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How Hollywood Tie-Ins Saved Lego 193 193

MBCook writes "The New York Times published an article on Saturday profiling Lego, and how tie-ins with movies have helped save the company. 'Even as other toymakers struggle, this Danish maker of toy bricks is enjoying double-digit sales gains and swelling earnings. In recent years, Lego has increasingly focused on toys that many parents wouldn't recognize from their own childhood. Hollywood themes are commanding more shelf space, a far cry from the idealistic, purely imagination-oriented play that drove Lego for years and was as much a religion as a business strategy in Billund.' The article also mentions coming Lego Stores, a Lego board game, how Lego now allows sets with violence (like a gun for Indiana Jones), and how since 2004 Lego has cut part count nearly in half by encouraging re-use of parts and stopping one-off pieces."
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How Hollywood Tie-Ins Saved Lego

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  • Lego Star Wars (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Khan (19367) on Monday September 07, 2009 @04:19PM (#29343595)

    That's the product line that has REALLY saved The Lego Group. The sales figures for that line alone are staggering. And as an AFOL, I can verify that the design quality and playability of their recent products have improved substantially. My kids continue to go back to their Lego collection to play with long after the novelty of the latest toy that they've received for their birthday\Xmas\whatever has worn off. As a friend of mine has always said, it's a thousand toys in one.

  • So, in short... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by girlintraining (1395911) on Monday September 07, 2009 @04:20PM (#29343597)

    So, what you're telling me is Lego sold out. And for the Harrison Ford retirement fund--I mean, movie, no less.

  • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday September 07, 2009 @04:21PM (#29343605) Homepage Journal

    My son is 6 and right smack in the middle of the kids they are shooting for. He is obsessed with Star Wars, and loves playing Lego Star Wars. He's collected a few sets now for birthday, Christmas, etc. We have a lot of fun building the kits to the directions, but spend just as much time figuring out new things to build. There are a lot of different shapes that go well beyond the idea of a 'block' and I think it involves a lot more imagination to figure new ways to connect them.

    It's something we can do together and have a lot of fun with it. When he's a little older we'll start working with the Mindstorm kit together.

  • Re:So, in short... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by InMSWeAntitrust (994158) on Monday September 07, 2009 @04:26PM (#29343649)
    Hey, in the business world you have to adapt to stay ahead. It's preferable to sell out than to go bankrupt . It may blacken the CEO's soul, but if whimsical toys powered by imagination don't sell, why stay the course and become the next GM?
  • by IronMagnus (777535) on Monday September 07, 2009 @04:27PM (#29343669)
    Wait... a gun for indiana jones is new? When I was a kid (20 years ago), we had pirate sets with guns in them... medieval sets with swords and cross bows... weapons everywhere.... how is violence in lego anything even remotely new?
  • Re:So, in short... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Monday September 07, 2009 @04:46PM (#29343803) Journal
    A lot of the tie-ins are kind of meh; but the "cut part count nearly in half by encouraging re-use of parts and stopping one-off pieces" aspect makes everything better, and the bad aspects pretty much irrelevant.

    "POOP"s(Piece Out of Other Pieces [] are, along with wholly inflexible merely decorative elements, pretty much the biggest enemy of Lego as a reconfigurable imaginative toy. Instead of getting a bag of bits that can be the model on the box, or any number of other things, you just get a snap together model. Might as well come with hobby glue. If that is the case, the quality of the model on the box really matters; because that is more or less what you get.

    With the sharp reduction in one-off overdetermined crap, the goodness or badness of the model on the box matters a whole lot less, you can always just treat it as a kit of parts and rebuild it. The only thing that ends up really mattering is whether the color scheme of that particular tie-in is close enough to what you want.

    If movie tie-ins are what it takes for Lego to stay solvent(and volume sales almost certainly are, I don't even want to know how expensive Lego sets would be if they went from doing high-precision ABS injection molding to short-run high-precision ABS injection molding), that may well say something unfortunate about the buying public; but(as long as the sets aren't made of worthless pieces) that doesn't really harm old-school enthusiasts. If anything, the more sets sold, the more bricks will show up in big Ebay lots, or on Bricklink [].
  • by stoolpigeon (454276) * <bittercode@gmail> on Monday September 07, 2009 @05:01PM (#29343945) Homepage Journal

    When the first Star Wars movie came out I was 8 years old. I was completely taken by it. I had figures, comic books, trading cards, etc. It might not be reality based but it is the pirate/cowboy fantasy of a few generations. My son has a ton of fun running around the house with a light saber, or tie fighter - pretending to be someone from the movie. What's been really weird to watch is how the current show and more recent movies make the storm troopers the good guys. My son spends a lot of time pretending to be a jedi or storm trooper that is busy blowing up robots. When I was a kid we were busy pretending to be Luke or Han blowing up storm troopers.

    I think one reason (among a few) that the new films upset so many people is that these really are kids movies, and a lot of the upset people weren't kids any more.

  • by BoppreH (1520463) on Monday September 07, 2009 @05:04PM (#29343967)
    Don't forget that every single child that has played with Lego have at least once ripped off the characters members apart.
  • by erroneus (253617) on Monday September 07, 2009 @05:09PM (#29344021) Homepage

    Who gives a crap!!? Go out and buy yourself a set! Be a kid for a little while. Don't hold yourself back because of what others might think about you. And if you want to justify it to yourself in some way, then consider there are far worse things you can spend your time and money on... cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, porn, guns and on and on. Most "adult" things are also considered vices. I see nothing wrong with doing something fun that is harmless and nice.

    And if it helps you to feel less weird, "give it away" to some 'needy kids' or to a school, a day care, a church or some such place.

  • by rtfa-troll (1340807) on Monday September 07, 2009 @05:16PM (#29344083)

    . I'd think they could easily cut their prices by 25-50% and still be making a tidy profit.

    Probably not whilst delivering the quality and safety that they do. If you look at some of the Meg@#$%# lego clones, have a feel at how they fit together; See how the bricks start breaking up and how Lego seems to last and last, you know what I mean. In the end the Lego is cheaper because it lasts and it still gets used. When I get told that my kid "needs" a rescue helicopter or something instead of buying it, we just build it together.

    When I buy random cheap Chinese toys I really feel I could be poisoning my child. I don't think the manufacturer wants to poison my kids any more than I want to do that to his, but I'm sure he has little way to control the quality of the quality of the plastic coming in and no come back if he does find someone has done something bad. Look at the chinese milk scandal []. The key thing there is not that the milk companies were cheating and failing to test. Someone was deliberately working around their testing. With that kind of garbage; better buy Lego.

    In this case; you get what you pay for.

  • Re:So, in short... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Trepidity (597) <> on Monday September 07, 2009 @05:25PM (#29344141)

    There's usually more options, though. In a lot of cases, selling out isn't done to avoid going bankrupt, but just to make more profit than before--- the alternative would've been to be still-profitable, but smaller.

  • Re:So, in short... (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Kell Bengal (711123) on Monday September 07, 2009 @06:08PM (#29344431)
    They're not selling out, they're cashing in!
  • by Kell Bengal (711123) on Monday September 07, 2009 @06:24PM (#29344547)
    You're absolutely right. My lego pieces from nigh on two decades ago still fit and hold. The very few occasional weak pieces have failed, but the rank and file pieces still fit and still hold their colour. Nobody but nobody can tell me that Lego bricks were shoddy. A toy that lasts, and is still played with, for 10-20 years is frankly worth paying the premium.
  • by Tweenk (1274968) on Monday September 07, 2009 @06:32PM (#29344605)

    I'd think they could easily cut their prices by 25-50% and still be making a tidy profit.

    I'd rather have them keep the uncompromising, legendary quality instead. I encountered exactly 1 bad brick in 10000$ MSRP worth of Lego. I think the fact that the set will not break or wear out in 5, 10, 15 years is a big consideration for families which have more than one child. I have a lot of Lego bricks that survived my entire childhood and are still in very good shape, even though I used to play with them very frequently. The Technic line is essentially precision machinery made of plastic.

  • Re:So, in short... (Score:2, Insightful)

    by BitZtream (692029) on Monday September 07, 2009 @08:55PM (#29345587)

    'violence and Star Wars shit' ...

    God you are a fucking pussy. I'm flamebait, sure, but your kids are going to get their asses kicked so many times they turn into wife beating child abusers with that stupid mentality.

    You don't need green bricks to make a tank, kids have no problem with red tanks, blue tanks, white tanks and black ones. Its only retarded adults that think something like that is going to stop children from being children or somehow block millions of years of evolution which have made us into aggressive creatures in order to actually survive.

  • by speedlaw (878924) on Monday September 07, 2009 @09:38PM (#29345871) Homepage
    Lego is clearly in charge of the business. Here's how it works. A kid sees a lego kit. The branding (Star Wars, Indiana Jones, etc) sells the kit. The child assembles the X wing fighter, or the Pirate ship. The toy then flies/sails to the corner of the room with all the other legos. The pirate ends up in the X wing. The cannons from the pirate ship end up on the x wing fighter but the nav console from the x wing becomes part of something else. The Ferrari mechanic is wearing a horned helmet and in the battlements of the castle. By the time the child is done, the "branded toy" has morphed and blended with all the other legos. Our lego chess set is guarding a castle. Bits of X wing and Imperial Walkers are outbuildings. From the children I've observed, the branded lego kit is a way to sell the blocks at the highest possible price. To the adult. The kids play with the blocks like kids. Lego is still one of the few toys with real play value, not just a prepackaged fantasy with no where to go. Also, for those of you worried about the "gun" issue, kids can make guns out of anything....and do.
  • Re:4 Pages? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Herby Sagues (925683) on Tuesday September 08, 2009 @01:14AM (#29347321)
    I think you are mistaken. Reuced part counts and reduced numbers of unique pieces mean exactly the opposite of what you probably think. A decade ago you would see lego toys that were basically designed toys split in more or less blocky pieces, so it was basically a puzzle made to look like a lego. Everything was a custom piece. Now, everything is done from the same set of lego blocks. No "front end Ferrari spolier" block, no "X-Wing engine" block. It's all the same blocks. And that calls for much greater imagination, more challenging (and fun!) assembly and more flexibility. In fact, I have purchased for my children Star Wars X-Wing and Tie Fighter toys, a tank, the big Ferrati Enzo and a few other toys. And in each of them there were no more than three or four (generally minor) pieces that would not be used for other toys (maybe R2D2 legs, the X-Wing windshield and the Ferrari shock absorvers. All the rest was very ingeniusly built from stock pieces. That's ingenuity, and that's how it should be. And regarding the tie-ins, my children love watching the movies, then building sets based on them, or playing the games (which are uite innocent and educative, IMO, as they call for a good deal of thinking, at least for small children) and then attempting to build the objects they saw in the game. It looks like a very healthy franchise, and I hope they are doing more of it.

Never try to teach a pig to sing. It wastes your time and annoys the pig. -- Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"