A LEGO BRICKUMENTARY
By: John ‘Doc’ Strange
Directed by: Daniel Junge and Kief Davidson
Subjects: Jamie Berard, Paul Chrzan, Dale Chasse, Nathan Sawaya, Stephen Pakbaz, Alice Finch
MPAA Rating: G
Selig Rating: Full Price
Runtime: 92 Min.
LEGOs have been in our culture for a long time. They were created by a Danish toy maker by the name of Ole Kirk Christiansen in 1949. The LEGO Group produced approximately 27 billion LEGO elements at their factory in Billund, Denmark, 60 billion world-wide. The bricks were the original item with other elements added over the years. This documentary follows the evolution of the toy from its humble beginnings through the years as humble brick has matured into the mega-toy of today.
The original market was kids. What the developers never took into account that those children would grow into adults who would find new ways to use the toy. These adults became known as master builders. They used them to build skyscrapers and cities, space stations and rockets ships, and anything else a person could imagine.
I loved watching as the Jørgen Vig Knudstorp, CEO of The LEGO Group, told us about the company’s decision to embrace the fan’s ideas for enhancements. This opened up a universe full of ideas as those fans jumped in with both feet.
The film talks to many LEGO employees and fans as they give us a better look into the company and its product. In fact, some of the fans have become LEGO employees. Each person gave us a different view at changes in the product.
Jamie Berard, Design Manager Specialist, LEGO Creator Expert, started as a fan and joined the firm 9 years ago. He was involved in LEGO Creator 3 in 1 and LEGO Creator Expert. In his free time he still creates with the bricks, one of his most recent creations was a 3000 brick Sydney Opera House.
Another who started as a fan was Paul Chrzan, a LEGO Master Builder. Since 1988, he has worked for LEGO in the 3D Model Shop. He designs and builds large-scale LEGO models and experiences. He managed the team of model builders the designed and produced many of the LEGO models that appeared in the live action scenes of The LEGO Movie. This information led to an interview the directors of The LEGO Movie, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller.
Each of the people interviewed had an interesting insight into the growth of the company and the phenomenon. Some of the stories revolved around an event called the BrickFair LEGO Expos. They are fan conventions for LEGO. To quote the Expo website, “BrickFair celebrates only LEGO brand products – no clones.” The convention celebrates LEGO with chances for fans to talk to each other, play with new products, and see the works of amazing artists.
One of the artists showcased in the film is the mother of two young boys, Alice Finch. She realized that the bricks weren’t just for her boys and began building with them, too. Her first creation was the Great Hall from Hogwarts which eventually grew into a 400,000 brick version of the entire castle, complete with the Quidditch Pitch. In the film she is shown winning the BrickFair competition for her creation of Rivendell. It was as beautiful as it was complex. She is a member of AFOL, the Adult Fans of LEGO.
One of the other ways that LEGO finds new products is via a competition run by LEGO CUUSOO (Now called LEGO Ideas). In the film we meet Stephen Pakbaz, a Mechanical Engineer at JPL (Jet Propulsion Laboratory). His submission to CUUSOO was the Mars Curiosity Rover. He worked on the team at JPL who developed the unit that was sent to Mars and then decided to build one in LEGOs for submission. The rover is amazing. Its official LEGO designation is NASA Mars Science Laboratory Curiosity Rover, item # 21104.
Other masters interviewed were artists such as Nathan Sawaya. Nathan is shown having an art showing of his work in the bricks. Some of the pieces are 2D representations of famous paintings and others are amazing 3D works. Each is truly a work of art.
One of the best examples of where LEGOs are used today was when they talked about using the kits to help autistic youngsters. The doctors have done studies that found that the kids working on challenges with LEGOs in a team environment did better than those who didn’t.
All in all, this extended look at the world of LEGOs is eye-opening. I never imagined that all of this was out there. This film is a wonderful stroll through a world that I missed out on. I never had any LEGOs and now I think of that as a bad thing. This is an excellent film.
The Selig Rating Scale:
FULL PRICE – Excellent movie, well worth the price
MATINEE – Good movie
DOLLAR – OK movie
CABLE – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.
FREEBIE – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn't paid for it.
COMMERCIAL TV – Commercials and cutting to the allotted time will not hurt this one.
FORGET IT! – Bad. If you see this one, do yourself a favor and keep it to yourself.
GET YOUR TORCHES – BAD! – Burn the script, the writer, the director and maybe even the actors!