2012 LEGO Friends sets bring brick-based construction play to girls [News]

Since the news is making the rounds on the web at this point, most of you are probably already aware of the upcoming LEGO Friends theme in 2012. The response has been, shall we say, mixed. Since I’m sure there’ll be quite a discussion here and elsewhere, I won’t shy away from sharing my own opinion. Bottom line for me: I’m not a huge fan of the new figures, but they bring much-needed diversity to LEGO people, and the sets themselves appear to be entirely brick-built, with some interesting new colors.

For those of you out there who’ve made statements about gender stereotyping, take a look at this photo of set 3933 Olivia’s Inventor’s Workshop:

LEGO Friends 3933

That’s right — Olivia has invented herself a robot in her laboratory through the use of math and science.

The main difference is in the scale and shape of the figures, called “mini-dolls”. Here’s a comparison:

LEGO Friends vs. Minifigs

I’ve heard that the hair pieces are compatible with standard minifigs.

The buildings in the sets are built from standard bricks, rather than large, single-purpose elements:

LEGO Friends 3315

Here’s the official press release:

LEGO Group Declares New Year’s Resolution for 2012: Deliver Meaningful Play Experiences to Girls Worldwide with LEGO® Friends

Company brings classic construction play to the girls’ aisle with first-of- its-kind LEGO® mini-doll figure, three new brick colors and detailed interiors that reflect four years of research in play needs of girls

BILLUND, Denmark (December 19, 2011) – The LEGO Group, the world’s leading construction toy brand, today announced LEGO® Friends, a new play theme that tailors the iconic LEGO construction experience especially to girls ages five and up. LEGO Friends delivers on a girl’s desire for realistic role-play, creativity, and a highly-detailed, character-based world with the core values of LEGO building.

The LEGO Friends collection of 23 products ranges in price from $5.99 to $99.99 USD and the first 14 will be available for sale in select toy, discount merchandise, specialty and online stores beginning December 26, 2011 in the United Kingdom and January 1, 2012 in the United States. A rolling International launch will follow in the spring, with the remaining nine sets launching in the summer months.

“We felt it was time to test assumptions that girls aren’t interested in building and to breathe fresh air into a toy category filled mostly with pre-fabricated play experiences for girls,” said Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO, LEGO Group. “We focused on creating a play experience centered on the joy of creation, while heeding the way girls naturally build and play. We are incredibly proud of the solution we deliver with LEGO Friends, and are resolved to build this platform for years to come.”

LEGO Friends is the first 100 percent LEGO building experience fully optimized to girls’ tastes and interests. Thousands of girls and their mothers worldwide participated in intensive research that validated the desire for more beauty, realistic details, accessories and interior building and role play opportunities in a LEGO offering.

Introducing the LEGO mini-doll figure

Anchored by the introduction of a new mini-doll figure, LEGO Friends introduces a new LEGO minifigure platform tailored to girls’ requests for a more realistic, relatable and stylized figure. Designed to the same scale of the classic LEGO minifigure, the mini-doll figure stands roughly 5 millimeters taller than its minifigure sibling, yet features similar constructability, shares the iconic “claw” hand to hold the same accessories, can wear the same hair and headpieces, and is compatible with all LEGO building sets. A total of 29 different mini-doll figures will be introduced in 2012.

“LEGO Friends is one of the most researched LEGO projects ever and is a culmination of years of anthropological research with girls around the world to understand what they expect from a construction toy,” said Nanna Ulrich Gudum, senior creative director, LEGO Group. “In talking with girls and their moms, we understand that girls really want a LEGO offering that mirrors what the boys experience, but in a way that fulfills their unique desire for remodeling and redesign, combined with realistic themes in community and friendship.”

“Unlike previous LEGO toys for girls, LEGO Friends, at its core, does not apologize for being a construction toy and delivers, for the first time, a building experience in the same scale as our classic offerings,” Nanna Ulrich Gudum continued. “What LEGO Friends does differently is deliver the beauty, details, accessories, real world themes and need for strong interior play that the research revealed would make all the difference for girls ages 5 and up.”

Welcome to Heartlake City

The LEGO Friends story centers on the everyday lives and personalities of five girls in a fictional hometown called Heartlake City. Each of the friends—Olivia, Mia, Andrea, Stephanie and Emma—has a distinct personality and interests, such as animals, performing arts, invention and design, that are reflected in the models. Building sets reflect different parts of town where the girls’ adventures take place—downtown, suburbs, beach, camping grounds and mountains.

The product collection

Half of the launch collection includes construction sets themed to introduce girls to each of the “Friend’s” personalities, including: Stephanie’s Outdoor Bakery, Emma’s Splash Pool, Andrea’s Stage, Olivia’s Inventor’s Workshop, Stephanie’s Pet Patrol, Mia’s Puppy House and Emma’s Design Studio. Girls are also invited to construct the Friends’ favorite locations in Heartlake City with larger building sets, including: Stephanie’s Cool Convertible, Olivia’s Tree House, Heartlake Dog Show, Butterfly Beauty Shop, City Park Café, Heartlake Vet, and Olivia’s House. The remaining nine sets launching later in the year deliver the same range in price and theme.

Immersive brand experience

Children will be immersed in the new world they can create with LEGO Friends through a variety of brand experiences planned for 2012. In addition to providing product information, the LEGO Friends website will allow children to explore the personalities of each of the five Friends and the different spots in Heartlake City. The site will also feature an avatar creator, mini-movies, games, video building tips, story extensions, contests, news and an events calendar. Also planned are Interactive building events and road shows, promotions, magazines, digital content, a mini movie, in-store experiences, books and more. Check www.LEGOFriends.com for more information.

So, what do you think? Sound off in the comments.

24 comments on “2012 LEGO Friends sets bring brick-based construction play to girls [News]

  1. mrsthankyou

    As a girl, I loved building MOC houses with Legos, and wish my daughter (6 yrs. old) had a similar interest in building, but she loves the minifigs. She likes that they can be mixed and matched and does have them do things in scenes set up by me and my son. The new minifig design doesn’t really seem necessary, especially given all the faces, clothing options, hair, etc. that have come for the standard, however I still am hopeful since girl Lego offerings are so limited. I’m happy that the house isn’t completely pink. I hope there are various levels of challenging building so the older girls aren’t left out too. Very curious…

  2. cmathiesen

    First reaction the other day was: what? Now Lego messed up the strategies like in the 90’s. But then after a few days looking at the range and stuff I have got to the point where I look forward to the bricks and I might learn to like the figures too. But I think there is a strange wording about construction playing – that girls are asking for that kind of toy. Thats new to me. I don’t think girls bother build Lego setups to roleplay. But for geek dads with daughters it might be great. My daughter (2,5y) and I enjoy duplo that way. I build and she play with the characters. So now I say let’s give it a chance. Times might have changed a bit or Lego might have thought this one through.

  3. nate_decastro

    I really hope they can pull it off. From the sound of things, they’ve done their homework. I’m looking forward to the new colors, and of course my niece will be getting some of these. Hopefully with time, there will be more of a gender balance in the hobby (much the way video-games and comics have come along). I think this is a big step in the right direction.

  4. 4estFeller

    I think this is absolutely great. My mom used to love legos when she was little, I know she would have loved this theme. And who doesn’t like a theme that introduces several new colors and parts to the already huge palette? I’m also impressed that lego did something different this time around, instead of those all pre-fab bricks they made everything much more brick-built.

    I very much approve.

  5. JaneyRedBrick

    Three cheers for LEGO!!!! HIP HIP Hooray.

    Yes, of course I would have preferred minifigures, and I can make tiny complaints (cant we all)…. but overall… ALL HAIL the minifigure scaled buildings, cool accessories, awesome theme ideas, new parts and colours.

    I will be buying the entire line, and multiplies of many sets.

    Thank you LEGO for bringing back the beauty and scale of paridisa, but breathing fresh air into it and giving it a 2012 feel.

    LOVE, LOVE, LOVE!!!

  6. Heather LEGOgirl

    I think this is as close as LEGO has ever been to getting it right when it comes to targeting the young female demographic. Appeal to the people who buy the toy for their little girls by making them appear girly and cute and then sneak in the universal appeal of being able to create whatever your imagination desires – whether it’s pink and frilly or a mecha robot that just happens to be purple. I’m not a big fan of the “doll” fig but I think that’s the sentimental side of me speaking. My little girl will probably adore it. Just as long as she builds, I’m a happy camper.

  7. billthefish

    Really? Why does there have to be a special “girl” targeted theme with pink all over the place and special “mini-dolls”. Lego, to me, has always been a unisex toy. Yes, boys are typically associated with Lego but is that because girls don’t like Lego or is it adults don’t buy sets for girls? My sister would say the latter…

  8. basketcase5

    As a grown up girl who played extensively with lego as a child I can say I would have loved this! My brother and I both would receive lego as gifts, I was endlessly frustrated by the fact we had 2 girl hair pieces (red pig tails and straight brown hair, ewwww) and only about 3 tops that could be girly. While my brother was building cars and things my friends and I would be busy building houses with brick built stoves and sinks and couches and beds. We then played house and sent our minifigs off to shop at the store or to the hospital. We treasured every piece that actually resembled something real (parrots, flowers, fire extinguishers, coins, chairs!) our special pieces were fairly limited back then (late 80s early 90s) so we knew everything we had by heart. I LOVE the girl minidoll, I am excited by all the pieces they come with. I do think that lego has expanded hugely the color and fun items you get in all the sets today, but I still think if you look at sets in general you often have to go to some pretty high price points to find many female characters or sets that will appeal to alot of girls. Despite what we might like to think about gender equality it is still true that girls and boys do play different.

  9. rushiosan

    I just don’t like the new “mini dolls”. In my opinion, we don’t need more toyish look minifigures. We got enough with Toy Story and Cars line. They could simply have used standard LEGO minifigs themed with a more “girly” look. We had decently printed torsos and new hairs with Caribbean Pirates and Harry Potter licenses, why don’t explore them even further? I wish we could have something like 90’s Paradisa, something compatible with the standard LEGO System in every way.

    In other hand, the design for enviroments, colors, accessories is wonderful though. We have the availability of more elements in rare colors, like pink, purple and cian, and that’s pretty good for collectors. For example, those new purple colored tools could fit Halo purist MOCs perfectly…

    I wish luck to LEGO. Belville theme never was a top-selling line. Same for Galidor and Ben 10 stuff. They’re way too far from LEGO System standards, and I think the reason behind this is because most part of customers would get a real figure instead a building toy which is half bricky, half sculpted. Let’s hope they hit the right spot on the market this year.

  10. Paganomation

    I am probably the only one thinking about this, but it looks like it’s going to be basically impossible for the mini-doll figures to do any kind of walk cycle through stop-motion animation.

  11. yoderism

    I love the proportions on those minidolls. If they are spacey enough, I would totally use them instead of minifigs. Minifigs have always been the most frustrating element for me, they just look so bad, all squished up and blocky.

  12. skypirate

    I wish LEGO luck, but I’m doubtful it will fare any better than previous efforts. I tend to believe boys and girls are just wired differently and have different concepts of play.

  13. worker201

    I think TLG has done well here, and I’m excited about the new sets. And I think building vehicles to the new scale of the mini-dolls will be an interesting challenge. If there’s any room in my Lego budget this year, I’ll definitely be buying this theme.

  14. Bruz

    As a father, i “influenced” my daughter to built with Lego and to get into Lego. basically, i succeeded by having an anticipated approach: we’ve seen Jack Sparow’s movies, then we’ve been to Legoland then she built her first boat at 5 y.o. and she really enjoyed it. we have great time together. lately, we went to a lego meeting, she discovered that Lego proposed trains, so guess what she ask to santa claus?

    anyway…

    When I’ve seen your post, I was thinking that it was a great thing. I just showed the pictures to my daughter which is 6 y.o. now… she told me: I don’t like it, this is for babies… I don’t feel the same, but she really didn’t appreciate the design, thinking this was too much baby-like designed (sorry, I don’t know an appropriate word in English).

    I just wanted to share that.

  15. darthpapercut

    Complaining that the new ‘Friends’ set is too pink and girly is like complaining that the ‘Batman’ sets are too black and boyish. Lego had a team of people from different nations work with girls to find what they wanted and researched how they played. Lego states they didn’t want to create a stereotypical ‘girl’ set, but girls liked the ‘Easter’ colors and ponies. They found that girls tend to put themselves into role playing situations while boys think in the third person when they play. Girls want to shrink down and be in the construct. Girls want a mini-figure with the same color hair, eyes, and skin that’s not bulky looking. (Think American Girls dolls.) This is from a father of a little girl that took my Star Wars sets and made a kitchen for the two female minifigs I have. The tauntaun was tied up outside.

    Boys shouldn’t complain. This is somehow teaching girls that tall, leggy women want to hang with shorter, stout guys. :þ

  16. graymattr

    I hope these sell like crazy. It’s a great idea and a huge step up from Scala. The only drawback I see is that the legs don’t move independent of each other.

  17. Syruss

    I have mixed feeling about this as well. I like the way the sets look, and will probably pick up a few for the element combination, but I’m also a fan of the modern minifig, so there’s that as well.

    As far as gender stereotypes and why they changed the colors up when targeting girls, I think the explanation is obvious, if not entirely accurate. Lots of people are saying, “hey, I’m a girl, and I love LEGO. What’s wrong with the other sets.” Fact is, fewer girls have a desire for the sets that are out there now. I know some like them. My girlfriend and my daughter both love LEGO as it is. But if LEGO takes it’s current sales into account for marketing purposes, then it’s clear that something has to be changed in order for LEGO to appear to both genders. Now, is that answer pink bricks and “minidolls”? I couldn’t tell you. I don’t work in marketing.

    But from a builders and fathers perspective, I think these will be much more successful than LEGO’s lat few tries. As I said before, I love the palette combinations, and I know my daughter is excited about these new sets. So while it may not be universal, it’s 2 for 2 in my house. (Haven’t gotten my girlfriend’s opinion yet. lol.)

  18. legomason

    The real question is: What aisle will these be sold in? The “girl” aisle or the “LEGO” aisle? Seems like it would have to be both.

  19. Freddo

    My initial reaction was one of cynicism – another LEGO attempt to move into girls’ toy territory, however this seems like they’re making a good fist of it – it looks like a rebooted Belville with proper bricks and minifigs – it’s nice to see TLG combine those modern detailed features like the lawnmower and barbeque pictured above – my wife certainly likes those sorts of build, particularly from the modular range

    But arguably that detailed style found in the modular range is already female friendly LEGO, do we really need girly doll-like minifigs? The minifigs have never been male orientated, they’re just minfigs, and the sets are rarely ‘aimed at’ boys, they just have always gravitated towards them because they generally like construction toys

    If you’re in a situation where you’re studying girls trying to get your construction product to sell and find that you need to prioritise the role-play element to get them interested, then it seems somewhat counter-productive to me, it’s not really going to be a construction toy first and foremost

    That said, they tell me a lot of LEGO is aimed at the play experience rather than the build… so maybe it’s no worse than Toy Story – and if I have daughters it might make it easier to get them into LEGO

  20. Mike Crichton

    New colors? What did they need NEW colors for, they already had a full range of pastels. They should have used them. At this rate I’ll never have enough matching pink bricks to make an accurate Arcee , or enough purples to make a Sentinel. For shame, Lego, SHAME!

    … Ah, who am I kidding, I’m still gonna buy them.

  21. samwise_gamgee

    I’m fine with that, but I’m not gonna buy them, except maybe for the hair and new colors.

    WHY DO THEY HAVE NOSES?

  22. leebattersby

    I showed this to my 10 year old daughter last night– she’s been building for just under a year– and she lost her mind. we had to go searching for all the sets (thank you Brickset), and now I have a list of the ones she reallyreallyrellyreallyreallyreallyreally wants pleeeeeeeeaaaaasssseeee……. (roughly speaking: everything except the Outdoor Bakery and Splash Pool).

    When I asked her what was so attractive about them, the mini dolls were the first thing she mentioned, followed by the fact that she wouldn’t have to try to build what she calls ‘story sets’ out of other kits.

    This is a kid who’s set herself the holiday task of rebuilding and playing with all our Atlantis sets, so I don’t know if it’s essentially a ‘girl thing’, but it certainly does seem to resonate with a desire to build narratives and then populate them with recognisably human protagonists.

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