5005358 Minifigure Factory marks the fortieth anniversary of the modern LEGO minifigure and is currently available with purchases of over £55, $75 or €55 at shop.LEGO.com. More than 10,000 minifigures have been released since 1978, five of which are depicted by nanofigures here!
These represent entirely different periods of minifigure design, beginning with the original Police Officer from 1978 and travelling through the eras of Classic Space, Pirates and Collectable Minifigures before concluding with P.I.X.A.L. from NINJAGO. All five characters are easily recognisable, even at this scale. However, some have expressed disappointment that cardboard forms a significant part of the set. That is a fair criticism, although there is a good reason for it which will soon become apparent.
Box and Contents
The set is packaged in a small cardboard box, not unlike previous promotional items such as 5004389 Battle Station. Removing the decorative sleeve reveals that the box is designed to resemble the exterior of a LEGO factory building which is fun and there are no tape seals or thumb tabs so you can open the box without damaging it.
A single instruction booklet is found inside and this includes a short timeline of minifigure history that runs from 1978 and the first minifigure to 2016 when the first baby figure was released! Unfortunately, the timeline includes a fairly obvious error, showing the boy from 2017's 40263 Christmas Town Square as an example of a minifigure from 2002.
A single LEGO factory worker is included. The minifigure wears a lovely yellow shirt with a small name badge pinned to the front and a LEGO logo on the back. I am pleased to see this element return as it has only appeared in a couple of previous sets, although real LEGO factory employees usually wear branded high visibility jackets or red polo shirts and it might have been nice to see something more accurate in this set.
The head features a broad smile and is also fairly rare, having appeared in seven other sets, while the dark brown hair piece is very common. A working magnifying glass completes the figure and can be used to see even the smallest details on the five nanofigures included, as demonstrated on the box.
These nanofigures are undoubtedly the highlight of the set and I think they look superb. They have been well chosen to represent stages in the development of the minifigure but there is a significant chronological distance between the pirate from 1989 and the nurse from the first series of Collectable Minifigures in 2010. Much maligned though the theme is, a Jack Stone nanofigure could have filled that gap perfectly.
Each nanofigure has been printed with impressive detail and they are instantly recognisable, despite the limitations imposed by their tiny scale. Nanofigures do not include hats or hair pieces so those are instead represented by printing which looks marvellous. The torsos are also very detailed, although the positioning of the astronaut's Classic Space logo is incorrect, unfortunately. This set does not include a spare of each nanofigure or any spare pieces at all, presumably because it was manufactured in a factory outside Europe.
The Completed Model
The box forms a vital part of this set and has been integrated quite effectively, forming the exterior of the minifigure factory. I like the printed door and the 1978 plaque above the loading dock is a brilliant detail, making reference to the year that minifigures were introduced. Those who have visited Billund may recognise the yellow minifigure that appears on many of the buildings belonging to LEGO in the town so it is wonderful to see that here.
Two more minifigure icons are printed on the back of the box along with a window showing the interior and the roof is decorated with some dark grey corrugated sheets. The back of the box also features a separate panel which can slide back and forth, the reason for which becomes clear once the box is open.
The front of the box folds down to reveal the minifigure production line. That is definitely the most interesting part of the set but the cardboard box forms a useful backdrop and is printed very nicely with some colourful pipes, a wooden pallet and the US patent for the minifigure. It seems strange that the graphic designer did not use the original European patent as the US patent was not submitted until 1979.
A light bluish grey 6x12 plate forms the base for the production line and this is glued to the cardboard box. I like the 1x4 and 1x2 hazard stripe tiles laid around the conveyor belt, particularly since the latter element is only available in five previous sets and another rare 1x2 tile, printed with a yellow arrow, is also included. Production begins towards the left of the conveyor and a green paint brush is intended to print each nanofigure before they are loaded into the cart at the end of the belt.
However, the entire conveyor belt assembly slides back and forth so the nanofigures do not pass by the paint brush, rather defeating the purpose of the production line. Technic pins link the conveyor to the cardboard panel on the rear wall, causing each of the five minifigures to appear on a screen as the nanofigures travel along the belt underneath! This is a great idea and it works reasonably well, although the cardboard has not been cut perfectly so partially obscures the year shown below each minifigure.
I had high expectations for this set but am a little disappointed. I like the minifigure included and even the cardboard box that forms the factory building works remarkably well. However, the production line has been designed around a function which does not work perfectly and I think a more realistic depiction of minifigure production would have been more appealing.
That having been said, the nanofigures are definitely the most important aspect of 5005358 Minifigure Factory and they are all excellent. I would therefore recommend this set but it does not quite reach the same high standard as 40290 60 Years of the LEGO Brick in my opinion.
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