Star Wars. Without doubt one of the largest film franchises ever to exist. With films spanning nearly 40 years of pop culture, the now iconic movies have served as the defining chapters in cinema’s visual effects, scores and overall awesomeness. And back in 1999, a little toy company known as Lego decided to step forward and make a desperate grab for the license of Star Wars in order to make build-able toys based off of the films. Little did people know that this would turn the Lego company around from near bankruptcy to, literally, the largest brand in the world (seriously, google it, I’m not exaggerating).
Back before the turn of the century, Lego was on death’s door ; the products produced were not being sold for as much as they cost to make, and this continued well into 2003. However, back in 1999, LucasFilm agreed to give Lego the license to allow them to produce sets based off of the then soon-to-be released Phantom Menace movie, along with some kits being based off of the classic films.This was the first time that licensed themes had become a huge part of Lego’s line of products. The deal then was that these sets would be discontinued after 2007, meaning that no Clone Wars, Rebels, Sequel Trilogy or re-made older sets would ever of been produced if this was to of been the case. With many themes failing left right and center (I’m looking at you Galidor), Lego were hanging on by the skin of their teeth, and only just managed to scrape by with the popularity of their own self-made brand, Bionicle, and these new Star Wars kits, consisting of sets like the Naboo Fighter, X-Wing Fighter, Land-speeder and Gungan Sub (Which was the second set we ever reviewed).
New designers were also starting to get hired. The designers who were good at creating products but knew next to nothing about Lego’s history were fired, and the Die-hard Lego enthusiasts with a little less experience stepped in. They were keen to make sure that themes such as Star Wars didn’t do what Galidor did ; they made sure they kept the “Lego feel” , with the classic bricks being built in with only a few new molds.
This meant that the Lego Star Wars theme became a rapid and huge success, just about keep Lego’s head above the water line. After scraping by for a few more years, and with many more set opportunities being created by all the vehicles seen in the Star Wars universe, Lego then decided to use this new name in a different style – a Video Game, previously unheard of from the company. The 2005 Lego Star Wars : The Video Game was an instant hit what with the conclusion of the Prequels coming out that year, and is still a classic today. Oddly enough, the game came out on March 29th whereas the film was released on May 7th, meaning those who got the game before that date received a good few spoilers about the film (Likely why the game was comically inaccurate, a trend that continues today). This was then followed by a game focusing on the original Trilogy the next year.
After realizing the huge success that this theme had spawned, the licensed was then renewed to 2011. The theme was now a household name for the company, with a huge amount of molds exclusive to the line and sets of all sizes from Battle Packs to UCS sets.
And low and behold, the Clone Wars was upon us. In 2008, the now fan-favorite TV Series and animated movie was released, spawning yet another sub-theme for the line and eventually the 3rd Video game in the series.
We all know what happens from there. The license was then renewed to 2022 in February of 2012, and the rest is history.
Over the last 16 years, Lego Star Wars, as a theme, has truly become a symbol for lego, and has been its most successful licensed line ever since it’s conception. This is the theme that got me into Lego, and I have more Star Wars themed sets than any other. It truly is a theme that I and many millions of others adore, as it is the theme I have the most history with (Fun fact : Lego Star Wars is the same age as me with only a few months differnce, as it began in summer 1999, when I was born).
As such, I hope for another 16 years of Lego Star Wars, and a happy May the 4th to all!