Unlike the Ninjago Character Encyclopedia we reviewed last year, these minifigures are pre-constructed, so there's no building at all here. Still though, there's a lot of familiar faces here and it gives you the first hint of what you'll see inside.
The back shows another 23 figs, with a couple going back to 1978 this time. Other than that, there's a couple teasers telling you what you can expect to find inside. I'm sold!
The LEGO minifigure was first released in 1978 and this book celebrates the 35th anniversary of the iconic figure. It's not a comprehensive encyclopedia of every minifigure (I think that would be nigh impossible) but it's got a lot of them. Definitely enough to represent every theme LEGO has ever had and then some.
It starts out with a bit of history, talking about the precursors to the minifig and some of the different prototypes that were made before the final design was settled on. I found this part really interesting and enjoyed seeing the different candidates for the figure. After that, there's some general information about minifigures, their core components, what is technically not a minifig, and some information on how the book is set up. Next though, talks about the design process for creating minifigures, which was really cool. There's a lot of time and effort that goes into each tiny little fig. Following that, there's a timeline highlighting some key events in minifigure history like the first chef's hat, first horse, first non-smiley face fig, and more. It's a good overview and you can really see how far the design of the figures have come over the past 35 years.
Now we get into the meat of the book. The rest of the volume is broken up by decade, and there's a section for each year. New minifigure designs for each year are highlighted, along with new elements and accessories. There's also information on the non-minifigures, like DUPLO figs, Jack Stone, Belville, and others. The writing is informative but also has a sense of humor. I'm not sure most kids would pick up on some of the jokes, which makes me feel like this book is targeted at AFOLs as much as it is KFOLs. I definitely enjoyed reading through each section learning different tidbits here and there.
As I made it through the years to the themes I started remembering, I was hit with a lot of nostalgia. Although I didn't move beyond DUPLO until the early 1990s, sets back then hung around on shelves longer, so I grew up with a lot of the late 80s themes and went on from there. It was awesome seeing the old Pirates and Blacktron and Space Police and other minifigs again, and learning things about them that I never knew before. Going forward, I fondly recalled a lot of the themes, whether I owned the sets or just pored over the images in the LEGO S@H catalogs. Bionicle even gets a few mentions, and not just for the minifigure sets. Seeing them all one after another though, you really get an overview of the evolution of the minigure and how much they've changed over the last three-and-a-half decades. Plus, it was crazy to see just how the number of minifigs exploded over the years. Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, all the designs fit on two pages. Once you get into the later 1990s and 2000s though, they start taking up four, six, or more pages. And when the collectible figs get introduced, it gets even crazier.
To break up the year-by-year, every now and then there's a section focusing on one aspect of minifigures. There's hats, hair, and head designs, good versus evil, minifig vehicles and accessories, rare minifgs (I even have some of them!), and more. It's a nice departure from the usual, and gives you a chance to compare aspects of the figures from over the decades. Lots of info there too.
The one complaint I guess I have is that after 2013 it goes right to the index. There's no conclusion, no talk of minifigs-to-come, and no hints or teasers. It would have been nice to wrap up the book with a bow on it, in my opinion.
Overall though, I've really enjoyed it so far. There's well over two hundred pages and while I skimmed through the whole thing, I'm still only in the 80s when it comes to reading it cover-to-cover. I would definitely recommend it to any fan of the classic LEGO System, especially for those who like to collect minifigures or build their own custom ones. A big thanks go out to LEGO and DK for sending us this copy. We're hoping to get a few more so we can give them away as contest prizes, so keep your eyes peeled on BZPower!
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