Minifigures are the small, plastic LEGO people, who populate the LEGO worlds. Most LEGO sets include some minifigures; LEGO has also sold collections of minifigures as separate sets. They are also known as minifigs or "LEGO people".
Minifigures are composed of several separate parts: head, torso, arms, hands, hips and legs. Minifigures typically come as three separate parts in LEGO sets: head, torso/arms/hands, and hips/legs.
The legs can rotate independently to 90 degrees forwards, and about 45 degrees backwards. They also attach to normal LEGO bricks in either a sitting or standing position. The hands of a minifigure make a "C" shape, which allows them to hold many LEGO accessories, as well as flat bricks. There are hundreds of different accessories, including axes, wands, cups, guns and even food. The tops of the hands are also roughly the same size as the studs on LEGO bricks, allowing various LEGO pieces to be placed on top of them. Minifigure heads are cylindrical, and attach to long narrow cylinder at the top of the torso, which allows the head to rotate. This also allows items that go over the torso, such as air tanks, capes or breastplates, to be attached. The heads also have a stud on top (which is the same size as studs on LEGO bricks), which things can be attached to. Head accessories are varied, including hair, helmets and hats. These variations allow minifigures to be highly customizable.
The first minifigures with movable arms and legs were released in 1978, with seven different figures in Castle, Space and Town themes. Many of the Town Minifigure's torso's had a sticker pattern instead of a painted on one. Until 1989, minifigure heads only had a simple facial expression of two black dots for eyes, and a black curved smile. In that year, minifigures in the Pirates theme were produced with different facial expressions. The Pirates minifigures also included hooks for hands, and wooden legs, the first departure from the traditional hands and legs. In 1997 the release of the Western line of sets saw the introduction of the first minifigures with racial characteristics, with the Indian minifigures. In 2003, the first minifigures with natural skin-tones – as opposed to the yellow previously used – were released as part of Basketball; these minifigures also represented specific people. The following year, the use of natural skintones was expanded to licensed products, such as Harry Potter and Star Wars minifigures. As of 2003, LEGO has produced 3.7 billion minifigures.