Lego Embraces Hollywood
LEGO was different when I was a kid. The blocks came in a handful of colors and basic shapes. Wheels and gears were cutting edge. Instructions were minimal or non-existent. Or at least that’s how I remember it. My siblings and I would spend hours constructing our own version of buildings, cars and spaceships. But by the time my own boys began building, it didn’t take long to realize a lot has changed since the LEGO brick was launched in 1958.
Most notable may be the company’s collaboration with Hollywood. LEGO first signed on with Lucasfilm in 1998 when the company agreed to make Star Wars characters and building sets. Since then there’s been an explosion of film-inspired kits, along with video games, books and even TV spinoffs. Many of the building sets now include miniscule pieces, complicated instructions and only one way to put them together. With the release of The Lego Movie, these characters even have their own full-length animation. And you can be sure the toy manufacturer is hoping to see another rise in the sale of the little interlocking bricks. In fact the company has 17 new building sets based on scenes from the movie. There is also a new set of collectable minifigures featured in the film, such as Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Superman and the main characters from the production.
Many parents, myself included, have begun to wonder if the creativity aspect of LEGO is being lost in the race to tie into the next Hollywood blockbuster. A 2012 New York Times Review article by writers Matt Richtel and Jessie McKinley questions if in fact LEGO is selling out with the push into multimedia marketing. In the story, Tracy Bagatelle-Black is quoted as saying. “When I was a kid, you got a big box of bricks and that was it. What stinks about Lego sets now is that they’re not imaginative at all.”
Others might argue the addition of minifigures and movie-inspired sets will encourage kids to expand beyond the plot told on the big screen and develop their own storylines. Regardless of which leaning you take, it’s interesting to see just how many films have been immortalized in brick.
Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy inspired the creation of The Tower of Orthanc and five new minifigures: Gandalf the Grey, Grima Wormtongue, Saruman, Berserker Uruk-hai and the Orc Pitmaster. The Hobbit set includes the ruins of Dol Guldur.
Characters played by Artie Hammer and Johnny Depp are immortalized in The Lone Ranger set that comes with a train, Indian village, stage coach and a cast of Wild West figures. And the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles building sets include Shredder’s Hideout, Kraang’s Lab and Donnie’s Lab. It does offer alternative building instructions for some of the vehicles.
Marvel Comic heroes Iron Man, Captain America, Spider-Man, Wolverine and Thor, along with their nemeses, all come in miniature form in the Marvel Super Heroes kits. Meanwhile you can get tiny versions of Batman and Superman in the DC Comics Super Heroes collection.
Other movie characters that have found their way into a LEGO box include muggles and wizards from Harry Potter, the gang of playthings from Toy Story, swashbucklers and soldiers from Pirates of the Caribbean, desert dwellers and masked marauders from Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and the four-wheeled machines from Cars.