Here’s a little chap to sit on your desk and remind you of the trials and tribulations of navigation- Lego Hiker was a minifigure released in 2016.
Who is not aware of Lego. One of the most successful brands in the past century. The Danish interlocking construction bricks were first manufactured in 1949 and intended as a children’s toy. Their very name comes from the Danish phrase leg godt– ‘play well’. They were based on a UK toy- the Kiddicraft Self-Locking Building Bricks. These were first marketed in 1947 and were manufactured from plastic for hygiene reasons. Lego’s Automatic Binding Bricks were originally made of a number of different materials until an ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) polymer was settled on in the late 1950s.
The simple Lego building sets first available have expanded to complex, demanding, and frequently also very expensive, sets. Part of Lego’s secret is the interchangeability between sets produced for different models over the decades. Lego bricks from 1958 can still be used with bricks produced today. A first audience of children has been expanded to include adults and collectors, no doubt swelled by those nostalgic for their childhood playthings. Lego have been clever to enbrace both popular culture with their products while also integrating this most analogue of products into a digital world. Lego films and Gaming are big money spinners, the one feeding the other and Legoland amusement parks are now found across the globe.
In 1974 a Lego building figure was introduced. This had movable arms but an immovable body. The next year saw the first Lego people added, these were no more than plain bodies, a plain head with no facial markings and various hats.
Heads on these Lego figures were all yellow so that no race or ethnicity was implied. Skin tones were introduced in 2003 but only when the character is based on an actual person or is a licenced character. In 1978 Lego Castle, Space and Town sets were released that included much improved ‘minifigures’. A definition could be that a true Lego minifigure is a small, posable figure of a person or being. These buildable characters now had interchangeable legs, torsos and arms. Faces were given simple painted expressions; a smile and two plain dots for eyes.
Starting with the Pirate figures in 1989, minifigures received improved facial expressions. More recent minifigures, such as those from the popular Star Wars and Harry Potter sets, have taken body ornament and facial expressions to heights far removed from those first simple Lego figures. From being first available only as part of play and building sets, their availability spread to them being sold as collectables from Lego stores and in ‘blind bags’.
Blind bags proved controversial on their release. There is no outside indication of the contents and a degree of ‘pot luck’ is experienced by the collector attempting to complete a set. Some early bags had a code, eventually deciphered by enthusiasts. Later bags had more difficult identifying systems but even those have now gone making most contents genuinely unknown without opening, or possibly feeling the contents through the sealed bag.
The various series have focused on films, sport, history, popular culture and seemingly totally random selection. A new series is released about every four months.
Minifigure series have included between 9 and 22 figures, most usually 16. The first series was released 5 March 2010 in the UK and 4 June 2010 in the US. Lego Hiker was part of Series 16 released 1 September 2016 worldwide. It is set number 71013, and aimed at children aged above five. Figures in series 16 comprised-
- Ice Queen
- Desert Warrior
- Cute Little Devil
- Spooky Boy
- Wildlife Photographer
- Scallywag Pirate
- Penguin Boy
- Dog Show Winner
- Banana Guy
Lego Hiker is a fun addition to the minifigure range and to my mind, the best in series 16. The character is well finished. Brown boots appear separate from the cargo trousers that have painted belt and pockets. He is wearing a zipped green and blue hoody. Also shown are the pack straps and hip belt. The transparent compass held in his C-hand has cardinal points and even the 2×2 map tile has detail (the ‘Greeble‘ trail). His backpack has a rolled mat or sleeping bag at the top in a different shade of blue to the pack.
Lego have now produced over 4 billion minifigures and well over 8000 different minifigures have been released. Additional special series such as those for the 2012 London Olympics have attracted an audience that might never have considered buying them otherwise. Even some Lego employees have minifigures as giveaways instead of business cards, based on themselves and with personal contact detail on the front and back. These little figures get around, three Lego minifigures, of Galileo, Jupiter (King of the Roman Gods) and his wife Juno, entered orbit around Jupiter aboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft in 2016.