LEGO Icons 10312 Jazz Club builds the case for dropping yellow minifigures

The designer behind LEGO Icons 10312 Jazz Club has acknowledged the set raises ‘the topic of yellow minifigures’, potentially building the case for moving towards more realistic skin tones.

While licensed sets have used realistic skin tones for nearly two decades, we’ve also since seen the LEGO Group move away from yellow-skinned characters in original themes like Friends and DUPLO, while this year’s 21337 Table Football is the first non-IP set to include a range of diverse skin tones. But other System themes like NINJAGO, Creator 3-in-1 and the Modular Buildings Collection still use yellow minifigures – a policy that LEGO designer Anderson Grubb had to navigate for 10312 Jazz Club.

LEGO fan media Tips & Bricks spoke to Grubb about the possibility of introducing realistic skin tones for next year’s modular building, noting that one of the set’s musicians has ‘textured hair that could code them as being black, but a yellow minifigure doesn’t capture this well’.

“I can confirm that was the original intention with the textured hair, because jazz is rooted in black culture,” Grubb told T&B, before conceding that he wasn’t able to shift the subtheme towards realistic skin tones. “The topic of yellow minifigures is a broader question than just the [modular buildings], and the policy remains the same for modulars to include yellow minifigures.”

As is, 10312 Jazz Club still manages to represent a diverse range of people, with an even split of genders and styles across its eight minifigures. The musician coded as black also has a hearing aid (which isn’t the first time we’ve seen such a device on a minifigure). Given the LEGO Ideas team has outright stated realistic skin tones offer greater ‘representation, diversity and inclusivity’, however, the next logical step is surely moving away from yellow minifigures altogether.

LEGO Icons 10312 Jazz Club minifigures

It’s a polarising issue, no doubt, so it’s not a decision the LEGO Group is ever likely to make lightly – and as Grubb’s comments suggest, it’s one that will represent a huge policy shift for the company. The minifigures in modular buildings have already undergone one change, though, as 2018’s 10260 Downtown Diner switched out classic smiley faces for unique and detailed prints.

Doing away with yellow minifigures would be a more seismic shift, but we wouldn’t rule it out altogether: as we discussed earlier this year, 21337 Table Football could be just the beginning.

10312 Jazz Club launches January 1, 2023. Click here to see more images of the set.

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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.

10 thoughts on “LEGO Icons 10312 Jazz Club builds the case for dropping yellow minifigures

  • 24/12/2022 at 18:43

    Lego should run a test to see what customers want. Lego should offer a pair of products where the only difference is yellow mini-figs or racially diverse set of minifigs, and see how customers react.

    This would certainly be better than seeing who is loudest on the internet 😉

  • 17/12/2022 at 22:56

    I hope they keep yellow figure for everything that doesn’t represent a real person/actor.

    Modulars, and most non licensed sets, take place in the lego world, and in lego world, all people are yellow.

    and I fear if they move to real skintones altogether, every set will be a debate about it and if they include enough of this or of that. It won’t do lego and the real world any good. The yellow is a perfect way to avoid the issue altogether, and simultaneously state that skintone just doesn’t matter at all. Its about the characters and stories we create, not about the colour of the characters

  • 16/12/2022 at 15:44

    Porque no los dos?

    Just like when they switched from the generic smiley face in modulars a few years ago to some controversy, it’d be great if they just included a few options for heads. It’s Lego. You can do what you want with it.

  • 15/12/2022 at 14:23

    I realized the issue as soon as I saw the set and I thought how awesome it is that LEGO still uses yellow minifigures. As a toy, it’s outstanding to see people as more alike than not. The world will be a better place when we see people for the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

  • 15/12/2022 at 14:08

    Tips & Bricks are always trying to push an agenda, and have a tendency to bit the hand that feeds it.

  • 15/12/2022 at 12:44

    Agreed with the other comment. Why does race have to even be brought up everywhere? Kids of all races have always enjoyed the yellow minifigures since they’ve been created without giving any thought to race…leave it alone.
    I’m black myself and don’t want to see black minifigures… It’s a toy.

  • 15/12/2022 at 11:59

    they do already have several shades of yellow pieces (I’m thinking more of the pastel and orange-y yellows, not so much the neon yellow); they could start using a few different kinds of yellow and brown to represent a more diverse range of minifigures without necessarily specifying any particular real world skin tone

  • 15/12/2022 at 11:09

    Oh, who cares, stop trying to replace yellows with fleshies in generic classic themes. No one likes fleshies!

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