Leicester City FC has pulled off one of the biggest shocks in sporting history this week by winning the Premier League title and beating the 5000-1 odds of such a success at the start of the season.
News outlets around the world have been trying to find a suitable point of comparison for this incredible achievement which led me to wonder, what has been the biggest surprise, pleasant or otherwise, in the history of The LEGO Group?
It is difficult to imagine LEGO without Star Wars but its arrival in 1999 was met with a great deal of surprise and scepticism. Warfare is central to the range and this conflicts directly with the brand values laid out by the company but a judgement was obviously made which deemed Star Wars sufficiently fantastical to avoid LEGO breaching their own product guidelines. I think some fans maintain a degree of disdain for licensed themes and not without cause as there have been several questionable endeavours since 1999, although there have been more successes than failures.
The flesh skin tones introduced in 2003's NBA theme were also something of a surprise and we have experienced similar reactions to the development of minifigures in recent years as in the case of the Angry Birds range. It is strange to think that something which we now take for granted was once so schismatic and I am sure that the same will be true as we look back at the present in future years.
Beyond actual sets, the financial status of LEGO and its affiliates has also been surprising at times, most notably during the late 1990s and early 2000s when LEGO posted substantial losses for several years running. This culminated in 2004 as Jørgen Vig Knudstorp became the CEO and the LEGOLAND parks were sold to Merlin in 2005, allowing LEGO to focus on their primary product. This troubled period came as a shock to many fans and the company's subsequent resurgence is even more incredible. LEGO is now the biggest toy company in the world, something which could not have been imagined at the turn of the millennium.
The transition between LEGO piece colours has also been an unpleasant surprise from time to time, but never more so than in 2004 when light and dark grey were replaced by light bluish grey and dark bluish grey. This was reported on Lugnet at the time and created an enormous furore among fans. The transition from brown to reddish brown was similarly alarming and the more recent introduction of bright green baseplates which replaced the standard green baseplates also resulted in significant concern among some fans.
Exo-Force was a very popular theme when it was first released in 2006 but sales quickly slumped and the range was brought to an abrupt end in 2008, to the shock and disappointment of many fans. The sudden demise of Ultra Agents in 2015 received a more subdued response but it came as a surprise to find that the final wave would be limited to sale in North America.
The release of both DC and Marvel sets in 2012 was almost unimaginable given the fierce rivalry between the two brands and its announcement in 2011 was therefore a huge surprise. Super Heroes has since become one of the most popular themes and the sets continue to surprise us today, for better or for worse.
One surprise which has proven very popular is the return of BIONICLE, announced in 2014. BIONICLE has a devoted fan base and its return was therefore a delightful revelation for many. Since then the theme seems to have grown in popularity and the variety of Constraction parts has increased exponentially, along with the number of MOCs.
The announcement of The Simpsons as an official LEGO theme counts among the biggest surprises in the recent history of the company and the relevant article still holds the record for the highest number of comments. This was a hugely divisive issue at the time and it is easy to see why. An argument could certainly be made that the animated series relies heavily on content which does not suit the LEGO brand values, so to see a licensing agreement come to fruition was an enormous surprise.
It came as a shock to fans of LEGO and movies alike when The LEGO Movie was snubbed for a nomination for the Best Animated Feature Oscar at the 2015 Academy Awards ceremony. Although there was some good competition for the award, The LEGO Movie was undoubtedly worthy of a nomination and it was disappointing to see it was ignored.
There have also been instances of smaller scale surprises as individual sets appear on shelves before we were even aware of their existence! The most recent example I can think of relates to 60070 Water Plane Chase which was first discovered on shelves in a Walmart store by the team at The Brick Show, before images or even a set number had been officially revealed.
I hope that surprises like these continue as they certainly keep the world of LEGO interesting even if they are sometimes unpleasant for fans of particular themes or inconvenient for collectors.
What do you think has been the biggest surprise in the history of LEGO and did we leave any out? Let us know in the comments below and we will update this article with the best suggestions.