Since the supernatural re-appearance of Obi-Wan Kenobi in The Empire Strikes Back, fans have been fascinated by the ability of some Jedi to project themselves as Force ghosts after their death, and while action figure collectors were rewarded with their 14-year toy hiatus with a promotional Spirit of Obi-Wan toy in 1997, devotees of the LEGO Star Wars theme are still keeping an eye out for a minifigure version.
UPDATE: This rumor has been revealed to be fake news by the originator of the story.
According to an image that is doing the rounds on social media, that may change this year. It’s not the expected transparent minifigure though, but a backless-blister that fits around a regular minifigure.
Current speculation is suggesting that a rumored LEGO exclusive, due in May, is the likeliest source.
Tipped for a May release is 75330 Training On Dagobah, a diorama that will update and expand 75208 Yoda’s Hut, a set that was released in 2018. According to Promobricks, two-thirds of the model will be taken up by Yoda’s hut and the rest by an X-wing. While their description mentions that “Yoda, Luke and R2-D2 are included as minifigures,” it doesn’t include Obi-Wan Kenobi.
That said, the Qui-Gon Jinn (sw0810) minifigure, which comes from 75169 Duel on Naboo, is clearly being used for illustrative purposes. Though some fans are implying that this is not a Force ghost effect but an air bubble for a new Gungan submarine set, there are no rumors circulating about an updated bongo.
Normal minifigures are made of Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene – more commonly known as ABS – an opaque thermoplastic and amorphous polymer that makes up approximately 95% of LEGO bricks. The majority of the remaining 5% is made up of a variety of plastics, including High Impact Polystyrene (HIP; for baseplates), Styrene-Ethylene-Butylene-Styrene (SEBS; for rubber tires), Polycarbonate (PC; hinges and ball and cup connectors), and – most significantly – Methyl methacrylate-acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene (MABS; for windscreens and lightsabers).
It’s a long-held belief within the LEGO Star Wars community that the reason why LEGO doesn’t produce transparent minifigures – with the exception of JEK-14’s arm and the so-called prototype minifigures coming out of the LEGO factory in Mexico – is that polycarbonate plastic is the material used for transparent pieces, and it’s too brittle for the stresses that a minifigure must endure.
As detailed above, polycarbonate plastic is no longer used for clear elements, which are instead made of MABS (also called transparent ABS), which is a clear engineering and commodity thermoplastic that has rubber particles dispersed throughout a polymer matrix, and – according to Polymer Database – has the same strength and stiffness as virgin ABS.
So, if it’s exactly the same plastic – just transparent – that’s used in all the other minifgures, why hasn’t LEGO given us proper Force ghosts yet?
It all comes down to cost. MABS, says transparencymarketresearch.com, is “is one of the more expensive polymers compared to other commodity polymers,” and with a higher thermal injection temperature than ABS it needs more energy (and therefore higher electricity bills) to form. While it’s feasible for LEGO to make small parts and the occasional windscreen or canopy with this dearer material, producing a set with an entire transparent minifigure and keeping it at an acceptable retail price would be uneconomical.
Do you think these new shrouds are a good compromise, or would you accept the higher cost of more accurate transparent minifigures? Let us know in the comments below.
Fervent documentarian, effusive AFOL and founding partner, Jeremy manages the daily news content and set reviews.
Having enjoyed playing with LEGO from his earliest years, Jeremy started collecting LEGO Star Wars in 1999 when the theme was first released. He has shared his thoughts and opinions on LEGO via a number of websites – including starwars.com, rebelscum.com and brickset.com – contributed to the LEGO Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary series and served the LEGO Ambassador Network as a Recognised LEGO Fan Media representative.