It’s an exciting time for Star Wars fans and an especially exciting day for LEGO fans. If you’re reading this, odds are you’re both.
Onlookers have just gotten their first real look at the long, long awaited LEGO Star Wars: The Skywalker Saga, the upcoming LEGO Star Wars game that aims to do what none have tried before and bridge all 9 main entries of the series into one enormous mini-kit hunter of a game.
But of course, there’s far more to this brand than just the games.
In perhaps what is the single greatest cross promotion of all time, two of the best intellectual properties have been striking gold for close to a quarter of a century. Here at Dork Side of the Force, let’s take a deep dive into the storied history of the cross-company, multimedia mega franchise that is LEGO Star Wars.
Building a whole galaxy… one brick at a time
In this first entry, we’ll be taking a look at the beginning of the sub-franchise as the original LEGO sets released in the summer (for you lucky northern-hemisphere folks) of 1999. Later on, we’ll take a more detailed look at the games and animated series.
The LEGO company is one of the masters of franchising. So much so that in 2020 it was deemed the most recognisable and trusted brand, not just in its own industry, but in the entire world. Surpassing Nike, Disney and Apple to attain that #1 spot. How do they top this? By doing it all over again the next year. Simply the best.
The turn of the century was a big time for the LEGO company. Success stories like Bionicle, Harry Potter and Racers help to further cement an already beloved brand into the modern age. None helped achieve this more so than the holy union of a highly sophisticated interlocking brick system and a galaxy far, far away.
The first line of sets were simple and largely kept to the standard LEGO fair with only a handful of original pieces. It’s worth remembering that this was in the midst of the enormous marketing push surrounding The Phantom Menace which was greatly anticipated after 16 years between Star Wars films.
Aside from the tie-ins to Episode I, there were some recognisable sets such as Luke’s Landspeeder and the classic X-Wing Fighter. Sold at a moderate price for the time, the remaining unopened boxes now go for hundreds of dollars apiece.
As the years rolled on, the sets increased in size, complexity and price. LEGO had succeeded in making itself a premium brand, with even the smaller sets going for as much as $40. Despite this, people were more than willing to fork out for the goods. No longer exclusively for children, some sets are now designed specifically for adult builders who can handle the larger, more detailed sets which boast thousands of pieces and construction times of hours or even days a piece.
Beyond what can be found on the shelf, the buying and collecting of mini-figures (the standard “LEGO men”), is a hobby unto itself. Oftentimes stores will be cleared of new products just so the mini-figures can be collected and resold at prices that sometimes exceed that of the whole set they originally came with.
The folks at LEGO have taken note of this and will now cater to these trends with great purpose. Characters already appearing in previous sets will be garbed in different “clothes” that lend a sense of newness to the purchase.
Going further still are the self-titled “master builders.” People who make LEGO sets at a professional level. This is the kind of stuff you’d see at pop culture expos. Far beyond what can manageably be sold in a toy store. These gargantuan custom builds are known to take up entire rooms and be made of up to tens of thousands of pieces…
The licence for the sub-brand was initially set to end in 2008. As you may have guessed, it was renewed due to the overwhelming success of the union. The Lego Group was able to extend the profitable deal with Lucasfilm until 2011, then again to 2016 and once more until 2022. With profits still high, its unlikely we’ve seen the end of this happy coupling.
23 years later, there are nearly 1000 sets in the series and hundreds of unique pieces found only in Star Wars products. Among the many notable toy brands in the world, LEGO Star Wars still holds a uniquely golden place right at the very peak.
Is it the longevity of the brand? The consistently high quality and continual creativity? Yes, absolutely. But beyond this, it taps into the very nature of play. Star Wars has perhaps the single richest world-building capacity of any franchise in history. So, the ability to literally do your own “world-building” brick by brick, creates a sense of fulfilment and control like no other. You can recreate your favourite scene just as it appeared on film, or envision an entirely new story in a galaxy of endless possibilities.
In a way, LEGO Star Wars is exactly what Star Wars is about. All it takes is the click of a brick.
Name your favourite LEGO Star Wars set in the comments below! For all things Star Wars, head on over to Dork Side of the Force!