BIONICLE was first conceptualized by The LEGO Group (then The LEGO Company) in the late 1990s, in an attempt to invoke the market for story themes without the restrictive royalties encountered by the successful LEGO Star Wars theme. BIONICLE followed in the footsteps of two previous themes in LEGO's TECHNIC line: Slizer (marketed in the United States as "Throwbots") and RoboRiders. The two previous themes both relied on environment-themed buildable figures with action features, plastic storage containers, collectible parts, and competitive role-play functions. Slizer in particular had been designed around the same ball-and-socket-joint structure that would be definitive of BIONICLE set designs throughout the new theme's lifespan, a concept originally developed for an unproduced theme called "Cybots". RoboRiders foreshadowed the multimedia aspect of BIONICLE with its good-versus-evil storyline (in which the vehicle-like figures fought a menacing virus) and its tie-in online game, unlocked with codes on the storage canisters. Both themes included "combo models" which could be built by combining the parts and building instructions of multiple sets, ideas that would be carried forward to BIONICLE.
Early concept of BIONICLE
In 1999, as The LEGO Company became aware of the appeal story-based themes had with a critical preteen demographic, they approached Bob Thompson to assist in developing story-based product themes. Martin Riber Andersen, a LEGO design manager, suggested building on concepts used for the Slizer theme in designing a new action-figure theme. The advertising agency ADVANCE, of whom LEGO was a client, took the role of creative lead for the new theme, and their Creative Director Christian Faber proposed the tropical setting which would set the stage for the environments and naming conventions of BIONICLE's early years. Erik Kramer, a LEGO Technic director, expressed a desire to design the products as though they belonged to a blockbuster film.
An early concept of the line was at one point known as "Bone Heads of Voodoo Island" (alternatively "Boneheads of Voodoo Island" or "Doo Heads"), reflecting the tribal setting and mysticism. However, the development team (Thompson, Anderson, Faber, Kramer, and ten others) eventually came up with the name "Biological Chronicle" or BIONICLE during a meeting and the domain name BIONICLE.com was quickly registered. Writer Alastair Swinnerton of the company Skryptonite was commissioned to write the original "story bible" which would lay out the frameworks of the story the theme would follow. Christoffer Raundahl was one of the set designers responsible for the 2001 release of the first BIONICLE sets, which included the tentatively-named figures Axe, Blade, Flame, Kick, Hook and Claw.
BIONICLE sets were officially launched in Europe in February of 2001 and were released in the United States in July of 2001. However, some sets made it out as early as December of 2000. The first line of sets established the pattern that future years would typically follow: six mid-size sets (the Toa Mata, then known simply as the Toa) packaged in canisters, six small boxed sets (the Turaga), and an array of large boxed sets (the Rahi). In a promotion at McDonald's restaurants in September, six Matoran villager sets (then called "Tohunga") were released as toys in McDonald's Happy Meals.
Each set included action features that allowed for competitive play, in which the objective was to remove the opposing figure's mask. Sold alongside sets were Kanohi packs, each containing two collectible Kanohi masks and the pieces needed to build a head and attach it to the canister lids for display. Collecting all seventy-two Kanohi was emphasized heavily in sets and story for that year.
The use of TECHNIC building techniques made the sets compatible with each other as well as more conventional LEGO themes. Sets also contained instructions for alternate models that could be built from the parts of one or more sets. BIONICLE's Manas boxed set was toy of the year at London's ToyFair in its introductory year.
With a heavy multimedia focus, BIONICLE's first year introduced a Comic book series, which related the adventures of the characters as they tried to collect the Kanohi masks and defeat the mysterious corruption plaguing the island of Mata Nui and turning its wildlife against the villagers. The first year of comics ran for three issues, leaving off at the climactic battle against the evil Makuta. An online game created by Templar Studios, the Mata Nui Online Game, showed these adventures from a different perspective, following the amnesiac Matoran Takua as he journeyed throughout the island encountering the Toa at various points, eventually witnessing the fight against Makuta. The game itself is a direct sequel to a GameBoy Advance Video Game, Tales of the Tohunga, which was released later in the year and followed Takua on a quest to summon the Toa to the island.
In most regions, the Toa canisters came packaged with interactive CDs, which included various multimedia, such as commercials, animations, and interactive learning tools. On the physical media side, supplementary material included Board Games and an expansion of a Trading Card Game.
BIONICLE is credited with rescuing The LEGO Group from major financial difficulties experienced in previous years, in part due to owning the brand rather than licensing it from outside content providers. The popularity of the line also led to the creation of many fan communities who would go on to interact with the creators of the franchise.
The story year concluded with the defeat of Makuta and the restoration of peace to the island. However, teased throughout the Mata Nui Online Game, Takua witnessed the rise of a new enemy - one that came in a swarm.
In May 2001, before the official North American launch of BIONICLE, The LEGO Company received a legal challenge from representatives of the Māori people, alleging that their use of certain words was disrespectful to Māori culture. LEGO ultimately acknowledged that they had utilized words and terms from the Māori language, and agreed to change several of them in future usage, as well as begin developing a code of conduct that would avoid similar mistakes in the future. The term "Tohunga," referring to the island villagers, was replaced with "Matoran," and several other character names were altered.
Multiple in-universe explanations were created to explain the changes, though they have since lost most applicability. At the time of the change, The LEGO Group initially stated that the Tohunga changed their species name after realizing they were all one people. However, this explanation was only relevant at the time, and has been completely dropped from continuity, along with the name itself. The characters who had to be given new names were done so under the explanation of Naming Day, wherein characters receive new names for acts of valor; while the concept of Naming Day still exists in the story, any materials set in a time period prior to the change still refer to the characters by their new names.
After the success of BIONICLE's initial year, BIONICLE continued with the Toa and Matoran as its protagonists. However, the first series of canister-set villains was introduced: the Bohrok. Along with the Bohrok's release came the new small sets, the Bohrok Va drones, and the new collectibles, the rubbery Krana. Krana packs included three Krana and two great Kanohi in gold or silver. A total of ninety-six Krana (eight for each Bohrok or Bohrok Va breed) and twelve metallic Kanohi were available.
Bohrok had play functions that were tied to their story role. They could roll into a spherical shape, and while rolled up they could hang from their canisters' lids to be displayed in a makeshift "hive." Their gear function allowed them to snap their heads forward at the press of a lever. Lastly, pressing their eyes would open their faceplate and fling the Krana "brains" at opponents.
The various multimedia continued into 2002; the comics continued to be included in the LEGO magazines, and picked up after the end of the Mata Nui Online Game, detailing the Toa's conflicts with the Bohrok. Several promotional comics also appeared, released through McDonald's, as a supplement to an included card game. A series of online animations, similar to the Mata Nui Online Game, was released on the BIONICLE website, depicting adventures not seen in the comics, from the perspective of the Matoran characters.
The arrival of summer brought the year's large sets, as well as a second series of canister sets (from 2002 onward a new series of canister sets would be released semiannually). The large sets depicted the Bahrag, beastly twin queens who commanded the Bohrok swarms; the Exo-Toa, a powered suit of armor which a Toa could wear; and the Boxor, a robotic war machine piloted by the Matoran Nuparu. The new canister sets depicted the Toa Nuva, transformed versions of the Toa Mata with new armor, masks, and tools. The Toa Nuva's new masks, or Kanohi Nuva, could be collected with a new pack containing two of the thirty-six Kanohi Nuva and three Krana.
Beginning in 2002, BIONICLE was The LEGO Group's most successful product theme. Announced in the spring of that year was a direct-to-video movie, titled BIONICLE: Mask of Light, which was set for a fall 2003 release.
The year 2003 began with the release of the Bohrok-Kal, new canister sets depicting upgraded Bohrok with new powers; unlike the Bohrok from before, the Kal were individual entities, rather than a swarm. Their goal was to release the Bahrag from the seal the Toa Nuva previously placed them in, and once more unleash the Bohrok swarms.
Each Kal came with a new collectible, the metallic-colored Krana-Kal. However, in addition to the standard 48 varieties, 5,000 rare White Metal Krana-Kal and 72 Sterling Silver Krana-Kal were placed in random canisters. Each White Metal and Sterling Silver Krana-Kal was in the shape of the Xa-Kal and came with a black velvet bag and a proof of authenticity card, with Sterling Silver Krana-Kal cards indicating a specific number the person had obtained. Krana-Kal packs were also available, containing three Krana-Kal and two Kanohi Nuva.
Early in the year, Templar Studios released three more of the Mata Nui Online Animations exploring the Toa Nuva and the theft of the Nuva Symbols. Templar also produced the Mata Nui Online Game II, a sequel to the acclaimed original. Other media included new BIONICLE novels, released as the BIONICLE Chronicles series, primarily written by C.A. Hapka, as well as supplementary guidebooks. The comics continued, now illustrated by Randy Elliott, who was also previously a colorist for the series. The Legoland theme park also added a new ride called "BIONICLE Blaster" in 2003 based on BIONICLE.
With the advent of summer came the release of the year's small sets and second series of canister sets for 2003. The small sets depicted the six Matoran of the Ga-Koro, Ko-Koro, and Po-Koro kolhii teams. The canister sets, rather than another series of hero sets, depicted six fearsome villains: the Rahkshi, or "Sons of Makuta". The Rahkshi were the most articulate sets to date, and housed inside them the new Kraata collectible, which could also be purchased separately in packs. Forty-two (later forty-three) colors and six stages of Kraata were available, bringing the total number to 258 once the Rahkshi sets were rereleased for Target stores with purple "Shadow Kraata".
Four large sets depicted characters from the upcoming movie: Takua, the Matoran protagonist of the new film on his Ussal crab, Pewku; Jaller, Herald of the Seventh Toa and Takua's co-star, on a Gukko bird; the Makuta set depicted BIONICLE's main antagonist from day one; the Takanuva set depicted the Seventh Toa himself on his vehicle, the Ussanui.
BIONICLE premiered its first movie during the the fall of 2003: BIONICLE: Mask of Light. The movie was developed in partnership with Miramax Films, and was the first of a conceived trilogy. Mask of Light was a critical and commercial success for the company, and featured characters from the summer wave of sets, as well as from years past. The end of the movie revealed hitherto unknown origins for the population of Mata Nui; they originally came from the futuristic island of Metru Nui. The final comic of the 2003 series (which had previously left off before the final battle against Makuta, to promote the movie) additionally ended in a shocking revelation that the Toa, which the storyline had followed for the past three years, were not actually the first of their kind.
In 2004, BIONICLE was for the first time established as a separate line from its previous category, LEGO TECHNIC. This year began a series of flashbacks told by the Turaga, telling of their past adventures and the history of Metru Nui, an ancient island-city revealed at the end of 2003's story.
The winter canister sets, the Toa Metru, were in fact past forms of the Turaga. They implemented a new build that improved on the articulation of the Rahkshi sets, in addition to their new mask and tool designs. New Matoran sets were also released worldwide, wielding Kanoka Launchers that fired the year's new collectible, the Kanoka disks. These six Matoran represented characters who had found the locations of the Great Disks, artifacts which the Toa Metru needed to defeat the Morbuzakh that terrorized the city. The Toa Metru were depicted in the story as novice heroes who had to skirt the rigid laws enforced by the Vahki and maintain the trust of their Matoran companions (of whom one was in fact a traitor).
Also available in early 2004 were Kanoka packs, each containing two Kanoka and a Disk Launcher. Kanoka disks were decorated with six different patterns and an assortment of three-number codes which unlocked online content at the new Kanoka Club, a multimedia content delivery system, and revealed the powers of the Kanoka in story.
The Vahki canister sets, released in the summer, depicted the massive police force which the Toa Metru now found themselves against. Vahki sets wielded large staffs, and could be switched between a quick-moving four-legged stance and a two-legged stance. Their mandibles also doubled as a Disk Launcher, for which each set included a Kanoka disk. Vahki sets rereleased later in the year included a Disk of Time and Kanohi Vahi.
Five large boxed sets appeared that year. Two of these, Nidhiki and Krekka, were mysterious beings called Dark Hunters who opposed the Toa Metru and who had been responsible for the perils of the six Matoran released earlier in the year. A third depicted Turaga Dume and his Rahi scout, Nivawk. The fourth was the "Ultimate Dume" set, a combination model which contained the parts and instructions of the previous three large sets as well as a special Kanohi Kraahkan. The last depicted Toa Lhikan, predecessor to the Toa Metru, and the Rahi steed Kikanalo. The latter two were both exclusive to Toys "R" Us retail stores.
2004 saw the release of a sequel to the previous year's Mask of Light movie: BIONICLE 2: Legends of Metru Nui. Unlike Mask of Light, which incorporated characters from all previous years, Legends of Metru Nui consisted mainly of the year's new sets and models. The BIONICLE novels continued with the Adventures series, now written by Greg Farshtey, a story team member and author of several previous guidebooks and other media. Farshtey would continue to write novels for the rest of the series' initial run, in addition to editing the LEGO Magazine, which held a unique contest in 2004: the Rahi Building Challenge, a competition to build and develop a unique Rahi character that would later be featured in a book published by Scholastic.
The year's conclusion left most of the Matoran of Metru Nui in the ruined city while the Toa Metru fled to the island of Mata Nui, vowing to return, which sets up the next year's story.
For the third year in a row, BIONICLE was LEGO's top selling product line.
In 2005 the Toa Metru returned to Metru Nui to rescue the remaining Matoran, but found that the city had changed dramatically since their departure. Uniquely, the canister sets had varying release dates: the Toa Hordika had an early release for the United States and a summer release for European markets, while the release dates were reversed for the Visorak. The half-Rahi Toa Hordika sets represented the Toa Metru after mutation by the venom of the Visorak, the new villains. Toa Hordika each came with two silver Rhotuka spinners and a built-in Rhotuka Launcher that gave the spinners flight. Every set which included Rhotuka included one with a printed code, which were used in the Kanoka Club. The smaller Rahaga sets, released in early 2005 worldwide, each contained one colored Rhotuka spinner.
The Visorak canister sets were four-legged arachnoid Rahi with snapping jaws and Rhotuka Launchers on their backs. Each included two silver Rhotuka spinners. Two additional canister sets appeared in the summer, representing Rahaga Norik and Iruini in their former Toa Hagah forms. Each had metallic armor and a Rhotuka Launching Shield that held their two Rhotuka (one metallic and one in their elemental color).
The large sets, with a universal summer release, depicted the Visorak viceroy and queen-to-be Roodaka, the Visorak king Sidorak, and the legendary Rahi Keetongu, rumored to have the power to cure mutation by Visorak venom. Each large set included one Rhotuka, silver in Roodaka and Sidorak and red in Keetongu. A special combination model, Voporak, was released as a Target-exclusive set which included the parts of all three large sets.
2005 also introduced the concept of BIONICLE playsets: BIONICLE sets based on traditional LEGO System bricks rather than TECHNIC, depicting large battle scenes with multiple characters. These sets included Battle of Metru Nui, Visorak Battle Ram, Tower of Toa, and the non-canon Visorak's Gate.
The main plot of 2005 was depicted in the third and final movie of the original trilogy: BIONICLE 3: Web of Shadows, with various smaller plotlines revealed through the continuing books, comics, and web content.
In 2005, BIONICLE again became the company's highest selling product line, though with lower sales than initially projected.
The story behind 2006's sets began with a revelation: the Great Spirit Mata Nui, the unseen god of the universe, was not only asleep, but also dying. His rescue depended on the legendary Kanohi Ignika, the Mask of Life, but the Toa Nuva were unprepared to face six new competitors for this valuable artifact: the Piraka.
The Piraka were made more distinct than previous "swarm" enemies like the Bohrok or the Visorak - each character was given their own nickname and tagline, and they were depicted as fighting and scheming against one another instead of functioning as a proper team. The Piraka canister sets had numerous functions. Their eyes glowed red with a built-in LED, their teeth were phosphorescent, and their dual-function tools could be flipped to either of two positions. The Piraka also carried Zamor Launchers, which fired the collectible Zamor Spheres. The Piraka canister lids included a "Try Me" feature demonstrating the glowing eyes with a replica of the set's face.
The Piraka were depicted as oppressors of Voya Nui's Matoran, of whom six resistance fighters were the year's small sets. The new Matoran builds were the most varied of any small sets released at that point, although unlike other small sets they lacked action features. The winter 2006 sets were the last wide-release sets which included instructions for alternate models. Alternate models and combiner models would, however, be released on BIONICLE.com and in the LEGO Magazine in future years.
BIONICLE.com received an overhaul for 2006, with new character videos and artistic posters as a supplement to the traditional CGI trailers and visuals. Comics returned in 2006, continuing to be released with the LEGO Magazine, but received a reboot, with a new artist - Stuart Sayger - a new title series, and restarting the numbering from one. An issue zero was released at the beginning of the year, featuring an interview with Sayger as preparation for the change. Several new online game was also released, including the Voya Nui Online Game, although unlike the previous Mata Nui Online Games, this featured a non-canonical story. The novels received another subheading change, with the series now known as BIONICLE Legends. A supplementary guide book about the Dark Hunters was also released, containing winners from a LEGO Magazine Contest held the previous year.
Between the winter and summer releases, three of the year's large sets sporadically debuted across the globe. Two of these were Axonn and Brutaka, titans with new masks, massive weapons, and a new piston-based support system for their legs. The third was Irnakk, a mythical being from the Piraka's native Skakdi culture. The Irnakk set was exclusive to Walmart and LEGO stores and contained the pieces and instructions for three Piraka (Vezok, Thok, and Reidak), in addition to instructions for the Irnakk model. The set also contained four golden tubing pieces and a golden face/spine piece akin to Thok's, all essential for the Irnakk model.
When the Toa Nuva did not return, six well-known Matoran journeyed to Voya Nui to aid their heroes. These six Matoran would become the Toa Inika, heroes who appeared as the summer canister sets. The Toa Inika featured new rubbery Kanohi and new Toa Tools with colored strobe-lights spanning their centers. Toa Inika canisters also had a try-me function displaying the tools.
Three new large sets were released in the summer, depicting guardians of the Mask of Life. The Umbra set was released exclusively in Walmart stores; the Vezon & Fenrakk set included Vezon, the insane wearer of the Mask of Life, and the spiderlike Fenrakk beast which he rode; and the Vezon & Kardas set featured Vezon atop the Kardas Dragon, a new form given to Fenrakk by the Mask of Life. The Vezon & Kardas set was exclusive to Target stores and included the parts and instructions for the Axonn, Brutaka, and Vezon & Fenrakk sets, as well as the instructions for the combined model.
Released in the fall was BIONICLE's second console game, BIONICLE Heroes. The video game had a multiplatform release, with several consoles receiving drastically different versions of the game.
The story of 2006 ended with the Toa Inika successfully claiming the Mask of Life, but promptly losing it to the sea. They would pursue this mask in 2007's story.
The first series of canister sets in 2007 introduced the menacing Barraki. Once powerful warlords, 2007's story portrayed them as mutant inhabitants of the destroyed underwater prison called the Pit. The Barraki sets, featuring unique builds, wielded Squid Launchers and carried two yellow-orange Sea Squids. Sea Squids could be fired by fitting them into the launchers, pulling back on their stretchy tails, and releasing. Seven blue-green Sea Squids were available in a Squid Ammo pack, the last time BIONICLE's first generation would receive specific collectible elements in supplementary form.
Four small sets (a deviation from the usual six) appeared in 2007, depicting the Matoran Defilak and Dekar and the Hydruka Morak and Thulox. All four carried Air Launchers, a reuse of the Zamor Launcher.
Nocturn, a large boxed set exclusive to Walmart stores, was also released in early 2007. This brutish lieutenant of Barraki Ehlek wielded a Squid Launcher of his own, and featured several glow-in-the-dark pieces much like the Barraki Takadox set.
One of the promotional videos for 2007 featured the song "Creeping In My Soul" by the Danish band Cryoshell. Cryoshell would go on to contribute songs for the remainder of BIONICLE's initial run.
In Summer 2007 the Toa Mahri canister sets were released, depicting aquatic forms of the Toa Inika granted to them by the Mask of Life. The Toa Mahri had new masks and tools, including the revolving Cordak Blasters which could hold and fire six of each set's several mini-rockets.
Three new adversaries for the Toa Mahri were released as large sets. The jailer Hydraxon, revived by the Kanohi Ignika, thought the Toa to be escaped Pit prisoners. His robotic servant Maxilos (secretly acting as a host for Makuta Teridax) and his Energy Hound Spinax were also packaged together as a set. The massive Rahi Gadunka, enlarged by the Mask of Life from a minuscule form, also appeared as a set wielding a Squid Launcher.
BIONICLEstory.com was launched in early 2007, but fully updated in the summer, hosting Online Games and serialized stories by author Greg Farshtey (author of the BIONICLE novels since 2003 and the comics since BIONICLE's launch). One of the stories, Dreams of Destruction concerned Lesovikk, who appeared as a Walmart-exclusive set riding a Cordak-armed Sea Sled. Lesovikk found himself facing off against the insane ruler Karzahni to defend the Matoran Sarda and Idris. Those three came packaged as a set exclusive to Toys "R" Us stores, which also included an Underwater Trap.
The 2007 sets also included the last BIONICLE playsets: Barraki Deepsea Patrol, Toa Undersea Attack, and Toa Terrain Crawler. Various buildable Toa Mahri and Barraki minifigures were included in these sets, although unlike the minifigures of the previous year they no longer each had a unique head or mask piece.
2007's story had a tragic ending, depicted in both the returning comics (now with a new sub-heading, "Sea of Darkness") and BIONICLE Legends novels. The Toa Mahri destroyed The Cord that connected Voya Nui to Mahri Nui, allowing Voya Nui to return to its original location inside the Matoran Universe. Meanwhile, Toa Mahri Matoro fulfilled his destiny as bearer of the Mask of Life by traveling to Karda Nui through the hole Voya Nui would seal, donning the mask, and allowing his life to be sacrificed for Mata Nui's revival.
The Toa Nuva were transported to the new location of Karda Nui for the final battle to awaken Mata Nui. Their opponents in this battle were the Makuta, the same shape-shifting entities that had cast Mata Nui into his slumber.
Early 2008 featured twelve sets under the umbrella name Phantoka, who fought in the skies of Karda Nui. In a departure from the previous waves, the first half of 2008 featured a split of both heroes and villains. Three of the Phantoka canister sets were Toa Nuva, who wielded the sphere-shooting Midak Skyblasters, while three were Makuta who possessed Tridax Pods filled with Shadow Leeches. The Toa Nuva were aided by the Av-Matoran, who dwelt in Karda Nui, while the Makuta were helped by Shadow Matoran, which they created by draining the light from regular Matoran using Shadow Leeches. Together, the three Av-Matoran and three Shadow Matoran acted as the year's small sets, and were able to attach to the backs of the canister-sized sets.
Also at the Toa Nuva's side was Toa Ignika, a being with a body created and controlled by the Mask of Life, who appeared as a large boxed set on his Skyboard. The Makuta were aided by Makuta Icarax, and Makuta Mutran, who with his Shadow Matoran lab assistant Vican. The Icarax set was exclusive to Toys "R" Us stores, while the Mutran & Vican set was exclusive to Walmart retailers.
Story material was distributed through the same avenues as 2007, with BIONICLEstory.com and BIONICLE.com both receiving updates, while the Ignition comics series (updated with a new "Battle for Power" subheading) and BIONICLE Legends novel series also continued. The comics, however, featured a new artist, Leigh Gallagher, replacing the departing Stuart Sayger. New online games included Battle for Power, which allowed you to play as both Makuta and Toa.
The summer sets, utilizing the umbrella term "Mistika," had a similar split of heroes and villains, including three Toa Nuva and three Makuta. Both factions of the Mistika wielded Nynrah Ghost Blasters, air-powered projectile weapons whose story functions varied between the two teams. The Mistika sought to find and keep the Keystone fragments hidden in the swamps of Karda Nui. The Mistika Toa Nuva were aided by Takanuva, who had journeyed across several dimensions in serials and novels during the year.
Once the Phantoka and Mistika teams had reunited, the Toa Nuva used the Keystone fragments they had collected to unlock the Codrex, a place of great mystery and power. Within the Codrex were three battle vehicles: Rockoh T3, Jetrax T6, and Axalara T9, which were the large box sets of 2008, replacing the discontinued playsets. Other large sets include Takanuva in an enlarged form, and two characters from the year's story serials, Mazeka and Vultraz, also riding vehicles. The Mazeka set was exclusive to Walmart and LEGO stores.
A new book type was released in September 2008, a "Level 3 Reader" picture book, showing Takanuva's adventures in a new dimension.
2008 had a dynamic conclusion depicted in a series of 3D animations titled The Rise of Mata Nui, developed by Ghost, in which Mata Nui's body was successfully awakened by Toa Ignika. However, Makuta Teridax had planned for this, and had overridden the mind of the massive robot body (in fact containing the entirety of the Matoran Universe) with his own. Revealing his success to the universe as the Toa Nuva's victory was being celebrated, he trapped Mata Nui's own mind in the Kanohi Ignika, casting it out into space.
2009 took the story beyond the Matoran Universe and its people, exploring the world of Bara Magna. Once part of Spherus Magna, the inhabitants of the desert world left by the Shattering depended on Arena Matches to maintain the social order.
The competitors in these matches were tall warriors called Glatorian, and six of these were released as canister sets in early 2009. Each was from a different tribe, including the Sand Tribe of the bestial, nomadic Vorox and the Rock Tribe run by the conquest-driven Skrall. Each Glatorian set featured a Thornax Launcher which fired spiky Thornax fruit, as well as a five-point Life Counter which could be used with the launcher for the BIONICLE Action Figure Game. All 2009 sets besides the promotional set Click were compatible with this game in at least one of its four versions.
The small sets released in early 2009 were six Agori, the villagers of Bara Magna. Two large sets were also released early in the year: Tuma, the Rock Tribe's Skrall leader, and Fero & Skirmix, a Bone Hunter atop his Rock Steed.
For the first half of the year, the story was largely unconnected with the previous BIONICLE story, focusing on the daily life of the inhabitants of Bara Magna. Story continued through serials on BIONICLEstory.com, as well as in novels, which dropped subheadings. Comics also continued, but underwent a reboot similar to 2006: numbering restarted at one, the "Ignition" header was replaced with "Glatorian," and new artist Pop Mhan took over illustrating the issues, replacing Leigh Gallagher who had to depart due to scheduling conflicts.
BIONICLE also featured in a crossover event with LEGO's social networking multiplayer game My LEGO Network, which required users to gather materials by visiting parts of LEGO.com in order to complete BIONICLE-related scenarios. Unlike other recent online games, the events depicted in this campaign were canon, and the unnamed player character is referenced in the books. Other online games included Glatorian Arena, which was relaunched several times over the year.
Another story, The Crossing, was told across a series of mini-books exclusively published in Poland by AMEET, who would assist in physical publishing duties for other BIONICLE related titles for the next two years.
A new movie BIONICLE: The Legend Reborn, starring Michael Dorn, was eventually announced for release in the second half of 2009, depicting the summer story which directly followed up on the events of 2008. The Kanohi Ignika, last seen flying through space, crashes on Bara Magna, carrying Mata Nui's spirit and creating a new body to house it. Mata Nui appeared alongside four Glatorian and the Special-Forces Skrall Stronius as part of the Glatorian Legends canister set series.
The large sets for the second half of the year included the vehicles Cendox V1, Kaxium V3, Baranus V7 (which included a Spikit in addition to its pilot Sahmad), Thornatus V9, and Skopio XV-1. The vehicle sets contained an assortment of Glatorian and Agori pilots. Another large set for the summer, Toa Mata Nui, depicted Mata Nui's new body at a larger scale.
During his time on Bara Magna, Mata Nui learned about his old body's creation on Spherus Magna, helped the peaceful villages unite against the Rock Tribe's threat, and discovered a giant robot which he hoped could help him redeem himself, rescue his people, and complete his original mission.
The 2010 story weaved together plot threads and settings from the previous two years; Mata Nui assumed control of the robot body on Bara Magna, only to be confronted by Teridax's arrival in Mata Nui's former, larger robot body. Heroes and villains from within the Matoran Universe marched onto the sands of Bara Magna for a final battle, as the two giant robots fought above.
The BIONICLE Stars, six small sets, represented heroes and villains from previous years of BIONICLE. Tahu, Takanuva, and the Glatorian Gresh faced off against Rahkshi of Heat Vision, the Skakdi warlord Nektann, and warrior-class Skrall (the latter three marketed as Rahkshi, Piraka, and Skrall, respectively). Each set also came with a specific Golden Armor collectible piece, which could be outfitted to the Tahu set.
A press release from LEGO later confirmed that the BIONICLE Stars would be the last BIONICLE sets for the "foreseeable future." Although the BIONICLE story would continue online, the sets were phased out in the summer to allow for a new theme called LEGO Hero Factory, which would carry on BIONICLE's legacy as a constructable action figure line.
Although the actual models were discontinued, the BIONICLE storyline continued with serials periodically released on BIONICLEstory.com. However, the serials were never finished. On June 19, 2013, the updates were halted and both BIONICLE.com and BIONICLEstory.com were shut down.
Even though the serials were halted, Greg Farshtey would periodically provide clarifications and canonizations about the Generation 1 storyline. Initially, he did this on the BZPower private messaging system, until The LEGO Group implemented a new policy for internet use that prevented him from accessing BZPower. On July 2, 2013, Farshtey began a topic on the Lego Message Boards called "Chat with Greg Farshtey".
He continued to interact with fans on this thread until the Lego Message Boards themselves were shut down in March 2017. Later in 2017, Farshtey migrated to the TTV Message Boards site, where a subforum was built specifically for communicating with him. Farshtey's tenure with LEGO finished in July of 2022, ending any further additions to the Generation 1 story.
On September 8, 2014, a new image for a BIONICLE product page card featuring an unknown golden mask was discovered on the LEGO.com servers. Eleven days later, on September 19, 2014, LEGO confirmed BIONICLE's return through a video highlighting the aforementioned mask, which was revealed to be the Mask of Creation. A debut event was then set for the 2014 New York City Comic Con. At the event, LEGO's booth was fully dedicated to BIONICLE, and a special invite-only panel revealed the sets and the new rebooted storyline.
The rebooted continuity took place on the mythical island of Okoto, where the forces of darkness were on the move. Six powerful heroes called the Toa, each Masters of a sacred element, were summoned to help save the island. The Toa embarked on a quest for Okoto’s ancient Golden Masks of Power that would allow them to unlock the full potential of their elemental powers.
After confronting the evil Lord of Skull Spiders and his minions, the Skull Spiders, the summer wave found the Toa making their way through the City of the Mask Makers. Their goal was to find and revive Ekimu, the noble Mask Maker and brother of the evil Makuta, the source of the evil that plagued Okoto. Along the way, they battled against the evil Skull Army, led by Kulta, who stole the Golden Masks of the Toa in order to claim their power. Eventually, they succeeded in reviving Ekimu and reuniting him with his Mask of Creation.
The sets carried on the Creature and Character Building System (CCBS) introduced in Hero Factory, but also contained designs meant to evoke the early years of BIONICLE, a running theme for the reboot as a whole.
A second year of BIONICLE's reboot debuted in 2016. The Toa faced new challenges in their quest to defend Okoto as a mysterious hunter, Umarak, pursued the Elemental Creatures with his Shadow Traps and searched for Makuta's Mask of Control. In order to counter this threat, the Toa used new Masks of Unity to join together with the Elemental Creatures and unlock new powers.
In order to promote the year, a 3D-Animation television series was commissioned, debuting exclusively on the streaming service Netflix. The series, BIONICLE: The Journey to One, consisted of four episodes, with two episodes (and a prologue) premiering in April, and a second set of two following in the summer. The first two episodes depicted the Toa's struggles with Umarak, their friendship with the Elemental Creatures, and slowly discovering secrets of their forgotten past.
The summer wave of 2016 continued the story, with Ekimu facing off against a bestial Umarak the Destroyer. Three Elemental Beasts completed the set lineup, mirroring the release pattern of the previous year.
LEGO announced to select media in a special session, and later to the public that the summer wave of sets would be the last BIONICLE sets, and that the line was being discontinued. The final episode of The Journey to One concluded the Generation 2 storyline.
After its second discontinuation, no new BIONICLE-branded products were released from 2017 through 2022. However, the theme was referenced in other LEGO sets and media, as well as external media. In 2018, the Netflix series The Toys That Made Us had an episode focused on LEGO and included an interview with Christian Faber on the creation of BIONICLE, accompanied by footage from Generation 2's commercials. The original Takanuva character from BIONICLE's first generation was intended to make an appearance in the The Lego Movie 2 (2019), but was not seen in the final version.
In 2020, LEGO Ideas also began allowing submissions of other LEGO properties, including BIONICLE; a submission titled "The Legend of the BIONICLE: Celebrating 20 years of Lego stories" received 10,000 votes and was under review for potential development into an official LEGO set. However, the set was ultimately not approved for the final results.
In 2021, the 20th anniversary of the BIONICLE theme, LEGO Ideas hosted a "Fan Vote - Help Celebrate the 90th Anniversary of The LEGO Group!" competition, where participants cast votes for their favorite past theme from a limited selection, with one of the highest rated themes to eventually be made into a new commemorative set; BIONICLE was included as one of the themes. BIONICLE eventually scored the most votes in the first round.
For LEGO's 90th anniversary in 2022, the company released set 11021 90 Years of Play, which included a small brick build based on the original 2001 Tahu. The LEGO website also featured a game called "What LEGO brick are you?" which had the Kanohi Hau (identified as "Tahu's Mask") as a potential answer.
In 2023, a new BIONICLE set was revealed. From January 27, 2023 through February 9, 2023, as part of LEGO's Gift-With-Purchase (GWP) promotion, customers who purchased $100 USD or more via the LEGO Store or Shop@Home received the 40581 BIONICLE Tahu and Takua set. The brick-built set depicted the original Tahu Mata set from 2001, Takua in his 2001 Matoran form (which was never officially released as a set), as well as a lava stand with an attached surfboard and a small display for the Mata Nui and Makuta Stones.
BIONICLE's story is annualized to conform to the release pattern of the sets; each year is a continuation of the previous, but features new or changed locations, or introduces new plot devices. The years were also known as "Story Bibles" up through 2010, though according to author Greg Farshtey, the story was mapped out through 2011. After the second generation was introduced, the individual years were referred to with "The BIONICLE Story Year".
- 2001: Quest for the Masks
- 2002: The Bohrok Swarms
- 2003: The Bohrok-Kal Strike / The Mask of Light
- 2004: Legends of Metru Nui
- 2005: The Great Rescue
- 2006: Voya Nui
- 2007: Mahri Nui
- 2008: Karda Nui
- 2009: Bara Magna
- 2010: Journey's End / Spherus Magna
- 2011-2014: Spherus Magna
- 2015: The Mask of Creation
- 2016: The Mask of Control
Originally, the BIONICLE story was divided into seven "books," though these distinctions are no longer used, and the line was discontinued before the story caught up to the original plan.
- Book I (2001-2003) - Mata Nui
- Book II (2004-2005) - Metru Nui
- Book III (2006-2008) - Quest for the Mask of Life
- Book IV (2009-2010) - Bara Magna
- Book V (2010-) - Spherus Magna
- Chapter 1: Quest for the Masks
- Chapter 2: The Bohrok Swarms
- Chapter 3: The Toa Nuva & Bohrok-Kal
- Chapter 4: The Mask of Light
- Chapter 5: Legends of Metru Nui
- Chapter 6: Web of Shadows
- Chapter 7: Voya Nui
- Chapter 8: Mahri Nui
- Chapter 9: Phantoka – Spirits of the Air
- Chapter 10: Mistika
- Chapter 11: Mata Nui Rising
- Chapter 12: Bara Magna
|Characters | Sapient Species | Locations | Flora | Creatures | Rahi | Objects | Powers | Vehicles | Society | Events|
LEGO | TECHNIC | BIONICLE | Hero Factory | BS01 Wiki | Policies | Sources | Saga Guides | Timeline | Media | Sets