The makers of LEGO blocks began distributing their building sets in the United States in the 1960s. Minifigures that added pretend play to the sets appeared in American stores in 1978. For 20 years, LEGO developed its own characters and play set ideas. In 1999, however, the toy maker began partnering with other concerns to produce sets representing some of the best-known characters and stories of popular culture. The first LEGO sets of licensed properties featured the phenomenonally successful "Star Wars" characters and themes of movies, books, games, cartoons, comics, and toys. LEGO's first "Star Wars" sets coincided with the theater release of "The Phantom Menace," the fourth movie in the series but the one called Episode 1 for its sequence in the "Star Wars" narrative. LEGO delighted "Star Wars" fans with the release of 13 individual sets - 8 that related to Episode 1 and 5 sets that harkened back to the earlier movies of the original trilogy. LEGO's collaboration with the "Star Wars" brand proved very popular, leading the toy maker to release more than 370 different sets featuring the characters from "a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away."