Look back at LEGO reindeers through the years

Sit tight in your sleigh for a look back at some of the most Christmassy LEGO sets that included a reindeer…

Santa Claus chose reindeer to pull his flying sleigh, but even outside of holiday legends, reindeer are celebrated animals. In real life, they’re known to be friendly and welcoming, just as you might expect. For millennia, they’ve helped humans travel, haul and pull with their considerable strength. Regardless of their size and muscle, they tend to be docile and expressive animals. It’s fun to think what the first encounter with wild reindeer must have been like.

How does this amicable beast translate into LEGO bricks? It’s appeared in numerous sets, including two with Sven the Reindeer from the Disney Frozen franchise. Unlike other LEGO animals, however, most of the later reindeer share few similarities. Whatever you thought you knew about LEGO reindeer, expect it to be shattered like a LEGO YouTube drop test. Blocks, the monthly LEGO magazine, takes the reins and explores the history of this beloved animal in the brick…

Plastic pioneers – the first reindeer sets

In 1977, Star Wars hit theatres worldwide and wowed audiences everywhere. Jimmy Carter was sworn in as the 39th President of the United States. British Airways even inaugurated regular London to New York City supersonic Concorde service (the plane is featured in 10318 Concorde, a modern marvel of a LEGO model). Above all that, of course, was the release of 246 Santa and Sleigh.

Sure, Santa’s beard lacked a moustache and the build is remarkably simple, but this set launched the LEGO reindeer as we know it. Of course, 1977 wouldn’t be the end of the road for this much appreciated animal. 12 years later in 1989, 1628 Santa with Reindeer and Sleigh would introduce string rope to help connect the reindeer to the sleigh instead of a plate. This design also featured more intricate studded antlers, but overall, the shape and body is similar to the 1977 set.

The two reindeer sets to be released in the 1990s were 1076 Advent Calendar and 1129 Santa on Reindeer from 1999. Both featured printed ‘googly eyes’ with black antlers and an accompanying Santa Claus, though curiously, no sleighs. In the Advent Calendar, the reindeer is stands alone, while Santa sits on the reindeer’s back in Santa on Reindeer.

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Two decades of flight – snow way we can cover them all

The reindeer sets created by the LEGO Group in the 2000s and 2010s almost always featured unique builds – and with so many released in the span of two decades, that’s quite a feat. It’s easiest to cover the more notable entries, which as you’ll see, come in various scales and designs for different purposes. Some feature red noses, while others serve as more ‘traditional’ Christmas reindeer.

A set simply titled ‘Reindeer’ was sold in LEGO stores across Japan in 2003. With black fur, stockings, a bell with garland and a shining red nose, it’s one of the most detailed reindeer models to this day. In 2010, set number 2010 Happy Holidays – The Christmas Game was distributed to LEGO employees and the LEGO Group’s partners, featuring small reindeer with massive heads and snouts. The first set to feature a minifigure Santa Claus riding a sleigh pulled by reindeer was 40059 Santa’s Sleigh, a promotional set released in 2013. It was a LEGO exclusive polybag.

In 2014, just a year after 40059 Santa’s Sleigh, 10245 Santa’s Workshop was released to much applause. As a teen and adult-oriented Creator Expert set, it enjoyed superb building techniques, fantastic detail, and of course, superior reindeer. Though they were still brick built, they featured printed eyes and rumps, as well as more intricate designs among other models in that scale. They pulled a beautiful sleigh that would help Santa deliver gifts on Christmas Eve in style.

Antler attraction – the introduction of the modern reindeer

In 2017, we had seen a moulded reindeer in the LEGO DUPLO line, but nothing in the classic LEGO System of bricks. In 2019, a moulded stag was released in transparent light blue with glitter. In 2020, at the turn of the decade, the stag released again in the excellent 10275 Elf Club House as a reindeer with a gorgeous white chest, dark brown antlers, and curious eyes. The sleigh it pulled was fairly basic, yet the reindeer itself was remarkably detailed.

That same mould would reappear in 40499 Santa’s Sleigh, another LEGO exclusive set with no less than four reindeer. It’s the most detailed sleigh the LEGO Group has created so far, with curved styling and ample trunk space, but the sheer number of moulded reindeer really takes the fruitcake. They connect to the sleigh with rods attached to their festive ‘saddles’.

Oh, and let’s not forget the one and only 71034 Reindeer Costume, from Collectible Minifigures Series 23. It’s a simple yet elegant minifigure, with a furry white chest, a ringing Christmas bell hung around the neck, and an amazing headpiece with removeable antlers. Inside the costume, visible only through the mouth, the minifigure features lashes and pearly whites with an endearing gap. It’s amazing that it took the LEGO Group almost 46 years to perfect the reindeer’s design, between minifigures, brick builds and moulds.

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