Jens Nygaard Knudsen, the creator of the LEGO mini-fig has passed away at age 78.
Over the decades, the company honed modern techniques of manufacturing plastic toys, patenting its signature stud-and-tube locking system for its toy building bricks in 1958. But until Mr. Knudsen's innovations in the 1970s, Lego lacked a human or even humanoid element to enliven its playscapes.
"There was something missing from the houses, cars, planes and fantasy world these children spent hours playing with," Sarah Herman wrote in her book "A Million Little Bricks: The Unofficial Illustrated History of the LEGO Phenomenon." Mr. Knudsen's minifigures, she wrote, went "on to define and drive" the Lego system "more than any other part since the launch of the new Lego brick in 1958."