Conspiracy Theory #1: Of Brickheadz and CubeDudes

The Manifesto won’t typically be covering new product releases, at least not in the traditional sense because it just doesn’t interest me that much and I don’t have the kind of access required to scoop other sites who are better at the task anyway.  I like new sets as much as the next builder, but talking about them bores me to tears.  What does interest me is when LEGO introduces a set that bears a more than passing resemblance to a fan-made MOC or building fad.  So let’s compare, shall we, LEGO’s latest pandering to the fanboy market with their new line of superhero “BrickHeadz” to the fan-built figure “CubeDudes” craze from a few years ago by AFOL Angus MacLane.  Angus also happens to be an acclaimed director whose films you may recognize like the Pixar short Burn-E and the recent hit film, Finding Dory.  First up is LEGO, with their stubby little heroes whose design also bears a striking resemblance to the dead-eyed Funko brand vinyl figures that enjoy a large commercial following….for some reason.

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Now let’s check out the fan-made CubeDudes which really should have been CubeDudez for maximum impact with the youth demographic.  Wake up Angus!  Although new builders may not be familiar with the design, 7 years ago everyone was building Cube Dudes, it was one of the biggest fads I’ve seen in the hobby and it continues to this day.  While the Dudes lack the custom printed tiles and soft edges of the BrickHeadz, I don’t see much difference in the two designs.  Sure the Dudes have their heads rotated so a corner of the cube points forward, but that’s about it.  I’m no lawyer and I’m not making any formal accusations, LEGO is highly litigious and just might reach out to a tiny blog like mine with some kind of cease and desist bullshit.  Even if they were inspired by Angus and his CubeDudes I’m sure LEGO changed the design just enough to protect themselves.  Although I’ve never heard him say as much (Angus has been interviewed quite a bit), it’s possible that he swiped the idea from the Funko figures himself.  Hell, I don’t even know if Angus cares about the similarities at all.  I reached out to him via Flickr, but as of this posting he has yet to respond.  If he does, I will update this post.

It’s worth pointing out that Angus and LEGO have worked together before, to produce several official CubeDude sets (both Star Wars themed) that were available only at Star Wars and comic conventions as far as I know. Angus was quoted in an interview speaking about the sets: “I found the whole experience to be a total joy.” So maybe there is no conspiracy here at all, perhaps it’s another collaboration, but I have not seen Angus’ name attached to the BrickHeadz product anywhere.

Always remember that the company we are enslaved to is not your friend, it’s your dealer.  So what say you, constant reader?  Are the BrickHeadz thinly disguised CubeDudes?  I love a good conspiracy theory and I hope you enjoy this regular feature on the Manifesto.

19 thoughts on “Conspiracy Theory #1: Of Brickheadz and CubeDudes

  1. I agree with you on nearly every point. New set talk USUALLY bore me. Lego IS overtlty litigious. The appeal of Pop vinyl DOESN’T make sense.
    These new things DO remind me a lot of Angus’ Cube Dudes. As an AFOL, I believe they were clearly the inspiration for Brickheadz. But then again, the Pop vinyl clearly were as well. The Brickheadz seen a clear Bayard child if each, but I suspect there will be no DNA testing.

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    1. I’m glad we’re in violent agreement Don, that feels good once in a while. All right-thinking people question the value of Funko Pop Vinyls. I think Angus will clear it up at some point, but he’s busy directing cool stuff.

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  2. I wasn’t aware Angus was responsible for starting the (enduring) fad. Interesting news. But cubedudes are the only things I can liken these new sets to. That is what I thought they were at first before I noticed the heads were turned. Also, marketing them on collectible plates seems to tailor very much to those actually old enough to “collect”, suggesting they may indeed be targeting the T/AFOL market. Rip-off, probably not, but I think Lego is stepping outside tradition with this one.

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    1. Yeah, I think they are really exploring the action figure market with those big Star Wars figures and these chubby things. The fact that they are debuting at San Diego Comic Con, the second largest convention of any kind in the world, is pretty telling too.

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  3. Also check out the builder seb toutoullie (on Flickr) who has built “Blockheads” that are derivitave of Angus but even closer to the LEGO versions. He even submitted them to Ideas.

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  4. Does LEGO think we’re all hippies without money? Yeah, here’s my girl, Matlock. Oooh, eighty bucks, now I can get that Super Hero Airport Battle set.

    And in answer to your question as to whether LEGO swiped Angus’ design, I think if you ask LEGO you will hear, “I refuse to answer on the grounds the answer I give will be used against me in a court of law” quite a bit. Although, there really is no copyright on overly cute, no trademark for Japanese teen appeal, nor is there any litigation favoring “a blocky style.” The fact that Angus’ look better is irrelevant at this point as LEGO rakes in the dollahs. The law of fads holds true: The two most important days in any fad are when you get in and when you get out. LEGO will make money and Angus won’t. Just another Tuesday. 😉

    God that sounded depressing. XD

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    1. They think we’re all suckers who will pay for anything with a franchise name slapped onto it. I’m telling you, we’re only a a couple of years away from Ant Man – X Wing Pilot or Jedi-Wolverine. I wouldn’t be surprised if Angus has talked to the company about it, or maybe even helped develop it in some way. Hopefully he’ll return that email, or not…some conspiracy theories should never be solved.

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  5. I think it’s just the fad of blocky stumpy versions of known characters. Disney is even making the Japanese-like vinyl figures now. And one cannot forget the influence of Minecraft! Block are in, was it Lego that started it all? So do they have the right to make it their own no matter what style? It’s like suing an artist for a melody when so many songs are composed of the same four chords.

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    1. You’re probably right, the style is pretty generic, but I don’t put it past the company to use all the free creative labor the hobby produces. Then again, you probably believe we really landed on the moon!

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      1. We saw Capricorn One, the fact that O.J. Simpson could achieve the rank of commander dispelled all conspiracies regarding the fake moon landing. 😀

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  6. It’s chibi; there’s been a demographic for that for a while now (Japonism blah blah blah). Yes, Lego is likely following the success of Funko. But it’s not like they were the first to do it either.

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  7. The Cube Dudes were and are still a fantastic design. Both other designs disappoint. I’m no friend of plastic statues so I don’t like the Funko figures. The TLC design for the BrickHeadz is too simple. They are just cubicles with printed or stickered parts. Just another attempt to raise money from license products.
    Angus approach with the head turned and the figures mostly built from bricks and plates representing the characters core is so much better!

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    1. I’m not a fan of the BrickHeadz design either, although as somebody pointed out there are some interesting parts. The same is true for me with most sets, it’s all about the parts and not the model. I also prefer the Angus approach, the head design is just more interesting.

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  8. The main thing that excites me about these (and the future adventure times set – which I find really meh, but I’m also not familiar with the cartoons) is the fact that they’re releasing brickbuilt figures. Gives me hope for a 12″ sculpture in the exclusive line somewhere down the road. I know, I know, I’m seeing too much in these things.

    Regarding the talk at hand, they’re most likely inspired by both builders and pop/chibi figures; as Dave said seb toutouille’s models are nearly identical to these; Kos also made stuff in a similar fashion: https://www.flickr.com/photos/kosmassantosa/16493100156/

    There’s also the chibi anime trend which was already a thing when I joined the community which is probably the oldest aside from Angus’ Cube Dudes.

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    1. Adventure Time is a pretty funny cartoon, my kids like it and it has some good adult humor too. I agree that the brick-built figure trend is an interesting one, there is alot of potential down that path. I didn’t know about the Kos figures either, thanks for the link!

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  9. New set reviews. Great merciful blood stained gods, protect us from that peril!

    I vote NO on conspiracy. Inspired by? Yea, sure. But not in any deep dark shadowy way. The whole Chibi-thing… it’s like this overwhelming generic esthetic tsunami. It’s everywhere, and this is just Lego catching up. Like those odd little Fisher-Price chibi-Star Wars figures? What’s that all about? Crude one piece figures with giant hands and feet? After watching several children play with them, I see that they are great for sticking into your mouth and chewing on… some drool leaking out around it and dribbling down your chin… and yea… I can see how a regular Lego minifig would be BAD for that specific use… I’m reminded of Dr. Orpheus and his Homeboy Action Figures ( http://teamventure.org/vbwiki/File:Rednecks_homeboy.png ).

    More specifically however, it would be disingenuous of me not to cop to the fact that I want to get some of those CPT America eye parts. Little black disks with white squares in them… I’m down.

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