Monday, 15 June 2015

What Does LEGO Wall•E Tell us About LEGO Ideas?

Images have now surfaced of one of the most exciting licensed LEGO sets of the year, Wall•E (21303). Wall•E was submitted through LEGO Ideas by Angus MacLane, hit the threshold and is now heading for stores just in time for Christmas. The set looks good and will no doubt prove popular among fans of the movie. So does this suggest any precedents for what future Ideas projects may get accepted?

When projects hit 10,000 supporters they become eligible for review. Licensed sets such as Ghostbusters, Back to the Future and the Big Bang Theory have successfully reached the threshold and then passed the review stage. Ideas provides LEGO with a way to find out which licenses may be of interest to fans, that they may not ordinarily consider. In different cases, different things work in a project’s favour. The Big Bang Theory is currently one of the world’s most watched comedies and has a geek appeal with an audience that will likely cross over with AFOLs and soft AFOLs. Back to the Future had nostalgia appeal and was also probably a very cheap license to pick up.

Projects under review that relate to an existing LEGO license, however, tend to get rejected. The various Star Wars projects that have reached review stage have all been rejected. On one level, this makes sense. The design team working on a specific theme, such as Star Wars, already have next year planned – and in all likelihood have ideas for the following few years too. Not only that, but the licensor will also have some say in what the upcoming plans are. With Star Wars having both a large standard retail range plus regular exclusives and adult targeted sets, all of the markets are catered for already.

But the LEGO Lightsabers project from scott34567 was very distinctive to what LEGO put out relating to Star Wars. It wasn’t even minifigure scale. Yet it was rejected. So when Wall•E made it to the review stage, hopes were not high that he would pass. Yet thankfully, one of the most lovable Pixar characters is coming to LEGO life. Some fans mistakenly thought that LEGO would have to seek out the license to produce the set, but as they have a broad license with Disney there would not have to be a new negotiation.

So Wall•E was a project that managed to get made despite LEGO already having a game plan for their Disney range, currently focusing on Disney Princess (and Marvel, although that licence is held separately). This is actually more of what fans might have expected, that having an existing license actually made a project’s likelihood of success greater, not smaller. 

But Wall•E has other factors in its favour. Ideas sets seem to have more adult fan crossover than regular sets, with Back to the Future and Ghostbuster undeniably having more nostalgia appeal than kid appeal. Wall•E is loved by adults as much as children thanks to what a well-crafted movie it is. It also lends to the one-off set model that LEGO Ideas favours, as beyond the title character it would be hard to present a compelling LEGO play theme. 

So once again, LEGO Ideas has shown that there is no point trying to look too deeply for any pattern to what passes review. Existing license, new license or no license, LEGO will do what LEGO will do. Hopefully awesome projects like Wall•E will keep making the cut!

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