Friday, January 21, 2011

A Decade Gone

Back in the year 2000, I was something of a smart-aleck. I still am, but having passed the threshold of my adult years (by a wide margin now), and having gained some excuse for it insofar as I'm now (hopefully) actually smarter, it's less obvious. What can I say? Back at the dawn of the 2000s, I was not even 13--that didn't happen until a month and more after Y2K failed its glorious promise to wipe out life as we knew it.

Anyway, one of the smart alecky things I remember best of that prehistoric period is that I was greatly irritated by anyone who said that the second millennium ended Dec. 31st, 1999, and that the 3rd Millennium commenced the following day--and I'd have told you so, if given half a chance. Not, we should be clear, that my opinion has changed: a millennium is a thousand years, and the first millennium started with year 1, not year 0 (there was no year 0, only 1 B.C. then 1 A.D.... but I digress).

This leads me, in a roundabout way, to this post's topic: the fact that a decade has just ended and a new one begun. It was a decade that spans four major residences in my life, from my childhood home to my family's move back into town as a teen, to my college years, and now to my graduate studies in another country. Within the scope of this blog's interest, it spanned the years from the heyday of my "classical" childhood view of LEGO, through the discovery of the AFOL community and the great "take-apart" of 2004, when most/all of my sets were dismantled, changing my collection from a set-based status quo to a moderately well sorted pile of bricks, and then back past a "dim" age into the rediscovery of my love for official sets and the transition into story-telling.

Okay, that was a long sentence...

In other words, it was a decade with a lot of change. Obviously, there was the colour change in 2004, and the change to flesh-toned figs in licensed themes within a year (if my memory is right). It saw the proliferation of licensed themes, including Avatar, Batman, Indiana Jones, Spongebob Squarepants, and Prince of Persia--not to mention the unstoppable force of Star Wars that began in the last years of the previous decade.

With regards to LEGO's core themes: Town, Castle, Space, it was an uphill battle, but they all came out of the decade stronger than they entered. Castle had the most dramatically rough ride. It started with Knight's Kingdom, which had amazing figs and juniorized sets, having finished off the previous decade. This left a Castle-sized hole in LEGO's lineup for three years, until the Knight's Kingdom label returned in the vanguard of the colour-change in 2004. Known better as KK2, this theme is probably the most reviled Castle theme to date, the Fright Knights possibly excepted, though it improved in its three year run. It was immediately followed by Castle (known variously as Castle 2007, the Crownies, Fantasy Era...) and, in 2010, Kingdoms, both of which seem to belong to a renaissance within the Castle theme.

Similar tales could be told about Town, which started the decade with juniorised fare and LEGO Studios, and ended it with several years' worth of amazing sets; or about Space, which launched Life-on-Mars (a bit of a dud...) in 2001 and ended the decade strong with Space Police (iii).

In addition to the licensed themes, and these core attractions, LEGO during the 2001-10 decade also featured Alpha Team (in 3 incarnations), Orient Expedition, Exoforce, Aquaraiders, Power Miners, and Atlantis.

There is a lot that I could say about the individual LEGO sets that came out in the decade just finished, and I probably will say a lot, but for now that overview of what the decade spanned will have to suffice. Besides, it's a bit unfair to the sets to tar them with the same brush... after all, for example, what does a 2002 Alpha Team-Mission Deep Sea set have in common with a Kingdoms set?

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