Castle, Pirates, Wild West, Adventurers. These are classic themes based upon various time periods of human history and all have been redone in fairly recent years. But now it looks like they themselves have become history.
The last true 'historical theme' was Pirates back in 2015. The latest Pirates of the Caribbean film provided FOLs with just one set, which was no use for a reasonably realistic 'pirate era' display.
Nexo Knights appeared to have stolen the rightful place of a realistic (or semi realistic) castle/kingdoms/medieval theme but now that has finally become extinct, where have the historical themes gone?
I want to start a discussion on what the future of these great themes is, any rumors for upcoming historical themes, or eras of history we would like to see Lego do.
I personally would love to see more of all the traditional themes but perhaps one from the 20th century, such as a City/Creator-like Prohibition era one or retro 1950s etc.
And affordability is definitely not a factor. Years ago, LEGO made their money on buckets of bricks. I think there were 15 different buckets on the shelves. Now they're squished in the back corner at the Retail Stores.
The City and Friends themes will live on for forever because kids like to emulate what they see out in the world. I also get the sense that the most recent round of Pirates did not sell well.
I also agree that the current social environment probably precludes featuring a stereotype-y historical theme. I'm sure LEGO could get all sorts of endorsements from Native Americans if the sets and figures from a Western Era theme were historically accurate, but fundamentally, that's romanticizing the systematic oppression and subjugation of a human population. It's just not worth the hassle. (Remember - LEGO severed their public relationship with Shell. LEGO is made from a petroleum product.)
The best you're going to see is a movie-themed product line set in that era. I suppose I'm fine with that - from a toy collecting perspective. Or the occassional figure in the CMF series.
Roman Empire. Just think of all the army building, ballistas, barbarian hordes, colosseum, gladiators, wild animals, creator expert buildings.
Then there are other civilisations of the same era: Greeks, Phoenicians, Persians, Egyptians.
All the different boats there could be.
I would also also love non European civs: mayans, incans, Chinese, japanese, Indian, middle eastern. Lots of potential for building g a boats even if only a few sets from each theme
ninjago scratches some of the oriental theme itch, but there is basically nothing else non European.
In reality I think we will see only token historical sets and probably tied to a licence. There is just not the interest there with kids.
Pirates are firmly pushed at pre school, and Lego has been devoid of ideas from the first wave with just reshashes of the same few sets. With fewer sets each time.
Castle themes just seems to not be of interest to most kids now. ‘Cowboys and indians’ is deeply out of favour. While that time is fascinating and are lots of potential sets, the framing of it needs to be done correctly. I would love to see an exploration of the native people and accurate and detailed prints for the different Native American tribes.
I remember being intrigued with the forest men sets. I think I got a small hideout one. But again is it too niche now, and better a part of a Castle sub theme.
Even the city sets seem to devolve in to cops and robbers and exploration vehicles. There is very little city: houses, shops, regular things.
In general there here is far more to capture children’s attention now than in the 80s and early 90s. So only the guaranteed big sellers will be done. I.e what we see in city now and licenced themes.
End of old man rant....
I push back on PC as much as possible for silly things, but in that instance, the name is based on ignorant explorers not knowing where they were, and it became a pejorative term to describe a race of humans. And it causes confusion, because there is an entirely different group of humans that are identified with the same word.
Flip-side example - I have no idea when 'Oriental' became an offensive word to describe objects and things from Eastern Asia. Still baffles me, and I think it is ridiculous. I'm going to be real confused when 'Mediteranean' goes down the same path.
I think licensing is going to be where it's at for the foreseeable future - but TLG will probably be very cautious about that. I gather the Lone Ranger sets didn't do terribly well, for instance. In hindsight, we were lucky that Indiana Jones came along to continue Adventurers-type sets. I'd love something else with a middle eastern setting, since I wasn't buying Lego when Prince of Persia happened...
Scooby-Doo, PotC, Angry Birds, etc... all seem to fit that production model.
I will say that LEGO is very crafty about addressing multiple markets at the same time with one product. Atlantis certainly addressed an AFOL niche, but also was an interesting theme for kids. And historically innocuous, so as not to alert the PC crowd. Frankly, I'd rather LEGO be overly-cautious, than be accused of having xenophobic or racist product.
Neutral, neutral, neutral!
From a certain point of view.
I think they will do a more traditional or fantasy based castle line again soon. And I imagine adults will complain it is not what they want, just like last time.
The good thing about fantasy castle or pirate lines is that they aren't morally specific because they don't have to be anchored in reality. What's going on the narrative of the theme doesn't really echo real life or our perception of real life. It's a more idealistic view. I wouldn't initially see anything particularly wrong with going back to a Western theme where the colonists are very obviously depicted as the villains and Indigenous American peoples such as the Sioux are the heroes. This was even the direction the Lone Ranger was leaning towards, but barely anyone watched it and it wasn't executed well. Of course, there might not be a market in it anymore though, and the wider impact of that point in history is much better understood and respected, so there's very little incentive to grow a successful theme.
We live in times when many people seem to overly scrutinise history, to the point that even someone perceived as an established hero must always have a dirty secret or hidden flaws that muddy the waters and mean you shouldn't fully celebrate them or support what they did. Therein lies the issue with more realistic historical themes (and seemingly life in general) - you are always going to insult someone no matter whose side you take. Go fantasy, and to a degree you can pretty much do what you like.
I certainly wouldn't mind another fantasy castle theme, or (although it isn't historic) another original space theme. If TLG didn't keep some of their evergreen themes going, then many of the key evergreen branches on the Tree of Creativity will just be memorials rather than pillars of the brand.
If someone who reads fairly regularly has to search for them then there is no benefit to LEGO doing a licenced theme around it when they could easily do an in house theme that has a Pirates meets Dragons setting but doesn't require them to pay an IP owner.
I always found it interesting that a few of the early Potter sets seemed to use the books as inspiration, but I think that was more down to lack of detail to work from for the films early on. Otherwise I don't think LEGO really use books as source material, only films. The move to Gaming IPs is new too, but I feel like that's pretty much just off the back of Dimensions.
As for historical themes in general, I remember reading some comments by Mark Stafford defending the Nexo Knights theme as a successor to the castle theme by saying that LEGOs Market research generally showed that the typical age of those interested in typical castle and pirates themes tended to be younger children - so they are more likely to continue as part of the Juniors line than be revived as full themes.
I like historical themes and feel like there is some room for them, but realise that not being LEGO's key demographic makes my opinion moot.
I have enjoyed Elves as a theme for scratching the fantasy theme itch, but basically think that if you want castles, pirate ships or western style builds I thibk you really just have to bank on licenced themes from now on.
I remember large parts of history lessons at school focusing on the ancient Romans, Greeks and Egyptians so that probably affects my bias and I don't know if that still holds true, and might make the idea less viable when considering sales potential.
I disagree on how quickly a culture can change, I was a child of the 90s and I outgrew pirates/knights type play very young in favour of more sci-fi and real world play. I think a lot of this is to do with wider media too. Pokemon was the big fad of my childhood, I'd consider that sci-fi fantasy (monsters captured and trained with the aid of technology) that is set in a world that feels similar to the real world time.
Also in my childhood the Star Wars prequels were a big deal, again Sci-fi fantasy, this time more on the sci-fi side. I'd say from the age of about 6, had I been given a toy sword I'd have probably imagined it as a lightsabre during play. It's easy to look at other toys available and think "kids still like this stuff" but the comparison is not always so simple in the real world. Kids might attend pirate themed parties, and play with cutlasses etc, but it doesn't mean they are playing pirates in the same way as a child 30 years ago.
Funnily enough though AC is also part sci-fi, the idea is that people in the future are able to access people ancestor's memories by putting them into a kind of virtual reality.
Sorry if I'm coming off at all as argumentative - I like history/fantasy themes, but I'm a realist and the evidence to me points to expecting little from LEGO but licenced themes and the odd historical CMF.
I still search in my parents house, from time to time, for the #6085 from my childhood so I can do exactly that.
Like @Shib I'm a realist and I doubt there'll be any return to the 'standard' historical stuff. Same goes for Classic Space, and I was hopeful about TLM2, but not seen anything to give me hope so far... but that's OT for this thread.
I doubt there'll be a Western theme again because that period of expansion in the US is now correctly recognized as a war of expansion. It's not any different than any other war. Thus, LEGO ought to avoid that as a theme.
I wouldn't expect a Spanish Conquistador theme, Alexander the Great theme or Communist Expansion theme. No UCS Berlin Wall or Sandinstas vs. Contras action playsets. Those are the heavier things LEGO will avoid.
Particularly, more recent world events. I think the Egyptians, Greeks and Romans are probably safe. Medieval Japan, Ancient China and early India are also probably safe. Anything outside of 'It's a Small World' is probably over LEGO's comfort line.
The Sopwith Camel is the one set that always comes up when debate about the modern warfare definition applies. It was a WW1 military plane, and the fact it was specifically military is what makes it a bit of a dodgy one for LEGO's no modern warfare line.
I wish LEGO could see a way clear to do some aircraft based on their place in the history of aviation and technology, despite their military uses. I still want a LEGO SR-71 soooo bad.
The kids in the various visitors centers loved all that stuff too. Mostly the Centurions and sword fighting, of course ;)
I'm picturing cool brickbuilt creatures and a deep dive into South American mythology. Mysterious water people, winged serpents, vampires, elemental or animal based good guys. The mythologies are very rich.
Sounds like Ninjago, but that type of theme seems to sell, and I could repurpose the temples/structures for more realism.
Admittedly, I think it is stupid. But in an age where profits can be impacted by such things - they'll steer clear of all of it. I hate to belabor Shell, but I still can't fathom a plastic toy company shunning a petroleum producer.
(I'll keep my comments to myself about what I think of those that protest such things.)
I'm really interested to see what we can learn from leaks that come in regarding next January, because surely there will be at least one of: new Big Bang theme, castle, pirates. I'm going to exclude Space because it may be unlikely in the wake of Lego Movie 2, or at all unless it takes a left field direction like Alien Conquest.
On the other hand, there has been a sudden spike in kids' interest in mythology over the past few years, so there's certainly potential there. I know kids and adults alike that would jump at the opportunity to get an Olympus throne room or a real Thor with his chariot. There's always Rick Riordan's books if a license tie-in is necessary to generate further sales, but again, there's not much visual content to take from those as only two of his books have seen (equally unsuccessful) film adaptions so far.
Finally, I'd like to see sets not necessarily based on Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples themselves, but instead on Dreaming lore. It's essentially Australian mythology and focuses less on actual gods and more on supernaturally powerful figures that don't actually have total control over the material plane. It's never going to happen, though. It's obvious that Lego hate Australia too much!
Honestly I find Lego to be highly hypocritical at times with some of their stances. Sumo called out one of the biggest - a company dependent on petroleum to make the vast majority of its product severing ties to a petroleum company because they extract that evil, nasty petroleum from mother Earth.
Their stance on warfare is also ridiculous. They'll make historical soldiers and futuristic movie soldiers (with guns and everything), but they won't produce a "modern" soldier. A soldier is a soldier. Their job hasn't changed over the centuries and it won't change much in the future. They kill and destroy the "enemy" so their side wins. The only differences are the tools that they use. So in Lego's eyes, a sword, which is used to slice off body parts and/or run people through is good to go, but an AK-47 isn't. Of course, they haven't even been consistent with this stance because they have produced a couple of WW1 era warplanes as well as at least one CMF that could be considered to be a modern soldier (Royal Guard). I guess the green army men from the Toy Story line don't count as modern soldiers in Lego's eyes?
And now we deal with the hypersensitive PC crowd who (in my opinion) walk around all day looking for things to be offended by. I get that Lego is a business and that they must cater to the current whims, but there are so many historical themes that they could do that they can't, because some group here or there will get offended. I would love it if they did revisit the old west, but that's likely to never happen again. I would love it if they revisited Explorers, but historically the explorers were followed by the conquerors, and even though humans have been conquering for thousands of years, we must frown upon that kind of thing now. Maybe I'm just too cross with the world or don't understand adulting as well as I had thought I did...
I'm a Trains/City guy for the most part, but I would like some historical stuff too. I hope that Lego can find room for more of that in their product lines.