13 facts you (probably) never knew about minifigures

By ·May 25, 2016 6:00 am

For several decades minifigures have been the shining success of LEGO, they’re instantly recognizeable and loved by adults and children alike. They are so popular as an item that LEGO introduced Minifigures to their very own theme in 2010. The Minifigures theme is focused around blind packed collectible figures, with a new series being released every three to four months with the latest series being the Disney collection.

As the popularity of minifigures continue to rise so does the wealth of knowledge and facts surronding them contine to expan; to that end we have done our research and put together, what we think, is a list of 13 facts you (probably) never knew about LEGO Minifigures.


01] LEGO made nearly 2 million minifigures a day in 2015


LEGOLAND Windsor employee putting the finishing touches to a massive wall of minifigures – Image Credit: LEGO

According to LEGO’s end of year report they produced on average 23 minifigures a second throughout 2015. To break that down for you, that works out to:

  • 1,380 minifigures a minute on average
  • 82,800 minifigures an hour on average
  • 1,987,200 minifigures a day on average
  • 13,948,616 minifigures a week on average
  • 60,444,000 minifigures a month on average
  • 725,328,000 minifigures a year on average

Those numbers are utterly stupendous, to help conceptualise (or confuse) the vastness of those numbers a little more; if all the minifigures produced in 2015 were arranged in a straight line hand to hand they would stretch 18,133.3 Kilometres. That’s the distance of a return trip to Johannesburg, South Africa from London, England (in a straight line) with an additional 23 Kilometres left over!


02] The modern minifigure was born in 1978


The Yellow Castle (Set no. 375) from 1978 featuring some of the first modern minifigures, note the classic brick built horses – Image Credit: LEGO

The modern minifgure as we know it were first introduced in 1978 when the current LEGO owner Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, introduced a new business model called the “System within the System”.

This new model pathed the way for LEGO to differentiate between its various products and introduced the idea of play set themes. The initial three themes introduced were Town, Castle and Space, and with them came the arrival of the modern minifigures.

These new minifigures all featured the same body components we see on today’s figures. The only real difference from today’s minifigures is the 1978 minifigure heads all had identical and simple expressions that can be seen in above image. This design was so effective it remained unchanged for the next 11 years.

Benny from the LEGO Movie is based on the original Space theme minifigures from 1978.


03] Custom body parts and differing facial expressions for minifigures were introduced in 1989


Captain Redbeard (2nd from left), is the 1989 Pirates theme’s chief antagonist and is the first minifigure to make use of custom hands and legs in the form of his hooked hand and peg leg – Image Credit: LEGO

When LEGO introduced the Pirates theme in 1989 they needed to break from the previous 11 years of facial decoration to make for believable looking pirate figures.

LEGO Designer Jens Nygaard Knudsen explained: “It was necessary to alter the minifigure’s expression in order to develop credible pirates, and a real pirate captain must have a patch on his eye, a peg leg and a hook!”.

The pirates theme saw the introduction of new leg and hand parts such as the peg leg alongside new facial decoration such as beards, hair, lipstick and eyepatches.

Ultimately the use of new facial expressions and decoration combined with the use of new leg and hand components really opened up the range of possible themes and concepts LEGO could explore with their iconic minifigures and play sets.


04] The first unique minifigure head sculpts were introduced in 1999


While not the original 1999 Jar Jar Binks LEGO minifigure, this 2011 release of the same model features the same original moulded head but with an updated paint job – Image Credit: thedailybrick.co.uk

Before 1999 all minifigure heads were of the standard yellow shape we are all familar with. With the 1999 launch of the Star Wars: The Phatom Menance, LEGO introduced their very first unique head sculpts. The first of these sculpts was used for Jar Jar Binks and it was first made available in the Naboo Swamp (7121) and Gungan Sub (7161) LEGO play sets.

Following the introduction of the Jar Jar Binks head sculpt came unique sculpts for C-3PO and Chewbacca in 2000 for the Millennium Falcon (7190) set and Yoda in 2002 in the Jedi Duel (7103) set. All of these initial head sculpts were unpainted and moulded in one solid colour.

Although Jar Jar Binks was never a fan favourite, his unique design did pave the way for LEGO to start using unique head sculpts and without these sculpts we would of never had themes such as The Simpsons and most recently the Disney minifigure series.


05] Natural skintones for minifigures arrived in 2003

NBA Collectors #4 (3563)

NBA Collectors #4 set (3563) showcasing the first uses of naturalistic skin tones – Image Credit: BrickTsar/YouTube

The first naturalistic skin tones were introduced for the LEGO Sports theme in 2003, specifically for the NBA collectors sets they released. For the first time ever LEGO strayed away from the typical yellow skin tone to introduce a variety of shades to represent the likenesses of living people. In 2004 LEGO expanded the use of natural skin tones to all licensed products when representing actual characters and people.

LEGO initially used yellow as the default skin tone for all minifigures as it was perceived to be the most realistic and more importantly race-neutral colour to use.

As an interesting side note, the 2003 NBA minifigures also featured spring loaded hips which allowed the minifigures to throw a basketball when pulled backwards.


06] The new baby minifigure is introduced in 2016

The latest minifigure mould is the baby minifigure – due for release this summer – Image Credit: LEGO

The new LEGO baby minifigure was revealed at the 2016 New York Toy Fair as part of their upcoming Fun at the Park set for the City theme. The baby minifigure isn’t like a microfigure, instead it’s a scaled down version of a normal minifigure but with static arms and legs.

The Fun in the Park set not only introduced the baby minifigure, it also premiered LEGO’s first wheelchair using minifigure.


07] LEGO once produced 5 solid 14-carat gold C-3PO minifigures

Gold C-3PO

While not an orginal this fake solid gold LEGO C-3PO closely resembles the ones LEGO had made in celebration of 30 years of Star Wars

In March 2007, LEGO announced a competition in honour of the 30th anniversary of Star Wars in their LEGO Magazine. The grand prize for this competition was one of five solid gold C-3PO minifigures. Any one lucky enough to win one of these would have been the envy of all LEGO Star Wars collectors.

To enter the competition all you had to do was find the golden C-3PO in a field of battle droid minifigures in a similar fashion to “Where’s Wally/Waldo”. In the January 2008 issue of the LEGO magazine the five winners of the solid gold C-3PO’s were announced and that’s pretty much the end of the story. As far as I’m aware none of these minifigures have ever ended up on eBay, they could be in the hands of private collectors but it’s a much more heartwarming notion that the children who won these five C-3PO figures have treasured them for all of this time.

It is rumoured that two additional C-3PO’s were made for LEGO executives, but this has never been quantified. However given it’s the 40th anniversary of Star Wars next year we may see something like this once again.


08] For the 10th anniversary of the minifigures theme, LEGO inserted 5000 super rare minifigures into random packets


Mr Gold – one of 5000 super rare and randomly inserted minifigures

To celebrate the 10th series of the highly collectable and utterly popular LEGO Minifigure range; It was announced that LEGO would insert 5000 Mr. Gold minifigures into random packets of the series 10 minifigures.

Those lucky enough to have found one of the 5000 Mr. Gold minifigures would also find the normal paper insert was replaced with a set of instructions to log onto the LEGO Minifigure website (not available anymore) to claim their ownership of this figure. In doing so the users location was marked on a map indicating the locations of Mr. Gold worldwide.

The current selling price for this elusive minifigure is between £650 and £1250 on eBay.


09] LEGO executives use personalised minifigures instead of business cards

LEGO business card

LEGO business card, or should I say business minifigure? (contact details omitted) – Image Credit: SWNS

While business cards are effective for passing your details to others, they’re often lacking when it comes to representing your brand and products. However this just isn’t the case at LEGO with executives using customized minifigures in place of the traditional business cards for the last few years. What better way to represent your brand than to hand over the company’s most iconic design.

The business card minifigures have the executive’s name on the front of the torso with their email address and telephone number on it’s back. They can also personalise their minifigures further with choce of hair and facial features to resemble the executive. It is rumoured that over 100 of these personalised LEGO business card minifigures exist.


10] The only part of a minifigure used for other LEGO applications are the standard head pieces

Blue minifigure head pieces fresh of the production line

Blue minifigure head pieces fresh of the production line – Image Credit: CNET

The only versatile part of a standard minifigure is the head element, the torso, arms, hands and legs are all exclusive to minifigure constuction itself. You can find the minifigure head elements being used for completely different purposes in many different sets. Here are just a few examples:


11] It can take over one year to design and produce a new minifigure

Minifigure heads being processed at the LEGO Billund factory – Image Credit: LEGO

While minifigures are incredibly plentiful and quick to make once they enter mass production, it can often take over a year to create a brand new minifigure for the very first time.

All minifigures start life as a sketch, digital or traditional, on a designers artboard. From there it’ll likely be reworked a few times before it can be signed off and move to the protoyping phase. The protoyping phase will see new decals, printed bricks and in some cases new injection moulds created and perfected before the newest minifigure can be put into mass production. Once in production it takes no time at all to create the components, print and apply decals and assemble the new minifigures ready to be shipped out to consumers worldwide.


12] The actors with the most minifigures in their likeness are Warwick Davis and Alfred Molina

Warwick Davis and Alfred Molina

To figure out the actors with the most minifigures in their likeness, Brickset defined that for each minifigure to be valid it must directly represent an actor from film or television and that multiple minifigures of the same character are not counted, unless they appear in different media.

Following these rules puts Warwick Davis and Alfred Molina at the top of the list with three individual characters each.

Warwick Davis has the following minifigures:

  • Wicket W. Warrick (Star Wars)
  • Wald (Star Wars)
  • Professor Filius Flitwick (Harry Potter)

Alfred Molina has the following minifigures:

  • Satipo (Indiana Jones)
  • Doctor Octopus (Spider-Man)
  • Sheik Amar (Prince of Persia)


13] Finaly the voice actor with the most minifigures based on their perfomances is Dee Bradley Baker


Dee Bradley Baker – The voice of many!

When, Brickset, included voice-actors into the list of actors with the most minifigures we find the results to be wildly different. For starters the number two position belongs to Dan Castellaneta with six individual minifigures (all from the Simpsons) whereas the joint first position for the on-screen actors only had three minifigures each.

It is Dee Bradley Baker who tops this list with a whopping eleven characters, which is soon to increase to fourteen when the Star Wars: Captain Rex’s AT-TE Walker (75157) is released this summer.

Dee Bradley Baker has the following minifigures to his name:

  • Momo (Avatar: The Last Airbender)
  • Clone Trooper(s) (Star Wars)
  • Captain Rex (Star Wars)
  • Commander Cody (Star Wars)
  • Commander Fox (Star Wars)
  • Commander Gree (Star Wars)
  • Commander Wolffe (Star Wars)
  • Saesee Tiin (Star Wars)
  • Onaconda Farr (Star Wars)
  • Thi-Sen (Star Wars)
  • Sandman (Marvel Super Heroes)

That concludes the end of our “13 facts you (probably) never knew about LEGO Minifigures” list, my personal favourite is fact #1, it still boggles my mind trying to quantify the exact amount of miinifigures LEGO manages to produce each year, it’s utterly insane. What fact was your favourite? Did you already know all these facts? Let us know in the comments below.

H/T: Brickset – for their work tallying actors & actresses with the most minifigures

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