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! 😉
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