Posted by Matt Egan 17 February 2014
5 cool facts about Lego: and why we should all care
We celebrate Lego's continuing success with 5 cool facts about Lego, and why we should all love it.
The Lego Movie is here, and it is hot. Despite a poster and premise that brings to mind only the horror of such cinematic monstrosities as the Pokemon movie and the Transformers franchise (face facts onanistic teens), the Lego Movie is good. Indeed, as the song tells us, Everything (about it) Is Awesome.
And that gives me the opportunity to point in your direction some interesting facts about Lego, a tech company in which we should all take interest. It is a tech company, by the way. One that makes a unique, and uniquely technical toy. But a business and a brand also that has managed to transition from maker of simple building blocks to a vast multimedia business. All without losing its soul.
Because the bricks upon which Lego's business is built are so well crafted, the company has had to look elsewhere to generate new business. It has done so by branching out into theme parks and licensed Lego products such as the Star Wars series. But it has also become a video game franchise, and now there is a movie.
What is unusual is that throughout this successful transition Lego has continued to pursue the same high standards of product design and build. I can't be unique in that some of the Lego bricks I played with as a child were handed down from older children, and are now being played with by my nephews and nieces. Every day someone somewhere hurts their feet standing on Lego they passed on to their children. And as they curse the pain they are secretly proud that their children are learning to build and create as they play.
The Lego company is still controlled by the same family that started the company in 1932. Lego as we know it came into being in 1947. It is entirely correct, then, to celebrate the continuing success of Lego with five cool facts. Feel free to add in your own in the comments below:
5 cool facts about Lego
1. Lego is the world's largest producer of tyres
I'm indebted to Danny Baker for dropping this gem on his radio show a couple of years ago. Unusually, it turns out to be true.
They don't use quite as much rubber as Goodyear and Bridgestone, and you wouldn't want to rely on them to add grip to your Ford Focus on a snowy day, but Lego makes more rubber wheel coverings than anyone else in the world. Almost 400 million of them every year. (They just happen to be tiny.)
2. Lego doesn't make soldiers
Okay, you could argue that Storm Troupers are kind of soldiery, but Lego's founder Ole Kirk Christiansen didn't want children to be influenced into playing war. As a consequence there are no military Lego sets. Which is kind of cool, don't you think?
3. Lego literally means 'play well'
Kind of. The word Lego is derived from the Danish phrase 'leg godt'. That means 'play well'. It's a snappy title, and it works a lot better than 'Automatic Binding Bricks', which was the original name under which the bricks were sold (by a company other than Lego). Oh, and while we are talking names, can I remind our US readers that it is 'Lego' and not 'Legos'. Goddit?
4. There are now 50 Lego video games
Really, it should have been a disaster. Back in 1997 Lego licensed its first Lego video game and the rest is history - 50 games in 17 years. How is that even possible? The defining characteristics of Lego figures and blocks is that they are not realistic. Guess what: neither are games.
It turns out that fantasy is sometimes improved by the protagonists being clearly symbollic (something our Athenian ancestors knew a thing or two about). And so we have fictional characters such as Harry Potter and Batman animated as Lego figures, and it all makes perfect sense.
Incidentally, even if you are not a gamer you can get your Lego fix by playing Lego in your browser. Which is nice.
5. There will be more Lego people than people by 2019
Here's something mind blowing. Despite the current explosion in the world's population, Lego is so popular that going on current trends, there will be more Lego figures in the world than there are people within the next five years.
From which I can draw only two conclusions. Number 1: Lego is very popular. Number 2: should Lego figures ever attain sentient status, we are all screwed, and the tyre industry will become a massive monopoly.