BIONICLE, Part 2 -

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Checking in with Lego's Michael McNally

By ANDREW KARDON     August 06, 2002

The Spirit of Stone, POHATU NUVA really rocks.
© 2002 Lego Group

Last time, we learned about the origins of Lego's runaway hit BIONICLE from Lego Public Relations Manager Michael McNally. This second part concludes our look at the mysterious mask-wearing line.

Where do all the cool Hawaiian-sounding names come from? And what about "Bionicle" itself?

Bionicle is a combination of the words biology and chronicle. As the setting for the island of Mata Nui is supposed to be very tropical, paradisiacal, we drew inspiration from the South Pacific when setting the tone of the story, the stage of the island and the nomenclature for the characters.

Will there be any new heroes coming up in future waves?

With the introduction of the Toa Nuva heroes, there most certainly will be room to incorporate more conflict and struggle in restoring peace to the island of Mata Nui. As for more heroes, anything is possible.

It's not easy being green, unless you're LEWA NUVA.

What differentiates the Bionicle line from other standard Lego lines?

Bionicle takes the DNA of Lego toys and reconfigures it into a new way to play, building action heroes. Kids don't build for two hours before they play with these sets. Bionicle is Lego only in a 15-minute building pattern, accompanied by a rich story starter that unleashes a world of possibility for role-play and imaginative storytelling. We've also introduced an element of collectibility in the masks of power and the Bohrok Krana.

Not counting GALIDOR, would you consider Bionicle Lego's first attempt at an action figure line of sorts?

We didn't position Bionicle as an action figure, and it's classified by the toy industry and by toy retailers as a construction toy. However, if you look at Bionicle as an action figure, it outsold the top action figure brands in the United States last year, including POWER RANGERS, G.I. JOE, WWF and GUNDAM WING.

GALIDOR, on the other hand, is an action figure line and is sold at retail in the action figure aisle. Certainly our experience and success with Bionicle helped build our confidence in the ability for Lego to find success in true action figures.

What goes on in the making of a line like Bionicle?

We have a dedicated team who work in our company headquarters in Denmark. They collaborate on story line. They work hand-in-hand with product developers, who scan the LEGO TECHNIC elements library for parts and inspiration. They sketch ideas, build prototypes, and as a team, refine and refine the ideas and models until the find the best mix. The product and story are developed simultaneously, so that both are closely linked. Sometimes story ideas lead to product features, and sometimes product ideas lead to neat twists in the story's progression.

Even the Bionicle packaging links back to the storythe Toa were packed in the canisters that, according to legend, landed on the island. The Bohrok cans replicate the underground cocoons where they rest until they hatch. The Toa Nuva cans represent the underground transformation chambers where the Toa undergo their evolution. The product and story team collaboration has made Bionicle a success with every new product launch.

Okay, so she's not wearing a bikini, but GALI NUVA's one cool Spirit of Water.

How happy are you guys with the success Bionicle has had so far?

Happy doesn't even describe how pleased we are with the success we've found in Bionicle. We had very high hopes for its launch, and prioritized the line as the top program for the United States in 2001. While it would be inaccurate to say we were surprised, we never expected it would be the runaway success it has become. It's very exciting and very gratifying to see such strong results and to be recognized by retailers, consumers and the media as having a hot property and by the Toy Industry Association with two toy of the year awards.

What's in store for Bionicle's future?

We have just signed a deal with Miramax to produce a Bionicle feature film in 2004. Miramax also will be the distributors of the November 2003 direct-to-video release of BIONICLE: THE MASK OF LIGHT.

And we have strong hopes for the new assortment of Bionicle toys we have planned for 2003. We hope to continue moving Bionicle toward being the ultimate play experience for boys ages 10-12. More strategic Bionicle alliances will be announced before the end of the year, so stay tuned...

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