Greetings again from the darkness. Toys can be fun, educational, relaxing, challenging, and yes, even profitable. No toy exemplifies all of these characteristics better than LEGO. Co-directors Kief Davidson and Daniel Junge go “Beyond the Brick” (the film’s original title) as they explore the history and community of these fascinating plastic pieces.
Founder Ole Kirk Christiansen (of Denmark) began as a maker of wooden toys, but in 1947 he discovered a plastic molding machine which, within a couple of years, revolutionized his company and the toy industry.
The company is still family-owned and is now a $4 billion company and the second largest in the industry despite competing in only one category of toys. It’s a remarkable business case study, and an equally remarkable study in social impact. If you own LEGO pieces from 1955, they will still work with the bricks and pieces being produced today … planned obsolescence is not part of the LEGO business strategy.
The film introduces us to the designers, the master builders, and the community of LEGO aficionados known as AFOL (Adult Fan of LEGO). We also learn of a LEGO language filled with acronyms that permeate the competitions, fairs, and conferences.
In the early 2000’s, the company posted its first ever loss, but quickly rebounded by listening to their loyal customer base and making the necessary product changes. Last year’s award-winning animated THE LEGO MOVIE has stimulated even more interest in the tubes and studs … as well as permanently stamping our brains with the “Everything is Awesome” song.
Jason Bateman narrates the film – as a minifig – and adds a splash of color and visual acumen to the story telling process. It’s important to note that visuals are a key factor in some of the breathtaking creations of the brand’s most committed devotees. This includes the work of one who re-creates classical artwork for a gallery in NYC, and a stunning life-sized model of the Star Wars X-Wing Starfighter in Manhattan. We also see how LEGO plays a role as Autism therapy for kids, and even for mock-ups at NASA.
The LEGO community is most impressive. They actually participate in suggesting and designing new products, and the online network of LEGO stop-action short films act as a combined marketing strategy and challenge to other users. LEGOLAND doesn’t draw much attention here, but the loyalty and creativity of the customers is quite something to behold. It’s a reminder that the smartest companies collaborate with (rather than dictate to) their customer base … but most can only dream of this deep LEGO relationship with AFOL.
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