We have worked with Lego to painstakingly collect and catalog almost every minifig ever produced into a photographic timeline. You will be able to see the evolution of the iconic figure starting with the iconic 1970s space, city and castle sets that you can see in our exclusive tour of the secret historic Lego vault. Sensory overload ahead.
Introduction of the first minifigs as part of the Town, Space and Castle sets. They are all plain. The first female minifig is introduced two months after the first male minifigs.
First changes in faces introduced with the Lego Pirates. They maintain the basic expression but add extra features, like eye patches and beards.
The first specialized minifig appears in Lego Castle: a ghost.
Lego Island Adventure theme is introduced. That means minifigs wearing bikinis and thongs. Lego truckers also appear in Lego Town. Obviously, there's a connection between truckers and thongs.
The Lego skeleton comes out of the closet, the second specialized minifig. Aquanauts line introduced.
Lego Western appears, at last opening the possibility of forming the Village People with Lego minifigs: The sets include cowboys and, for the first time ever, a different Lego race: Native americans. By the way, this contradicts the answers about race that Lego gave us in our Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Lego Guide.
Adventurer Johnny Thunder, an Indiana Jones wannabe, appears. This comes before Lego ever got into the whole licensing of movies intellectual property.
The now famous Lego Star Wars appears, introducing the first ever licensed minifig: Luke Skywalker.
Lego Soccer scores a few goals with spring-loaded tabletop game action. This is a very bad year for the history of the minifig, however: Jar-Jar Binks minifig appears, the first figure with a molded head ever. It should have never happened. The minifig. And the movie.
Lego Studios appears, so people can film movies with minifigs as characters. You know what that means (see bottom of post).
Shorter legs appear for the same time. Now you can have short characters like Yoda. Double-sided heads are added too, so you can change the expresion of the minifig on the go.
Real races are introduced at last, as part of the licensing program. Lego Mars Mission is announced, marking the return of astronauts.
First Lego minifig with an electrical part appears: A lightsaber.
Manga comes into Lego minifigs with Exo-Force, introducing new wacky hairdos made of rubber.
Today, there are 4 billion minifigs in the world, making it the largest population on planet Earth.
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Important note: I thought about this timeline would be a good way to illustrate how minifigs have changed through the last three decades. We have finally restored this unique timeline after being lost during Gizmodo's move to the Kinja network. Since so many of you always ask for it, here it is again, in all its glory.
It covers the minifigs till 2008—which leaves lots of room for your own more modern favorites. Help us improve this catalog by adding new ones in the comments.