20 years of LEGO Harry Potter – looking back at the theme’s history

LEGO Harry Potter has been around for 20 years, letting fans build their own Wizarding Worlds and collect hundreds of magical minifigures. It’s been years of ups and downs though, as we recall in this history of LEGO Harry Potter.

Back in 2001 a young boy with a lightning bolt scar took the box office by storm. Harry Potter received a letter that would change his life and send him on a wizarding adventure that spanned over a decade. With the roaring success of the film came a new licensing agreement between Warner Bros. and the LEGO Group, and so LEGO Harry Potter was born. It’s fair to say the theme has a bit of a tumultuous history though, vanishing under an invisibility cloak for some time. So, grab a quill and some parchment as we trace the history of LEGO Harry Potter.

The first LEGO Harry Potter sets were small and all based on The Philosopher’s Stone, the only movie released at that time. They were mostly small sections of Hogwarts, like 4705 Snape’s Class or 4722 Gryffindor House, but they could be joined together to form a larger display. Most of the main characters became minifigures featuring unique printing on their Hogwarts robes or in the case of Harry, his iconic scar on the head. Minifigures were still a cheery yellow at that time, yet Professor Snape was green, the closest colour to a pale skin-tone available.

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Things would change pretty swiftly though and in 2004 the sets became significantly larger and the minifigures became more accurate, sporting real skin tones – except Snape who was still green with envy. It was a fantastic year for sets, with some like 10132 Motorised Hogwarts Express still not having been bettered as of today. 4756 Shrieking Shack remains the only iteration of the creepy building and 2004 also saw the only mould of Buckbeak, the loveable Hippogriff, that would be released until 2019.

After four years of constant releases, things became more sporadic with no releases at all in 2006, 2008 or 2009. Just 5378 Hogwarts Castle was released in 2007.

The theme was back when six sets were released in 2010, which was a relatively small number compared to the near dozen or more in the years previous, although 4842 Hogwarts Castle became the best rendition of the school, featuring the Room of Requirement, Dumbledore’s office and the Great Hall all under one plastic roof. Then in 2011, which would be the beginning of the end, 10217 Diagon Alley blew fans away as the biggest Harry Potter set yet (and it is still the third largest today). After that there was nothing. Only a swansong from DK Publishing, Building the Magical World, which included an exclusive Yule Ball minifigure of Harry.

Wandering around LEGO Harry Potter 75978 Diagon Alley

It was a dark age for Harry Potter fans, whose only LEGO fix could be found on the secondary market, usually for high prices. That was until 2018. As if by magic, the theme returned, better than ever. New wand pieces, brand new detailed minifigures and 71043 Hogwarts Castle, a massive direct-to-consumer display version of the famous school made it clear the theme was back with a bang. The LEGO Harry Potter theme was bolstered by the revival of the Wizarding World on the big screen, with 75951 Grindelwald’s Escape and 75952 Newt’s Case of Magical Creatures both being inspired by the new world of Fantastic Beasts & Where to Find Them.

This year the theme is celebrating its 20th anniversary in style. A whole wave of sets is dedicated to it, sporting a commemorative logo on the box and featuring unique gold coloured Harry Potter, Ron Weasley, Hermione Granger, Lord Voldemort and Professor Quirrel minifigures. LEGO Harry Potter has had its ups and downs through the last 20 years but the Wizarding World fanbase has kept it coming back time and again, its own kind of wonderful spell.

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