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Licensed Themes vs Original Themes

Scruffy193Scruffy193 Member Posts: 7
edited June 2012 in Collecting
I'm a LEGO fan, have been for 13 years of my 19, but I have recently realised that of my entire collection, 98% of it is licensed rather than original. I've been trying to figure out why that is; what I realised is that whilst I love LEGO, I'm also a pop culture enthusiast, and having the two combined is even better.
Having Darth Vader, or Indiana Jones, or even Captain Jack Sparrow in LEGO means that I can indulge in my collecting in a way that's relevant to me and to friends and the like who have never touched a brick in their life. That's not to say that City, Castle, Space, the Western sets, Alien Conquest or the rest aren't amazing, but I love the uh, well, "external relevancy" of the licensed themes, that I can share with people beyond AFOLS. Younger nephews, nieces and friends of family might not recognise Johnny Thunder, but they'll always be happy to see Batman or Han Solo in minifig form. What do you think?

Comments

  • BustinBustin Member Posts: 286
    From a business stand point it goes both ways. Lego original themes make more in house profit per set because they aren't paying out licenses, but licensed sets sell more because of the popularity of the license at the given time.

    My son and I enjoyed Alien Conquest more than any of the most recent Lego themes, original or licensed. Coming in second for my son would be Ninjago. I'm not a big fan of ninja's and vehicles, but he is.
  • Scruffy193Scruffy193 Member Posts: 7
    There's certainly a timelessness to the original themes, there's no denying... part of the downside of pop culture is that the sets are tied closely to the films they're inspired by.
  • davee123davee123 USAMember Posts: 832
    Younger nephews, nieces and friends of family might not recognise Johnny Thunder, but they'll always be happy to see Batman or Han Solo in minifig form. What do you think?
    I would say that it depends on the license in question. In 10 years, probably no kids will recognize the Prince Of Persia figures, or Speed Racer. But I'll bet Batman WILL still be recognizable to kids in 10 years.

    By contrast, however, kids in 10 years will be pretty equally familiar with "Johnny Thunder" as they were in 1998, when the character was introduced. They won't recognize him by name, but he's got sufficient stereotypical characteristics that he still looks like some smarmy hero-figure who goes out exploring.

    Basically, the more stereotypical characters will be essentially timeless, since those stereotypes aren't likely to change quickly. Less stereotypical-looking characters, like "Luke Skywalker" or "King Theoden" or "Irina Spalko" won't be timeless or recognizable as soon as the licensed media stops becoming publicized.

    DaveE
  • Steve_J_OMSteve_J_OM IrelandMember Posts: 987
    I echo the sentiments of the OP. My collection is dominated by licensed themes too, because TLG have gotten licenses for so many pop culture icons that I love outside of LEGO: Batman, Indiana Jones, Harry Potter, among others. I love having iconic figures represented in minifigure form; it's like combining two passions.

    Though in saying that, when I bought the Winter Village sets last Christmas, they were the first original theme builds I had done in a while and it felt...liberating! It was a real throw-back to my youth when you were surrounded by nothing but simple, yellow smiley faces. It was quite nostalgic.
  • BoiseStateBoiseState Member Posts: 804
    Same here.. Other than the Monster Fighters, all my stuff is licensed.
  • TheBigLegoskiTheBigLegoski Amsterdam, NederlandMember Posts: 1,435
    Funny!
    For me it is quite the opposite. Apart from 5 out of the 6 Prince of Persia sets, and only just recently a bunch of Superheroes sets all my Lego sets are 'Old skool' id est part of original non licensed themes.
  • Scruffy193Scruffy193 Member Posts: 7
    I am quite a huge fan of Pharaoh's Quest, much like I was with the LEGO Adventurers range when I was a kid. There's no denying that the original themes are strong, simple concepts.
  • BumblepantsBumblepants DFW/BGMember Posts: 7,298
    I have recently been trying to decide whether to jump into Lord of the Rings or not and after a couple of weeks of thinking it over I decided to stick with regular Castle/Kingdoms. Most of what I collect is Star Wars and Superheros etc and I decided I needed some original themes to give more balance and interest and keep some yellow faced figs around so I just plunked down the $$ to get a MMV.
  • SparkyHamSparkyHam Bristol, UKMember Posts: 141
    I love Licensed themes, but I still prefer the Original ones. Reason being, I feel a lot more creative and free when 'expanding a city' than I do collecting licensed sets to 'complete' a story that has already been told on film.

    My work-around is to use Licensed sets to enhance my Original creations. E.g, have a Star Wars museum in the middle of my city; or Superheroes running amok my city streets.

    This also protects my wallet a bit, as it limits how many licensed sets I feel I need to buy!
  • devilheaddevilhead Member Posts: 282
    Growing up on classic Town, Space, and Castle sets promotes an affinty toward original themes. To me, that is what LEGO is all about. That being said, I do have a few Star Wars sets and will be collecting the Lord of The Ring series.
  • Lego_Lord_MayorcaLego_Lord_Mayorca H-Town, USAMember Posts: 609
    For the longest time, there was only one license for me, and it was "Star Wars". Every year since 2001 has been a battle for my money and attention between licensed themes (represented by Star Wars) and original themes (represented primarily by BIONICLE). With the end of BIONICLE, my collection tendencies were in flux, for even though BIONICLE was gone, new original themes caught my eye like the third iteration of Space Police and Alien Conquest. Unfortunately now, that flux is giving way not to Star Wars, but to licensed themes in general. My growing affinity for the Marvel movies since 2008 translated to an instant-buy of the new Quinjet Aerial Attack. And I've loved "The Lord of Rings" since my elementary school days, so this new line was also an instant-buy. So now Star Wars has company, but Lego is not offering me anything particularly ground-breaking in the original themes department anymore.

    I do not feel bad about that. Things have changed, and now, this is what I collect. Since my earliest childhood, I always collected sets that I judged to be the "best" in terms of looks, part variety, and playability. With so many licenses now, it is just a numbers game; of course most of my sets will be from licensed themes.
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    Interesting how you feel about the external relevancy thing. The way I see it, the original themes are based in pop culture in a similar way the licensed themes are based in pop culture, just not directly. Johnny Thunder and Indiana Jones are the same cultural reference, it's just that Indiana Jones is the archetype for that reference. We all recognize these similarities, and the marketing team does too. That's why Pirates was pulled when PoTC was out. That's why I would bet we won't see too much Castle when LoTR is out. It's like drugs: many people will buy the brand name over the generic despite the fact it is the same exact substance. So really what explains the preference for licensed versus original themes better is your particular affinity for brands. In the OP case, the brand recognition is what makes licensed sets more appealing. You've got a prepackaged narrative and identity. That doesn't mean original themes are less (pop) culturally relevant.
  • CCCCCC UKMember Posts: 20,317

    By contrast, however, kids in 10 years will be pretty equally familiar with "Johnny Thunder" as they were in 1998, when the character was introduced. They won't recognize him by name, but he's got sufficient stereotypical characteristics that he still looks like some smarmy hero-figure who goes out exploring.

    Basically, the more stereotypical characters will be essentially timeless, since those stereotypes aren't likely to change quickly. Less stereotypical-looking characters, like "Luke Skywalker" or "King Theoden" or "Irina Spalko" won't be timeless or recognizable as soon as the licensed media stops becoming publicized.
    So is Indiana Jones a stereotypical figure? If forgotten he will just be an adventurer, the same as Johnny Thunder and Jake Raines. Remove the hat and whip, he is just a fairly anonymous man. King Theoden will still be a warrior king, unless you remove all his accessories. Luke Skywalker and the rest of Star Wars? I'm not so sure they will ever be forgotten if the licensed media stops becoming publicised, since they have become part of culture. If you see a man in green with a quiver of arrows on his back, you immediately think of Robin Hood. Same thing really with Indy, the hat and a whip. Stick a light saber in the hand of someone wearing white robes, you have Luke. I think recognition is just as much down to accessories as to the character.
  • cheshirecatcheshirecat Member Posts: 5,332
    From a play point of view I think the non-licensed sets are infinitely better. Unimpeded by the constraints of a film set the lego designers really maximise the playability of the models, the creativeness and sometimes wackiness (sometimes good, sometimes not). I just find that so often space ships, locations etc designed primarily for aesthetic in a film really lack playability and the little features that make some of the old classic sets so much fun. In addition the pieces that go into them are often much harder to reuse.

    In particular some of the small or even medium classic space and futuron sets had little sub-vehicles that were awesome to play with. Or a little truck that did little more than carry an even smaller hover/flying chair. These were great to play with but would never appear in a multi-million $ film.

    Don't get me wrong, I love my X-Wing. Its iconic, beautiful. It swooshes wonderfully. But really, there's not that much you can do with it compared to many of the old lego space ships.
  • mathewmathew Member Posts: 2,098
    I agree that the non-licensed sets tend to be more out of the box and better creatively. That's my main gripe with the Star Wars theme: Outside of the ships, the actual sets are pretty plain-jane. I'm amazed people are excited about the new Jabba's Palace set. At $120 it looks pretty lame. What is Jabba's Palace good for without the Rancor?

    I think if Lego could somehow work out deals on the licenses to develop non-canon sets it would be great. I think Lego could come up with some great Indiana Jones based sets that wouldn't rely on the movies.
  • brickmaticbrickmatic Member Posts: 1,071
    ^ That might hurt sales of licensed sets if a chunk of the buyers are buying specifically to recreate iconic scenes. People who want non-cannon adventures for their branded characters can still buy the cannon sets and then MOC them. People who don't care about the branding have non-licensed sets as options.
  • BrickarmorBrickarmor USAMember Posts: 1,258
    @cheshirecat nailed it. My sentiments exactly. However, I reject no Legos. I care nothing for SW, LotR, or any licenced theme frankly, but I'd love to build any of the sets. But it's the same with the modulars: I'm not too interested in building and displaying an entire city street, but the desire to build them (even just once!) is burning. Probably the biggest set I'll buy this year for personal use will be the Vampire Castle.

    All that being said, my 6year old now has the entire Atlantis movie memorized and reprimands me for the least departure from the script...
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