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Celebrating 20 years of LEGO Star Wars

Twenty years ago, in a galaxy far, far away, the LEGO Star Wars collaboration entered the lives of millions of children and fans around the world. Today, the LEGO Group is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the much-loved range that continues to unite fans of all ages and has inspired some of the greatest battles ever built. LEGO sent out a media-kit with all kinds of fun facts, prototype images, old advertisements, sketches, and more to share with LEGO fan communities. Check them out below.

LEGO Star Wars was the LEGO Group’s first IP franchise and has since remained one of the most popular, allowing fans across generations and geographies to come together in fun and challenging building exercises. Around 700 different sets (including 1,000 LEGO Star Wars minifigures), five video games, several television and web series, and an abundance of other fun merchandise have been released since the initial launch.

Jens Kronvold Frederiksen, Creative Director of LEGO Star Wars, said: “LEGO play and Star Wars is a dream collaboration for us, and we feel privileged to have one of the strongest fan communities out there who continue to inspire and challenge us to push the boundaries. This 20-year milestone is really a dedication and testimony to our loyal fans who have built, reimagined, battled and shared their LEGO Star Wars adventures with us for two decades. Twenty years on, the Force is still with us and there’s still so much more to come.”

LEGO Star Wars was first introduced at the International Toy Fair in New York in February 1999 and has been captivating fans ever since. An impressive 13 sets were launched that year, as well as a LEGO MINDSTORMS Droid Developer Kit. Over the years, many crowd-pleasers have been released, including the first version of the Chewbacca minifigure. This was a triumph in itself because of its challenging design. The design team came up with the idea of creating a head with fur covering the back and front of the torso, which has been used in many minifigure designs since.

Derek Stothard, Vice President of Licensing at Lucasfilm said: “Our collaboration with the LEGO Group remains a huge success because it allows people to explore the Star Wars galaxy in a very unique way. Whether you’re meticulously building the Millennium Falcon for a display shelf or reimagining the battles with LEGO Star Wars models, the LEGO Star Wars range allows us to engage with fans of all ages who find the Star Wars galaxy as special as we do.”

Marking the 20th anniversary, the LEGO Group just released five special sets featuring iconic ships and exclusive throwback minifigures in tribute of the LEGO Star Wars history (see above). The new sets – which debuted on April 1st – are a recreation of some of the most iconic and popular sets from the last twenty years, along with a new subtheme: LEGO Star Wars Action Battle (see links to reviews at the end of this post). The LEGO System in Play means that Star Wars devotees can build and bring to life some of their most beloved themes and characters – from Wookiees to Ewoks, Princess Leia to Han Solo and more – for even more intergalactic adventures. As for the scenes and characters that haven’t yet been sent into the LEGO Star Wars galaxy, stay tuned! Below are some fun facts only the most hardcore LEGO Star Wars fans know:

  • The 1999 Jar Jar Binks minifigure was the first ever to have a unique LEGO head sculpt.
  • Yoda, Boba Fett, and Ewoks were some of the first minifigures to receive short legs (2002).
  • Did you know that except for Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, clone troopers and battle droids, R2-D2 is the character that appears in most LEGO Star Wars sets?
  • The Jedi Bob minifigure appears in just one LEGO set, the #7163 LEGO Star Wars Republic Gunship from 2002.
  • The Darth Vader minifigure has changed many times over the years, but his helmet remained unchanged from 1999-2015.
  • The #10179 LEGO Star Wars UCS Millennium Falcon spent a day in a sauna, since it couldn’t fit into the ovens used to quality check a product’s resistance towards sunlight.
  • The cockpit windshield element in the #7191 LEGO Star Wars X-Wing Fighter is based on a mould for a 4.5-volt battery box from a LEGO train set.
  • The 24 minifigures and droids included in the #10188 LEGO Star Wars Death Star set enable fans to re-enact almost every single scene taking place on the Death Star.
  • The Zam Wesell minifigure from #7133 LEGO Star Wars Bounty Hunter Pursuit was one of the first minifigures to have double-sided face decoration. (Click on images below for larger view.)

And here are some dates and other facts from the history and development of LEGO Star Wars:

  • 1998: Licensing agreement with Lucasfilm is signed. This licensing agreement is the first of its kind for the LEGO Group.
  • February 1999: The launch of LEGO Star Wars is announced at the International Toy Fair in New York by the LEGO Group and Lucasfilm.
  • 1999: The first new male hairpiece in 20 years is designed for Qui-Gon Jinn.
  • 1999: The first specially designed minifigure head is designed for Jar Jar Binks.
  • 1999: 13 sets plus a LEGO MINDSTORMS Droid Developer Kit were launched.
  • 2000: Two more advanced sets – the #7181 LEGO Star Wars TIE Interceptor and the #7191 LEGO Star Wars X-Wing Fighter – launch the LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collectors Series.
  • 2000: The #7190 LEGO Star Wars Millennium Falcon included the first version of a Chewbacca minifigure. It was a challenging design, until the design team came up with the idea of creating a head with fur covering the back and front of the torso, which has been used in many minifigure designs since.
  • 2001: The #10018 LEGO Star Wars Darth Maul launches as a set exclusively available at the Online LEGO Shop and in LEGO stores – at a whopping 43 centimeters tall!
  • 2002: Ewoks, young Boba Fett, and Yoda – included in sets # 7139 LEGO Star Wars Ewok Attack, #7153 LEGO Star Wars Jango Fett’s Slave I, and #7103 LEGO Star Wars Jedi Duel – are some of the first LEGO minifigures to have short legs.
  • 2002: Only 12 elements are required to build the #3219 LEGO Star Wars Mini TIE Fighter released in 2002. The set is among the early LEGO Star Wars Mini Building Sets launched in the beginning of the new millennium.
  • 2003: The introduction of more natural skin colors in all licensed products also reach the LEGO Star Wars universe with the #10123 LEGO Star Wars Cloud City from 2003.
  • 2007: The #10178 LEGO Star Wars Motorized Walking AT-AT launches. The model can move its head and walk forward and backward.
  • 2007: The #10179 LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series Millennium Falcon launches. The biggest LEGO set… for a while.
  • 2011: The #10221 LEGO Star Wars UCS Super Star Destroyer is launched. With a length of 124 cm it is the longest LEGO product ever made.
  • 2013: The world’s largest LEGO model, a 1:1 replica of the LEGO Star Wars X-Wing starfighter, is revealed at New York’s Times Square. The massive replica took 32 master builders, 5.3 million LEGO bricks, and over 17,000 hours to complete.
  • 2014: The trend of constructing tiny, but ever iconic models, re-surfaces with the LEGO Star Wars MicroFighter series. Small enough to fit into a hand – big enough to carry a minifigure.
  • 2015: The CCBS platform (Character and Creature Building System) with its large-scale buildable figures infiltrates the LEGO Star Wars portfolio from this year onwards.
  • 2017: The #75192 LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series Millennium Falcon launches – 10 years after its impressive predecessor. It succeeds the previous model by 2,344 elements, reaching a total of 7,541 pieces.
  • 2019: Five special 20th anniversary sets featuring iconic ships with exclusive throwback minifigures launch in tribute of the LEGO Star Wars history – a recreation of some of the most iconic and popular sets from the last 20 years.
  • 2019: Star Wars Episode IX… stay tuned to see what this means for LEGO Star Wars!

It’s amazing that LEGO Star Wars has been going strong for 20 years! It’s actually interesting to look at the earliest LEGO Star Wars sets in the BrickLink or Brickset database and compare them to the new sets. While the earliest sets were revolutionary in their own right, the progress has been amazing. With the press-package, LEGO also sent out a bunch of old advertisements, prototype images, and more. In this article, I posted some of them for your enjoyment, and I’m hoping that the rest will be uploaded at the Brickset Document Library.

The following video was also press-kit, with LEGO fans from around the world wishing LEGO Star Wars a happy anniversary.

To check out the LEGO Star Wars 20th Anniversary sets, the LEGO Star Wars Action Battle sets, and all the other new LEGO Star Wars sets, visit the LEGO Star Wars section of the Online LEGO Shop.

What do you think? Are you a LEGO Star Wars fan? Which is your oldest LEGO Star Wars set? And which one is your favorite? What sets would you like to see this year to celebrate the 20th anniversary? 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:

{ 15 comments… add one }
  • DavidH April 9, 2019, 11:06 AM

    I remember the first Star Wars sets very well. They were crude by today’s standards, but as kids, we were amazed! Finally, we didn’t have to cobble together x-wings and the millennium falcon from spare pieces. I also remember that was the first big flood of gray pieces.

  • Martin April 9, 2019, 12:19 PM

    Those prototypes are dope! Chewy had furry legs and toes! 😀

  • Legostuff14 April 9, 2019, 1:05 PM

    My first Lego star wars set was the Droid Escape pod . When the escape pod looked like a space garbage disposal. Lol! The Improvement on the minifigures have been amazing. As yoda may have said ” one must have patience in creating Lego Star Wars Minifigures and sets”. He didn’t really say that. Lol!

  • Tito April 9, 2019, 1:11 PM

    It’s interesting to see the minifig progress pictures and the prototypes! They almost look like ancient artifacts. And I guess they will be one day. I’m looking forward to what other sets they are planning to release this year to celebrate the anniversary. Happy Anniversary Lego SW! 😀

  • Håkan April 9, 2019, 2:35 PM

    I guess, arguably, the full introduction of natural skin colors didn’t appear in licensed sets until 2004-2005. Lando Calrissian would rather be an exception with the unfortunate implications that all prior yellow-skinned minifigures would represent caucasians.

    Looking back on the original 10123 Cloud City box, I notice how heavily marketed the minifigure was on the front cover, as a new minifigure and a fan favorite character.

    • admin April 10, 2019, 1:56 PM

      Yes, that’s a very interesting chapter in LEGO’s history.

  • Master Builder April 9, 2019, 5:15 PM

    Those facts and figures are very interesting. I wasn’t aware of several of them. And as others have said, the prototypes are great! Lego should release more info like this. I love historical stuff!

  • Legostuff14 April 9, 2019, 7:05 PM

    I have most of the various Chewbacca minifigures ( except for the white one) . I decided to use the old Chewbacca Minifigures as just everyday Wookies, because the shoulder utility belt wasn’t a deep color and mostly faded. It doesn’t have to be Chewbacca and can get away with it .

    • Håkan April 9, 2019, 10:00 PM

      Hmmm, seems there are four different generic wookiee figures produced, as well as one for Wullffwarro.

      • Håkan April 9, 2019, 10:06 PM

        And one for Tarfful…

    • admin April 10, 2019, 1:59 PM

      Yes, Chewy can definitely pass as a regular Wookie. And there are also several versions, so they can be different members of his tribe.

  • The Other Mark April 9, 2019, 9:56 PM

    Although they may look cute by today’s standards, those sets were really cutting edge those days. Kids were drooling over them, including myself. Some of the early sets also had alternate instructions, which, sadly, they don’t do anymore.

  • TomTom April 10, 2019, 1:50 PM

    I’m curious to see what the UCS set is going to be this year. Any word yet? Rumors?

    • admin April 10, 2019, 2:01 PM

      I don’t remember seeing any rumors, but there is an announcement coming shortly.

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