Monday, May 21, 2012

Clone brand Lord of the Rings

Builders today may or may not be aware that the new LEGO Tolkien sets are not the first building block toys tied to the movie franchise. Back in 2001 when the first film opened, LEGO did not obtain a license. The official statement given by LEGO representatives (I believe Jake McKee addressed this at the BrickFest convention, for instance) was the the Lord of the Rings was too dark and grown up for the core LEGO audience. Instead, Playmates Toys released a series of six Intelliblox sets. As you can see, these were heavily reliant on large single-use pieces, and the figures were essentially action figures stuck to the top of a 2x4 brick.

One interesting aspect was that when you stick these figures into a sound element, you would hear movie lines specific to that character. Unfortunately, the sound element was only in the most expensive set. That seems pretty lame, IMO, given that we regularly get happy meal toys with sound elements, so its not like this is expensive technology. A few AFOLs did like the fact that these did have a fair amount of bricks for the price, and there were some specialized elements that some complemented, but AFOLs tend to be very brand-loyal and the opinion on various LEGO forums was generally negative. It's interesting to note that they seem to have planned additional sets that never saw the light of day, presumably telling us that these did not sell well. IMO this is probably because they sort of fell between the cracks, being not quite action figures and not quite building sets, so they didn't attract the interest of the action figure market (since there were already Tolkien action figures released in connection to the films) or the building set market, since these are so far from our normal LEGO aesthetic. It's also interesting to compare the choices for sets to the LEGO line. There is a fundamental difference in that the Intelliblox sets were based on the first movie, while the first run of the LEGO line goes through the second movie. The Intelliblox sets have a couple of the ones that I had suggested - the Prancing Pony and an encounter with the Nazgul (at the Ferry). They have a set comparable to the Orc Forge, but they include Saruman and Gandalf, so they are tying this directly to that confrontation, rather than being simply a random set with Uruk-hai. I think those are good choices that I wish LEGO would have made.

Buckleberry Ferry Escape

Encounter at Prancing Pony Inn

Battle at Weathertop

The Mines of Moria

Isengard Caverns

Orc Attack at Amon Hen

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