LEGO has been one of the most popular toy brands in the world for decades, but they have faced their share of problems, too. With a new hit movie focused on these building toys, the brand is being focused on more than ever. Here’s a look at where the company has been and where they will likely be going in the future.
LEGO didn’t exist by name until the 1930s, although the founder Ole Kirk Christiansen ran a Denmark carpentry workshop that he bought in 1916. Initially focusing on small wooden models and toys such as piggy banks, the company struggled during the Great Depression and World War II. The company’s name came about as a combination of the Danish words “leg godt,” which mean “play well,” but could also loosely be translated into “I assemble” in Latin. After World War II, plastic molding machines became available in Denmark and the first interlocking bricks were assembled. This sparked the toy revolution that would last well into the 21st century.
Figures and Sets
The company continued producing wooden toys alongside its popular plastic blocks until the 1960s, when a fire devastated the factory and forced a move to plastic-only toys. This turned into a blessing in disguise, as the improvements in mold technology meant that plastic could be shaped and changed more effectively than ever. The 1970s saw the first person-like figure with a removable head and legs. The 1980s saw a focus on developing specific sets that kids could build, which helped tie the series in to school activities thanks to the educational nature of the product.
Licensing and the Movie
The first licensed sets came about in the late 1990s, with Star Wars and Winnie the Pooh becoming Lego-ized. Several other film franchises have tied into the toys since, including Batman, Harry Potter, and Spider-Man. This proved invaluable when it came to licensing video games and the eventual movie. For example, the new movie uses Batman as a major character. While Warner Brothers is typically careful with how they use the iconic superhero in films, they were more willing to give this movie the go-ahead since the character represented is a LEGO version of Batman and not the caped crusader currently planned to debut in other Warner Brothers films.
Gender Controversy and the Future
Although the brand is riding high thanks to the new movie and a number of licensing deals, not everybody is happy with the direction the toys are going in. Several groups have expressed concern with the company’s segmenting of their audience based on gender, with “boy” sets representing things like pirates and ninjas and “girl” sets being pink or lavender in color and representing more domestic tasks. The company itself has not addressed this controversy yet, and their recent success means they might not have to for a while. It is certain that there is an audience for both kinds of sets, and the licensed sets appeal to children of both genders.
As a brand, these toys have seen a rough start, a sudden surge in popularity, and then some added appeal thanks to the power of movies and licensing. Whether or not the company runs into future controversy or problems down the road, the toys have most certainly made their mark on our society.
Image Source: Warner Bros. Pictures