From buckets to busts: 25 years of LEGO Star Wars gimmicks

Not every swing from LEGO Star Wars has always been a hit, but the misses have still earned a valuable place in the hearts of fans.

As a theme with hundreds of LEGO sets, LEGO Star Wars has made some weird and wonderful design choices over the years. Without the level of experimentation that it’s enjoyed for the last 25 years, we wouldn’t have had some of the best-loved sets not just in LEGO Star Wars but also in other popular themes. Minifigure designs, building techniques, and other aspects of LEGO Star Wars have carried through to other themes, helping the entire LEGO system benefit.

That said, there are some short-lived – and even some surprisingly long-lived – products that haven’t quite hit the mark. In honour of LEGO Star Wars’ 25th anniversary, we’ve decided to journey through some of the wildest gimmicks in all the theme’s history.

Testing the waters in the early days

Not every LEGO Star Wars gimmick on this list, as noted above, was short-lived. In fact, the very first one of note, starting all the way back in 1999, made its last appearance as recently as 2018 with 66597 2-in-1 Super Pack. LEGO Star Wars Superpacks combine together a number (usually three) of small sets that follow the same topic, such as The Clone Wars, the Death Star, or other thematic connections.

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They provide an affordable way to get your hands on similar LEGO Star Wars sets – but is often criticised for being made up of low-interest sets, with some theorising that the LEGO Group is just trying to shift old stock off shelves. Nonetheless, if they’re sets you want, it’s a strong deal, which is probably why Superpacks have stuck around for so long.

Another pretty unique way of presenting LEGO Star Wars sets (although not quite as long-lived) is 2000’s 7159 Star Wars Podracing Bucket. On the face of it, the set doesn’t look too out there, made of three brick-built podracers and minifigures to race them. However, you could buy the set packaged up in a black LEGO bucket, designed to look like an oversized brick, much like modern-day LEGO containers. You can still buy buckets of LEGO today but it’s generally reserved for themes like LEGO Classic.

Not interested in weird and wonderful set packaging? Well, minifigures have had some interesting treatments too, including pairing them with collectible trading cards. The minifigures and cards generally came in packs of three and are now pretty rare. The stands they came on had a slit at the back for the cards to slot into, providing a backdrop for the minifigure to pose in front of.

Buildable characters are not a rarity in LEGO Star Wars (we’ll touch on more of them later) but these LEGO Star Wars x Technic crossovers that ran between 2000 and 2002 are pretty unique. For some droids, like 8001 Battle Droid below, the Technic style suited them pretty well. However, we don’t think anyone can argue that Threepio quite looks like himself…

Another long-lived experiment is the LEGO Star Wars minisets that ran from 2003 to 2012, designed as an affordable and straightforward build for kids. Virtually every major Star Wars vehicle has had the miniset treatment, acting like a spiritual predecessor to the Microfighter series. They generally didn’t come with minifigures, focusing instead on the vehicle, from ships to Imperial war machines like the AT-AT.

A decade of minifigure experiments

Between 2005 and 2014, there was also a wealth of experimentation with LEGO Star Wars minifigures and their accessories. Light-up lightsabers had gone down a treat as life-sized toys for kids, so why not give them to minifigures too?

While a fun idea in theory, the light-up lightsabers proved to be a short burst, running only in 2005 for a few sets. While no official reason for their disappearance has ever been given, they were likely expensive to produce and, with a battery life of just three hours, perhaps ultimately not worth the expense and effort.

Two years later, LEGO Star Wars briefly took the building process out of minifigures, offering a LEGO Star Wars Luke Skywalker Limited Edition Maquette. The figurine came fully built, effectively defeating the point (and pleasure) of LEGO as a hobby. As a limited edition release, it was never intended to be a permanent option. After all, many LEGO Star Wars fans love to fine-tune and customise their minifigures – which is harder to do with a pre-built figurine.

At the other end of the spectrum in 2010, the LEGO Star Wars Cube Dudes filled the place that LEGO BrickHeadz would later fill. Released as two limited edition sts for the Fan Celebration V and San Diego Comic Con in 2010, the sets depicted popular character like Boba Fett, Artoo, Threepio, Yoda, and Obi-Wan, among others. The stylised design of the LEGO Star Wars Cube Dudes makes them stand out from other buildable figures that have joined the theme over the years – but we can also see why they didn’t make it onto retail shelves.

Next up in character experimentation was an era that many LEGO Star Wars fans will remember: Clone Wars minifigures. The LEGO Star Wars team played around with large eyes on The Clone Wars minifigures between 2008 and 2010, as well as brighter colours, more angular features overall, leading to a clearly distinctive feel.

This came at a time of widespread minifigure experimentation across the LEGO system, with similar design choices in SpongeBob SquarePants, Mars Mission and Exo Force, often featuring differently printed eyes and oversized hairdos.

Between 2012 and 2013, LEGO Star Wars planets was another area of experimentation – in a sub-theme that even over ten years, holds some weight. In one set, you’d get a minifigure, mini-build of a ship, and a printed bauble of a planet. While slightly goofy in practice, the idea of rendering the plentiful planets of the galaxy far, far away is a good one – perhaps if executed slightly differently.

A LEGO Star Wars bust-up

If you thought we were done with LEGO Star Wars buildable characters, you thought wrong. 2015 saw the relaunch of brick-built characters, with 75107 Jango Fett being the first. A major improvement on the LEGO Star Wars x Technic, the more modern figures feature a more realistic design, with plates to smooth out the edges and add more detail. However, it’s worth noting that the proportions are still slightly off – and therefore earning themselves a place on this list.

In another incredibly short-lived burst, 2018 also saw the release of 75218 X-Wing Starfighter – and with it the one and only time we saw dual-moulded pilot helmets. While a good idea in theory for greater detail, it does leave the minifigures with comically oversized heads. However, it also allowed for different hair pieces to be used alongside helmets, leading some to wish for a return to the idea.

Offered as a promotional polybag in 2018, Darth Vader got his own little pod in 5005376 Star Wars Anniversary Pod, in a promo product that echoes his escape pod retreat at the end of Episode IV, when the Death Star explodes and he’s sent rocketing into space. The other side of the pod also appears to recreate his meditation chamber, complete with all the bells and whistles that a Sith lord with fewer limbs than he was born with needs to survive.

The LEGO Star Wars helmet collection has been a resounding success, all things concerned – but before the helmets could run, the LEGO Star Wars busts had to walk first in 2019. Darth Vader and a Sith Trooper were the only ones to ever join the team, with the sub-theme getting abandoned after just two sets. It was probably a sound choice; after all, the main appeal of such character-driven sets is the head/helmet itself. Who cares about a pair of brick-built shoulders?

Last but (perhaps) not least comes the latest experiment, released as a trio in 2023: the LEGO Star Wars mechs, 75368 Darth Vader Mech, 75369 Boba Fett Mech, and 75370 Stormtrooper Mech. While each one comes with a pretty respectable minifigure for the affordable price of £12.99 / $15.99 / €15.99, the existence of mechs in the LEGO Star Wars universe doesn’t make a ton of sense. Mechs are commonly seen in the MCU, so it’s easy to justify their appearance in LEGO Marvel – but not so much in the brick-built galaxy far, far away.

Support the work that Brick Fanatics does by buying your LEGO Star Wars sets using our affiliate links. Plus, stay up to date with all our latest features and deep dives for the 25th anniversary of LEGO Star Wars sets here and, with May the 4th just around the corner, get ready for this year’s headline LEGO Star Wars shopping event with our dedicated deals page. Thank you!

Author Profile

Rachael Davies
Rachael Davies
I write about all the very best fandoms – and that means LEGO, of course. Spending so much time looking at and talking about LEGO sets is dangerous for my bank balance, but the LEGO shelves are thriving. You win some, you lose some.

Rachael Davies

I write about all the very best fandoms – and that means LEGO, of course. Spending so much time looking at and talking about LEGO sets is dangerous for my bank balance, but the LEGO shelves are thriving. You win some, you lose some.

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