I wonder why Lego stopped producing "Fabuland"-toys. Fabuland was a line aimed at the children aged 3 to 8. It filled the gap between "Duplo" and "Lego System". Fabuland was inhabited by small animals. They worked in bakeries, windmills, amusement parks, shops and they regularly gathered for a chat. The figurines were a tad bigger than common Lego-chaps and had a pronounced head, almost as large as their bodice.

My grandparents gave me my first Fabuland-set for Christmas 1988. This "merry-go-round" was an excellent introduction to the series. The box contained three figurines, a small house and a working carousel. I spent hours just playing with it. Later on, I received several additions to the world of Fabuland. Most birthday wishlists were filled with Fabuland requests. My favourite was the "corner store", with René The Fox as the shop manager. It was a fairly large set, that combined three businesses : shop, post office and gas station.

But all of a sudden, there was no more Fabuland. In 1991, I visited the toy store "Dox" in Lier (Belgium) with my mother. I saw a basket of Fabuland-toys and the shop clerk told us that these were the very last items of Fabuland they would ever sell, because "Lego had seized production".

I had put together a nice collection of Fabuland over the years. I was a spoiled kid (still am), but Fabuland did mean something special to me. I can remember browsing the catalogues (included in the box) for hours. Slightly decadent, because I always wanted more. In my defense, some kids are never satisfied.

The manual of each Fabuland-item was a work of art. The characters would help you constructing the building or vehicle step by step. Afterwards, a short story followed. Lego was smart, so they included some locations and animals NOT included in the set you just purchased. As such, a child would be keen on the new Fabuland-stuff. And go pleading to his parents, claiming he or she really needed the expansion sets to play along with the story.

I own a small fraction of all Fabuland ever produced. Mint packages, untouched by human hands, fetch high sums on eBay. Just like everything that is rather scarce, Fabuland is wanted by collectors.

As I said in the beginning of this article : I never understood why Lego cancelled Fabuland. Presumably, it didn't make a profit anymore. But it is rather unique to completely scrap a concept. "The knights" or "Duplo" still exist to this day. New series come and go (Bionicle, Belleville, Vikings etc.), but these are never as memorable as Fabuland.

Fabuland returned once, in disguise. In 2000-2001, Lego entered an alliance with Disney. The handshake resulted in a line of "Winnie The Pooh"-products for Duplo ... and a "Mickey Mouse"-line that was neither Duplo nor Lego System. The "Mickey"-boxes were very lovely (but quickly disappeared without a trace) and these used certain Fabuland elements (the wheels under Mickey's car, for example).

Would Lego be grinding their teeth right now? Realising they have written off Fabuland too early? Lego has been struggling the past five years, losing millions of crowns in the process. Lego obviously has an image problem. They desperately try to please the new youth with CD-ROMs and DVDs, but the essence (the bricks) is lost. The new Lego doesn't fire one's imagination like it did in the golden 70's and 80's. "What you see is what you get", but you get a whole lot of bricks less for your money than 15 years ago. It's sad to see the big and untouchable Lego slip into mediocrity. They need to get themselves back on track.

Imagine Fabuland still being around! Granted, the (early) departure has mythologized it. Now, my peers can think about the good old days, e.g. "remember when we used to play with Fabuland?"

It may be for the better that Fabuland no longer exists. Lego would have used all resources to implement frenetic and forced add-ons to the Fabuland universe, to keep it 'hip' and 'cool'. The animals would be using a cellphone or a laptop - the horror!

Fabuland will always be Lego's biggest triumph - an artefact from the time the Danish guys were still the hottest toy makers in town, who could take kids to an imaginary world filled with wonderful animals in lifelike situations.

I can officially say I have had a very happy childhood. Because I come from a good family, because I live in the Free World/the rich West ... and because I had the pleasure to play with Fabuland.

Sweet nostalgia ...

Julian De Backer, 11 August 2006