If you and your kids come over to our house to play and hang out, you will quickly realize that we love legos.
But we don’t love them in the “I have this set built and you can never touch it or take it apart” kind of way. We love legos in a “we have a giant bucket of random pieces – you wanna create something?” way.
Looking around our house right now, I see legos on our table, up in our homeschool cabinet (the one set we do have put together and it stays that way – Minecraft), in the play room, and even in my bedroom. We like random legos so much we buy them in bulk by the pound off ebay.
It’s not that I won’t buy sets for the kids – I do. But they, like me, just don’t find building from a set of instructions as challenging or rewarding. There are people that love to do that, just not us.
But that isn’t the point of my post. This past weekend was a special family time for us. Jay got to come home for 4 days before going back out into the field for the month. And Monday we decided it would be fun to take the kids to a movie.
The movie our post theater just happened to be playing was the Lego movie.
We had such a fun time as a whole family.
The movie was – duh – awesome!
As I sat in the movie theater, listening to the awesome music, I started to think about WHY this movie was awesome.
I came up with at least three reasons. I’m sure there are more. But these are the ones that stuck out to me personally:
1. It is the result of fandom and creative people
Almost immediately after Lego Group started producing minifigures and sets, people began to create animations with them.
This film is the oldest known “brickfilm” or Lego animation movie. It was made in 1973 by two Danish boys:
When digital film and more technology hit the scene, brickfilms became even easier to make. YouTube made it even easier to share and collaborate on projects.
There was some backlash by the Lego legal department on some of these creations.
A brief history of brickfilms:
At about the 6 minute mark in that video, there is an interesting interview with the creator of “The Magic Portal” about why Lego eventually came to embrace brickfilms as the inevitable.
The genre is so huge that if you do a simple search on YouTube for “brickfilm” you will find animation academies, script writing lessons, tutorials, and advice on the genre – alongside millions of fan-made Lego movies.
While Lego used animation for its commercials and short films to promote the brand, I think we can safely say that it was the fandom of Lego – people who loved it as kids (or kids themselves) who made brickfilms and shared them with the world – that was directly responsible for the eventual creation of The Lego Movie. Yes, Lego has been making animated cartoons and what-not for a while now, but where do you think they got the entire idea from?
Fandom + creativity = winning
2. The humor is directed at brand-awareness and self-deprecation
Watching the Lego Movie could have been torture for everyone in the theater, especially parents. I can recall several toy-to-movie ideas that fell flat because the project was taken way too seriously, was made to appeal to adults who used to play with the toys, or was generally just not funny.
I’m looking at you Transformers.
The Lego Movie had a little thing called self-awareness. It had a huge array of material to work from (having sets that date back to the 60’s is a good thing) and knew that it had to appeal to a wide audience. It uses that to its advantage.
Just think of all the references that we laughed at. When the city runs smoothly because of instruction manuals. The moment batman appears (and his entire time on-screen). Astronaut man, whatever his name was, just wants to build a spaceship!
Not to mention the entire plot is kind of poking fun at Lego itself. Lord Business just wants all the pieces to remain in their sets. It comically references the different franchises within the brand – Pirate’s Cove, Vikings Landing, and a “bunch of others we don’t need to mention”. These aren’t an inset commercial for Lego – it is genius humor for those who have ever complained that “Lego makes all these sets now but where are all the plain bricks?“
It also references tons of pop-culture (through the brand and outside the Lego empire), an ancient Greek play (cloud cuckoo land), plus it is a trope on the entire hero genre.
The Lego Movie succeeds at being witty and charming.
3. Lego encourages everyone to think outside the instruction manual
Moral of the story: Everyone is creative. So get out there and build something off-the-wall.
The Lego Movie makes us fall in love with Lego all over again. It’s not saying, “hey look at all our cool sets that you can collect!” No, their message to us is that while the sets are fancy and cool, the real awesome is inside people. People like you and me thinking up ideas and creating new combos.
Even if it is a dumb double-decker couch.
In the movie, the characters who bend the rules and don’t follow instructions are the master builders. That is exactly what Lego company calls the “highly-trained and super-creative builders who design all of the official LEGO sets”.
It connects generations. It shows how anyone can build something new. It reminds adults something we knew instinctively as kids – that the possibilities are endless if you mix and match and try new things.
One quick note that I want to throw in here before I end this post. I didn’t exactly know how to fit this in. But recently I’ve seen some people on my social media raging about the Friends Lego sets. Articles claim they are dumbed-down, the pieces are simplistic, and the girly colors and themes are offensive.
I, for one, am glad they are finally recognizing that “girly girls” like Legos also. So many Lego sets in my kids’ lifetime have been aimed at boy interests. My kids love playing with them, but why can’t there be a girly Lego set that promotes things like playing in a band, taking karate classes, or playing soccer? Girls can still play with the traditional dragons and pirate sets. And boys can play with the Friends sets. No one is stopping them (except for parents – that is really who is sending the message).
Denna loves these sets because she loves girl colors. And at the end of the day, they go in with our other Legos and become more awesome – just like the movie.