How did we reach a point where we can buy a set packed with LEGO reindeer? By going through many brick built iterations! Read the story of how the LEGO reindeer flew to the heights of the modern version.
Pulling Santa Claus’s sleigh through the air on Christmas night, reindeer are more symbolic of the holidays than candy canes or tinsel. Santa’s eight famous reindeer were first mentioned in 1821 by a New York printed pamphlet, and were later cemented into popular media by The Night Before Christmas poem. Reindeer are well adapted to brave the snowy cold of their true home in the northern tundra, and have been adapted into the brick too. So, how do you take a fluffy deer and translate that into a LEGO model?
Come join Blocks, the LEGO magazine for fans, as we take our own reindeer ride and guide you through the evolution of this iconic deer…
Let’s just say it was a very blocky start for the reindeer. One of the first sets to include the animal was the descriptively named 1129 Santa On Reindeer from 1999. This only used typical system bricks to create a basic body, completed by some plates for the antlers. Back then it was popular to give any LEGO face, animal or otherwise, 1×1 bricks with printed cartoon eyes, which only added to the less-than-realistic effect. Still, a reindeer was born!
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This basic design persisted because reindeer were only seasonal inclusions, so progress was naturally slowed. For some reason these initial reindeer were snowy white (possibly because reindeer inhabit a grey area in terms of colour), and this was maintained in the 2002 version. The only changes made to 10070 Reindeer were yellow antlers and a Santa hat. Considering this type of model was only needed once a year, then there wasn’t a lot of innovation invested in it.
However, once things started to change in 2011, there was no stopping the herd of designs that came next. With the introduction of ball joints came the ability to pose organic LEGO models much more naturally. They were used extensively on 30027 Reindeer, a polybag from 2011, to allow the deer to move and even swivel the head around. The scaling was a bit off, but the reindeer was finally on the road to realism. Several years later in 2016, the recipe was perfected when 30474 Reindeer came to town, mixing different colours of brown, ball joints aplenty and curved tile elements to create a polybag design that still hasn’t been beaten (indeed it was re-released in 2019 with no alterations).
Meanwhile in LEGO sets, reindeer were having to be cleverly scaled for minifigures. 10245 Santa’s Workshop from the Winter Village theme in 2014 had four adult reindeer and a little calf. Arched bricks allowed for the legs to combine fluidly with the body, while brown robot arm elements made for effective antlers. Then Frozen came along and introduced Sven, causing the first ever moulded reindeer to appear. 41066 Anna & Kristoff’s Sleigh Adventure perfectly captured the animated reindeer, emphasising Sven’s expressive face and the soft ruff of fur around his neck.
That wasn’t the end of the Frozen reindeer mania though! Frozen 2 brought even more of the lovable animals, including baby reindeer. The LEGO designers weren’t going to miss out on that opportunity and the cutest mould was created for 41166 Elsa and the Reindeer Carriage. It was likely these Frozen inspired reindeer that finally led to an actual realistic LEGO reindeer mould to be made exclusively for 10275 Elf Club House, which has now been extensively used in 40499 Santa’s Sleigh.
So, from blocky beginnings to specially-designed moulds, it’s fair to say that LEGO reindeer have been on a journey almost as long as the animals’ winter migration. Plus it’s certainly not the end for reindeer evolution either, as they keep dashing away into festive sets every year.