How long do we have until LEGO replaces yellow minifigures altogether?

The LEGO Group has opted for skin tones in 21337 Table Football for better diversity – so how long do we have until it replaces classic yellow minifigures altogether?

According to Women’s Brick Initiative, the LEGO Group originally chose yellow as the default colour for minifigures in 1978 to ‘avoid assigning a specific ethnicity in sets that don’t include any specific characters’. Almost 30 years later, it expanded to skin tones with early NBA-themed basketball sets and – more memorably – the LEGO Star Wars theme, to allow for more accurate representation of the galaxy’s diverse cast of characters.

In the 17 years since, a clear distinction between licensed and non-licensed themes has emerged: in-house themes like CITY, NINJAGO and Monkie Kid use yellow minifigures, while sets and product lines based on IPs or real people use a growing mix of skin tones. Those lines are now beginning to blur, however, with 21337 Table Football – which is the first non-licensed set to move away from yellow minifigures.

LEGO Ideas 21337 Table Football 19

According to LEGO Ideas Design Manager Samuel Johnson, using skin tones (rather than yellow minifigures) gives builders ‘the opportunity to see themselves in one of these characters’.

“We wanted to make everyone feel represented,” he explained to Brickset. “It’s about representation, diversity and inclusivity. Football is not for men only, it’s for everyone. So we want to make families come together, we want to make people play, have fun for the love of football. So I think that it doesn’t matter who you are, we want it to look like you should be able to play.”

If the LEGO Group now believes that it needs skin tones to represent racial diversity (even in non-licensed sets), it’s surely only a matter of time before that logic extends to themes that still use yellow minifigures, including CITY, the Modular Buildings Collection, NINJAGO and even Collectible Minifigures. (It’s worth noting that mini-dolls have always used skin tones, including in the non-licensed theme Friends.)

The idea that yellow minifigures are not as diverse as the LEGO Group once thought isn’t revelatory. Maia Weinstock wrote for Scientific American in 2015 that ‘while many with lighter skin might see themselves in a so-called ‘neutral’ yellow minifig, it’s hard to believe that people with darker skin have embraced this viewpoint’. Elsewhere, a petition on change.org to abandon yellow minifigures currently has more than 1,500 signatures.

If the age of the yellow minifigure is truly coming to an end, it will mark a significant moment in the LEGO Group’s history. For now, it depends entirely on whether 21337 Table Football is a one-off – or a sign of a wider shift in policy and perspective within the company.

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Chris Wharfe

I like to think of myself as a journalist first, LEGO fan second, but we all know that’s not really the case. Journalism does run through my veins, though, like some kind of weird literary blood – the sort that will no doubt one day lead to a stress-induced heart malfunction. It’s like smoking, only worse. Thankfully, I get to write about LEGO until then. You can follow me on Twitter at @brfa_chris.

12 thoughts on “How long do we have until LEGO replaces yellow minifigures altogether?

  • 12/10/2022 at 22:33
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    I was seriously be excited if they switch to always using flesh colored figures!

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  • 11/10/2022 at 13:56
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    Please, whoever although I know what kinds of people try to push this…. “inclusivity” stuff but we all know they’re fake, LEAVE LEGO OUT OF THIS!! Stop pushing your fake agenda which you just follow for the sake of trying to look good. The yellow Lego minifigs are iconic as is. No matter what race, ethnicity, religion etc, we all love them. I don’t want fingers being pointed at me either because “they did it because of you!!” when I never asked for anything…. Leave your “ideals” out of Lego.

    Thank you.

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  • 09/10/2022 at 15:36
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    No. I’d much more prefer the reverted to doing only yellow and only bog standard smiley face. No lipstick, no beard scruff, no sunglasses, anything. Then the personality/gender is all in what bits each person decides to add or remove to the minifig. Even in themed sets like Star Wars.

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  • 09/10/2022 at 12:57
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    Don’t do this. I’m tired of everything changing and in the name of inclusivity or whatever. Then, everyone pointing their white fingers to my black skin and saying it’s for me because I feel a certain way. But, nobody is asking what way I feel. I don’t. I’m a man, I’m a father, I’m a husband, I’m an American. After all that, I don’t have time to be black. Stop. Changing. Things.

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  • 08/10/2022 at 22:43
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    I don’t understand why a black person would feel less inclusive with yellow minifigs than a white person, neither of them are yellow and both have to use their imagination intensively. The more realistic colors and characters will drive the opposite, ie some people will hate a few of those and will be less likely to buy them. On the positive side, this is a very expensive set that very few will buy. For the other sets please keep the neutrality.

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  • 08/10/2022 at 01:13
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    The huge variety of non-yellow heads in the foosball table is the main draw for me. Can’t stand the yellow heads. They look awful combined with the flesh toned superhero’s in my Lego city

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  • 07/10/2022 at 13:42
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    I think it’s sad that everything seems to need to have a political agenda. Lego is a toy, arguably the best toy in the world, but that’s where it ends. I don’t want my toys to feel they need to make political statements, any more than I want my burger joint to push ethnic diversity or my bank to push gender issues.

    If you try to make everything about diversity and inclusion you eventually just highlight the people you’ve left out, by trying to offend no-one you offend more people.

    There is nobody on the table football in a wheelchair, a turban or hijab. No-one who is obese, no-one with tattoos, no-one with missing limbs, no-one who is taller or shorter than anyone else. There’s not even anyone with glasses on! I can see a bunch of people who can choose to be offended, but hopefully everyone is mature enough to understand that the world isn’t just about them – that to celebrate humanity doesn’t just mean the bits that look like you, or even the bits you like.

    Minifigs and their neutral, yellow, happy faces are as good a representation of aspirational people as anyone else – so leave them be.

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  • 07/10/2022 at 11:22
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    One of the things I like about Lego is its inability to define humanoid attributes that ridiculously lead to division in real life.

    Please stop suggesting that we need to take more imagination and neutrality from Lego.

    Reply
  • 07/10/2022 at 10:47
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    How about a mix between yellow and brown? Like with the 2003 cloud city set.

    What I dislike most is the skin tone they use for light-skinned characters. They look so pale they’re sick. Yellow works best in these use cases IMO.

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  • 07/10/2022 at 07:49
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    NO! Leave it like it is now! It’s a toy and don’t mix it with your seek political agendas!

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  • 07/10/2022 at 02:27
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    When I was a child, I never saw myself as a LEGO minifig – they were just people to be controlled. As an adult who only builds MOCs based on my own LEGO city ideas, all the minifigs have their heads replaced with classic heads. Keeping the 80’s dream alive.

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    • 07/10/2022 at 11:47
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      I think it’s a bad idea. as licenced is fine, but people will only want what relates to them

      Reply

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