Happy 40th Birthday To The Minifigure

August 29th 1977 was the date that the original patent for the minifigure was handed in but it wasn’t until 1978 that the first minifigure was released. With those two dates in mind, LEGO have officially declared today the official 40th birthday of the LEGO minifigure.


To celebrate this birthday LEGO have sent through an absolute treasure trove of images and information. I don’t want to bog you down with a wall of text – here’s all the good stuff.

The Australian Minifigure Patent

While the original patent was filed in Denmark, it was also filed around the world – including here in Australia.

Rest of the world

Minifigure Moulds

Have you ever wanted to see the parts that go in to moulding a minifigure? Here are some great shots of the various moulds.

Evolution of the Minifigure

The early prototypes of the minifigure looked nothing like the ones we know and love. Here is a great look at the evolution of the minifigure from early prototypes to what we have now.

Collectible Minifigure Series – Designer Sketches

The CMF series has become a big part of the world of minifigures with an amazing array of characters released. LEGO has provided some early sketch work from several LEGO designers to show the thought processes that went in to some of these minifigures.

Fun Minifigure Facts

Celebrating the 40th anniversary of the LEGO® minifigure

In 1978, Disco was dominating the charts, mobile phones were non-existent and the Internet was still more than a decade away. It was also the year the very first LEGO® minifigures went into production. Fast forward to today and those inaugural characters have evolved nearly as much as the world around them, offering endless roleplay possibilities. So, as one of the planet’s tiniest icons celebrates its big 4…0, here are some milestone moments from its very big story.

The evolution of the LEGO minifigure
It all started in 1974 when the LEGO building figure was launched, made mostly of large square LEGO bricks with moveable arms but immoveable legs. This was followed in 1975 by LEGOstage extra figures with solid torsos, immoveable arms and legs, and no printed features. Basically, very different to the LEGO minifigures we know and love today! Not that we had to wait too long for them to arrive, with 1978 ushering in a new era of LEGO minifigures equipped with moveable limbs and simple facial expressions comprising two solid black eye dots and black painted smile. Fast forward to 2018 and there are now more than 650 unique faces in the collection, meaning children can have fun roleplaying different characters and personalities – anytime, anywhere.

From 20 to 8,000
To begin with, there were around 20 different LEGOminifigure characters, including a police officer, doctor, firefighter, knight and astronaut. But in the four decades since, the number of minifigures available has risen to more than 8,000. To put that into context, if the global population had grown at the same rate, there would now be nearly 144 trillion of us living on Earth!

The perfect height
Take away the hair or any other headpiece and LEGOminifigures are exactly the same height as four LEGO bricks fitted together. This means they fit perfectly into the LEGO System in Play. Oh, and if you stacked them head to toe, you would need 20,750 to reach the height of the world’s tallest building, Dubai’s Burj Khalifa.

Jack of all trades
Over the years, LEGOminifigures have shown they can turn their hand to pretty much anything. From pirates to paramedics, engineers to elephant keepers, veterinarians to Vikings, there have been thousands of different minifigure characters. Three LEGO minifigures even blasted into space onboard NASA’s Juno spacecraft in 2011. But one thing has remained consistent throughout: whatever role, character or personality children fancy playing, there’s sure to be a minifigure to match.

Diversity Champion
Did you know the traditional yellow colour of the LEGOminifigure’s head was chosen based on focus group feedback in the early and mid-1970s saying this was preferable to white ones? Since then, minifigures have become increasingly diverse – from the first figures with natural skin tone in 2003 (Lando Calrissian from Star Wars and NBA basketball players) to 2016’s inaugural wheelchair. LEGO minifigures have also done their bit for unstereotyping gender roles with the likes of female firefighters and ninjas, through to fathers equipped with baby carriers. In fact, the whole point of minifigures is they let children create and be anyone they want – male or female, helmet or hair, freckles or glasses, anything. And if you’re worried about our robotic friends, don’t be. There have been plenty of C-3POs and R2D2s (not to mention other robots) too.

Hollywood Star
The LEGO minifigure has starred in a number of Hollywood blockbusters, including THE LEGO® MOVIE™, THE LEGO® BATMAN MOVIE™ and THE LEGO® NINJAGO MOVIE™. In 2007, LEGO Group even created 10,000 gold chrome C-3PO minifigures packed in random sets to mark the 30th anniversary of Star Wars.

1978-2018 precision mates
Did you know that eight different moulds are used for the production of every minifigure? Two sets of these moulds are the same in design but reversed to mould the right and left minifigure arms and legs! The precision that goes into these moulds is exceptional, and because the original moulds are almost identical to the ones we use today, minifigures from 1978 can be mixed and matched with the more modern characters from today! However, one thing that has changed is the number of elements each mould can produce and the speed scale of this – for example, the minifigure head mould construction has improved from an initial eight elements per 9,8 sec. to 128 elements per 14.7 sec. today!

More than just a figure
LEGO minifigures may be made for fun but there’s a serious side to them as well. By offering an endless choice of roleplay possibilities, they’re designed to let children play inventively, engage with different emotions and tell their own stories. First and foremost, that means a whole lot of enjoyment. But, crucially, it also allows young people to develop key life skills like emotional intelligence, creativity and communication – skills that, according to new research for the LEGO Play Well Report, parents believe will be vital to helping their children build their own bright future.

3 Responses to Happy 40th Birthday To The Minifigure

  1. Anthony Christian says:

    I thought the Chinese patent was printed on toilet paper?

  2. Monty says:

    Great article

  3. Agent 86 says:

    Good article. I wish I’d bothered trying to “feel” more of the CMF series to populate my Lego City streets. And I really wish I’d purchased multiples of the Warrior Woman minifigure – you can never have too many Xenas!

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