Today LEGO skeletons are ubiquitous. From NINJAGO, to sunken ships trolled by divers, to the prisons of Jestro, a veritable army of potential undead skeletons can be found — but it was not always so.
Loved by the LEGO Group as a way to boost a set’s minifigure count while reducing plastic consumption, the skeleton has become a common part. However, they have not been around forever. Where did they come from? What was the very first set to include them? For our inaugural Origins article we will take the first of many trips back in time to uncover the first appearance of the skeleton.1995 is our real world destination, but in the LEGO-verse the scene is distinctly more medieval. The LEGO Group’s first foray into fantasy, 1993’s Dragon Knights, had just been replaced by the the Royal Knights. In addition to new weapons, new crests and new accessories (the first LEGO crown among others), Skully the Skeleton made his debut. And yes, he really did have an official name.Appearing in four sets, the three Royal Knights sets and Rocky Reef from LEGO Pirates, the designers made him the central play feature in half of these sets. Replacing the older ghost figure as the scare tactic of choice, his primary gimmick was the jump scare via popping up, swinging down or being otherwise suddenly revealed through a variety of play features.
While fairly similar to his modern progeny, the original Skully was different in one significant way — his arms were loose. Designed to facilitate a more ‘floppy’ pose reminiscent of death, the original skeleton was also one of the earliest ball and socket joint users (but not THE earliest, as will be covered another time).
From those original four sets, skeletons went on to infiltrate almost every major LEGO theme, appear in multiple colours, and eventually even be re-animated in such storylines as NINJAGO and Monster Fighters.