(NEW YORK) — The creator of Lego’s popular minifigure toy has passed away in Denmark following a battle with ALS.
Jens Nygaard Knudsen died last week at the age of 78. He had worked for the Lego Group Company for 32 years.
In addition to creating the iconic toy figurine, he was responsible for the Lego castle and space sets, representatives of the Danish company said in a statement Monday.
“He was a true visionary whose ideas brought joy and inspiration to millions of builders around the world and we thank him for helping to create some of our most loved play themes,” Julia Goldin, the Lego Group’s chief marketing officer, said in a statement.
One of Knudsen’s former colleagues told Agence France-Presse that Knudsen had been living in hospice care and died on Wednesday.
“His imagination was so fantastic. If we had a brainstorm it was more like a brain hurricane, because he had so many ideas,” Milan Pedersen told AFP.
ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease, is a neurodegenerative disease that affects the nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord. The disease destroys motor functions slowly and leads to muscle atrophy.
Roughly 30,000 in the United States are affected by the disease, with 5,000 new cases diagnosed each year, according to The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, which runs an ALS clinic. There is no known cure for the disease.
Knudsen worked with the Lego Group from 1968 to 2000. The minifigure, or minifig, began as a simple toy with a smiling yellow face whose outfits could be substituted with different ones for each Lego set.
Today there are hundreds of variations of the minifig, including ones based on Marvel Comics superheroes, Lord of the Rings characters, and other pop culture figures.
The toy company has also sold minifigs of historical figures, such as its women of NASA set that was launched three years ago.
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