LEGO Series 26 Minifigures designer walkthrough: Ice Planet Explorer and Orion

From the ulterior motive behind Orion to the reason the Ice Planet Explorer doesn’t have skis, discover the secrets behind two more LEGO Series 26 minifigures direct from the designers.

We’re taking a deep dive into all 12 of the characters in 71046 Series 26 Space with LEGO Minifigures Creative Lead Esa Petteri Nousiainen and LEGO graphic designer Tore Magelund Harmark-Alexandersen, who both have fascinating and illuminating insights to share into how this range came together. In this instalment, we’ll explore the origins of Orion and pull back the snow curtain on the Ice Planet Explorer.

If you haven’t already, don’t forget to check out our behind-the-scenes features on the Alien Tourist and Blacktron Explorer, and the Imposter and Alien Beetlezoid, and keep an eye on Brick Fanatics for the rest in the days to come.


For many LEGO minifigures, the initial idea is on the table long before the specific execution. But for the unique and unusual Orion in 71046 Series 26 Space – a physical embodiment of a constellation – it was the other way around.


“We wanted to bring something that would be very fresh from a technology point of view, because technology is a big part of space and sci-fi,” Esa says, referring not to the theme of technology within a character, but the meta concept of a technological advancement for the LEGO Group’s production capabilities.

“We had the idea that we should have as many transparent parts on a minifigure as possible. And of course, we didn’t know what the character would be at that time. But then one of the designers came up with the idea of a constellation. Some of them are based on mythological characters and human shapes, and the one that she proposed was a physical form of Orion, [in which] we could put as much transparency as possible. That was really showing off the new stuff we have here.”

A monochromatic transparent minifigure would have been cool, but distinguishing the details would have been… difficult. That meant Esa and Tore had to figure out how to make the various components of Orion distinct without losing the overall effect of its transparency.

“All the areas where you see the body parts of this figure, it’s the transparent purple with the metal flakes,” Esa explains. “But then the accessories and the hair are just the basic transparent. So the character is the embodiment of the stars, and then the accessories are something that he has.”

In total, all but Orion’s torso, hands and hips are transparent, including the minifigure’s head, arms, legs, hair, club and shield. And according to Esa, that sets a new record for the LEGO Group.

“It’s probably the most transparent parts on a minifigure ever,” he says. “We couldn’t find anyone [more transparent]. We might be wrong – there are so many thousands of minifigures – but I think it’s the most transparency ever.”

Could there ever be a fully-transparent minifigure? That’s the question many LEGO Star Wars collectors have wanted answering for 25 years, with one eye on the potential for LEGO Force Ghost minifigures. And Esa says it’s not out of the question altogether, although there is one potential pitfall: the internals of the torso would be completely visible, including the connection points. That’s the reason Orion’s torso is an opaque silver.

“We wanted to bring in this silver [for] the armour as a cool [visual] break on the character, and also to hide a little bit of the connectors that would be otherwise very visible inside the figure,” he explains. “But maybe there is room for more transparent parts in the minifigures in the future…”

Ice Planet Explorer

One of four retro themes returning in 71046 Series 26 Space (alongside Blacktron II, M-Tron and Galaxy Squad), Ice Planet 2002’s homage comes in the form of the Ice Planet Explorer. It’s very much a next-generation take on the white, blue and trans-neon-orange astronauts of the original 1993 line, not least because that latter colour is no longer part of the LEGO portfolio. But the driving force behind bringing this one to life was actually Ice Planet’s narrative.

“We started thinking that they are on an icy planet,” Esa remembers. “We really wanted to make a helmet where you only have this thin slit that you see through to help prevent snow blindness, and then at the same time, create this very heavy archetype of a space marine – but also with a more inspiring angle, so it’s an explorer and not a soldier. That’s where the armour came into the picture.

“And of course, with the slit we could also just decorate this orange line, because we don’t have the transparent neon orange. And then we still wanted to include the saw – it’s not neon, but I think it’s still pretty darn cool, especially for the younger audience who don’t even know about the neon colour.”

Also included with the Ice Planet Explorer alongside that nostalgic chainsaw element is a brand new penguin, with printing that Tore says is open to interpretation. 

“Something that we pinpointed was that even though space is damn cold, and of course, Ice Planet is a bit of fun, it just shows that they have water on that planet,” he explains. “But to me as a kid, it was the coldest planet. And it’s so cold that even the penguin needs a suit! You can debate it – some say, ‘Oh, is that a cool robot?’ And some said, ‘Oh, is it a cool penguin in a suit?’ And we don’t even know. It’s up to you.”

When the first images of 71046 Series 26 Space landed online, a few Ice Planet die-hards questioned the absence of the classic ski elements that were included in the original ‘90s range. Esa says he’s seen those concerns – but the team had a specific reason for making that choice.

“We do our research, and of course, we will read people’s comments when they have seen these figures,” he says. “We’ve seen some comments asking why they don’t have the skis. And that was actually a deliberate decision to leave the skis out, because we wanted to underline the heavy aspect of this Ice Planet unit. And we [printed] spiky shoes, which makes sense to stomp around and get a really good foot holding, and not slide backwards on the skis.”

Esa also confirms that this specific red-haired Ice Planet minifigure is a deliberate call-back to Doctor Kelvin, one of three characters in the original Ice Planet theme, alongside the Chief – known as Commander Cold or Commander Bear – and an unnamed male minifigure. Picking Doctor Kelvin was mostly a matter of striking a balance between male and female minifigures across the entire series, but it also offered a chance to show just how far minifigure design has come in the past 31 years.

Doctor Kelvin’s hair was originally just printed on to her head, along with a pair of large hoop earrings. The Collectible Minifigures version has a physical hairpiece to swap out for the helmet, but this modern Doctor Kelvin has dressed down a little for her Ice Planet 2024 escapades.

“We don’t print any type of jewellery, and especially not ear piercings, on minifigures,” Tore says. “So we left it out from the original print. But back in the day you had very little parameters to play with [when] underlining a female character – the first pirate female was just these big fat lips and staring eyes. We have a bit more to play with today, so it was an unnecessary accessory.”

71046 Series 26 Space arrives in LEGO Stores and at on May 1, 2024. The blind boxes are already showing up in some stores, but remember to download the Brick Search app before you go searching for them: you’ll need the minifigure scanner to figure out what’s inside each one if you want to avoid buying blind.

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Author Profile

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.

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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.

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