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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10 Abnormally Normal Things About College

Some stuff just doesn't fly in the real world.
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College is a weird, weird place. For whatever reason, the young adults who are supposed to be cultivating their minds with all of the worldly knowledge available to them, seem to get away with quite a bit using the justification "it's college." Even the best students live abnormally while on the alien planet that is a university. So, while to us college students it may just seem like another day, here are ten things that are only normal in college.

1. Straight up theft.

In the future, if I walk into my forty-something-year-old neighbor's home and see a collection of stolen signs, stuff from the local restaurant, and property from the construction site down the road, I would definitely be concerned about the character of my neighbor. However, in college, people proudly display campus signs, traffic cones, or dining hall napkin dispensers that they have impressively commandeered - it's a cheap decoration and a great conversation starter.

2. All-nighters.

Maybe with the exception of parents of little babies, very few people willingly stay up for close to 24 hours on end. In the real world, if a friend came to you and said that they literally did not sleep the previous night, it's completely logical to be worried. On the other hand, when a friend in college says that he was up all night you laugh a little, give him an understanding pat on the back, and walk with him to the coffee line.

3. Atrocious eating habits.

Sometimes you don't have time to eat. Sometimes you order pizza at 2 in the morning. Sometimes you eat three dinners. Sometimes you diet. All I can say, is thank goodness that our metabolisms are decently high at this age.

4. Breaking and entering.

In high school, you hopefully knew everyone who entered your home. After college, hopefully, that's still the case. However, when you live in the middle of thousands of bored college students, people knock at your door, walk into parties, cut through your yard, and stop by without invitation or hesitation. It keeps life fun, but still not normal.

5. Calling mom when stuff goes down.

I really doubt a time will ever come that I don't need to call my mom for guidance on how to do something. But, hopefully the frequency of those calls with go down a little bit post-graduation. Maybe after four years of doing it on my own, I'll know how to fill out government forms, cook real dinners, and get stains out. But for now, I'm going to keep calling while I still can without seeming totally pathetic.

6. Being intoxicated at weird times.

Drunk at noon on a Friday is the quintessence of an alcoholic at any time - unless it's college. Not that this is necessarily a good thing, and it certainly doesn't apply to everyone, but there aren't many other places where people would instantly assume someone is intoxicated if they're acting even a little weird. I've even seen people drink in the library....

7. The messed up dating scene.



There are people who meet the love of their life at college and live happily ever after. They are people who meet the supposed love of their life at college and never talk to them again after Sunday. There are people who use Tinder. Hormones are high, freedom is bountiful, and football players are cute - what else needs to be said?

8. A warped sense of time.

The career I'm pursuing will require me to be at work by 7 am, five days a week. I am fully aware of this. Now, will I enroll in an 8 am next semester? Absolutely not - I'm not a demon. In college, nights often start at 10 p.m., dinners are eaten at 4, and mornings can begin anywhere from 8 to 2. We don't get that whole 9-5 idea.

9. Costumes... for no apparent reason.

High schoolers have a dress code. Adults have dignity. College students have fun. Here, people will wear a corn costume to get on ESPN, a fanny pack to get into a fraternity, or a tutu to match a theme party. Is it actually a weird thing, though? No one even blinks an eye.

10. Insanely close friends.

Name another point in your life when you live with your friends, study with your friends, drive with your friends, eat with your friends, go out with your friends, and even grocery shop with your friends. I'll wait. At college, it's easy for friends to seem like family because you're with them constantly. Love it or hate it, it's weird about college.

So, enjoy this weirdness while you can - it won't last forever!


ALSO SEE:

Uncensored Roommate Confessions!

Cover Image Credit: Matthew Kupfer

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12 Unhealthy College Habits That Never Should Have Become Normalized

No, you shouldn't have to pull an all-nighter to pass every exam.

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College is a weird time in our lives, but it doesn't have to be bad for our health. Here are some trends I've seen on social media and watched my friends practice that really never should have become a "thing" for college students in the first place.

1. The "freshman 15."

Everyone has heard of the dreaded "freshman 15," where college freshmen gain 15 pounds because of access to all-you-can-eat dining halls. Rather than eating healthier options at the dining halls or, you know, only eating until you're full and not stuffing yourself, we've just accepted our fate to gain what's really a large amount of weight. Not a very healthy mindset.

2. Eating only junk food because we're "too poor" to buy real food.

For off-campus students, the theme is ramen and peanut butter & jelly sandwiches. This is really not how it needs to be. You can buy a bunch of romaine lettuce for around $1 at the grocery store I go to in my college town, and other produce like broccoli, potatoes, and apples are always cheap. Shop sales and keep your pantry stocked on staples like dry pasta, rice, beans, and other canned vegetables. It's not that expensive to eat decently.

3. Gorging on food at the dining hall just because you can.

This is what leads to the freshman 15. Just because you can eat whatever you want doesn't mean you should.

4. Procrastinating EVERYTHING.

I'm always ahead of my schoolwork, but all of the people in my classes push things right down to the wire. It creates unnecessary stress. Just get things done in advance so you don't have to worry.

5. Being generally unorganized and struggling to keep your life together. 

Actually using my planner is one of the best things I've done for myself in college so far. I don't know why it became popular for college students to be a hot mess all the time, but again, do what you can to avoid putting unnecessary stress on yourself.

6. Pulling all nighters, ever.

If you don't understand it by midnight, you won't understand it any better by five in the morning. You'll do so much better with less studying and more sleep than the other way around. Take the L and go to bed.

7. Waiting until the very last minute to start studying for your finals.

This is what typically leads to the aforementioned all-nighters. If you have an exam in two weeks, start studying NOW. Give yourself time to figure out what you need to focus on and get in contact with your professor or a tutor if necessary. Do yourself the favor.

8. Getting blackout drunk Friday and Saturday night...every weekend.

A lot of college students like to drink. That's fine, I get it, college is stressful and you just want to have a good time. But you don't have to go out every night of every weekend and drink so much you don't remember anything that didn't occur between Monday-Friday every week. Give yourself a break from drinking every so often.

9. Getting iced coffee before class and being late because of it.

I always make sure I get to campus early if I plan to get Starbucks, which I often do. It's rude to come in late, and it's detrimental to your education to consistently miss class. Your coffee can wait if you're running late. Plan better next time.

10.  Committing to 10 different extracurriculars because "it'll boost your resume if you have more on it!"

If you only participate in one club where you're the head of marketing and the treasurer, that will look SO much better than if you participated in five clubs but were just...there for all of them. Excel in one thing rather than being mediocre in many.

11.  Skipping class whenever you feel like it.

You can take the occasional mental health day, but if you're just being lazy, you're only hurting yourself. Go to class. You're paying a lot of money for it, after all.

12.  Spending every last penny you have to go somewhere for spring break (Daytona Beach, anyone?).

"Broke" college kids always end up taking the most extravagant spring break vacations. I'm sure it's fun and you'll cherish the memories, but wouldn't you cherish that $500 more if you saved it for things you actually need rather than living off of ramen for a month when you get home?

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