BIONICLE was a series of toy sets sold by The LEGO Company with a storyline to promote them.
The year 1997 was a hard time for The LEGO Company. For the first time in the history of the company, it had posted a loss. The LEGO Company needed a change in order for it to appeal to this new generation of children. They realized that kids in this fast-paced modern world wanted something cool to play with that would encompass more than building blocks. Kids wanted a story behind those pieces, and to go with that story they wanted neat parts that they could use to create their own play fantasies.
However, this was not the start of BIONICLE as one may expect it to be; this was the birth of the Star Wars line. Star Wars was a smash hit, and it almost took LEGO out of the red for 1999. However, although the sales for the sets were outstanding, a large number of royalties had to be paid to Lucasfilm in order to retain the licensing agreement for Star Wars. LEGO now knew that bricks with a story and focus worked, but the licensing agreement with Lucasfilm kept LEGO out of the black.
Meanwhile, LEGO's TECHNIC line, popular among adult enthusiasts but never well-received by the younger customers, had recently scored a surprise hit in the line of Throwbots. Although these small kits never even began to approach the fame of BIONICLE, they did carry many of the elements that would be found later in BIONICLE. Main characters had an elemental focus of sorts; a simple sort of storyline was hinted at; and the sets included the now commonplace ball-and-socket construction that allowed for extensive playability. And to top it all off, they came in cool plastic cases and had neat, collectible discs.
LEGO's next line, the RoboRiders, were a considerable failure, but were an obvious step toward BIONICLE: they had reduced the cast of characters from twelve somewhat ambiguous characters to six heroes fighting against an unseen evil. The story was becoming more focused, and a tie-in with the LEGO website featured a game allowing visitors to battle monsters using the robotic motorcycles.
Sometime in 1999 LEGO got the idea of creating their own story. No longer would they have to rely on LucasFilm or any other outside company to create stories for them. This story -- this saga -- was BIONICLE. LEGO thinkers and design staff wanted to create something that would appeal to boys ages 8-12, yet could also be appealing to other groups. This saga creation would be a challenge for LEGO, as they have never actually created their own story before. As 2000 approached, it began to come together. Six heroes. An Island. Magic masks. A dangerous villain. A fight for control. Everything the typical boy likes in his toys.
The story came together and the sets were made. On December 30th 2000, the creation known as BIONICLE became a reality in Europe. BIONICLE was a smash hit, and it took the continent by storm. Six months later, BIONICLE hit the shelves in the United States. The popularity of the sets was absolutely incredible. LEGO finally found another hit that would not rival any other theme in the area of actual profits.
While the story was a main drive for the series in the beginning, the sets were the focus. They helped introduce new but slightly similar designs from the TECHNIC and the old Throwbots/Slizers constructions, plus adding to the fun was the building factor that LEGO provided. Every piece from the old TB/Slizer pieces, as well as existing TECHNIC pieces. Just think, a skilled TECHNIC MOCist could gut their Manas motor into anything they made, and have another kind of remote controlled MOC. Along with that, there were the collectible "Great Kanohi Masks of Power," which were sold in packs with new Toa heads and eyes so you can put them on the Suva of that Toa. Each mask was designed with accuracy and skill, with the first mask made being the Kanohi Vahi, Mask of Time. Over time, these were traded between neighbors and school friends, and with the introduction of a trading center in various BIONICLE forums, across cities and even nations. The sets themselves are now discontinued from production, but are still sold through various outlet stores as extra stock or auctioned off of auction websites.
Also sold were the small Turaga sets, which featured their own set of 6 masks, which were called Noble Kanohi, in the colors of secondary schemes, including orange, light blue and dark gray. These were also sold in the Kanohi packs randomly, and could be collected alongside normal Great Kanohi.
This year also featured possibly the only year with masks now considered "misprints." Two Noble Kanohi, Ruru and Matatu, were accidentally produced in each Toa color. Reports also came up that there were White Huna and other various masks. Another couple of misprints were a Trans-Yellow Kaukau and a Trans-Light Blue Kaukau which were the same color as Kopaka's eye color. In addition, there were also two collectible Copper-colored masks, a Huna and a Komau.
With 2001 being a huge success, LEGO decided to continue their story of the popular Toa and their adventures protecting the Matoran. However, they took a new direction to the story, with the introduction of the Bohrok and their dreaded Krana. Not only was there now an enemy that had no concern for those around it, but it didn't even think about it or anything else, except for what the Krana told it. A robotic monster with only a Krana to activate it was what the Bohrok was in essence, which made the storyline now focus on who was behind them. The sets themselves had actual working moving gears, including a head attack and a headplate opening feature, which launched the Krana at an enemy. Along with that, Krana packs filled with a Krana and Gold and Silver Kanohi were sold throughout the year. Rounding up the year were the dreaded Bahrag twin queens, the fearless Exo-Toa exo-skeleton suits, the Matoran fighting back with Boxor, and the brand-new Toa Nuva. At the time, the Toa Nuva sets were without a doubt the most exciting sets ever seen, until 2003 and on when larger and more flexible sets were released. Meanwhile, in the last comic of 2002, "The Kal" were introduced, a mystery revealed later to be the Bohrok-Kal, which began the first half of 2003.
The Search for the Silver Krana-Kal was on. The Bohrok-Kal hit shelves, and located in 5,000 Kal sets were White Metal Krana-Kal. Meantime, in 72 special Kal sets, they had a Sterling Silver Krana-Kal. Each one were in the shape of a Xa, and each featured a black velvet bag and a proof of authenticity card, which numbered which Sterling Silver Krana-Kal the person had purchased. 2003 was a unique year in which all canister sets were actually enemies of the Toa Nuva, as compared to the later years of one set of good guys and one set of bad guys, a trend ending in 2008 when LEGO released three Toa and three Makuta. In this story arc, we also got to purchase the small packs of Krana-Kal and Kanohi Nuva masks, with three Krana-Kal in each box matched with two Kanohi Nuva, which were the new Kanohi collectible.
Also sold at this point were the Toa Nuva, which were released in November/December of 2002. By the end of the Kal arc, the anticipation of the BIONICLE movie was built up. Nobody knew what it could possibly mean, or what kind of story to expect, but they knew it was coming soon.
The next canister sets were then released, and they were released with a bang. The feared Sons of the Makuta, the Rahkshi, were sold and people were impressed with them. At last, a bending leg, hip movement (kind of), and a moving head. It was more than most people ever hoped for. They were ran on the slug-like Kraata, a rubber collectible sold in tubs, which was an upgrade from the box design of the Kanohi and Krana packs, which looked like the Kraata Stasis tubes the Turaga had used throughout the years to seal away Kraata that were seen. They were sold in 42 colors, 6 shapes at a time. Inside of later-packaged Target Rahkshi packs were Shadow Kraata, straight purple colored Kraata that came in all 6 stages. Also, a shoe was sold featuring a transparent orange Kraata, which is highly collectible and rare to find these days. It seemed, story-wise, we had found a worthy opponent to the Toa Nuva, sometimes even too much for them to handle. But wait, we were then told of the arrival of a seventh Toa, one who could challenge even the Makuta. But if that wasn't enough, the fans even got their first chance at buying the Master of Shadows himself in set form. We also had the chance to buy a few of our favorite Matoran, including Hahli, Macku, Hewkii, Hafu, Matoro, and Kopeke. Also, inside of two box sets were Jaller and Takua, two future Toa destined at different times for different destinies. Inside of the Jaller box set was a Gukko, and inside of Takua's was his trusty pet ussal crab, Pewku. The vehicle included in Takanuva's set was the Ussanui, the vessel he and the Toa Nuva constructed out of scrap Rahkshi parts that used Kraata to seek out Makuta and bring the rider to him. The Ussanui had six silver Rahkshi backs with no spines, which represented the six Rahkshi that were defeated. Each back could hold one Kraata, making for a total of six. At the end of this storyline, we were then introduced to the legendary Metru Nui, a city where all the Matoran came from, and must go back to. Also, we were told of the heroic Toa Metru, whom the Toa Nuva, and the fans of BIONICLE, know best as the Turaga of Mata Nui.
The Toa Metru were sold in the first part of the year, with new masks (that actually are their Noble Kanohi in Great Kanohi form) and new body shapes. Adapting the Rahkshi leg bending design and improving it, the Toa Metru's whole leg was built upon ball-and-socket design, with a new double-sided hipjoint holding onto the ball hip and the ball piece of the bottom leg section. Along with that, each design was designed to be almost independent from the other, with small modifications including height adjustment and neck position. Along with neck positions were actual head pieces designed for the purpose of movement on the head, a technique which evolved from the Rahkshi design, and was used on later sets right up to present time. Though they hadn't yet adapted the arm bending technique to today's standards yet, they had progressed further than the Toa and Toa Nuva arms which hadn't flexed at all. Matoran sets were also introduced, which a backstory for each which suggested one of them was a traitor and had sold them all out to a mysterious 4-legged being and a giant brute. Each backstory for the Matoran suggested they were jealous of the new Toa Metru originally when they were but Matoran themselves, and each also had a reason to betray the other. In a funny twist of real life, when BIONICLE novel and comic writer Greg Farshtey was looking for a traitor, he looked back at the Mata Nui Online Game Comet Ball Trader who sold infected Koli balls to Matoran, gave him a name, and ended up using him as a set. Along with that, he wrote a backstory in a later novel to suggest how come he joined with Makuta. During the first half of the year, we were face with two obstacles, the Morbuzakh and the Vahki, which made sure EVERY citizen worked at their job and also made sure they weren't breaking the law. Since at the time the Toa Metru were not working and were actually doing somewhat illegal tactics according to Vahki law, including breaking into the Fire Pits and the Great Furnace, as well as keeping six other Matoran from working, they were public enemy #1. After the Morbuzakh was defeated, and the Six Great Disks were found, they decided to go to the Coliseum and show proof they were indeed Toa. But unfortunately for the Toa Metru, the leader was not who they suspected it was. In addition to the early sets, it was also announced that a sequel to BIONICLE: Mask of Light would be released in the fall, named BIONICLE 2: Legends of Metru Nui.
We were officially introduced to Turaga Dume in this story arc, as well as Nidhiki and Krekka, two new Rahi named Nivawk and the Kikanalo, Toa Lhikan, and also the introduction of the second group of evil we had met ever, called the Dark Hunters. This story arc also introduced many story elements, including the existence of a Brotherhood of Makuta, of an Order of Mata Nui, and various other elements to the story that came up later on in the following years. Also in this story, we were introduced to a much younger, but still evil, Makuta. Disguised as Dume, Makuta saw the Toa Metru as a threat to his plans, along with the Toa who had given them their power, Toa Lhikan. He had hatched a plan to put all Matoran into pods to put them in deep sleep for many years until they had their memories wiped, where he would then reawaken them all and then introduce himself as their hero and leader. To finish the task, he had hired Vakama to craft and forge the Kanohi Mask of Time, the Vahi. Also sold in this year was the feared Vahki, with different powers and a multi-pose option, between a bi-ped and a quad-ped design. Within the same year, we had gotten our first taste as to why the Turaga had hidden the truth from the Matoran, for they wouldn't want the Matoran to come back to a city with such evils in it. But the next year REALLY showed us fans why they didn't want them to go back yet, and how far the Toa Metru would have gone to save the Matoran.
Included in the Vahki's Fall release were Flat Dark Gold Vahi and Disks of Time as a tie-in to the second movie's release.
BIONICLE Fans were now shown the story of the Toa Metru returning to Metru Nui to rescue the remaining Matoran. Along the way, however, they first met the most feared Rahi species on the planet: the Visorak. After being infected with their Hordika Venom, the Toa Metru were saved by the Rahaga, six former Toa transformed by the evil viceroy Roodaka. Along with Sidorak, the Horde king, they were determined to conquer Metru Nui in the name of the Brotherhood of Makuta, with Roodaka's deeper secret of freeing Makuta being kept to herself. When the Toa reawoke, they found they were no longer Toa Metru, but hideous Toa Hordika, half Toa and half Rahi. The Rahaga told them they no longer possessed Mask powers, but they had the ability to use their Elemental Powers through Rhotuka spinners. The sets of the Rahaga were smaller than normal Matoran from 2003, with the new Rhotuka spinner on their back. The Toa Hordika also featured Rhotuka, as well as a solid head piece with no mask attachment. Along with that, they featured a new arm which was lifted up and down through gears.
The second half of the year featured the Visorak. However, in the United Kingdom, the sets were released differently from the United States, in that the Visorak were sold in the first half of the year. The Visorak had a full head piece, and the first of its actual kind, lack of cloned-sets design. It wasn't exactly perfect, but it was a start for some people. The legs differed, the head designs were different, and also different mandibles from each other. Also sold in the later year was Roodaka, the Viceroy of the Visorak, and Sidorak, the King of the Horde. Along with them was the legendary Keetongu, a yellow-orange Rahi of good who knew many antidotes to poison. Finally was the release of the playsets, 3 different sets based on various scenes played out in the novels and the movie. These playsets also were the only ones to feature the most sinister Kahgarak, Visorak who could release the Zivon. BIONICLE 3: Web of Shadows was also released in this year, and the ending of the Toa Metru's story was told. As the year drew to a close, the Matoran and Turaga all sailed back to their former home, Metru Nui. But an act of evil set in motion back in 2004 would force the Toa Nuva and six brave Matoran on to a journey so dangerous, they nearly didn't make it back.
Mata Nui is dying. These four words almost rocked the BIONICLE world so much, the Toa Nuva had set off INSTANTLY to find the fabled Mask of Life, the Ignika. Along the way, they met and were defeated by the first half of the year's Canister sets, the Piraka. These six rogues from the Dark Hunters had quit and left to search Makuta's old lair on Mata Nui, where they found his ProtoSteel armor and an eerie green mist. Instantly, though they did not know why, they knew they had to go to Voya Nui, the island which held the Mask of Life, and recover it. It was a great profit, and they knew they could get more money from it than the Shadowed One himself ever had. As they left, they used Toa Canisters left over from the days of the Toa Mata, and set sail for the island of Voya Nui. But, during their raid in Makuta's lair, they also met the Mana Ko, and had unleashed a tool of such immense power, it split Vezok into two beings, Vezok and the half-crazed Vezon. The sets all featured light-up eyes, rubber faces and spines, and a brand new tool called Zamor Launchers. Also featured were brand new parts including the special right arm that allowed them to use their tools correctly and fold them under the arm to use the other end. Also sold at this time were the Voya Nui Matoran sets, and Zamor packs filled with bronze, silver and gold Zamor.
During this time, the novels told of the journey of six brave Matoran to Voya Nui. Their names were Jaller, Hahli, Kongu, Hewkii, Nuparu, and Matoro. Also traveling for part of their journey was Toa Takanuva, who had agreed to follow them only because he felt it was safer if he went along with them. Watching them from afar as they traveled was the Kanohi Ignika, psychically tracking them as they journeyed into Karzahni's realm, where no Light could penetrate. Takanuva woefully waved goodbye to them as they went forward without him, and he went back to Metru Nui. Once inside, Karzahni gave them new Kanohi and took their old ones, except Kongu who had put on a Suletu he found along the way. Once there, they met a Matoran of Light who told them of the World that Feeds the World, a mystic place where he came from. Karzahni had thought this Matoran died ages ago, but he had been hiding in relatively peaceful areas, and he built a new set of Toa Canisters. The Matoran from Metru Nui rushed into them and escaped, after Karzahni had viewed an alternate vision of his timeline if Mata Nui were to die, and that there was far more to the world than his realm and Artakha, so he decided to destroy it himself. Along the way, the Matoran were hit with Lightning bolts shot from the Red Star, which energized them with Toa energy and lightning, giving them the name Toa Inika (Inika means energy from a star). These sets were introduced and advertised through their strobe-light tools which glowed either red, blue or green, depending on which tool you had. Each head was designed with a rubber mask, and could not accept any other previous Kanohi from any year. This presented some problems for some MOC builders who wished to use the new masks on custom characters but wanted the original eye color of that character, not the green they had. The journey went on for the Ignika as these Toa saved the Matoran from the Piraka and stopped them from obtaining the mask. Other sets sold in the Summer of 06 included Vezon and Fenrakk, a combiner set called Vezon and Kardas, Axonn, Brutaka, Umbra, and finally 3 more playsets designed with these new figures. Also introduced was the character Botar. The Ignika was freed by Matoro, whose destiny was to carry the Ignika. As the Toa were leaving, the mask was dropped and it drifted deep into the water, towards the prison known as The Pit. Unfortunately for them, The Pit also played host to six powerful beings that never stepped foot on dry land since the day they got there...
Ancient evil rulers who reigned over large kingdoms in the Matoran Universe, were the evil Barraki. They had gained so much power, they dared to challenge Mata Nui's own throne. But Makuta and several other beings fought the Barraki, capturing their lands for themselves and were about to excecute the Barraki. However, the Order of Mata Nui's own servant, Botar, took them from within Makuta's prisons, and took them to a place nobody knew existed. Except for its residents.
The Barraki sets were sold, and the first thing that occurred was the controversy of Pridak's red coloring on the white body. He was depicted as a Shark, and most parents thought the red was blood, which made sense from the point that he was indeed a shark. However, various media reported that the coloring wasn't blood, it was just the color scheme chosen. Also sold at this point were four smaller sets, two Matoran and two Rahi named Hydruka. Another great controversy was the introduction of Sea Squids in the Barraki sets. This new addition displeased many fans and MOCists, as the squids were easy to break and hardly able to function/launch. Around this time, in the story, the Ignika had fallen into the mutating waters of The Pit, as well as the areas around Mahri Nui, which were poisoned with this water. Mahri Nui had fallen off of the island of Voya Nui, and unluckily landed on The Pit, attached by a Stone Cord which kept Voya Nui from drifting away from it. At this point, the Toa Inika's journey was to go under the waves and recover the Ignika. Later on, we learned the mask was actually breaking up from the mutation in the water. Also sold at this point was the feared Nocturn, a Lieutenant of Ehlek's army.
In the summer of 2007, the Toa Mahri began selling and were being advertised on the BIONICLEstory.com website, with minigames released alongside Story Serials written by Greg Farshtey, and a Toa Nuva Blog written in the perspective of Gali Nuva to chronicle the journey in preparations of the reawakening of Mata Nui. Also involved in this story was Makuta's own fight with Karzahni, clearly mutated by the waters of The Pit. Other sets sold in this arc were Karzahni with two Matoran and a trap, Hydraxon the Pit Jailor, Maxilos and Spinax, Toa Lesovikk, Gadunka, and three more playsets. When the year ended, various previews and Comic #10 showed that Voya Nui sank into the water when the Mahri shot the Stone Cord after taking all the Matoran from Mahri Nui to Voya Nui, destroying Mahri Nui in the process. Also, we witness the death and rebirth of the Great Spirit himself, Mata Nui. Alas, the price for his life was that of Toa Matoro. The year ends sadly as he is mourned by his friends and allies, and honored for the task he took to save Mata Nui's life. However, the Toa Nuva had no time to rest, as the quest to reawaken Mata Nui would soon begin.
2008 features the return of old fan favorites, the Toa Nuva. This time, however, they are released in their Adaptive Armor forms, which gives them new weapons and masks shapes, as they are sent to Karda Nui. They are evidently split into two teams in the storyline. Alongside the Toa, 2008 also features the Makuta and Av-Matoran. The canister sets for the first half of 2008 were placed under the name "Phantoka" and introduced two new projectile weapons, the Midak Skyblasters for Toa and Tridax Pods for Makuta. Large sets were also released, including the Toa Ignika set, and two feared Makuta, Icarax and Mutran, with a Shadow Matoran helper named Vican. The smaller sets were the Av-Matoran, and the recently transformed Shadow Matoran, the three seperately sold sets also previously being Av-Matoran.
The canister sets for Summer 2008 were placed under the name "Mistika" and introduces yet another new projectile launcher, Nynrah Ghost Blasters for both sides. Also in the summer, several large sets were released, the vehicles Axalara T9, Jetrax T6 and Rockoh T3, a partially light-drained version of Toa Takanuva, plus Vultraz and Mazeka, two Matoran on powerful vehicles. The introduction of the vehicles in BIONICLE met with much fan approval.
The story ends the first whole saga of BIONICLE in a way very few expected: the Kanohi Ignika, having taken the form of a Toa, sacrificed itself to reawaken Mata Nui, and as the Energy Storms ravages in Karda Nui, the Toa Nuva escaped in their vehicles. All the Makuta in Karda Nui were incinerated by the energy storms. Soon, Teridax's plan was revealed: Teridax, in Antidermis form, took residence in Mata Nui's mind before Mata Nui's spirit could return to it, and when the Toa Nuva awakened Mata Nui, they awoke Mata Nui's body with the Makuta's mind. Thus the Matoran Universe, revealed at this point to be Mata Nui's body, were doomed under Teridax's reign with Mata Nui's spirit, which was banished into the Mask of Life, was cast out of his own body and shot into the Wall of Stars.
It is now here, in 2009, where a new story picks up, and introduces brand new sets and story to follow, with new mysteries and old questions left burning in BIONICLE fans' minds.
The year 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. That changed in the summer when, as depicted in the new movie BIONICLE: The Legend Reborn, the Kanohi Ignika crashed into 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 that 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 on 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.
Worlds collided in 2010 as Mata Nui assumed control of the robot body on Bara Magna, only to be confronted by Makuta'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 a warrior-class Skrall. Each set also came with a Golden Armor piece, which the Tahu set could wear to represent the power that would turn the tide in the coming battle.
However, soon a press release from LEGO verified a rumor which had spread among concerned BIONICLE fans on the web: the BIONICLE Stars would be the last BIONICLE sets for the foreseeable future. Although the BIONICLE story would continue online through the year 2011, the sets had been phased out in the summer to allow for a new theme called LEGO Hero Factory, which carried 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.
- 2001: Quest for the Masks
- 2002: The Bohrok Swarms
- 2003: The Bohrok-Kal Strike / The Mask of Light
- 2004: Legends of Metru Nui
- 2005: Web of Shadows
- 2006: Island of Doom
- 2007: Sea of Darkness
- 2008: The Final Battle
- 2009: The Arena
- 2010: Journey's End / Spherus Magna
- The word "BIONICLE" is actually a portmanteau of the English words "Biological Chronicle".