From bricks to the big screen, Lego thrives on family fun

Published: Thursday, Feb. 6 2014 3:45 p.m. MST

In an effort to get back to basics, Knudstorp developed a series of questions that he called “Moments of Truth,” as reported by Mail Online:

  1. When it's advertised, does it make a child say 'I want this'?
  2. Once he opens the box, does it make him go 'I want more of this'?
  3. One month later, does he come back to the toy, rebuild it and still play with it? Or does he put it on the shelf and forget about it?

William Thorogood, a designer for Lego, told Mail Online that staying true to the company’s roots will be fundamental moving forward. "The trick is showing them something they've never seen before, but which at the same time is completely familiar," he said.

Star Wars and such

Five years later, Thorogood's statement seems prophetic as Legos are looking increasingly more familiar. By obtaining intellectual property from a variety of popular sources, Lego has been able to broaden its appeal to a wider audience.

Official licensing has played an integral part in Lego’s success in the new millennium. In 2001, the first Harry Potter Lego sets became available.

In 2007, The Lego Group reached an agreement with Lucasfilm Inc. and began production of the first Lego Indiana Jones sets. Later that year, Lego produced Han Solo’s ship, the Millennium Falcon from Star Wars, which, with more than 5,000 pieces, was the largest official Lego model at the time. Lego's online shop currently features 135 Star Wars figures and play sets, from $5 miniature keychains to the much pricier Death Star and Super Star Destroyer models, which cost $400 each.

As Lego continued to build on various entertainment brands, popular video games began to emerge. Since 1997’s “Lego Island,” more than 50 Lego video games have been released for PC, Mac, PlayStation, Xbox and Nintendo.

In addition to Harry Potter, Lego's video games have also tackled the likes of Star Wars, Indiana Jones, Batman, Pirates of the Caribbean, Lord of the Rings and, most recently, Marvel Comics, among others. Lego is currently working on a game based on “The Hobbit,” which will be released later this year.

The Lego video games have generally been well received by critics. "LEGO City Undercover" (Wii U) received a Metacritic score of 80, "LEGO Harry Potter: Years 1-4" (iOS) got a score of 87, and "LEGO Marvel Super Heroes" was given an 82 on the Playstation 4.

Legos on screen

Last October, Knudstorp explained to Reuters that, though the video game industry is big business, digital entertainment is a complement to the tangible toys. However, multimedia storytelling has undoubtedly advanced Lego's brand.

The company’s calling card has always been creativity — and amateur builders have accepted that challenge, taking to the Internet to publish their own video creations, ranging from short films to time-lapse building videos and everything in between.

Lego-themed specials and series now have a presence on DVD shelves, cable television lineups and streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon. They are often built around popular franchises such DC Comics and Star Wars but also include original series such as "Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu" and "Legends of Chima."

Lego has produced more than a dozen short films that have been aired as specials on Cartoon Network. Some of the most popular Lego films have been goofy, computer-animated Star Wars spinoffs, such as 2012’s “Lego Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Out.” The films, officially licensed by LucasFilm, are slapstick in nature but are also fully loaded with inside jokes to be enjoyed by older audiences.

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