At 80, LEGO’s Never Been So Animated

(Re-posted from Tweed)

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NdDU_BBJW9Y]

On a recent episode of ConanLord of the Rings actor Dominic Monaghan stated that he and fellow Hobbit Elijah Wood shared a goal of building the Millennium Falcon together. In true-to-life size, this would be a lofty achievement, but don’t let their ambition be undercut by the fact that they plan on building the famed Star Wars ship out of LEGOs. If nothing else, this is a testament to the fact that this 80-year-old company and its classic plastic bricks appeal to people of all ages—and is as relevant today as it has ever been.

In celebration of its 80th anniversary, LEGO has released a short, animated film that celebrates its heritage by chronicling the company’s humble beginnings, growing pains, and successes in narrative form. Narrated by a character that represents Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen, former President and CEO of LEGO Group and grandson of company founder Ole Kirk Kristiansen, “The LEGO® Story” provides a whimsical glance at how the world’s third-largest manufacturer of play materials came to be.

As the film teaches us, the elder Kristiansen was a carpenter in Billund, Denmark who fell on hard times. Understanding that there was a demand in the market for toys, he began the LEGO business in 1932 by making wooden playthings, such as ducks and yo-yos. After some years of both prosperity and disappointment, Kristiansen’s son Godtfred devised the idea of creating a “system” out of the toys by fashioning blocks that could be used to build entire play towns. The toy brick in its present form was launched in 1958.

The 17-minute film teaches us about the founder’s attention to detail, transition from wood materials to plastic, the breakthrough idea of using a stud-and-tube coupling system to bind the bricks together, the founding of Legoland®, and perhaps most interestingly, the origin of the name LEGO. (It comes from the Danish words leg and godt, which means “play well.” Coincidentally, the elder Kristiansen later learned that Lego is Latin for “I put together.”)

A merger of creative branding and entertainment, “The LEGO® Story” successfully presents the history using the same whimsy that the company infuses into each toy and its own corporate branding. This consistent tone and feel (just short of using “LEGO people” in the animation) positions the piece of content as a playful and timeless tool that LEGO will be able to leverage in telling its story across various sectors. Just like the toy bricks, the film inspires creative innovation.

The family company, which began with 6 – 7 employees and grew exponentially to 10,000 worldwide, is currently run by its third and fourth generation of Kristiansens. The LEGO bricks have achieved immense popularity, justifying the several product lines that appeal to children (and adults) of all ages, including LEGO Star Wars™ and LEGO The Lord of the Rings™.

Actor Monaghan may be giddy at the idea of creating the Star Wars ship, but there are most certainly kids and adults, alike, who are equally as thrilled to be building the Middle Earth that the actor inhabited for so many years on the big screen. And with a creative take on presenting its company history in animation, LEGO has provided its fans with something else to be excited about.

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