My 6 Favorite Classic LEGO Themes
The LEGO Movie was awesome! It was more awesome than it had any right to be, and that’s coming from a guy who expected it to be a great film. The LEGO Movie was transcendently good, touching upon themes and realities that reached both the kid and the adult in of me. I’m so glad I didn’t read any reviews or any spoilers before seeing the movie, because watching it all unfold on its own during the movie was just a fantastic experience.
So, of course, I’m in a LEGO sort of mood.
I have been playing with LEGOs for as long as I can remember. I used to own a ton of them when I was a child, and could usually count on my grandmother to get me a few more sets for my birthday or Christmas. I don’t think I ever owned any of the really huge sets, but I had vehicles, and mini-figs and more loose pieces than you could shake a foot at! And my love for LEGO never went away. I still buy the occasional set now that I’m all grown up, just for the fun of putting it together and then adding it to my Geek Wall for display.
But back in the day, I was hooked on LEGOs. Let’s take a trip down memory lane to some of my favorite sets and themes. And please feel free to share some of your own memories in the comments!
Debuting in 1997, the year I entered high school, UFO was the next step in the space line. Usually populated by humans in colorful spaceman costumes, UFO introduced freaky aliens and their even freakier flying craft. LEGO was big on transparent neon pieces at the time, making it look like the alien spaceships were glowing. I think I had this sweet flying saucer playset, and all of the alien mini-figs came with some really cool new shoulder pads and monstrously wicked helmets. LEGO had yet to really push the boundaries of insane mini-figs, but they were clearly getting started with UFO. This was one of the last themes I kept track of before getting all adult. I don’t know why I ever stopped.
5. Castle, with dragons
The medieval knights, heroic kings and Robin Hood-esque archer outlaws of the Castle theme were a staple of LEGOs back in the 1980s. I never got to own any of the giant LEGO castles, but I really liked this theme – especially in 1993, when they introduced dragons! I loved it when LEGO got creative with the characters, and I was a big fan of their wizards, skeletons and other specialty pieces. The dragons were the most badass thing LEGO had come out with at the time. The dragons, as you can see, were these big, single-piece LEGOs with flapping wings and jaws, and there was a whole new Dragon Knight set of characters introduced to deal with them. Little Sean was in love.
4. Time Cruisers
What better way to combine all of their various historical themes than with time travel? For a brief period in 1996, LEGO came out with the Time Cruisers, which was basically a rip-off of Back to the Future. But what isn’t? There was also a villainous team of time travelers, and both groups drove weird, cobbled together vehicles that were just kind of adorable. I had that time machine car, and the adorable, Marty McFly-esque ragamuffin mini-fig that came with it re-ignited my passion for LEGOs at the time. It was just a really fun concept.
3. Ice Planet
I owe it all to the Deep Freeze Defender, pictured above. That was the biggest LEGO spaceship my brother and I had ever received, and in 1993, that thing was a beast! The best part was that it separated into smaller ships! And it could function as a base for the cool new Ice Planet characters. Before then, most space themed characters were kind of generic; red spaceman, blue spaceman, black spaceman, etc. But Ice Planet introduced a new, specific theme, and it was a cool one at that. Pun intended. The Ice Planet guys had arctic gear, and glowing orange skis. Because, again, in LEGOs mind: neon=space.
I was obsessed with the Wolfpack when I was a kid. So much so that when my 3rd grade art class had to design a personal Coat of Arms, I just drew the Wolfpack shield. And it should be obviously clear why I liked them so much: the Wolfpack were the badass rebel outlaws of the Castle theme! Normally, there were the knights in the castles and the Robin Hood figures in their tree fortresses. Then along came the Wolfpack in 1992, the obvious brigands and bad guys, but I never seemed to realize that as a kid. I just saw awesome guys dressed in black and brown who lived in the woods and followed the call of the wolf! They were my heroes!
When LEGO introduced an entirely new franchise in 1995, they decided to go under the sea. But unlike Sealab 2021, this was a bit more competent. The Aquanauts were everything you could want in a badass, undersea research team. They had cool submarines, an awesome base and even cooler equipment. LEGO invented some great new diving gear for the mini-figs to wear, and they really started experimenting with new faces and more detail in the bodies. There were just a lot of great designs to the Aquanauts (and their enemies, the Aquasharks). And that’s what made classic LEGO themes so good: they had some brilliant designers. These weren’t generic ‘knight’, ‘cowboy’ or ‘spaceman’ toys. All these LEGO themes had such wonderful personality. And that’s what kids toys need to really stand out.