Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Dinosaurs in LEGO: From Adventurers to Jurassic World

The trailer has proudly told us that this Summer, the park is open. And what self-respecting theme park would not have a slew of merchandise to go along with it? At New York Toy Fair, the LEGO range for Jurassic World was revealed. It’s not the first time that LEGO have held the licence for this movie series, nor the first time that men and dinosaurs have co-existed in brick built form.

The Adventurers took to a mysterious dinosaur land-that-time-forgot in 2000, with Johnny Thunder and friends looking to free captured dinosaurs from the villains. These were simple, moulded dinosaurs with a maximum of two colours. Whilst they wouldn’t match the expectations of today’s LEGO consumer, for those of a certain LEGO era these have a certain classic LEGO charm like the classic shark or dragon. These dinosaurs don’t look real, but they look like they belong in a world of bricks and studs.

In 2001, Jurassic Park III was part of the LEGO Studios line – bizarrely, only two sets were released for the movie, despite other dinosaur related sets being part of the theme. They were only loosely related to the source material, with Johnny Thunder taking the lead role instead of Sam Neil. With the film itself being so forgettable it’s forgivable that LEGO didn’t do more. The Raptors were brick built with specially moulded heads and tails, whereas the Spinosaurus was moulded (and unusually for the time, decorated).

Elsewhere the same year, the Dinosaurs theme featured no minifigures. The baby dinosaurs used the same construction as the Jurassic Park III Raptors - predominantly brick built with a few special pieces like heads and tails. Bizarrely it was the larger dinosaurs that featured more moulded parts and less traditional bricks. The packaging was different to the usual boxes, and this theme represents an interesting crossover of brick built and moulded dinosaurs.

Dino 2010 (or Dino Attack in the USA) was a bizarre theme set in some kind of mutated dinosaur ravaged dystopian future. This theme showed LEGO attempting to pander to different sensibilities around the world, seeing those in the USA comfortable with children playing with violent toys whereas apparently parents in Europe would need the brutality toned down somewhat. These dinosaurs were moulded, and very stylised – which gave the theme a distinct look. The theme had a dark tone, and it is not surprising that with dinosaur toys aimed at younger children subsequent dino themes have had a lighter touch.

Most recently was the Dino theme in 2010, which took a much brighter, yellower approach than Dino 2010. It seemed the theme most directly influence by Jurassic Park, in terms of the moulded dinosaur designs. Unsurprisingly, many of the dinosaurs in the new Jurassic World look to be the same moulds as they were in Dino, or at least based on those moulds. Although many would prefer more building to be involved in the dinosaurs, Dino had them looking in line with expectations (unlike the more artistic approach of Dino 2010) and decorated to modern standards (unlike the more simplistic releases in Adventurers). Like the Pirates of the Caribbean line coming shortly after Pirates, LEGO have almost had a dry run at the Jurassic World line with Dino.

So that’s a quick run-down of the dinosaur related themes so far. In a few months time, the six new Jurassic World sets will be released. Now let’s all get our hoping hats on that LEGO have a big, expensive, exclusive store exclusive monorail set like we saw in that trailer (even though they teased us by having one appear in The LEGO Movie). Hey, if we can suspend disbelief that dinosaurs might be part of a theme park, fanboys can suspend disbelief and believe we might get a monorail again somehow? 

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