Rockho writes an essay on Bionicle

In my Creative Industries course (an indiscipliary course mixing business and arts together) at university I was tasked with this assignment…

"Drawing on readings and sources discussed in class as well as a minimum of 3 additional academic sources (in addition to any other non-academic sources, interviews, economic data etc. you may choose to collect as evidence) you must identify and research: an organization; a product/service; or an individual person or job of your choosing. Your essay should profile/describe your chosen subject and present an argumentative, evidence based answer to the following question:
What is/are the main challenge(s) caused by the overlap of creativity and commerce that they/it face? "

Of course the immediate connection that struck was the relationship between corporate Lego and the creative Bionicle G2 team and how it was mismanaged, resulting in cancellation.

This is due a month from now, so i’ll probably procrastinate so I have plenty of time to work on this. I would just like some pointers and advice as to what I could argue about. I am going to post my argumentative question, thesis, arguments, outlines and rough drafts as I go along and hopefully garner some discussion and constructive criticism as I go along.

I am not asking anyone to do the essay for me, nor would I want someone to; this is just a way for me to get peer reviews of my work so that I can better plan convey accurate and concise arguments in my essay such as the bad timing of Bionicle’s return due to advertising cuts (a link to that article would be helpful) and/or how it was handled compared to the previous generation, what example this sets for the rest of the toy industry etc…Obviously right now, my thoughts are all over the place :confounded:

The main problem that I forsee is the lack of info and stats regarding specific details about Bionicle sales figures or any sources for that matter which directly regards G2 Bionicle’s development

Oh and its only a 3 page 1000-1250 word essay so it’s not that long :stuck_out_tongue:


A free opportunity to give constructive criticism? Sign me up.

1 Like

I will happily give critique on Steven’s critique.


Don’t know how much help I can be but I’ll certainly be keeping track of this topic. Sounds interesting.


I would gladly help.

1 Like

I’d be glad to help out, dude. As soon as you post a draft, I’ll review and critique it; would you like to share it in Google Docs with us in order to allow us to comment?

1 Like

PM me your email so I can share it with you once i’ve done it

Extremely brief brainstorming sheet

A) (1-2 Sentences) What is your CRI 100 essay topic (be sure to at least identify the organization, product, service, person or job you are looking at):
The LEGO Group’s rebooted constructible action figure line (aka constraction) BIONICLE.

B) (1 sentence) What is your thesis statement:
The rebooted BIONICLE line’s premature discontinuation was the result of conflicting ideals between corporate management and the development team.

C) (2-4 bullet points) What are some of the ideas/claims you hope to explore in developing your arguments in support of this thesis?

  • Lack of a much-needed thought-out marketing strategy dwindled the potential of consumer reach outside of the small niche.
  • The conflict between “story (alternative media) vs product (toy)”, common in many of The LEGO Group’s IP lines, was a major struggle for the rebooted BIONICLE line, which in its previous generation, was iconic for its complex and compelling storyline.
  • Large budget cuts severely narrowed-down the scope of BIONICLE’s priorities, which include (but are not limited to) marketing, product quality, and employment
  • Even the most passionate of creative developers can do little in the face of a mountain of corporate mediation and hurdles.

Are there any other points that I should focus on? I’m thinking about adding on the fact that Bionicle’s potential would’ve been more fully realized in the hands of a smaller creative firm with more freedom as opposed to an industry giant in my thesis…but i’m not sure if I could effectively argue that (maybe I should just leave that as the ending statement/opener for the conclusion)


This is the best academic source

Also, while looking for other sources, most of them focus on the Maori lawsuit :grimacing:

1 Like

Yee, finally got around to writing the intro and first paragraph. Is far from polished (even forgot to source in brackets), so critique is appreciated!

Having recently been titled the leading toy company in the industry, with sales hitting $2.03 billion, narrowly surpassing Mattel’s $2 billion in revenue during 2014, the Lego Group proudly proclaim that their interlocking plastic bricks have a long life ahead of them amidst today’s generation of tech-heads. The massive success of The Lego Movie has made the Danish toy company an incredibly popular brand among kids and adults alike, as if it wasn’t iconic enough already. However, what isn’t as iconic is one of Lego’s sub-themes, a rather obscure toy line not consisting of the traditional bricks, but of oddly shaped and textured robot parts, pieces that would make up a BIONICLE constructible action figure. This toy line, targeting 5 to 16 year olds, was launched in 2001 and played a role in rescuing the company from a financial crisis in the late 1990s, and became popular enough to last a whopping 9 years before its discontinuation, longer than the usual lifespan of LEGO’s other themes lasting 3-4 years. The BIONICLE theme later returned in 2015, but this time, had its life prematurely cut short by the end of 2016. The lacking performance of the rebooted BIONICLE line, draws a stark contrast to the booming success of the “first generation” BIONICLE line, and demonstrates how conflicting ideals between the development team and corporate management, specifically how creative, story-driven ideals clash against the rigidity of a product-driven approach, can run any product line into the ground.

Before examining the rebooted line’s shortcomings, we must first examine what made the original line successful in the first place. As mentioned before, LEGO was facing a severe financial crisis at the time, mainly due in part of the company’s target market diminishing, caused by the substantial increase in its substitute competitors in the mid-1990s, such as computer games, TV shows, and movies. The kids within their 7-12 year old age bracket were losing interest in the time-consuming, concentration-heavy building process of the brick building sets. LEGO was in dire need of a new idea that would cater to kids who sought instant gratification; wanting to play more and build less. In 1999, the company tested the waters with two completely new toy lines, Slizer and RoboRiders, which were quick-to-build action figures and also had their own mini-storylines for the backdrop. The original stories proved to play a crucial part in pulling kids in to the products, much like LEGO’s previous success by attaching sets with well-known movie franchises (licensing the rights to Star Wars, Harry Potter, and Pirates of the Caribbean). They knew they were on to something, and LEGO quickly got to work on the third generation of buildable action figures, planning to reach a 15% increase in sales compared to the other two lines. Knowing that in order to reach that goal, they would have to cast a much wider net in terms of marketing, the development team joined with an american media brief known as Advance. Together, they developed a long-term launch strategy which played off the idea of moulding an epic lore which would allow new segments of story to be added-on every year, and have the products be the central characters within the story. This story-first hook that the team cast into the sea needed to be compelling, have a strong foundation, and reach a broad target market if it was to create their desired mass-boom. Ensuring the success of the new BIONICLE line wasn’t easy; “neither Advance nor LEGO had ever created this type of storytelling element before…this meant changing [LEGO’s] traditional launch methods…[they needed] to build on an intellectual property to capitalise on a brand” (). They had no budget for a TV-series, nor for books to advertise the story-driven product. Nevertheless, the team developed a non-conventional launch idea which was to sell the toys as if they were selling a movie trilogy. Thus, two distinct marketing routes were paved out, one route, dubbed “single-message media”, which was used to condense the story into “bite-size pieces”, used simply to garner attention and curiosity. That would include a broad hodgepodge of multimedia including television ads akin to a movie trailer, print ads and brochures simulating movie posters. Later on, as the IP attracted attention, partnerships with Nestle, McDonald’s, and others further strengthened the disbursement of the brand. The second route, called the “story-carrying media” would communicate the story with more complexity, utilizing digital assets such as an interactive website (the link being plastered on every ad), CD-ROMs distributed within the toy containers, and flashy comics. Every piece of media was created to be diverse and strong enough on their own, but vague and compelling enough to act as puzzle-pieces which kids would have to assemble into one complete mental map of the rich storyline. The kids were essentially virtual adventurers, discovering the “imaginary lifeworld of their own - the island of Mata Nui, home of the Toa, characterized by a unique cosmology, origin myths, a clan system, tribal alliances and rivalries, ritual practices, and sacred iconography” (Coombe, 563). In fact, the name BIONICLE derives from the word “chronicle”; to record (a related series of events) in a factual and detailed way; everybody wanted every character to recreate the storyline events in their bedrooms. Indeed, the marketing on the imaginary “movie series” style marketing was so successful, that “the media spending budget for 2002 was reduced by approximately 25% with the aim of capitalising on the 2001 investments” in order to develop an actual direct-to-video film! The remainder of its 9 year run was focused on growing the line with the demographic, keeping the marketing tone fresh and new each year (rock band All American Rejects even pitched in during 2006)! Thus, the BIONICLE line’s success proves how much the bold and strategic ideas development team could leverage off the company, whose combination of multimedia partnerships and mass advertising campaigns, created a synergetic relationship, helping the theme to thrive to its fullest potential and revitalized the LEGO brand itself “expanding its appeal, as well as open up unanticipated opportunities in other industries ().

Now the hard part…proving G2’s death without academic sources recording its death :grimacing:


You have an excelletn start here.

1 Like

You have a great start right here!
technically G1 lasted 10 years, not 9, since the theme was introduced in Europe in mid 2000 and ended in mid 2010, but this is just a minor thing.

1 Like

Second paragraph

If the BIONICLE line was a big bang back then, what rendered its reboot in 2015 less successful? No doubt during the early and late 2000s, BIONIClE revitalized the interest for action figures in general and inspired other companies to “put forward a marketing plan that was to become an industry standard, ‘a model for non-film properties to survive in other mediums’” (bainbridge 829). Even other toy companies including Hasbro got in on this popularization, making their figures of established franchises such as Transformers increasingly poseable, playable, and customizable. A devoted fanbase for BIONICLE sprung up as part of the officially recognized LEGO Ambassador Network, and further contributed to its popularity spread, and kept its spirit alive during its hiatus. The LEGO group was well aware of the fan’s enthusiasm for its return, and eagerly put together a team made up of previous employees who worked on the line as well as those who worked on other themes. However, it was made clear from the start that they were working with a much smaller budget, and although they made sure to cater to the older fanbase, their main target audience remained to be kids aged 7-12, and believed it to be necessary to tweak their previous marketing strategy to cater to the new generation. This new era of kids were born into the digital world, where intangibility was just as important, if not more important, for limitless imaginative play. Take the popular game Minecraft, whose popularity thrived on creating any structure with unlimited resources online without spending any money. Physical toys were getting less feasible for delivering today’s child’s needs. Whereas the previous BIONICLE line used digital media as one its main marketing tools, the new team would have to crank that up by 10 if the line was to have the same boom. This would be difficult, not only due to the budget, but because “traditional LEGO Company product launch[es] (for example ‘LEGO space’) was characterised by the fact that the children knew the generic background …and were familiar with the play universe where the product belonged” (). In addition kids had a much lesser attention span to absorb the abstract storytelling that made BIONICLE’s blood; the team was basically faced with the same hurdles as the original line but they were much more prominent. Thus, the relaunch was characterised with having a much more watered-down storyline, starting with easily digestible 1 minute cartoon shorts available on a website, designer videos showcasing how each toy was developed, and television ads displaying the products simply as “cool toys” without diving too deep into the lore that made up the characters. In addition, the team used the older devoted fanbase to their advantage, using social media such as facebook to garner attention via hype-inducing announcements, artwork, and contests; hoping that word-of-mouth marketing would occur naturally. In short, the team marketed BIONICLE similar as they would any other LEGO brick-built line, using the tried-and-true pre-packaged marketing schemes that the company gave out to all other lines, but with minor alterations. As the team knew that the traditional corporate plan of “sell a product, not a story” wouldn’t be enough, many freelancers were hired such as author Ryder Windham and screenwriter Merlin Mann, hoping that they would take up the role of the original creative visionary Christian Faber from the original line. Thus, the team distanced themselves from corporate goals and went off on their own to kickstart an original Netflix series and graphic novels with the remainder of their small budget. The situation was worsened when the “company scaled back its advertising efforts amid a 25 percent rise in annual sales…It simply couldn’t make enough toys to satiate demand in North America, and needed a break while it boosted capacity at its factories and increased its workforce by nearly 25 percent” (Bhattarai). With another budget cut, there was no advertising for the “story-carrying media”, resulting in the toys and the story seeming to be completely separate entities, rather acting as puzzle-pieces to put together into one big picture. With the distanced relationship between corporate toy-selling strategy and the creative team’s IP centered strategy, there was no synergy, no united long-term vision, and worst of all, less sales, resulting in its premature cancellation.


You may not want to mention Pirates of the Caribbean, as that wasn’t made prior- 2001.

1 Like