Lego Themes: A Legacy of Play

Lego Themes: A Legacy of Play

Since the 1970s, Lego has produced several "themed" lines - and here's the rundown of the biggest hits.
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This year marks the sixtieth anniversary of the Lego brick, with the patent officially being issued on January 28, 1958. Since then, the company has been pushing the envelope of possibilities for a relatively simple toy. Of course they still produce their classic brick boxes, as well as the near-required fire trucks, police cars, and buildings. These individual sets are sold as part of an overall “theme,” some themes lasting longer than others. I'm not going to go into every single theme Lego has ever produced, because really, we'd be here forever – there's countless one-offs (Yellow Submarine), limited run sets, and even some regional exclusives that were only a couple of sets as a test market. Instead, we're going to take a look at some of the most iconic themes, and what their effect on the brand is today.

Technically speaking, the longest running theme is Lego City, with the earliest versions of the idea being based around the 1950s-1960s “Town Plan,” which mostly consisted of small buildings that were a little bit bigger than model train scale – minifigures wouldn't come until the late 1970s. These were just released as Lego sets, no official theme to speak of. Slowly, Lego added more and more to their line, including vehicles and larger buildings, adding in the previously mentioned minifigs and increasing the size and scope of the system. The daily life sets were organized into the theme titled Town in 1978. Not long after, the Fabuland line was introduced, which was a similar concept – vehicles and houses for figures – but the figures themselves were larger and used cartoonish animal heads, thus appealing to a younger audience. Different sub-themes came in as time went on, covering a range of city locations and designs, like a “spring break” type line. Now, the Town line lives on as Lego City, and once again involves a large range of vehicles and sets for kids of all ages, from mining teams to police stations to camping, and everything in between.

In addition to Town, 1978 also saw the release of Castle and Space, both of which lasted in some way until around 2014. Both lines were an instant hit, allowing children to wage medieval battles and intergalactic expeditions. These themes, much like Town, used minifigs and had a wide price range of sets, so that there was always an affordable set for families to purchase. The Castle line included large expansive castles and battlements, but also smaller sets of a handful of knights and some trees or wagons, and Space covered everything from a massive base for astronauts to moon buggies and gliders. Pirates came not much long after that, and gave kids large scale pirate ships and soldiers to fight each other on the high seas. This theme also introduced the first peg leg piece, which would turn out to be the first non-generic style minifig part. As with Castle and Space, this line covered a wide price range, with small sets consisting of a single pirate and some loot, to large bases for soldiers or island adventures. These late 70s-80s themes are still big collector's items, and the fans can often be seen online discussing when Castle and Space are making their triumphant return. Pirates most recently was brought back in 2015 as a “Juniors” line, targeted to younger children, though a remake of the large ship was released in the main “system” line, while Castle and Space were combined in 2015 to create Nexo Knights, which ended in early 2018.

Fast forward a bit, to what was once a controversial idea and now is one of the top selling products the company has every produced, Star Wars. In 1999, with the then-upcoming Prequel Trilogy being the talk of online chatrooms and playgrounds, Lego and Lucasfilm partnered to release sets based on both the Original Trilogy and The Phantom Menace – and surprisingly, many fans of Lego were concerned the company would switch to just licensed out sets and basically leave the others out to dry. Rather, the two ran side-by-side, and Star Wars quickly gained the respect from the Lego community. These sets are notable for often introducing new pieces, new styles of building, and even changes to minifigures – Yoda was the first to have the short leg piece, Jar Jar Binks was the first to have a sculpted head unlike a normal minifig. The success of Star Wars led to Lego licensing other properties, such as Harry Potter and DC and Marvel Super Heroes. The superhero sets mark the first time since Mego's iconic toys that a company was producing DC and Marvel toys that are designed to be played with together – though a Batman focused line began in 2006, Marvel joined in the revival of the superhero theme in 2012. In 2017, the largest Lego set ever was released, being a to-scale replica of the Millennium Falcon, which sold out in record time.

We cannot forget the adult-target lines. The Creator Expert sub-theme of “Modular Buildings” was launched in 2007 as a high-piece count, fully minifig scale building that used several techniques and parts that are uncommon in the usual Lego set. The first release was “Cafe Corner,” and proved to be a success, though the building itself lacked a detailed interior. Fans suggested adding features to the inside of the buildings as well (which would begin with the third installment, “Green Grocer”), and the line grew with an annual release. The architecture is designed to be sometime between the 1930s and 1960s, with such sights as an upscale restaurant, a movie theater, a detective office, and most recently, an American style diner. The line is already just as collectable as the classic themes, with sealed boxes of the retired sets going for hundreds, if not thousands of dollars. Essentially, this and the Star Wars “Ultimate Collector Series” are the “adults” Lego (from part count to the price), thus making good on their “4 -99” age range. Some sets may be made with older kids in mind, but if you put your mind to it, anyone can build any set – even if it needs some help.

I did purposely skip over some important themes like Studios, Duplo, Ninjago, and Bionicle. I brought it down to the most famous and the most collectable within the Lego community. And besides, Bionicle deserves an in-depth look on it's own, so stay tuned for that. But nevertheless, Lego themes allow for kids and adults to get the things they want to see as a brick-built set, as well as get minifigs of Darth Vader, Iron Man, firefighters, rock stars, etc. And there is nothing wrong with buying Lego sets as an adult – there is always something they produce that reaches out beyond the kid toy market. Themes help to give variety and organize the production, but also help collectors and fans find exactly what they're interested in. In the 1980s, it was knights and space travel and pirate voyages. Now, kids want sprawling cityscapes, X-Wings, and the Avengers. That's just how things are, no problem with that. Especially when the company makes products that can be used together and played with as one big set, generations can come together in the living room and play together. Not too many toys have that luxury.

Cover Image Credit: The Lego Group

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21 Lies College Students Tell Their Parents

I can almost guarantee that you have used at least five of these.

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Let's be honest. College is the best time of your life for a lot of reasons, and maybe you should not tell your mom all of them when she calls. I can almost guarantee that you have used at least five of these, and the others — maybe you should try next time!

1. "I can't talk now, I'm in the library."

Typically used when the student is too hungover to talk.

2. "Gotta go now, I'm walking into class."

Then hit play on Netflix.

3. "I think it might be food poisoning."

Was it the food, or all of that alcohol? Your symptoms sound more like a hangover to me.

4. "No, I didn't just wake up."

It is 4 p.m. and, yes, you did.

5. "I need more money for laundry and food."

Meaning, "I need more money for things I don't think you will give me money for."

6. "I never skip class!"

When we use this one, it usually does not refer to anything before 11 a.m.

7. "I studied all night for that test!"

If by "studied all night" you mean you watched TV shows in the library, then, yes, all night.

8. "Everyone failed that test."

And by everyone, I mean me and my friend who did not go to sleep until 3 a.m.

9. "I'm walking home from breakfast with my friends."

Yeah, OK. You are just lucky she cannot see last night's outfit and the high heels you are carrying. We know where you have been.

10. "Potbelly's is a restaurant."

I mean, they may sell tacos, but I'm not sure I would call it a restaurant.

11. "I go to Cantina's for the Nachos."

I hope that is not the only reason but, hey, you do you.

12. "The $40 charge on the card from last Saturday? That was for school supplies!"

Yeah, right. It was for a new dress.

13. "Nobody goes out on weeknights, especially not me."

We all know grades come first, right?

14. "I can't remember the last time I went out!"

Literally.

15. "I make my bed regularly"

About as often as I clean the bathroom.

16. "I did not say 'Margarita Monday,' I said I went to 'Margaret's on Monday'!"

Following the use of this lie, do not post any pictures on social media of you with a margarita.

17. "I use my meal plan, and eat in the dining hall all the time."

As you scarf down Chick-fil-A.

18. "I eat healthy!"

For those without a meal plan who have to grocery shop on their own, we all know you spend $2 on a 12-pack of Ramen noodles and the rest on a different kind of 12-pack.

19. "No, I don't have a fake ID."

OK, "John Smith," and where exactly in Wyoming are you from?

20. "I'm doing great in all of my classes."

We use this one because you cannot see our grades online, anymore.

21. "I did not wait until the last minute to start on this."

We all know that if you start a paper before 10 p.m. the night before it is due, you are doing something wrong.

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To Love a Broken Vase — An Ode To Valentine's Day

"To love and be loved is to feel the sun from both sides." --David Viscott, How to Live with Another Person, 1974

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I remember an anecdote my elementary school teacher told us in the fifth grade. When a mother is pregnant with a child, they feel comfortable in their flesh. Provided with everything they needed to survive, they don't have to worry about anything. It's not until after they are born and the umbilical chord is severed that they realized they were not good enough, and insecurities fester.

I went through a similar process when I was growing up. Contained within my family and books, I felt like I held the world in my hands. It was not until high school where I seriously sought out others for company and wanted to apply myself to the social universe. And I saw myself changing in not only my behaviors, but how I see myself within the world.

With working hard to get good grades, with trying to get my driver's license, and becoming a better person overall, I realized the process involved a lot more effort than I ever had expected. And I found myself unprepared for the slow drudgery of it all. While I once pushed through to get things done, now I find myself giving up on projects while coming up with new ones. I frequently turned to my laptop for solace, as it kept my fantasies alive, but it also stole time away from me.

These behaviors showed in my relationships: I found it hard to meet up with friends, and my parents started worrying about what would my future look like. With the latter, I've had multiple conflicts with them, with me asserting I wanted to be free from everything, including accountability. Of course, that perception was quite unrealistic — to love and be loved, as well as to succeed, there has to a tug to know when you're doing something wrong.

***

A year ago, I wrote an article about how I saw romantic love from somebody who has never been in a relationship. Many things still apply today — I'm better off working towards my educational and career goals than seeking out love, though with Valentine's Day, it still fascinates me on whether or not I could be loved from somebody else.

From what I've heard from others, they would be charmed by my intelligence and kindness, neither fulfilling the stereotype of a nerd nor the perfect angel. However, the naivete would also put someone off, and potentially puts them in danger. I also see myself as the spontaneous type, but to the point where I forget where my priorities are, again making them worse than they really are. I imagine they would be intrigued by me as a friend or a lover, but end up breaking away after a short amount of time.

I don't imagine finding myself loving other people in the short term; however, I find myself open towards others. And that what makes me more afraid about how people view me--will they not be able to see the positives in myself when the time comes? Will they be just as capable of forgiving me the same way my family does?

At the end, I should take my friend's advice for Valentine's Day — love oneself. And take actions to make sure that I can love myself deeper and further.

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