Art of the Minifigure Review

On June 14, 2022, the newest collaboration between the LEGO® Group and Chronicle books hits store shelves. The Art of the Minifigure “[celebrates] the history, evolving design, milestones, and lasting impact of the world’s favorite toy” all in one book. The hardcover retails for $58.00 in Canada. While the volume offers interesting tidbits of information, the content is none-the-less dated. Additionally, the promotional feel of the writing detracts from the actual art. Is it a bad book? Absolutely not. Is it the defining artistic look at an iconic toy I’ve been waiting for? Sadly, also a solid no.

NOTE: This pre-release copy of Art of the Minifigure was provided by the LEGO® Group and Chronicle Books for review. The provision of products does not guarantee a favorable review. I provide my honest opinion in this article.

Art of the Minifigure book cover.

Let’s deal with the biggest limitation of Art of the Minifigure first. It is a print book. Don’t get me wrong, I love printed books. There is a certain satisfaction and comfort in being able to turn pages, smell that familiar bookish scent, and not have a screen glowing in your face. However, the process of producing a physical book means that all its content is out of date by the time the volume ships. It is the sad reality of the information age we live in. The Art of the Minifigure still talks about Hidden Side like it’s a current theme. Series 21 (from January 2021) is the most recent Minifigures series mentioned. If you continually read LEGO® related news on the internet, you will not find much new here. Other LEGO® books have been more up to date upon release than this one.

Get ready for the history of the LEGO® Group… once again.

LEGO Group history sample.
Sample of the LEGO® Group history section from Art of the Minifigure.

The Art of the Minifigure also rehashes information we have been in previous books. It opens with the origins of the LEGO® Group. Subsequently, it segues through the first buildable characters and minifig prototypes. I have at least three books with the same information already, and in some cases, the same pictures. However, I do appreciate the effort to point out when major innovations in Minifigure design took place. Again, the information is not new, but it is easily accessible in this book. Newbies to LEGO® culture might appreciate this.

Minifigure prototypes from Art of the Minifigure.
Minifigure prototypes from Art of the Minifigure.

Additionally, I do not feel the Art of the Minifigure focuses very much on art. Consequently, the book is a missed opportunity. In this day and age, a book needs to provide something fresh in order to be relevant. The Art of the Minifigure reads more like the history or development of the Minifigure. We’ve seen that book before, and more than once. I appreciate the discussion of the design process and the preliminary sketches, but there are too few of them. I also like the section pertaining to rare Minifigures, but it lacks thoroughness. For example, I loved finding out that the LEGO® Group only produced four wooden Sensei Wu minifigs for the LEGO® Ninjago movie… but what about other rarities? Like the three unique, aluminum Minifigures currently orbiting Jupiter? Why focus on Mr. Gold again?

Art of the Minifigure is interesting, but not thorough.

This was one of the coolest facts in Art of the Minifigure.

The Art of the Minifigure also glosses over diversity and inclusion. I am all for a whole chapter on diversity. But again, this book lacks an in depth look at the topic. It focuses on male versus female and kid versus teen representation more than anything else. For example, there is a huge section about the Woman of NASA Ideas set. That set is not even available anymore. The book brushes over inclusion by mentioning the first wheelchair bound Minifigure. It does not even mention the hearing aid print or the visually impaired Minifigure with the guide dog. If anything, the hearing aid is more relevant to a book about art given that it represented the first side-printing on a Minifigure head. Additionally, the book hardly mentions skin tone.

Finally, the book concludes on a heavily promotional note. The Minifigure comes off as an afterthought amongst all the talk of sustainability. It has nothing to do with Minifigures and comes off as completely self-serving. The LEGO® Group’s environmental initiatives always impress me. However, they have no place in this book about Minifigures. The LEGO® Group does not use renewable plastic in Minifigures yet. While the book presents the initiative as a future possibility, it currently has nothing to do with Minifigures. After two paragraphs of copy that reads like a sustainability statement from PR, the sustainability section ends with a gratuitous “the LEGO Group is making progress – and is committed to including the Minifigure in every step of that journey”. The connection feels very forced.

Sustainability talk is great… but not in a book about Minifigures.

Art of the Minifigure needs more art and preliminary sketches like these.
A book titled “Art” needs more of this.

What the book does offer is a slightly different angle concerning the Minifigure’s journey. It was interested to follow the LEGO® Group’s shifting view on the importance of minifigs through the years. Essentially, they went from add-on to focus. It was an ah-ha moment to see it in print. On some level, I was aware of this through personal experience. However, seeing it spelled out solidified the concept for me.

I wish there was more of this!

In the end, experienced AFOLs will not acquire anything new in the Art of the Minifigure. Additionally, you will find very little art. However, fans new or returning to the hobby will get a nice rundown of Minifigure design and production. The main advantages here are the collection of information in one place and the physical book if you are a book lover. Sadly, for me, the Art of the Minifigure is a book I have read before in one form or another and nowhere near as thorough as I would have liked. I enjoyed Chronicle’s Master Builder Notebook more.

Until next time,

-Tom

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