BIONICLE, Part 1 -

Toy Company Spotlight

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Checking in with Lego's Michael McNally

By ANDREW KARDON     July 29, 2002

Say the word "Lego" and visions of giant building blocks most likely come to mind. I grew up with the awesome "space-themed" Legos. Rockets, astronauts, moon bases, etc. Hours of fun setting them up and then actually playing with them. Well, Lego is still alive and kicking, stronger than ever in fact. And that's thanks to a few new innovative lines of late.

Besides jumping onto the licensing bandwagon and doing some real sweet playsets of SPIDER-MAN, HARRY POTTER and a little thing called STAR WARS, the Lego gang's also released its first real action figure line in GALIDOR and hit it big with its mysterious mask-wearing BIONICLE line. Recently we tracked down Lego Public Relations Manager Michael McNally to unmask the truth behind BIONICLE's runaway success.

BIONICLE really seems to have taken on a life of its own in the Lego-verse. Why do you think it took off the way it did?

Kids are telling us what they love the most about BIONICLE is the fact that it combines elements of everything they're intoa little bit of construction and the ability to build one character and then combine to build super characters, a lot of rich story line and character development and, of course, collectibility.

Couple that with a targeted communications program and relevant partnershipsincluding: compelling content on BIONICLE.COM, awesome comics in conjunction with DC Comics, Upper Deck trading card games and booster packs, collectible McDonald's premiums, endorsement from professional skateboarder Andy Macdonald, grassroots mobile marketing programs to skate parks, sports camps and beaches, and a GameBoy Advance titleand we've got everything today's 10-12 year-old kid loves.

With his lava-cutting swords, TAHU NUVA is one hot figure.

September sees the newest wave, the TOA NUVA. What's the deal with that?

The mighty Toa, in defeating the Bohrok, advance to the final round with Cahdok and Gahdok, the mother twins who control the Bohrok swarms. Only in collecting all the Krana and combining their powers are the Toa able to defeat the twins. In so doing, the Toa unlock chambers deep beneath the surface of Mata Nui. Each of the heroes descends into their respective chamber and goes through an excruciating transformation process, where every natural element is ripped through their beings in an effort to make them stronger. At the end of the process, the evolved Toa Nuva emerge, sporting new masks, ultimate armor and over-the-top tools that will allow them to harness their natural environments in overcoming their enemies.

The metallic look of the new armor and tools, along with the sheer image of the new heroes and their evolved Kanohi masks will appeal to fans, in addition to the new functional toolslike Tahu Nuva's blades that combine to form a surfboard for lava flows and Kopaka Nuva's ice sword that separates to become ice skates[and] take the story and the play to new levels.

What's the deal with the DC comic book series?

We have a great partnership with DC Comics that has produced seven truly awesome comics based on the Bionicle story line. Starting from their arrival on the island of Mata Nui, the comics follow the legend of the mighty Toa and their struggles to restore peace to Mata Nui. The comics will continue to chronicle the evolution of the Toa into the Toa Nuva.

Even BIONICLE's boxes are cool.

Where'd the idea for Bionicle originally come from?

We found big success in two Lego Technic lines: ROBORIDERS and THROWBOTS, where kids used Technic elements to build characters with distinct personalities and skills. As we had placed little marketing support behind the lines, we looked at what we were offeringshorter building time, true personality in the final product and a relatively low price point.

We started to consider ways to move this formula into something bigger. What would happen if we developed a rich story line? What would we achieve if we actually did put a full marketing program behind this concept? Thus, the birth of Bionicle.

How many more waves of Bionicle will there be?

When you have a hot property, it's hard to know how hot you'll stay and for how long. However, we have a long-term strategy for BIONICLE, and we're being very careful to manage the property as closely as we can to ensure longevity. At this point, we don't see an end any time soon.

Be sure to check back soon for Part 2 of our BIONICLE interview to find out where the funky names come from, how the figures are made and just what's in store for the line in the future.

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