OverLoad wrote:I don't see why everyone dislikes the Fright Knights so much though
They're cartoony evil bordering on dumb. The logo is silly, the Bat Lord is over-the-top "evil", as is Willa the Witch. Night Lord's castle even has a red "witch's hat" on the tower. And the Bat Lord holds some sort of bat-on-a-stick as ... a weapon? A scepter? Anyway, the idea of the theme is basically a halloween-style evil group, which is just goofy.
But if you look at castle NOW, you wouldn't see it as so horrible. LEGO's taken the castle theme to a cartoony place in more recent years, with KK2, the undead, and trolls. So, comparing the Fright Knights to those themes doesn't give it a sharp contrast.
However, if you were a LEGO fan in 1996, looking at the upcoming Fright Knights lineup, you'd likely be similarly mortified. Sure, LEGO had gone a little
goofy with Majisto and the Dragon Masters in 1993, but this was taking it one step further into the realm of disgusting. In contrast to to 1978-1996, Fright Knights stood out like a sore thumb of pure awful.
The hobbyist community was pretty disapproving of a lot of the 1996-1998 lineup. Time Cruisers was seen as a mishmash of craziness, and "Town Junior" (juniorizing LEGO town for younger kids) was heralded as the sign of the coming apocalypse. In 1997, with the advent of Time Twisters, UFO, and Fright Knights, one fan commented along the lines of "1997-- now with 20% more evil!" People also loathed Insectoids and Cyberslam in 1998.
Basically, that's the timeframe when a lot of AFOLs started heavily critiquing LEGO for taking a wrong turn. And (amazingly!) 1998 was the first year that LEGO ever recorded a financial LOSS rather than a financial gain. Coincidence? Who knows-- they blamed computer games at the time, but here we are in 2011, and LEGO's doing fantastically well, so I doubt that excuse adds up to much.
Anyway, I view Fright Knights as part of a trend in the late 1990's where LEGO tried to spice up their offerings to the point where they lost touch with the AFOLs, and possibly even with kids. Again, looking at it retroactively, you might not think it's all THAT bad-- but in context, it was a pretty different picture.