40 Years of Minifigures – Minifigure Evolution

We’re continuing with the 40th Anniversary celebration of the Minifigure by exploring how the minifigure has changed over the last 40 years, and it’s more drastic than you might think! Once again, a huge thanks to LEGO for supplying these images. They’re fascinating! Yesterday we took a look at the patents. That couldn’t have happened without the prototypes to figure out which was the best version.

70s LEGO Minifigures

It all started in 1974 with the big guy on the left. I’ve written about these brick-built figures before, back in October last year when I built the big Homemaker setup, where these figures appear. They were big, relatively poseable, and kicked off the process.

The middle one, known as the ‘stage extra’ appeared in 1975. They appeared in a number of sets, but with no moveable arms or legs, and no face, they didn’t exactly scream “play with me”. It did mean that the buildings were much more size appropriate, which led to what we have today.

The one on the right is much more relatable, as it’s what we have today. These hit the market in 1978 (hence the 40th anniversary celebrations this week), and have been around ever since. 600 Police Car had the first one, and they have also been used as children for the big brick built figures, appearing in 208 Mother with Baby, among others in the Homemaker line.

Early prototype minifigures

However, between 1975 and 1978, there were a few others. LEGO didn’t hit the bullseye straight away! There were a few other variations, some more worrying than others.

Remember that these are only prototypes, so they were probably made by hand. They looks pretty interesting, and definitely not what we’d call quality LEGO!  The face of the far left one is very interesting. I’m glad they didn’t go down that route. The little guy at the left does have arms, they’re just hard to see. It looks like a thin strip of plastic, stuck to the sides of the brick. 

The third policeman is a combination of the current style at the top, with a ‘stage extra’ set of legs. The fourth minifigure, the classic policeman (who’s been the subject of many people’s desires in the latest series of the Collectible Minifigures) was the first one, in 600 Police Car. His face is printed, but the torso was a sticker.

Astronaut prototypes are also very interesting. It’s a little easier to see here how they’re made up. The torso looks like it’s made from a 2×2 plate at the bottom, then a 1×2 plate, with the top layer having a 1×2 plate at the back, and a 1×2 jumper plate at the front for the head. There’s a couple of round 1×1 bricks at the back for oxygen, and a TV antenna. The head is a trans 1×1 plate on a 1×1 plate. It’s clever. I’m not sure about the third figure – he looks like he’s gone through launch and re-entry a few too many times!

Below is the evolutionary timeline of a few of the regulars in LEGO City – astronauts, police, firefighters and doctors. How far we’ve come!

Evolution of the Astronaut
Evolution of the Policeman
Evolution of the Fireman
Evolution of the Doctor

I wonder what we’ll have in 10 years time? Lastly, there’s this larger image of a whole stack of different ones together, including some more prototypes that I didn’t mention. I love the skinny little dude in the back, right in the middle! There’s also some moulds, which is what we’re looking at tomorrow – the design and creation process!

Minifigure Prototypes