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The Detail of Minifigure Printing

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The Detail of Minifigure Printing

Postby OverLoad » Sun Apr 21, 2013 10:46 pm

Hello fellow CCers! Recently, I’ve been thinking about how much minifigure design (that is, in regards to printed parts) has changed over the years.

Every year, we normally get a multitude of new faces, printed torsos, and maybe even printed legs across a variety of themes. With a quick glance across the printings of years past, it’s clear to see that minifigures look a bit different than they did in the past.

Of course, the classic smiley has retained it’s use in sets up to the present day due to its prominence, but beyond that minifigure faces look nothing like they did 10 or 20 years ago. At one point in time, all minifigures had just two eyes and a cute smile. Then with the creation of Pirates in 1989, more expressions, eyebrows and facial hair came along with them. Faces eventually started using white pupils, and the double-sided face that was once a rarity is now a commonplace feature. Beards, glasses, any number of facial details have been added over the years to give us a variety of expressions, both in the realm of yellows and fleshies. In recent years, the cheekbone line has become more common on faces of all themes. However, how detailed can LEGO make these minifigures? At what point do they begin to look less like LEGO faces, and more like action figures?

For a brief period of time, LEGO was distinguishing between races in original themes (I’m referencing the Ninja theme, the NBA theme, as well as nasally equipped Western Indians. Maybe even Exo-Force could count?) prior to the advent of fleshies in licensed themes. LEGO Star Wars sets based on the Clone Wars TV show featured some absurdly stylized faces to fit the theme of the show.

Will the minifigure be unrecognizable from its current form in, say, 10 years? Will faces become hyper realistic, rendering the expressions we currently have useless? What of torso printings? How much more detailed can they become?

I though that this could be an interesting discussion point. Going along with it all, I tend to separate the older faces from the current ones in sorting; simply because I find that pupil-less minifigures alongside ones with pupils looks a tad odd. I almost hope that the detail of LEGO faces stays relatively within the same realm it is now, because I love the current set of faces in all honesty.

Curious to hear what you guys think.
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Re: The Detail of Minifigure Printing

Postby Rucifeld » Mon Apr 22, 2013 12:49 am

I have a love/hate relationship with the current generation of minifigs. I love how beautiful and detailed they are, but the cruel marketers at Lego know to split them all up exclusively between sets so you have to buy all the sets or pay a ridiculous price on Ebay/Bricklink for them secondhand. The other downside is that I don't like having "twins", i.e. two of the same minifig. With classic sets it didn't bother me, because they were generic enough, but now it's bothersome because each minifig has its own "personality". I guess that's what you call good marketing!

As far as how far it could go, I think with torsos, wrapping the printed around to the sides is a logical next step. One thing that bugs me is an incompatibility between new legs and old torsos that can occur. Belts are now usually printed on the legs, whereas in the past they were printed on the torso. Unless your minifig is Lulu from FFX, this multi-belt issue can be quite annoying when mixing and matching.

The difference between classic and modern faces is more than just the detail and the white glint (I don't think it's a pupil). The eyes are slightly smaller on modern faces and closer together, no doubt because they have to squeeze all the extra details in. Also, most modern faces have eyebrows.

I would to see Lego create a modern "classic" face pack so we could easily retrofit our old minifigs.
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Re: The Detail of Minifigure Printing

Postby Athos » Mon Apr 22, 2013 1:40 am

I never really considered extrapolating out the increasing level of detailing. It seems like there was a Rubicon point where torsos and faces from before a certain point, no longer look right when mixed with faces and torsos from after. For example, the old pirate torsos would look kind of goofy next to the more modern torsos. And I don't like the white dotted eyes mixed with the solid black eyes.

I've thought most about how this impacts castle. You have the pre-KK2 torsos, which all work great together. Then you have the post-KK2 torsos that all look great together. But when you stick them together it doesn't look right. In my own castle world mythology (which I hope to develop into stories someday) I have an explanation, but they just don't look right together.

I'm not sure the torso shapes will change in the future. Those seem to be pretty standard. It is, however, hard to imagine how much more detailed it could get, without resorting to texturing the actual torsos. With all the advances in 3D printing, who knows what they might do?

Maybe a new go at light-up figures? Bending elbows and knees? Sound chips? More hats that fit on hair pieces?

Steve
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Re: The Detail of Minifigure Printing

Postby Quickblade22 » Mon Apr 22, 2013 9:46 pm

The changes in LEGO and it's minifigs as a whole really seemed to happen around the turn of the century. More detail has it's pros and cons for sure, but the issue is what is more acceptable to your personal preference. I am one of those that have a hard time mixing my older looking torsos and faces to the newer ones. As nostalgic as the minifigs of the 80's and early 90's are to me, I absolutely love the detail that goes into the non licensed themes. I just can't mix my Black Falcons or Crusaders with my Kingdoms or Fantasy Era figs. The same goes for the faces. I love the newer faces as opposed to the classic ones and the ones we all got in the 90's. The concern for over doing it is still there however. Some licensed minifigs just seem to have too much detail. The orcs from the LOTR line just don't mesh well with the Fantasy Era trolls. My current biggest issue is mixing Yellows and Fleshies. On their own, either look great, but together, it just makes the yellow look odd. The advances in customizing and the reaction LEGO has had to it has accelerated the changes made to the minifig. What was hard to accept in the past has become common place. What I like least about the advancements is that the changes to the product has changed my idea of the hobby. The more detail into a MOC means I have to have more detail into a minifig. That's just my personal preference.
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Re: The Detail of Minifigure Printing

Postby OverLoad » Tue Apr 23, 2013 1:44 am

Rucifeld wrote:The difference between classic and modern faces is more than just the detail and the white glint (I don't think it's a pupil). The eyes are slightly smaller on modern faces and closer together, no doubt because they have to squeeze all the extra details in. Also, most modern faces have eyebrows.


Ah, I used "pupil" because that's how Bricklink seems to categorize them, but I never really thought of it as a "pupil" in a traditional sense either. But I didn't know the eyes being closer together. Thank you for your input!

Quickblade22 wrote:The same goes for the faces. I love the newer faces as opposed to the classic ones and the ones we all got in the 90's. The concern for over doing it is still there however. Some licensed minifigs just seem to have too much detail. The orcs from the LOTR line just don't mesh well with the Fantasy Era trolls.


Now see, normally I'd agree, but I feel in the case of orcish creatures and goblins and other "disgusting" creatures like that should have more detail than the average minifigure face, but not excessive. Again, it's all up to personal preference, and I really appreciate all of your opinions on the matter! :)
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Re: The Detail of Minifigure Printing

Postby ffilz » Wed Apr 24, 2013 6:43 pm

I've noted the additional detail, but somehow it doesn't bother me to mix. The only thing I don't mix in is fleshies. I am looking forward to mixing my LOTR orcs/goblins with the fantasy era trolls. I've already mixed Dobby's in as goblins, so the LOTR orcs/goblins with the ears will look just fine in my book.

I happily mix all my lion emblemed figs together in one faction. I do separate out so units are formed from figs from a particular era.

Maybe part of why it works for me is the large size of my setups (latest was 15 feet by 5 feet) which means you aren't looking at individual figures for the most part (except when a scene is highlighting on a single figure - at which point there might be an issue with mixing eras of figs).

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