Lego has been making building and construction toys for decades. Based in Denmark, the company started producing their popular brick based sets with a Star Wars theme in 1999, around the time of the release of The Phantom Menace. Originally Lego's rights to produce Star Wars sets went for 10 years, until 2008, but due to the mutual success both parties experienced with the pairing, the licence was extended again.
When Lego started to design and make Star Wars sets, it was the first time that it had taken on an intellectual property product outside its own walls. Star Wars seemed to be an obvious choice because of the resurgence in popularity due to the prequel trilogy and the fact that the science fiction franchise already had numerous licensing deals with their name attached to everything from breakfast cereal to shampoo.
There were a total of 14 Lego sets released that first year, eight of which were from the Phantom Menace and the remaining from the Original Trilogy, including the iconic X-Wing fighter, Luke's Landspeeder, Y-Wing and Tie Fighters and the Snowspeeder. From the Phantom Menace notable sets included two podracing sets, the Gungan Sub and the Naboo Starfighter.
Quite a few of these sets have been re-released in the years since this inaugural release, often times with significant redesigns and new, custom created pieces.
The figures from 1999 bear mentioning because they were in the traditional yellow form of the minifigure, that is with yellow face and hand pieces. In addition it was the first time that fans had a chance to see film characters represented as little Lego men and most were impressed with the results. The two podracing sets from this wave are unique in that it is the only time that the significant prequel character of Padme Amidala has appeared in Lego sets.
Many of these original sets and figures have become collector's items and though there are far more specialist pieces than there were at the time of release, these sets still stand up as faithful and fun interpretations of the Star Wars world.