Andie and I went to see The Lego Movie today (or, if you work in PR, The LEGO Movie™) — it’s the first time we’ve been to the cinema for ages since neither of us really like going all that much, but given Andie’s admirable obsession with Lego (we have three awesome display cabinets with City stuff in at our place, and I’m sure our new home will have considerably more) there was never a time where we weren’t going to see it.
I shall refrain from spoiling the movie too much, save to say that it’s an excellent kids’ movie of the type designed to appeal in numerous ways to grown-ups as well. The concept of Lego being an all-ages toy (whatever it might say about upper age limits on the boxes) is specifically lampshaded, and there are numerous cameos from characters who have been immortalised through various Lego sets over the years — ranging from Star Wars to Lord of the Rings via the DC universe.
What I did want to talk about is how Lego has done a great job of positioning itself to a ridiculously broad market in 2014, and how that’s changed significantly over the years I’ve been alive. Or, at least, the way I’ve come to look at Lego has changed significantly over the years, anyhow.
I never really got hugely into Lego as a kid. I’m not sure why, really, since you’d think it would appeal to my inherent creative sensibilities. But no; my brother was the big Lego person in our family, though I certainly delved into the big brown plastic box full of it that was a fixture in the playroom when I was growing up. I liked the idea of Lego — something which you could use to build anything you wanted — but always felt a little intimidated by it, too.
Part of the reason for this was that in the big brown plastic box was an extremely well put-together house, complete with doors, windows and a slopey roof. I liked looking at this house because I was impressed with the craftsmanship — I assume it was originally the work of my brother, though I don’t know if it was assembled from instructions or not — but I also didn’t want to take it apart, because it was “complete”, and taking something apart that is “complete” didn’t quite feel right to me. Unfortunately, it consisted of all the “best” pieces, which made building other coherent structures a little more difficult, so ultimately I never really became much of a builder.
That was how I thought of Lego; it was something you built things with. I didn’t really think of it as having much of a “personality” as such, despite the presence of minifigs. (Incidentally, I was very happy to see that the “spaceman” minifigs, which appeared to be all we had in the big brown box, were specifically brought up in the movie.) It was just sort of… there, and given that I didn’t end up building all that much stuff with it, it drifted out of my consciousness for many years, never to return until I met Andie, really.
Today, however, Lego very much has a personality, demonstrated aptly by the movie. But I think the slightly irreverent attitude that Lego is infused with today started somewhat earlier. I can’t say for certain exactly when it began, but I have a feeling the computer games made by Traveller’s Tales have a lot to do with it. Again, I haven’t played all that many of these, but they have developed somewhat over time, too — they began with “silent movie” recreations of Star Wars that ended up being hilarious because of their lack of dialogue, and gradually moved into movie adaptations that used actual lines and sounds from the movie, and subsequently on to original titles such as Lego City Undercover.
The personality of the latter in particular was very evident in the movie, and it’s one of the things that made it so enjoyable — it was silly, highly quotable nonsense for children, but at the same time the references and sly winks throughout were clearly aimed at those of us who are old enough to have kids of our own (whether or not we actually do).
In short, it was a lot of fun that I highly recommend you go and see. I’m glad to see something as cool as Lego endures so well in the modern world, and solid adaptations like The Lego Movie will undoubtedly help it continue to do so.