Saturday, 1 March 2014

The LEGO Movie ~ Instructions v's Creativity

If you haven't yet seen The LEGO Movie and you're going to, you probably should wait and read this later. I'll try not to spoil it too much, but inevitably I'll give stuff away and I don't want to ruin it for you.

Before you see it, you might feel the LEGO movie is very American and schmaltzy, and has also lost the original ideals of Lego, and indeed I did think that might be the case, even when I started watching, but as it turns out, it isn't true.

The LEGO movie characters Metalbeard

LEGO have had a lot of stick lately for making everything too formulaic, losing creativity and concentrating on movie tie-in's and branded LEGO. The fact is that, hard as it is to believe, in the mid 90's LEGO sales were on a real downhill slope and by 2000 it was getting scary. They began desperately searching for new ideas and ways to break into new markets in a world obsessed with  technology. They stuck a finger in every pie and came back with very little. By 2003 they were on the verge of bankruptcy and Mattel were waiting in the wings ready to take over.

Proper focus with clever expansion towards 'adult' LEGO in the Mindstorms and Technic ranges, and the collaboration with good quality franchises such as Star Wars were what saved them....and us. By 2012 they were the world's 3rd biggest toy producer and they're riding a hugely successful wave right now. Everyone loves LEGO and everything is awesome. Interestingly Mattel (the world's biggest toy producer) yesterday made a bid yesterday to buy Megabloks - clearly they're still keen to expand into the block market.

LEGO Movie characters Good Cop Bad Cop

So isn't it a little unfair to complain about what was necessary in order to survive? I think so. I also think that people who complain about Movie tie-in LEGO and kits with instructions stifling creativity are missing the point.

The sets are great because they teach the techniques and building skills that the children can take away with them. They show how to make better use of bricks and create corners and vehicle chassis and all sorts of other things. They give you special and interesting elements to enhance what you have. They give you a basis to work with and you can then build 'another car' or an extra bit of scenery to go with what you have - Batman needs a Batcave? No problem, the parts from Goblin King's Battle make a great Batcave when you make it taller and leave a gap underneath. Sets can stretch the imagination, they don't stifle it.

My blog backdrop is a photo I took using stuff from my children's bedroom floor that they'd been playing with that day. They were younger there and LEGO wasn't even something they used by itself, it was a part of a bigger play scene which included cars and Playmobil and anything else they wanted. Now they've moved on from wooden blocks and are better able to create whatever they want from LEGO, so they don't mix it with other brands so much, but they definitely mix it up. This is part of my living room floor this morning. These are all kits with instructions, but they've been dismantled to make something else.


The movie starts off in LEGO City, and then the characters break out and escape into other worlds. The Western and Space and Star Wars worlds collide with Lego Friends. We have a scene we've actually had at home ourselves - where no-one is actually sure if they're looking at Dumbledore or Gandalf - it's brilliant!

The LEGO Movie reminds us that we don't have to follow instructions, creativity can be everything and leaving models intact isn't always right, they're to be played with. I've had a long running joke with a couple of other bloggers to this effect, and I'm proud to say I was the one telling them glue was the Devil's work and should be banned. It's LEGO, you can rebuild it to the instructions later if you want - that's the whole point!

LEGO Movie minifigures Micromanager

We've obviously gone out and bought sets from the movie, we had the winnings from our Carcraft competition to spend, and as yet they're still intact and complete, no doubt they won't be for long. We don't have a Benny or a spaceship to go with it, so my 3 year old made his own. Creativity is alive and well. Everything is awesome.

LEGO model 3 year old




16 comments:

  1. We are looking forward to lego soon! My son love lego and he use to build so many different stuffs! Lego is great for creative!
    Yes, glue is so wrong!
    Well done to your winnings!

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    1. Enjoy the movie! I can't wait to see it again when it's on BluRay. Glue is definitely wrong - cheers Eileen :D

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  2. congrats on the lego blogger status Jenny (not sure if I said that to you already or not! -terrible memory) anyway I 100% agree with you about those who complain about lego changing and not being as good as it was - lego is lego it is amazing no matter what box set it comes in don't people understand you can take the bricks and build them into whatever you want you don't have to follow the instructions. I think lego were very clever and extremely sensible to go down the themed set route - it obviously worked and it enabled them to keep up with the trends and allow children to pester for more and more - lets face it a big box of the orriginal multi coloured bricks never really needs adding too once you have enough does it - we have a big box handed down from my childhood and that lego would be more than enough for any child - but my boys every birthday and christmas ask for lego and lego is always the most loved present and this is because of the theme sets - they don't want more bricks per say - they want the themed sets - chima characters or star wars or monsters or whatever, but very rarely do they actually stick to the instructions within a few weeks everything joins the big box of lego and creativity is the same as before

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    1. Thank you Sarah :)
      I love the comment "lego is lego it is amazing no matter what box set it comes in" - so true! Thank you very much for your comment :)

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  3. We haven't seen the Lego movie yet, not sure if we'll get to the cinema to see it or wait for the DVD but I'm sure we'll see it at some point

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    1. I can't wait for the DVD - we really want to see it again, but going to the cinema again would be a bit too expensive :D

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  4. I agree with everything you've said. We're really at the start of our Lego journey but I'm already seeing a willingness from Bud to create from his own imagination and, if he puts three bricks together and says it is an aeroplane I'm totally going to embrace that imagination. I think the people who worry about sets getting broken up are looking at Lego wrongly. It isn't Airfix. The built model is not the end, it's just one example of what you can do with that pile of bricks.

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    1. So true. It isn't Airfix. A 3 brick aeroplane huh? Has he tried a 3 brick boat? :p

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  5. I have to agree. Yes we buy the sets and they get made as per the instructions (as my son loves following them!), however, inevitably they get broken up and made into something even 'cooler' and 'more awesome' than they were in the first place!

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    1. :D Totally! I'm seriously considering taking all my Monster Hunters Lego and some more bits and making a huge vampyre castle - more awesome :D

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  6. Totally agree with you Jenny. Personally, I can't sit and make the sets as I'm rubbish at following instructions but Z loves following the steps of a set, completing it and then taking it all apart for more building ideas. Because of this I've bought him a big box of "regular" Lego and the Lego design book so he can build to his hearts content. He loved the Lego movie too. I'm kind of over hearing "everything is awesome!" though.

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    1. Hahaha....I think over the past week or so everything has been 'awesome' here - it's not annoying me, but one of our teenagers is getting peeved with it! :D

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  7. I haven't seen the film yet but seen as you are such a big Lego fan you should check out my friends facebook page Marvellous Event-ures he made a life size lego costume for his daughter after seeing the film. Awesome!

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    1. I shall have a look! Thanks for that Dani :)

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  8. I'd rather they get quality movies from streaming channels instead of splurging on brand new ones, there are lots of great movies they don't have and a lot of terrible ones they do have.

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    1. I don't really get what you mean? You think they shouldn't make new movies?

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