After concentrating on the boys market for the last five or six years, our favorite manufacturer of plastic building blocks is trying to capture the other 50 percent of the kids market with Lego Friends, a new line aimed at girls aged 5 and above.
Lego has spent the last four years researching, designing and testing the new characters and sets in hopes of avoiding the errors of previous attempts to appeal to girls. It looks like the company might have actually done it this time.
Leading the range are the new Ladyfigs — a variation on our beloved minifigs that looks like the outcome of Polly Pocket getting it on with Clutch Powers and ending up with something similar to the Mega Bloks (urgh!) Doctor Who or Marvel figures.
They’re slightly taller than regular minifigs, and a lot skinnier and curvier, but they fit perfectly with all existing Lego accessories and bricks — a massive improvement on the failed Belville range, with its oversize, non-customizable figures. Their hands can hold all the same cups, tools and, should you want to, weapons, that you already own; their hair is swappable with regular minifig styles and hats; and they can stand on regular blocks perfectly.
There are five main characters, most unfortunately following typical girlie stereotypes: animal-lover Mia, beautician Emma, pop star Andrea and “social-girl” Stephanie. Lego does toss a proto-geek in there with Olivia — her set (shown above) is an awesome she-garage complete with a microscope, a little robot, math equations and purple tools! Somebody please help me.
The other sets also follow the girlie theme with scenarios such as a café, an animal hospital and a beauty salon, but a couple at least are a bit less annoying — the aforementioned inventor’s workshop, a treehouse and a nice design studio, complete with laptop and camera. The thing that will excite the AFOLs out there the most, though, is six new colors for the bricks, including nice shades of lavender, purple, teal and turquoise — perfect for making Perry from Phineas and Ferb, according to Joe Meno (co-author, with our own John Baichtal, of The Cult of Lego). The Brick Blogger has some great photos of all the sets, boxes and a comparison of the Ladyfigs and minifigs.
I really can’t decide whether or not I like this new direction, and as @iamseb said on Twitter: “There already was lego for girls. It was called ‘lego.'”
Sure, it’s a massive improvement on the Belville range. Every time I go to the Big Shop in Legoland, those sets are marked down more and more, but I still have no desire to buy them, and, more importantly, my 5-year-old daughter shows no interest in them. I picked her up the dog and puppy set from a charity shop and it’s a constant annoyance that even the puppy is bigger than all the minifigs we own — but it did come with two hot dog sausages!
The Clikits range was just an abomination — jewelery and picture frames that you can decorate with Lego bricks? Come on, what’s the point of that? And thankfully, both iterations of the Scala range and the Paradisa sets passed right by me. (For a great infographic of the history of girlie Lego, check out this fascinating Bloomberg Businessweek article on the launch.)
The big pink buckets of Lego were great though, and indeed, those where the first sets we brought for our daughter. It wasn’t just for the colors of the bricks, either; the models shown on the boxes were perfect, too. Brick girls skipping with their brick mummies, little bunnies, ducks, cows and horses — all perfect introductions to building with bricks, as opposed to pre-molded figures.
One of the things Lego “discovered” in its research was that girls like to project themselves onto the figures and become part of the story — well duh! I could have told them that in two seconds. It never ceases to amaze me how my daughter can anthropomorphize just about anything and create a story around it — be it a minifig, a model of a shark or even just two bricks stuck together! She doesn’t need a full-on world populated with cafes and dog shows — she can make all that up by herself. If they really want to appeal to the “princess phase” that all girls go through, why not just make a big pink palace set with regular bricks? Or maybe follow the great success they’ve had with Lego versions of Star Wars, Harry Potter and Toy Story and team up with the Disney Princesses? Actually, I can’t believe I just typed that. I hate the Disney Princesses with a passion — that’s a silly idea.
The Friends range will be released in shops after Christmas. What’s that, you say? After Christmas? Yes, it seems like Lego is serious this time so the company is putting a ridiculous amount of money into marketing the new range and don’t want it to get lost among all the other toys fighting for your Christmas dollars. Apparently, if Lego waits ’til after the holidays, the stores will have entire aisles dedicated to displaying them and be able to give them prominent positions. You might not even find them with the rest of the Lego sets, as some stores are planning to put them right in with the rest of the girlie dolls.
I’m sure we’ll be there with Christmas money in hand ready to buy up the stock, and will love every minute of building the sets and diving into the new world of Heartlake City, even if it’s our own version of it.