Thursday, April 19, 2012

Missed opportunity, Hobbit legs

In my last couple of posts I looked at what might have been in terms of official sets. One other missed opportunity I see lies in the figs. Yes, there are many characters missing, but we may yet see Saruman, Eowyn, Arwen, Elrond or others in future sets (I'm certain we'll at the very least see an Eowyn vs the Witch King set in the presumed upcoming Return of the King wave). That said, my biggest disappointment with this line is that we did not get articulated short legs. This license was the most obvious argument for LEGO to create a new leg element, given the prominence of hobbits and dwarves (especially when you consider that the Hobbit movies will have almost exclusively short-legged main characters aside from Gandalf). Official licenses have long been the impetus for LEGO to come up with new molds. For example, look at all of the molded heads in the Star Wars line. This is especially surprising given that LEGO has come up with one-time-use leg elements for other things, like the Genie in the Collectible Fig line, where articulated short legs would be generally useful for children across all themes, Gringotts Goblins or House Elves if they did additional Harry Potter sets, dwarves in non-license sets (see the Collectible Figs and the Fantasy Era Castle line), etc.

Short legs have been a long dilemma when making Tolkien themed MOCs. Back before 2002, we had to come up with our own options. I've seen people use something as simple as a 1x2 brick, as in this by exo-pilot, but that's pretty unsatisfactory.

When I started my own Tolkien project, I chose to use headlight bricks, because I liked how the little projection at the bottom suggested toes, but of course these have holes in the kneecaps.

I also briefly tried using 1x2 hinges, since these would allow for some articulation (see the hobbit in grey seated by the fire).

Using plates can give you some color variation, as here by jj481012.

Even with taller figs, getting good seated poses is tough, and even more so with shorter legs. Here Ru Corder made a great seated hobbit

Ever since 2002, though, the default has been to use the shorter legs that AFOLs call stubbies. Interesting to note, these were first introduced based on licenses, as the first figs to employ them were the Gringotts Goblins and Dobby from Harry Potter, and the young Boba Fett and Ewoks from Star Wars (they were then also included in a train set that year for a child, but my recollection is that that one came out later as a Christmas set).

These legs are fine as far as they go, but they don't bend. Also, at first they were only available in a few colors, and the color palette is still much more limited than the normal legs. Some have built articulated short legs, like this by MrTS ...

... and this by Shadow Viking.

By far the best solution has been by MooseBot. I can't find the photo of how he did this, but he took a pair of long legs and carefully cut them just below the rounded part at the bottom of the waist. Then the really clever part is that those 1x1 plates for feet are stuck into the holes that are normally on a fig's rear end. You could imagine doing this with different color plates for shoes, or even the "tooth plate" for pointed shoes.

Anyway, I really think LEGO missed an opportunity here. If they're going to make special molds for single usages, like the longer legs used for Woody and Jessie in the Toy Story sets (and never used again, though you could imagine them for giants or basketball players) (and that raises the special spring-loaded legs for those basketball sets, though at least they made a bunch of those), why not the much more useful short legs, that would be used for tons of characters in the Tolkien license, also for other licenses, and just in general for children? MooseBot's design shows that this could be done fairly easily and still look very much like LEGO's normal aesthetic.

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