The State of LEGO in 1999 (And Russian Funskool Budo)

LEGO is probably my favorite toy line of all time. It’s definitely the one I’ve spent the most time with, too. I haven’t written about it much on this website yet, though. In time and when/if things get back to normal for me, I actually have a few sets to review. Until then, I wanted to talk about a weird, dreary year for LEGO that had a pretty profound affect on me.

But since most of you are here for GI Joe, we’ll do some of that, too. So today we’ll take an in-depth look at Russian Funskool Budo and talk about the state of LEGO in 1999.

Russian Funskool GI Joe Budo

Russian Funskool GI Joe Budo

If you’re just here for GI Joe stuff, you’re in luck. You can click the link below for an in-depth look at Russian Funskool Budo, which includes comparisons to the Hasbro version. The accessories on this one are quite fun, and they make a nice addition to the 88 domestic figure.

So if you’re not interested in LEGO at all, you can click through to the Budo page and be done with it.

For all 12 of you who are still with me, enjoy the rest of the post!

The State of LEGO in 1999

LEGO 1999

(All images in this section are catalog scans from or instruction booklet scans from Brickset)

1999 is not a year most LEGO fans remember fondly. There was some good stuff (and some stuff that would later go on to define the brand), but it was not a banner year for great designs or creativity. Overall, anyway. The busy, X-TREME graphic design philosophy behind the 1999 catalog kind of gives it all away.

LEGO 1999

I had a house fire in the summer of 1998, which I’ve mentioned before. A few months before the fire, one of my friends down the street decided he was too old for his LEGO and sold his whole collection to me for $60, collected in a massive trash bag. I spread all the pieces across the basement floor and started building what I could from the instructions he had. He had an impressive collection.

I was finally able to build the Deep Freeze Defender and Ice Station Odyssey from the Ice Planet 2002 line after a couple weeks of sorting and work. I only had small Ice Planet sets (which I loved dearly), so those two big sets awed me in a way I’d only been awed a few times before with sets like King’s Mountain Fortress and Crystal Explorer Sub.

Like most kids without rich parents, most of my LEGO sets were on the small side.

I was really excited after reconstructing those two Ice Planet sets and was really eager to build more cool sets from the provided instructions and my own creations, and then disaster struck.

All of my LEGO melted into one solid molten plastic blob in the basement.

With the small amount of insurance money we got to spend on reacquiring frivolous things, I decided to try and remake my LEGO collection. This didn’t happen until 1999, though, as we lived in a motel until our house was rebuilt. Motel rooms and LEGO do not mix– I knew that even back then.

As it turned out, 1999 didn’t have much to satisfy my prior LEGO interests. The Space selection was meager, featuring only a few new Insectoids sets. I was never really interested in them, and I was pining for Blacktron, M-Tron, Spyrius, Ice Planet, and Space Police. Castle was replaced by the Ninja theme, which was cool, but most of the good sets were expensive. There were no Pirates to be found.

And Aquazone, my favorite theme of all, only saw one release in all of 1999– a tiny little polybag set I never saw in a store.

So here’s what I was left with.

Rock Raiders and Space

LEGO 1999

Rock Raiders was not a Space theme, but it was a sci-fi theme. In a pinch, it was good enough for me. I didn’t have a lot of money to spend, so I bought the minifigure 5-pack and one small set. I liked the figures a lot, and I also kind of liked the weird aesthetic of the sets. It was something totally new. Even though these heroes didn’t have spaceships and laser guns, I found myself really appreciating them.

I’ve mentioned this place before, but my hometown had a skate shop downtown that also had two toy aisles. They mostly sold old toys, and I acquired some Transformers, Dino Riders, and other treasures long after their expiration dates there. So, naturally, I went there looking for LEGO, too. I bought a few bigger sets from several themes, since things were always cheap at this skate shop.

Among those sets were a couple Exploriens sets. Exploriens were pretty similar to the 90s Space sets I was used to, only the actual builds weren’t nearly as good as what came before them. The figures and pieces were quite good, though.

With the Rock Raiders and Exploriens combined, I had some fun sci-fi adventures and built some neat stuff. There were also a few UFO polybags at the dollar store, so I was able to army build some enemies for the Exploriens and Rock Raiders to fight.

These sets were not as good as the Space kits I was used to, but they did the trick. Still, I felt like something was missing. As much as I liked Rock Raiders and Exploriens, they just didn’t live up to what came before.

Ninja and Castle


LEGO 1999

Aquazone was my favorite theme the second it came out. Space was close behind. I always had a soft spot for Castle and Pirates, too. I was a pretty simple kid in that regard.

There were no knights as I knew them in 1999. I was able to find a couple of Fright Knights sets at the skate shop, and I liked them well enough. I liked the spooky imagery and the figures. The sets themselves, though, were not great.

The Ninja sets released in 1999, on the other hand, looked incredible. The problem was that most of the affordable sets were boring siege engine type builds or small sets I never saw in stores. And the big, cool fortresses were way too expensive.

So I ended up with a little catapult and Ninja Knights, the minifigure 5-pack. And let me tell you, that samurai figure blew my mind. The second I got him, he was slaying Fright Knights left and right.

LEGO 1999

I still really like the Ninja theme and think it’s a worthy successor to every year of Castle that came before. I just wish there had been some better affordable sets at the time. I have a soft spot for the Fright Knights figures, too– especially the Witch and the Bat Lord. Those figures, along with their trusty black dragon, were the plastic embodiment of Bauhaus’ In the Flat Field.

I was happy with the Castle figures I got that year and had a ton of fun with them, but I wasn’t inspired the way I was with the older Black Knights, Crusaders, Forestmen, and Black Falcons.

Are we beginning to see a pattern?

Adventurers and Wild West

LEGO 1999

1998 introduced the Adventurers theme to LEGO, which is still a fan favorite. It was something totally new for the brand, and featured a plucky crew of heroes fighting sinister industrialists, mummies, and skeletons in the early 1900s. 1999 marked the second year of Adventurers, which had a jungle theme instead of a desert theme. The designers did a lot of good work on these sets, and they must have been where most of the inspiration for the year went. Other themes from 1999 seem lazy by comparison.

I only got a couple of small sets from the 1999 Adventurers line, but I was able to merge them with the Scorpion Tracker, an amazing little car released the previous year.

I also merged them with a few bigger sets from the Wild West theme, which I again found at the skate shop on deep discount.

The Wild West sets blew my mind, and the Adventurers figures fit in almost perfectly. I was able to make custom figures from some Wild West duplicates and the Adventurers I was less invested in. There were tons of shootouts and bank robberies and horse chases.

Those two themes were such a good fit because Adventurers made heavy use of the new rifle and revolver introduced in the Wild West theme. Plus, early 1900s and late 1800s fashion sensibilities didn’t seem all that different– at least as far as rugged gunslingers and tomb raiders were concerned.

Overall, these two themes were responsible for the most fun I had with LEGO in 1999, and worked very well together. They showed me that The LEGO Group was not just phoning it in, even if they were cutting some corners.

Town and Space Port

LEGO 1999

I’ve always liked Town well enough, but I never enjoyed it as much as the “genre” themes. The 1999 Town releases were bland, sloppy, and uninspiring to me at the time and still mostly are to this day. I didn’t buy a single one.

LEGO 1999

I have since developed a soft spot for the wacky, ramshackle Space Port sub-theme, though.


LEGO 1999

Here’s where things get interesting again. Throwbots, in many ways, were the precursor to Bionicle. Bionicle is the biggest LEGO theme I’ve never been into or really purchased anything from. I do think they look quite cool and think the lore is neat, but I don’t love building my own action figures. I kind of enjoy keeping my action figures and building block experiences separate, for  whatever reason.

Throwbots were little buildable figures, all with a wacky arm that allowed them to throw discs. The gimmick was not great. The figures, however, were pretty good. I bought two of them!

And the only reason I bought them was because venerable Transformers reviewer Dave Van Domelen mentioned them on his website, and I instantly thought they might be fun opponents for my Transformers. And that’s how I used them.

Granted, I didn’t get a ton of mileage out of them, but there is something inherently fun about a blue frog robot with a spear gun.

I think Throwbots hold more interest for Bionicle fans than they do for me, but they were a cool thing to experience at the time.

Star Wars

LEGO 1999

And now we come to the theme you probably wanted me to talk about from the beginning– Star Wars.

When I was younger and there were no Star Wars toys for kids my age (the Kenner toy line missed me by a country mile, and Power of the Force 2 didn’t come until 1995 or so), I used to try to make Star Wars things out of LEGO. I’d use a Blacktron I figure for Darth Vader, build terrible, misshapen multicolored X-Wings, and assemble a Luke Skywalker or Han Solo from various Town minifigure parts.

Imagine my surprise when I went over to a friend’s house shortly after Christmas in 1999 and saw actual Star Wars LEGO sets. LEGO didn’t really fuck with licensed properties at the time, so my mind was blown. My childhood wishes had come true and there were actual, official Star Wars LEGO sets. But, as I’d learn over the years, they came at a price.

The only Star Wars sets I ever bought before 2012 or so were ones I purchased in late 1999. I got two small sets– the one with Darth Maul and Qui-Gon Jinn and the one with Luke and two Scout Troopers.

Those didn’t offer too much in the way of Star Wars adventure when combined, so I used the figures for customs and was happy to finally have real lightsabers for my Space figures, which were just Exploriens and Rock Raiders.

I used Darth Maul’s body, hood, and cape combined with a skeleton head to make a lich for my Fright Knights. Qui-Gon’s body, head, and hair were donated to make more custom figures for my Western and Adventurers setup. And that was pretty much that.

I thought the bigger sets looked neat, but not enough that I wanted to spend what little money I had on them. They were expensive.

But they also foretold what would happen to LEGO in some ways.

Now LEGO is a licensing machine. They make sets for Marvel, DC, Star Wars, Disney, and the god damn Minions. There’s plenty more to mention, too.

And, in many ways, Star Wars replaced LEGO’s original Space themes. There have been several since LEGO Star Wars started but, with the exception of maybe Alien Conquest or Space Police III, none of them have really lived up to what came before Exploriens. And that’s because there’s really only room for one big sci-fi and spaceship theme at LEGO, and Star Wars eats most of the budget and design talent in that regard.

I can’t blame them, as Star Wars makes them a ton of money and brought them back from the brink of bankruptcy. LEGO was not doing well in the late 90s, despite releasing some good stuff. I guess we can thank Star Wars for its continued existence, but I’ll always be a bit resentful that Star Wars replaced the wonderfully unique world of LEGO Space.

So, we’ve established that 1999 was a shaky year for LEGO, especially for their legacy Space, Town, and Castle themes. New blood like Adventurers made things interesting, and Star Wars changed everything, but 99 was not an iconic year for the brand.

In 1999, I missed what had come before.

That was maybe my first real experience of yearning for the past. I was only 14 in 1999, so it was a strange experience to be dissatisfied with current offerings and to think the past was better.

And, in this case, the past was better.

But that didn’t hold true for long. 1999 was just a hiccup. It didn’t prove that older things are always better. LEGO bounced back with a ton of themes I love in the decade after 1999– the aforementioned Alien Conquest and Space Police 3, Monster Fighters, Atlantis, several great Castle themes, Pirates, and more. And in more recent years, we’ve had the bonkers legacy of Ninjago and the flash-in-the-pan brilliance of Nexo Kinghts, too.

LEGO in 1999 was a good lesson that sometimes the past is shiny, but the future might be even shinier. Everything we love eventually hits a rough patch and that’s okay.

Even when it comes to trivial things like plastic building blocks and claw-handed mini-people, there’s always hope in the future.

Signing Off

LEGO 1999

Thanks for reading my novel about building blocks for children in the year before Y2K. I have a very fun review coming up on Thursday, too.

What was your least favorite year for LEGO? What do you think of Funskool Budo? Let me know in the comments!

15 thoughts on “The State of LEGO in 1999 (And Russian Funskool Budo)

  1. I was never a big LEGO kid. I had some space sets. And, my brother got some castle sets (the parts of which are still at my mother’s house where my nieces and nephews play with them). But, generally, it wasn’t much to hold my imagination. Star Wars figures were much cheaper and I got more play value out of them.

    For my kids, though, LEGO is huge. We have so many of the damned things and I step on one at least once a day. But, between trains, police, firefighters, Star Wars, Ninjago and Batman, there’s something for everyone.

    What’s odd is that while Star Wars replaced Space Lego, it also has pretty much replaced Hasbro vehicles. You want a full Mandalorian line with set pieces from the show and all the figures? Lego is the only game in town. Bad Batch? There has yet to be a 3 3/4 figure from the show. But, Lego has the figures, the ship, etc. You want a playset that’s not a $2 hunk of plastic marked up to $50 or more? Lego is the only option. They’ve become the de facto vehicles and playsets for Star Wars with Hasbro just supplementing really popular pieces or items they can repaint.

    It’s amazing how far Lego has come in 20 years. They are now the pre-eminent toy company and they are the only toy that still has a fully dedicated aisle to it at all the major stores. Finding them on clearance is such a rarity that, when I do come across a set for a discount, I buy it just to save some money.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the great comment, Mike! It’s cool that you got to experience some of those earlier Space sets, even if they weren’t your favorite toys. My friend who lived across the street (who I mention from time to time) had a bunch from his older brother. I loved the moon baseplates and all of the transparent yellow windows and all the parts LEGO wasn’t making any more. I would stare at the instruction books for long stretches and try to build some of those older sets from the random pieces my friend had around. My friend’s older brother was the only reason I got to experience the first run of Kenner Star Wars toys and MOTU, too.

      And I’m glad your nieces and nephews love them. It just kind of shows that it’s a timeless toy line.

      I’m glad your kids love them, too. Not so glad you step on them though. But I think the past 7 or so years have kind of been a golden age where LEGO has released something for literally any kid’s interest, licensed or not. Ninjago alone incorporates so many crazy things that I am regularly blown away.

      You also make good points about Hasbro vs. LEGO. That was the reason I bought several SW LEGO sets between 2012 and 2016– because Hasbro wasn’t doing those things in my beloved 3.75″ scale.

      I always look for clearance LEGO, too. And I think they might still be the world’s biggest rubber tire manufacturer, as well?? Crazy stuff.


  2. Dracula

    Oh, I’m here for the Lego.

    I have a somewhat similar story to yours in terms of my childhood Lego collection. My parents moved from Maine to Virginia in the summer of 2006, and during that time I was abroad with a couple of college friends. Meanwhile, my younger brother was given the instruction to weed out some of our stuff to facilitate an easier move.

    Among that stuff was our entire shared Lego collection. M-Trons, Blacktrons, Space Police, Ice Planet, Spyrius, UFO, various 90s castle sets including a complete Royal Knights’ Castle, a police station, pirate stuff, my beloved Aquanauts, and countless other random pieces and sets from various themes, all thrifted. My brother claims he asked me for permission to do this, but I don’t believe him. I’m sure I would have asked to at least keep some of it.

    That summer and the following one were characterized by me trying to restore some of the big hole the loss of all those Legos left me with. One of the local thrift stores had a big mattress bag full of Legos that I purchased, and much of what was inside was late 90s stuff like you wrote about here. Rock Raiders, early Star Wars sets, and – most exciting to me – a complete Red Beard Runner. I attended my first (and, so far, only) AFOL meetup, bought a vintage Suborbital Guardian set, and pined after some of the newer themes that were on sale at the time.

    I had fun that summer, but the replacements never really lived up to what I’d lost. In the years since I’ve had to be really careful with buying Lego, because if I buy some, I tend to buy a lot, and man, that stuff takes up a lot of space!

    More to your post content, I absolutely felt that sense of decline in the days of the 1999 themes. The sets felt less coherent and more patterned after action-specific gimmicks. It was a tough time for Lego, too, as I understand, with lots of experimentation to try to rescue the brand (remember Galador?). Looking at your list, I think the only theme from that era that really lit my fire was Adventure, and part of that was on account of the fun photocomics in Lego magazine. I don’t think I had a single set from any of your photos above, though.

    At some point, someday, I would like to get back into some of my favorite childhood space themes, but I’m pretty scared of what I’ll find in terms of market value!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment, Drac!

      I’m so sorry to hear that your brother didn’t even ask you what he wanted before getting rid of it. Paring down your stuff is always hard, especially when you’re a kid and it can be hard to choose, but I do think kids should at least get a choice.

      Red Beard Runner is a classic! I’ve never owned it but it’s a great looking boat. Suborbital Guardian is a stone cold classic, too– I have two of them just because I love it so much.

      I also tend to buy a lot when I buy some and it can be a problem. I’ve largely held off for a few years, other than certain “can’t miss” sets and a few vintage sets. I need to get that newer Robbie Reyes Ghost Rider set and the 66 Batmobile set, though. I will regret it if I don’t.

      Oh man, Galidor! Ugh.

      Some of the Space stuff is affordable and some isn’t. If there’s a pattern to it, I haven’t figured it out. Aquazone still seems pretty cheap, though, overall.


      1. Dracula

        It’s true that it can be hard to pare down when you’re a kid (and I made some regrettable decisions then), but when the big Lego loss happened, I was 20 and my brother was 17. XD

        I have gone and looked at some of the prices on themes like M-Tron and Blacktron II and found they aren’t as bad as I expected. I’ve generally gotten the sense that those early 90s space themes (except Ice Planet, maybe) aren’t as beloved as the earlier generation with the original Blacktrons and so forth.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yeah, it’s weird– some of the original Blacktron I sets are pretty affordable, too. And almost all of Futuron is easy to get and fairly cheap. There are some sets that go for bonkers prizes (because of unique or rare pieces), but Space doesn’t seem to fetch the same sort of cash that Castle or Pirates do. I think that’s, again, probably because Star Wars eats a lot of the interest there. I accidentally sat on a Star Wars set for a few years once (just forgot to open it, it was small and I didn’t remember buying it) and it was easily going for $120 when I paid $15 or so for it. So I think Star Wars is where a huge portion of the LEGO fan base is putting its money and attention. Also, they are “investing,” which always turns out just fine for everyone.


  3. A-Man

    Lego was a thing my brother and I would be into for a little while, then quit and maybe revisit it a year later. It’s was strange like, we didn’t mix Lego with action figure toy.

    As adults we played Brikwars, or Lego Wars as we knew it. That brought a somewhat brief re-interest into LEGO and new purchases. But even “fun” table top wargames get tedious.

    I was big castle fan in the late 80’s when I should’ve…well…being growing out of toys.
    Fright Knights were odd because they had very little enemies, just a few prisoner figure (I think) before the next theme took over. And they seemed villainous. Usually the “baddies” had a few sets and the good guys much more.

    I have a love/hate thing with LEGO. What I have now is used stuff acquired over the years, and I’ve debated sell it all and forgetting about. Then I’ll watch a HELM”S DEEP BATTLE MADE WITH LEGO on Youtube and say “I want to do that!” But then I don’t. LEGO is expensive, it kinda always was. But gone are the days with the basic sets that had baseplates and one or two minifgs. They have plastic bin sets…with no minifigs and boring pieces, I guess.

    It’s funny some older guys will tell you LEGO started to suck with prefab castle walls and maybe even the horses you didn’t have to make from bricks. Maybe. Maybe it began with the Pirates, a fun theme, but so limited in scope, and the ships were pricey and pirates without a proper ship…just ain’t pirates. So that theme burnt itself out and they keep introducing new themes. Even classic castle eventually burnt out that’s why the Ninjas/Samurai.

    For some reason the LEGO western stuff seemed odd to me. Maybe because Playmobil did it first (Playmobil isn’t a construction toy, but is a contemporary toy line) or maybe because by the 1990’s old west toys seemed so outdated/out of style.

    Never cared much for Bionicle. I’ve sold most of whatever wound up in my possession from yard sales, etc.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by! This comment brings up a lot of good points and gives me some stuff to think about.

      I remember Brikwars being a pretty big thing when I was in college, and I was tempted to get into it. But laziness won out and I just built my spaceships and submarines.

      The late 80s had some really good Castle stuff, which bled over into the early 90s. I still consider the Crusaders, Forestmen, Black Falcon, and (a little later) Black Knights the pinnacle of Castle. You can throw Wolf Pack in there, too. Of course some of the more modern themes have been great, too, like Kingdoms. And I think Fright Knights were supposed to be bad guys, but they were kind of stuck fighting Dark Forest and the Royal Knights, who came one or two years before. I think they maybe fought the Dragon Masters in a catalog image, too. But it was really weird that there were no other faction sets released in 1999 along with Fright Knights.

      There are still some Creator and Basic sets that have lots of fun pieces and minifigures, but it’s not the same as it used to be. And baseplates are separate.

      And yeah, you’re right– I’ve read all sorts of people saying the mountain baseplates (which were incredible with Imperial Trading Post, King’s Mountain Fortress, Ice Station Odyssey, etc), the castle walls, and the change in grey brick color were all the downfall of Lego. From what I’ve experienced, builds are more complicated and detailed than ever now. There are some dedicated big pieces that only do one thing, but they’re not super common.

      You make a good point with Pirates, but I think they made the smartest move they could with those big boat pieces. I only ever had one medium Pirate ship, and island, a small boat, and some rowboats, and I had a blast with them. It was enough for me. Pirates and Castle both did burn out, but they’ve both come back and done cool things since then. They just needed a rest.

      And you bring up another good point about Playmobil getting there first, but it was never a thing for me. And I always loved Western movies as a kid, so finally having some cowboy toys was actually a really fun experience for me.

      I bet you’d make a fortune on some of those Bionicles now!


      1. A-Man

        Loved the Forestmen. Not sure why, never was a Robin Hood fan per se. Preferred the Black Falcons over the Black Knights, cooler logo and a simpler color scheme for the troops. Reminds me so LEGO book I was glancing through called the Forestmen enemies of the Black Falcons, but they only ever appeared together in one set, a minifig set. In the few sets containing Forestmen and another faction, the faction was the Crusaders. It was strange the Falcons appear in some Black Knights sets, since it seemed they were the replacements of the Falcons and fight the Crusaders. But then Crusaders left, too. Guess Black Knights “won”,

        Wolfpack was too small. Like two sets of their own and then enemies/prisoners in other sets. Kinda disappointing. Oh, well. It was after my time.

        The Troll castle era seemed fun, when they were knocking of LOTR (Years before they got the LOTR/Hobbit license). I have one of the big trolls around, debated selling it, but cannot. Too amusing.

        Too many later castle sets were skimpier on minifigs. Gone were the days of large castles with 12 figures and 4 horses.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I was always bummed that Wolfpack only had the tower and the cart, but they were both really, really good sets. And the figures themselves looked really cool and served a fun purpose. Who wouldn’t want thieves, bandits, and highwaymen in their Castle setting?

        The Black Knights “won” and were rewarded by the Dragon Masters stealing their crest/emblem and palette swapping it. The Dragon Masters did have boss capes and a cool wizard, though. And the old LEGO dragon is a classic.

        Fantasy Era Castle was neat. I like all of the orc/dwarf/goblin figures and some of the builds were cool. It also had really great horse heraldry and a couple of the all time best sets– Skeleton Tower and Medieval Market Village. I just liked Kingdoms slightly more. I don’t have the big troll figure, though. He looks great.

        And yeah I remember Black Monarch’s Castle had 12 minifigures and it wasn’t even the biggest set in the theme! I had a lot of fun with that one.


    2. Dracula

      In terms of when Lego started to “go downhill,” like with any long-running toyline I feel like this is just a matter of when you were a kid. For me Lego felt like it was going downhill in the same era written about here, and I think part of that was just because it was starting to look different than it did when I was little. It’s true that Lego was struggling in the late 90s, though.

      I grew up with sets that had those huge baseplates and large, specific pieces, and I thought they were really cool. It wasn’t until later that I learned they were “bad.” But it’s also true like Dustin says that Lego doesn’t really use pieces like that anymore. Having bought a few recent sets, I think the quality of Lego-official builds have gone up considerably since the 90s. Especially if you’re looking at non-licensed sets, where you can get more pieces for your buck.

      Oh and I remember when Brikwars came out and I immediately became obsessed with it…and then never played it. lol

      Liked by 1 person

  4. generalliederkranz

    I had so much fun reading this! I got out of Lego in 1997, so I only have fuzzy memories of all this stuff, from glancing at it in stores or my younger sister playing with it. But she mostly played with the Legos my parents had already bought me, or with Town Legos, which I had much less interest in (except, like you, the NASA sub-line–in the mid-90s they had a shuttle that was really cool, with a different and more realistic feel than the real space line).

    My heyday was 1990-1994, and my favorite were the pirates. I remember seeing the catalog, and waiting months for them to hit stores, then getting the first one for Christmas. Then they followed on with the Islanders. I liked the castle a ton too, and later I got into space–some of the Exploriens were the last ones I got. I was done by the time Star Wars came out. I never used the older space Legos to play Star Wars themes like you did, but I did create a whole space world inspired by ideas Star Trek.

    It’s great to hear what these were like from the perspective of someone who was still into the line. I think I would’ve loved the Ninja sets. I have some vague memories of Wild West, mostly because it violated what I thought was a Lego rule: I had heard they said they would never make guns, although they made an exception for the cartoonish and “historical” pirate guns. Like A-Man said, it seemed odd because Playmobil owned the Wild West in my mind.

    Recently I got all my old Legos out of storage at my mom’s house, with the idea of sharing them with my daughter when she gets old enough. She just has some Duplos now. The Legos are all mixed together in a couple of huge tubs, but I have most of the instructions. I don’t know if I’ll ever find the time but I have dreams of reassembling them for her so she can get “new” sets, right back to the Black Falcon’s castle my mom bought on a blue light special at K-Mart in probably 1988 or so.

    (Also, this is decades late, but I am sorry about your house fire. I can’t imagine how traumatic that must have been as a child, from the fire to the loss of possessions to the time until your house was rebuilt.)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for stopping by, GL! And thanks for the kind words. I’m really glad you enjoyed reading it.

      I actually think I had the shuttle you’re talking about. It was realistic and had a launchpad and gantry and everything. My grandparents bought it for me so I could use it in a school science fair project about the space shuttle. It was their idea, believe it or not. I spent lots of fun afternoons with my Grandma building that thing and watching golf or Murder She Wrote on TV.

      Islanders were great! I never had any as a kid, but my friend did. We had a lot of fun with those sets and our Pirates sets. And I did the Star Wars thing with my LEGO pretty rarely, but sometimes I want to play with Star Wars toys and there were no other options. I mostly just created my own worlds, which is where LEGO excels as a toy.

      I think LEGO viewed the Western guns like they did the Pirates guns. And then they became Adventurers guns. And then the Toy Story Army Men guns. And then Indiana Jones guns. So it was kind of a slippery slope. And then they made much more realistic revolvers for the Lone Ranger movie sets. I think they walked back “no realistic guns” to “no realistic real world military stuff” and they still follow that rule. No “war toys” like GI Joe or Mega Construx Call of Duty or whatever.

      I love the idea of sharing your LEGO with your daughter. I’m sure you will find time, especially once the two of you can build some of them together. And since LEGO is such a timeless toy, I bet she’ll be just as impressed with the sets and pieces from your childhood as she will be with anything new. If anything, she might think the older stuff is cooler because none of her friends have it.


  5. Alex

    I got out of Lego by the mid 90s but I still have a weird, outsider nostalgia for the stuff past my time with it. I never had any Aquazone sets as a kid but I vividly remember the commercials and seeing all that stuff. Now that I really enjoy Lego once again, it’s fun seeing all the things I missed from the perspective of someone who had it back then. It’s also potentially dangerous to my wallet. I would have absolutely loved that ninja stuff.

    I always wanted licensed Lego sets as a kid and now as an adult, I appreciate their function and pick them up here and there but I really just like the original themes Lego comes up with. Ninjago, Hidden Side, Monster Fighters, that stuff all feels weirdly more Lego to me than Star Wars or Marvel. Although, it may also just be that there’s so much Marvel and Star Wars stuff everywhere I’m just kind of tired of it.

    Great article!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for the comment, Alex!

      I really enjoyed Monster Fighters (especially the hearse) and like the few Ninjago things I’ve grabbed. Hidden Side looked really cool (and I would have loved it as a kid) but I only got one small set and some pieces from Lego’s online pick-a-brick thing. And yeah, the Marvel stuff was VERY exciting at first (I was a completist until Age of Ultron), but it kinda wore out its welcome. I still get a few of the small comics-based sets every now and then, though.


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