Not My LEGO® (Blog or Die! Entry #11)

Accepted entry for the “Article” category.

Author: Cameron (-Primus-)

Word Count: 1,737



My therapist says that it’s good to talk about things that upset me, and Keith is still running his contest so I figured I’d take this opportunity, constant reader, to tackle a beloved topic: Whether BIONICLE is LEGO? And, given that answer, what even makes something BIONICLE? I intend to address these questions throughout this piece, and hopefully in a manner that Rutherford finds “structural” 😉

Now, the obvious answer to the first question is “OF FUCKIN’ COURSE IT’S LEGO, IT’S RIGHT THERE ON THE BOX.”


(Image courtesy of The LEGO® Group, somewhere)

However, this is apparently not enough to distinguish the line as “LEGO” to at least a handful of AFOLs. I guess they can justify that stance by the fact that it doesn’t exactly match the patent that LEGO had originally filed for their interlocking brick system?

(images courtesy of US Patent US3005282 A)

I do not think that’s a very strong foot to stand on; however, as most of the “LEGO” produced today doesn’t match this exact interlocking brick system, especially the clip & bar system or the Technic systems (let’s not talk about ZNAP. I’m sure we can all agree on that one). Additionally, a lot of actual “not LEGO” mimics this interlocking system, so it’s possible to have a collection (let’s say, bought in bulk) that has parts that truly are not LEGO, yet look like the traditional interlocking bricks. Therefore, the interlocking brick system argument seems pretty weak, unless said AFOL thinks that pretty much all LEGO today is not actually LEGO. In which case, they’re letting nostalgia cloud their opinion on what is truly LEGO, which is also not a good foot to stand on when the argument comes up. Get with the times, gramps!


(ACTUALLY NOT FUCKIN LEGO, image courtesy of Mega Construx)

Do note all of the INTERLOCKING BRICKS in the set I posted above, made by an actual competitor to LEGO and not LEGO. Again, being made of bricks doesn’t make something LEGO, especially in today’s day and age. Therefore, not a solid argument. Welcome to the era of mixel joints and curved slopes and clips and bars, actual LEGO®. To ignore that LEGO has changed since your childhood is a great way to be intentionally obtuse.

Now that we’ve established that, I’ll touch on the next big reason why BIONICLE is LEGO: without Bionicle, Lego probably would not still be a company, or, at the bare minimum, definitely would not be the company it is today. Back in the early Aughts (that’s what people are calling that decade, right?) LEGO was in pretty dire financial straits. Sales were on the decline, and it was becoming increasingly more difficult to compete in a market that catered more to action figures than castles and spaceships. So in 2001, Lego introduced something groundbreaking: Buildable action-figures. And, as far as I can tell, that shit sold like hot cakes. Licensed themes also contributed to the revival of the brand, but to ignore the integral part Bionicle played in tapping into a market Lego was struggling with would be asinine. Maybe the distaste for Bionicle comes from jealousy over the fact that it was the bestselling brand Lego had in its stable for a number of years? That’s a Wikipedia link but there’s a bunch of sources there that back up that claim. Hell, I’ll even save you a click and include a screencap from that article:


(source: Wikipedia, link above. Probably other more reputable sources too)

No Bionicle, No Lego (or at least, no Lego as we know it right now). Also, people are probably jealous of how successful it was and how it took focus off of their themes for a while, which is understandable. However, being jealous doesn’t make something not LEGO, it just makes you crotchety 😉

Finally, maybe people consider Bionicle “NOT LEGO” because of the fanbase? A weird conclusion to leap to, but I can understand it. We are definitely our own little microcosm in the overall community, with different portions of the community liking different aspects of Bionicle. A lot of the fans are very much into the story line, and some even make their own. Some take it further and build MOCs that fit into their storyline, and if I’ve learned anything from Werewolff’s article, most people can’t be assed to look into a storyline. So I can understand the lack of appeal there. It seems to be that the most popular Bionicle builders in the system community are ones that eschew story and focus on build (which can be said as well for the most successful System builders). Finally, and probably the biggest issue, is that most of the fans are teenagers or young adults, which gives the theme a “kiddie table” type stigma. As an older member of the Bionicle Community, I can definitely see why other AFOLs would want to avoid that. But there are plenty of younger and annoying members in other segments of the community (don’t get me started on the “clone-kiddies”), yet you don’t see anyone calling Space or Post-Apoc themes “NOT LEGO.”

I think I’ve beat that horse into the ground by now, constant reader. I think it takes a great amount of leaps to come to the conclusion that the theme is not Lego, and a majority of those leaps are emotional at best. I can understand not liking the theme as it does not appeal to you, but to say it isn’t Lego is inaccurate and a bit rude to the people who are fans of the theme.

So, the next question is, what even makes something Bionicle? Is it something that uses Bionicle parts (and by Bionicle, I mean Bionicle/CCBS/Hero Factory/Ben10 parts)? Is it something that sticks to the themes of the storyline? Is it the fact that its built by someone who’s known as a Bionicle Builder? I think that it can be a combination of the above. This is probably the question I will struggle with the most, as it is the most esoteric one for me. So, I figured I would use MOC examples and describe whether I think they are Bionicle MOCs or not.

First, Enstau, Toa of the Photo-Effect by Deus Otiosus:


(image credit: Deus Otiosus)

My verdict on this MOC? NOT BIONICLE. I’ll explain. I think without the name and the mask, this MOC could be perfectly fine as a classic space mecha. Sure, Deus made care to mimic certain aspects of the original Toa in this MOC, which is commendable. The main point to me is that it doesn’t use the system that was established by Bionicle at all. It is not a “Constraction” MOC. 1 Bionicle piece and some naming does not a Bionicle MOC make. Plenty of “regular” AFOLs use 1-2 Bionicle pieces in their MOCS and that doesn’t make them Bionicle MOCs or MOCists, so why should Deus’ inclusion of the blue Hau make this a Bionicle MOC? Sure, it tries to maintain the shapes of the original sets, which is nice. But it doesn’t use the building system, and it’s constructed like one would construct a regular Lego Mecha. Had he used ball and socket connections for at least some of the joints, I would consider it a Bionicle MOC. To me, Bionicle has grown past the story of the “Toa” and all of that and become more about utilizing the actual pieces to make MOCS, so I think that heavily influences my verdict here. It’s a neat MOC that tries to tap into the nostalgia of the Bionicle Storyline, but it is not a BIONICLE MOC.

Next, Alpha Core by Jayfa:


(image credit: Jayfa)

My verdict on this MOC? DEFINITELY BIONICLE. I felt that I had to include a “gimme” MOC if I was going to discuss Bionicle MOCs. This is very clearly a Bionicle MOC. It’s built by a “Bionicle” builder. The majority of it utilizes the Bionicle/CCBS system. It’s an “action-figure.” It basically checks all of the boxes of “BIONICLE MOC.” It’s also well-built and well photographed, and I’ve really been liking the stuff that Jayfa has been putting out this year so I figured I’d give him a shout out. Do note that he also manages to incorporate System pieces into the build to add extra detail and fill out shapes, which is something a lot of Bionicle builders do in order to really flesh out a MOC. Speaking personally, I’ve probably bought way more system parts in the last yeah than Bionicle, and yet I am a predominately Bionicle Builder.

Finally, Arcanine by Mike Nieves (aka Retinence)


(image credit: Retinence)

My verdict on this MOC? DEFINITELY BIONICLE. When this MOC first debuted or was displayed at BVA (I forget), there was some controversy over this MOC as to whether it was Bionicle or not (I wasn’t active at the time, so I don’t know all of the details). This is most certainly a Bionicle MOC. It heavily uses Technic, Hero Factory, and Bionicle elements to create quite a creation. It may not be a purist MOC, as it uses cut tubes (to my knowledge), but it is clearly impressive and is most definitly a Bionicle MOC.

As to not inundate you with Bionicle MOCs, constant reader, I think I should call it good with three examples (hell, I may have even lost some of you at this point). It seems to me that I define a Bionicle MOC as something that actually uses the Bionicle/Hero Factory/CCBS system to create MOCs, and that the best Bionicle MOCs are ones that incorporate multiple Systems (HF/CCBS/Technic/System).

I’ve rambled a bit here, but guess that’s what happens when my “thesis isn’t clear.” So, really, to conclude, BIONICLE IS LEGO, and I’m apparently an authority on what is Bionicle and what is not Bionicle, at least in comparison to you, constant reader ;). I hope you can see the value in my INCREDIBLY DIRECT reasons for why BIONICLE IS LEGO, and can at least appreciate it in that regard. I don’t think that you need to like the MOCs or the theme, as that’s asking a bit much, but I do hope that when you go to conventions and post on forums you take a moment to consider that us Bionicle Fans are also AFOLS. You’d be surprised how many people very openly ignore that last bit.