Today's entry into the Fantasy LEGO League is a bit of departure from our previous posts. In the past we've focused on a very specific line or theme that would have amazing minifigure potential. This time were not only looking at a broader overall theme, but we're actually making a case to expand an area where the LEGO Castle sets have already gone!
Sword and Sorcery Fantasy could either exist within LEGO's Castle/Kingdoms line or go the licensed route with Lord of The Rings or Dungeons & Dragons. We'll discuss the pros and cons of both alternatives along the way.
You can see the "rules" of these posts here.
Must-Have Minifigures: We've seen trolls and dwarves via LEGO Castle, but what about elves, ents, and centaurs?! Most professions in LEGO Castle and Kingdoms have been fairly standard over the years, but with fantasy elements you can have rouges, clerics, rangers, and barbarians. A license on the Lord of The Rings movies would bring forth minifig versions of Hobbits, Gandalf, Strider, Ringwraiths, and Smegol.
Propensity for Vehicles (C): No worse than the current Castle/Kindoms line. Depending on how you view it, however, there is one form of transportation that could really take off...Dragons!
Dragons are not unfamiliar territory for LEGO. Movies like "How to Train Your Dragon" have only fanned the proverbial fire.
Aside from the faithful steed, your kind of stuck with carts and war-wagons otherwise.
Preexisting Fan-Base (A): Sword and Sorcery Fantasy has been around in various forms for years. If LEGO took the licensed route with Lord of The Rings they would likely have the biggest fan base to tap into. Other licenses like Dungeons & Dragons may have a slightly narrower band of fans, but still strong.
Depth of Theme (A): Whether treated as a broad unlicensed theme or diving into the worlds of Middle Earth or D&D there's plenty of areas to mine for ideas.
Kid Friendliness: With the Hobbit more directed towards children (Tolkien's original book was anyway) and a movie supposedly in the works, this could easily have kid appeal. The trilogy, however, was perhaps targeted towards an older teen/young adult audience. Rating (B)
D&D on the other hand has been more heavily targeted toward teens and young adults with rumored (and false) ties to Satanism. Maybe its time to revive the old Dungeon's & Dragons cartoon series? Rating (C)
Expanding on the efforts already put forth by the LEGO Castle/Kingdoms line, these should appeal to children equally as well. Rating (A)
Likelihood of License:LEGO and Warner Brothers have partnered in the past with LEGO Batman, Harry Potter, and Ben 10. New Line is a subsidiary of Warner and has the film rights for Tolkien's books, in fact The Hobbit is currently in the planing stages.
Warner owns UK based Traveler's Tales (TT) Games, the folks who currently make the various LEGO licensed games we all love. In fact representatives of TT Games expressed only a few months ago that a LEGO Lord of The Rings license would be a fantastic idea. It was also announced this morning that Warner bought game maker Turbine, developers of Lord of The Rings and Dungeons & Dragons Online, further deepening Warner's ownership of the license in various forms.
Various aspects of Tolkien's legacy have been tied up in litigation in the past. It may be that a LEGO theme would experience similar problems. Perhaps if the sets focused only on the film versions? Rating (C)
Wizards of the Coast, a subsidiary of Hasbro, produces the various Dungeons & Dragons products. There's no track record of licensed themes based off of a series of games. Also, now that LEGO has their own game division, Hasbro might be reluctant to help a competitor make more money. Rating (C-)
Overall (B-): The main question for LEGO is would it be more profitable using or not using a licensed theme? The Star Wars juggernaut continues to roll on, but is LEGO putting too many of their eggs in a single basket? What would happen if Lucas decided to pull the license? It seems like it would be in TLG's best interest to have some other licensing partners with at least as much pull as the Star Wars franchise. Lord of the Rings via Warner seems like the best candidate. Star Wars has practically become the perennial Space theme, while Lord of the Rings would work nicely with Castle/Kingdoms.
The non-licensed route would be simple enough. There are plenty of fantasy creatures and characters not yet explored via Castle/Kingdoms, and to the best of my knowledge no one really 'owns' these concepts. Its likely that LEGO keeps more of the profits associated with non-licensed themes, but licenses can bring in more dollars overall.
And let's not forget future Collectible Minifigure series. Sword and Sorcery Fantasy figs could easily be added into an upcoming series.
Custom Options: Custom options abound. BrickForge and BrickArms each have medieval and fantasy weapons and armor. Fine Clonier has a series of custom decals based on Lord of The Rings already. In fact there are building instructions on the web on how to create your own custom centaur.
(Pictures from Go Gaming Giant and BrickForge.)