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Response from LEGO about 2018 LEGO Friends

by admin on December 12, 2017

in LEGO Friends

When pictures of many of the first wave of 2018 LEGO sets were revealed (see: New LEGO Sets for 2017 & Coming 2018 Sets), LEGO fans immediately noticed that the five main LEGO Friends characters have been redesigned both on the box-art and in their mini-doll form. There has been quite a bit of concern about this, and the LEGO Friends team recently released an official response via the LEGO Ambassador Forum. So let’s talk about what happened to our friends. 🙂

Just a bit of a recap, the LEGO Friends line was first released back in 2012, and while some people didn’t like the introduction of the mini-dolls, new color-scheme, and box-design, the target audience of young girls instantly and enthusiastically embraced the theme. In fact, LEGO Friends turned out to be one of LEGO’s biggest successes in its history, and something many other construction toy companies began to imitate. So yes, LEGO Friends has been a hit.

LEGO Friends is centered around the everyday lives of five core characters named Andrea, Emma, Mia, Olivia and Stephanie. Each of the friends has distinct personalities, interests, and styles, which are reflected in their activities, looks, hobbies, pets, and homes. Besides the five girls, there are also supportive characters like the girls’ parents and friends, and other residents of Heartlake City.

One noteworthy feature of the LEGO Friends line is that from the very beginning LEGO encouraged girls to identify with the character that most resemble themselves. This is based on LEGO’s extensive research that girls liked to play with story-based toys they could identify with. So, both by their own tendencies, and by LEGO’s suggestions, young girls play out their own lives through the characters in LEGO Friends.

Thus, it came quite a shock for many fans, when for the 2018 LEGO Friends collection the look of the characters was changed. Of course, children are used to transformation, as their own bodies are changing on an almost daily basis, but this usually includes things like growing taller, changing hairstyles, and getting glasses and braces – not so much changing races and swapping eyeballs. But we live in a brave world…

In the 2018 LEGO Friend line, previously green-eyed Andrea gets brown eyes and a new hairstyle. Emma’s hair remains the same, but her eyes are also changed from green to brown, and the shape of her eyes were changed as well to suggest that she is now Asian. Mia was allowed to keep her freckles and her hairstyle, but her eyes were changed from brown to green. Olivia went through the most drastic makeover; new skin color, new hairstyle, and glasses. The only girl that didn’t change at all is Stephanie; she is still the blue-eyed blonde with the same features and hairstyle.

The LEGO Friends team crafted a careful response, after fans voiced their concerns that their favorite characters were redesigned… or kidnapped and replaced by aliens – which could be a cool part of the story, and something I would have preferred. Here are the official words directly from the LEGO Friends team in Billund, Denmark:

Every year we strive to innovate and make our products even better for children all over the world. A lot of effort has gone into the development of the LEGO characters and universes across our entire product range, so it makes us very happy when changes are noticed.

LEGO Friends in 2018 looks a bit different from what it has in the past. To be specific, the five main characters have a slightly different look, but also the city and the citizens of Heartlake City have changed.

But what are the reasons for the change?

Firstly, we want to assure you that all five friends are still there in 2018. Andrea, Mia, Emma, Stephanie and Olivia – they all still exist! Also, the character’s main interests and personalities remain mainly unchanged.

What you will see in 2018 is an evolution of LEGO Friends, a progression of the story and characters to make sure children get an even greater play experience. Every year more than a million children and parents reach out to us and share what they love and what they would like to change. In the LEGO Friends range, children told us that they would like even more differentiated characters and also suggested improvements to Heartlake City.

We always take great care to listen to input from children, and the LEGO Friends team has worked hard to make even more engaging and relevant experiences for children – and also make the LEGO Friends universe more true to the actual world children live in.

Taking a starting point in reality, we’ve made the characters more diverse in their appearance and have added more depth to their personality. And of course, they still live in Heartlake City. But just as the characters have changed, Heartlake City has become more differentiated and rich. There are different districts, and there are other citizens that play a more active role in the story.

The changes we have made does not change the fact that previous and new LEGO Friends sets will cater for great building and play experience in 2018 and beyond, and we hope to inspire even more stories and play opportunities for children in the future.

The explanation the LEGO Friends team gives is quite reasonable… to an extent. Children live in an exceedingly diverse and complex world, and wanting to reflect that in their play makes sense. What seems unusual is that LEGO felt the only way to achieve this is to change the main characters, instead of just adding new ones. Why couldn’t the five friends expand their social circle and meet new people – like in real life? I have to say though; Olivia’s new glasses are really sweet.

While I’m not too comfortable with the changes to the characters, I do like the look of the new sets. Just take a peak at the #41333 LEGO Friends Olivia’s Mission Vehicle above, which is basically a girly version of the Ghostbusters Ecto-1.

Or, how about the #41339 LEGO Friends Mia’s Camper Van, a fully decked out Class C motorhome, or the #41340 LEGO Friends Friendship House. I don’t know what a “friendship house” suppose to be – sounds like a shelter for homeless people – but it sure looks fun.

There are some other interesting new LEGO Friends sets for next year, and while they are not yet listed on LEGO’s website, you can see them in the Brickset database. And for the currently available LEGO Friends sets, you can visit the LEGO Friends section of the Online LEGO Shop.

What do you think? How do you like the changes to LEGO Friends? And what do you think of the upcoming LEGO Friends sets? Feel free to share your thoughts and discuss in the comment section below! 😉

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

{ 37 comments… read them below or add one }

Håkan December 12, 2017 at 11:13 AM

It seems that Andrea’s hairstyle is meant to emulate dreadlocks.

I think it also looks like the head mold has been changed slightly, it looks like it’s gotten more rounded, and the nose has been tilted upwards. (Although when I mentioned that on another message board, someone thought it was just over-analysis and misinterpretation.)

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admin December 12, 2017 at 1:35 PM

I also noticed the different look of the heads, but I think that may be just an illusion due to the facial features being changed. But we shall see. I’m planning to review some of the new sets as soon as I can get my hands on them. I’m interested to see how this all looks in real life. 🙂

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Håkan December 12, 2017 at 4:37 PM

Yeah, it could be something like the visual design, different lightning or something, as well.

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admin December 12, 2017 at 9:29 PM

That’s what I thought also, but we shall see…

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TheBrickLot December 12, 2017 at 12:15 PM

Olivia’s Mission Vehicle = Mystery Van (for girls)

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BrickBox December 12, 2017 at 12:30 PM

Are you saying that the mystery van is implicated in the changes in Olivia’s looks? I wonder what the story is going to be. Mystery in Friends! I like it! Will aliens be involved? Or time travel?

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admin December 12, 2017 at 1:37 PM

LOL! I like that! Mystery, intrigue, gossip and conspiracy theories in Heartlake City! 😈

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Håkan December 12, 2017 at 4:41 PM

Also looks like a Twister van, or some kind of foil hat vehicle…

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admin December 12, 2017 at 9:29 PM

Foil hat vehicle… I like that. 🙄

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FrenchToast December 12, 2017 at 12:21 PM

They really should have just added other girls. I’m very curious how they are planning to explain away all the changes in the story.

Their explanation doesn’t make any sense. Children really told them that they want Olivia to turn from white to brown and Emma should be Asian?

Is lego suggesting that kids should aspire for drastic bodily changes, including changing their skin color, eye color, and go through plastic surgery to change how their face looks?

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Laurie December 12, 2017 at 1:12 PM

I thought the Same thing Too… Change their names to new character. They could be new teenager who moved to Heart lake city. They could even make a Storyline out of it… Would have been better move..
,

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admin December 12, 2017 at 1:36 PM

I don’t think LEGO fully thought through the implications of their actions in this regard. I agree that they should just have gone with new Friends.

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Håkan December 12, 2017 at 4:42 PM

It’s called a “reboot”…

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Sarah December 12, 2017 at 7:05 PM

I imagine asian, Latina and black children told LEGO that they wanted characters that looked like them. (Personally I always assumed Emma was supposed to be Asian, they just made no attempt to vary facial features.)

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Laurie December 12, 2017 at 1:09 PM

This is crazy.. Why change them one of the characters did not like her skin tone color so she got surgery to get it changed to a darker complexion, either that or she has spent too much time at the Tanning Salon. The others did not like their Eye color so they decided to wear contact color lenses. One got a nose Job This makes no sense.. Adding new character would make more sense. What next a girl in a headdress, encouraging oppression of females, or maybe a Transgender one was not happy being a girl so she resided to be a guy and dress in boy clothes. What is Lego up to are you trying to make children feel insecure on how they look so they will try to change themselves like you change their favorite toys. Keeping them the same would be better, and just adding new characters would have been a smarter move… This is one move I do not Approve, PS I boycott Disney and their Transgender Influence they are trying to brainwash upon young minds. I boycott All Lego Disney, However will not boycott the Rest of the Lego line over it 😉

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admin December 12, 2017 at 1:41 PM

My belief is that LEGO didn’t think through what message they are sending with the changes. I don’t think they did it on purpose, but nonetheless I know that this is not sitting well with fans. Or, it could all be the fault of that mystery machine set TheBrickLot and BrickBox are talking about, and it will all be part of the story. 🙄

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Sarah December 12, 2017 at 7:07 PM

I’m curious: what’s wrong with the message they’re sending?

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admin December 12, 2017 at 9:50 PM

I was referring to Laurie’s comment, where she pointed out that by making these drastic changes to already established and well-loved characters, LEGO is sending the message that if girls don’t like their looks they should change them via invasive methods like plastic surgery. Also, instead of encouraging girls to make new friends from different cultures and backgrounds, it is better to subject their current friends to plastic surgery too to achieve diversity.

Again, I don’t think that LEGO did this on purpose, but their actions can definitely be interpreted that way. Especially since, from the very beginning, they encouraged girls to identify with the character that looked most like them. What does a girl who has been identifying with Olivia supposed to do?

I’m sure we will all live through this just fine, and on the positive side we will now even have vintage and new versions of the characters to collect. However, it seems that LEGO could have handled this reboot in a more sensible and thoughtful way without making current fans upset and unsettled with the changes. But again, this might all be part of the story, which could be interesting. 🙂

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Sarah December 12, 2017 at 10:31 PM

I have a different perspective on this, where I have been unhappy with the minidolls, because they look so similar and—despite their intended realism—project a very unrealistic body image and standard of beauty for most girls. Cosmetic surgery is usually done to conform to these standards, not to look different.

Seeing different skin tones and facial features is to me a far healthier thing for my daughter to be playing with. If she asks about the changes, I’ll discuss LEGO’s actual reasons for doing it, not the story ones.

I feel bad for the girls who identified with Olivia, but the beauty of LEGO is that they can still create a character who looks like them to play. (My daughter builds herself all the time.) Now, more children of color can do this too.

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admin December 12, 2017 at 10:41 PM

Sarah, I actually really appreciate your perspective, particularly your approach of discussing with your daughter LEGO’s reasons to change the characters. Hearing different responses and perspectives is exactly why we are discussing the topic here. We can all share and learn from each other what is the best way to respond the changes and introduce our children to them. So thank you for sharing your valuable insights. 🙂

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Ray December 12, 2017 at 2:51 PM

Continuity with the previous years’ sets is I’m sure not a concern for Lego since they expect little girls to not be collecting Lego Friends for long enough to notice. Better to “fix” the diversity “problem” moving forward than be chained to the original designs or have to dump characters entirely to bring in new ones. (Not so much of a problem toy-wise, but the story writers would be thrown into turmoil if they had to redo what is no doubt a carefully balanced cast of character traits.)

AFOL that are bothered by this can just blame it on the Lego DC Superhero Girls accidentally causing some slight changes to the timeline in the process of saving the planet.

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admin December 12, 2017 at 9:27 PM

Ray, that’s actually an interesting point about LEGO counting on girls growing up and out of Friends. I haven’t considered that, but it’s a reasonable train of thought. And yes, it’s all the fault of the Superhero Girls! 😀

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Sarah December 12, 2017 at 4:23 PM

Going to pipe in as a AFOL and a parent that I’m super happy with the changes. I always had very mixed feelings about the Friends line which was supposed to be more realistic than minifigs but everybody had the same anime features and proportions, and the one person of color (Andrea) had green eyes and brown hair. That’s sending a horrendous message to young girls of color that they have to conform to Caucasian aesthetics to fit in.

Introducing new characters would have relegated the diversity to supporting cast, which would have been even worse. Ideally, this would have been the line up originally, but as it is, I’m relieved with the changes.

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Håkan December 12, 2017 at 5:49 PM

Well, there should always be the option of adding new members to the main cast.

(I think Aanchir complained it would be hard to find new shticks and personality traits for newer characters, though…)

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admin December 12, 2017 at 9:34 PM

That’s a good point by Aanchir. The five main friends pretty much already cover every hobby, sport and activity preteen girls might get involved in.

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admin December 12, 2017 at 9:29 PM

Sarah, thanks for sharing. Yes, it would have been better if the diversity is there from the beginning, but I guess better later than never. I hope they will also include more boys, and people of all ages. Right now basically the whole town is run by preteen girls. 😀

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Legostuff71 December 12, 2017 at 4:44 PM

I’m waiting for the Elves theme next year . I’ve seen pictures and I am curiously interested. It’s not something I would normally get into, but I am willing to try anything new ( I do have some sets from the Dragon theme). Elves are Elves and they are my favorite form of magical creatures. However, I don’t know how many guys collect these. Who cares . I’m in it for the unique colors and it’s build. Santa plays with Elves. Lol!

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Sarah December 12, 2017 at 6:56 PM

I love the Elves line. Easily the best of the mini doll lines.

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admin December 12, 2017 at 9:31 PM

Elves looks interesting next year. My first thought was that it looks like a mix of Elves and Legends of Chima. 😀

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admin December 12, 2017 at 9:32 PM

Oh, and far as guys collecting Elves, I know a number of them who do. The colors and pieces in Elves are really useful whether you are a guy, a girl, an elf, a goblin, or any other creature. 😉

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Håkan December 13, 2017 at 9:41 AM

Unicorns unite!

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admin December 13, 2017 at 12:39 PM

Yes, unicorns too. I hope it didn’t sound like I was discriminating against unicorns by forgetting to mention them. 😀

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Legostuff71 December 12, 2017 at 9:59 PM

I’m Gollum, because Lego is my precious. Lol! Yeah in one of the Elves sets there looks to be a sea turtle. Remember when I said I wanted to make a Zoo for my city . Well I can a mythical creature zoo. Oh, my creative juices are flowing . On a separate topic, the city mountain police HQ looks easy enough to build from scratch. Not a lot of new pieces. ( a mountain lion is new).

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admin December 13, 2017 at 12:40 PM

A mystical creatures zoo? I would visit that! But make sure the barriers are strongly built, otherwise you might have a Jurassic Park kind of mishap. 😈

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jjava December 13, 2017 at 6:48 AM

“What seems unusual is that LEGO felt the only way to achieve this is to change the main characters, instead of just adding new ones. ”

I agree with this 100%. Changing eye color and skin color is just unrealistic. I really don’t like the mini dolls but I understand it is directed towards little girls.

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Clemglld January 3, 2018 at 2:11 PM

Personnellement je préfère les personnages avant car je m’y suis habituée et ça pendant au moins 5 ans et je trouve la nouvelle collection cool dans les “constructions ” mais j’aurais préféré garder les personnages d’origines et suis inquiète du faite que je ne rêverais (peut être )plus mes personnages préférés tel que Emma Mia Olivia et Andrea car pour moi ce ne sont plus les même dans la vie certes on change de coiffure de look mais pas de couleur des yeux ou des yeux tout court

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Håkan January 9, 2018 at 10:59 AM

Ou… le peau, évidement…

(Francais d’école.)

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