Take A Look at The 40-Year Evolution of the LEGO Minifigures

A LEGO ad for the new knight minifigures from 1978
A LEGO ad for the new knight minifigures from 1978
LEGO

Anyone who ever played with LEGOs is familiar with the block company’s distinct human figures, known as minifigures, or, for short, minifigs. The block-y yellow figures are included with almost every set or you can buy some of them on their own. The block sets didn’t always come with miniature people, though. The minifigure we know and love now didn’t come about until 1978.

In honor of the minifig’s 40th birthday, LEGO shared some of the company’s earliest designs. These include the 1974 LEGO building figure, a big model made of large, square bricks that had moveable arms but stationary legs, as well as the 1975 stage extra figures, which had armless, solid torsos and no printed features. Finally, in 1978, LEGO launched the first minifigures, featuring four moveable limbs and cartoony facial expressions.

Three LEGO figures
From left: LEGO building figure (1974), stage extra (1975) and minifigure (1978)

The minifigures could have looked significantly different, though. Early prototypes show armless, gnome-like creatures with bulging eyes, ears, and noses.

Minifigure doctors
From left: two early minifigure prototypes, the first minifigure doctor, and two more recent models.

Astronaut minifigures
From left: Two early prototypes for an astronaut minifigure, the first astronaut minifigure released in 1978, and two more recent designs.

Take a look at the wide array of early designs from the 1970s.

Rows of minifigures from LEGO history

When the minifigure first came out, LEGO started with about 20 characters—including an astronaut, a police officer, a doctor, and a knight—all of which had the same black eyes and smiles. Four decades later, there are now 650 different face designs and 8000 different characters. Though they all may have different outfits and, occasionally, hair, each one of them is exactly as tall as four square LEGO bricks stacked together.

Trace the full evolution of minifigure design through the years in the infographic below.

An infographic showing the timeline of minifigure design evolution

All images courtesy LEGO

20 Black-and-White Facts About Penguins

iStock/fieldwork
iStock/fieldwork

Who is a penguin's favorite family member? Aunt Arctica! 

We kid! But seven of the 17 species of penguins can be found on the southernmost continent. Here are 20 more fun facts about these adorable tuxedoed birds. 

1. All 17 species of penguins are found exclusively in the Southern Hemisphere.

A group of penguins on an iceberg.
iStock/axily

2. Emperor Penguins are the tallest species, standing nearly 4 feet tall. The smallest is the Little Blue Penguin, which is only about 16 inches.

Three emperor penguins
iStock/Fabiano_Teixeira

3. The fastest species is the Gentoo Penguin, which can reach swimming speeds up to 22 mph.

A gentoo penguin swimming underwater
iStock/chameleonseye

4. A penguin's striking coloring is a matter of camouflage; from above, its black back blends into the murky depths of the ocean. From below, its white belly is hidden against the bright surface.

Penguins swimming in the ocean
iStock/USO

5. Fossils place the earliest penguin relative at some 60 million years ago, meaning an ancestor of the birds we see today survived the mass extinction of the dinosaurs.

Emperor penguins with chicks
iStock/vladsilver

6. Penguins ingest a lot of seawater while hunting for fish, but a special gland behind their eyes—the supraorbital gland—filters out the saltwater from their blood stream. Penguins excrete it through their beaks, or by sneezing.

Penguin swimming in the ocean
iStock/Musat

7. Unlike most birds—which lose and replace a few feathers at a time—penguins molt all at once, spending two or three weeks land-bound as they undergo what is called the catastrophic molt.

Gentoo penguin chick molting
iStock/ChristianWilkinson

8. All but two species of penguins breed in large colonies of up to one thousand birds.

A colony of king penguins
iStock/DurkTalsma

9. It varies by species, but many penguins will mate with the same member of the opposite sex season after season.

Two chinstrap penguins
iStock/Legacy-Images

10. Similarly, most species are also loyal to their exact nesting site, often returning to the same rookery in which they were born.

Magellanic penguin nesting in the ground
iStock/JeremyRichards

11. Some species create nests for their eggs out of pebbles and loose feathers. Emperor Penguins are an exception: They incubate a single egg each breeding season on the top of their feet. Under a loose fold of skin is a featherless area with a concentration of blood vessels that keeps the egg warm.

Penguin eggs
iStock/Buenaventuramariano

12. In some species, it is the male penguin which incubates the eggs while females leave to hunt for weeks at a time. Because of this, pudgy males—with enough fat storage to survive weeks without eating—are most desirable.

A group of emperor penguins and chick
iStock/vladsilver

13. Penguin parents—both male and female—care for their young for several months until the chicks are strong enough to hunt for food on their own.

Penguin chick and parent on a nest
iStock/golnyk

14. If a female Emperor Penguin's baby dies, she will often "kidnap" an unrelated chick.

Three emperor penguin chicks
iStock/AntAntarctic

15. Despite their lack of visible ears, penguins have excellent hearing and rely on distinct calls to identify their mates when returning to the crowded breeding grounds.

Gentoo penguins
iStock/Goddard_Photography

16. The first published account of penguins comes from Antonio Pigafetta, who was aboard Ferdinand Magellan's first circumnavigation of the globe in 1520. They spotted the animals near what was probably Punta Tombo in Argentina. (He called them "strange geese.")

A group of magellanic penguins on the seacoast
iStock/encrier

17. An earlier, anonymous diary entry from Vasco da Gama's 1497 voyage around the Cape of Good Hope makes mention of flightless birds as large as ducks.

A cape penguin in South Africa
iStock/ziggy_mars

18. Because they aren't used to danger from animals on solid ground, wild penguins exhibit no particular fear of human tourists.

Man videotaping a penguin in Antarctica
iStock/Bkamprath

19. Unlike most sea mammals—which rely on blubber to stay warm—penguins survive because their feathers trap a layer of warm air next to the skin that serves as insulation, especially when they start generating muscular heat by swimming around.

Penguin swimming in the ocean
iStock/Musat

20. In the 16th century, the word penguin actually referred to great auks (scientific name: Pinguinus impennis), a now-extinct species that inhabited the seas around eastern Canada. When explorers traveled to the Southern Hemisphere, they saw black and white birds that resembled auks, and called them penguins.

This story was first published in 2017.

Can You Spot the Official Scrabble Words?

iStock.com/Rena-Marie
iStock.com/Rena-Marie

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