Wednesday, 17 June 2015

The Secret World of Lego

Identity protection
So secret in fact that Lego don't really give anything away. They close doors in the film crew's faces and shutter up windows in the background of outside shots. They hold pretend meetings in front of the camera because they have already made all the real decisions behind it. Employees being interviewed politely refuse to answer questions about their work. 

But you do get to see what's for lunch in the canteen. Food is coded by big bricks in traffic light colours according to its nutritional value. 

High cholesterol lunch

There is a lot of talk about "family". They try not to sound too EastEnders about it though.

There is also the Lego archive, which looks just like a dusty books archive with those doors operated by a wheel that could squish you against the shelves, only inside are all the boxes of Lego you might have owned in the 1970s, if you were lucky.

We see some bricks being made. And someone measuring them under a microscope. If a brick is out of size by more than 4 one thousands of a millimetre, it is rejected by the scrutiny committee.

There is a very weird new office in London, called a Hub, where nobody has their own desk and if you sit at one you have to move on within 90 minutes or a lady gives you a "No Camping" notice which has a picture of a VW bus on it. But the Hub does have a Pub Club. A Hub Pub Club. Which is more London Binge Drinking than Danish Family Values.

Meanwhile, some hopeful new recruits are going through an interview and selection process for a job as a set designer. They have to build a lot of Lego, as you might expect. These are hard-core geeks. Someone asks what children enjoy and play with today and how they can bring that about in Lego. The potential recruits look blank. They clearly haven't got a clue about children today. They haven't seen one since they left school. They've been too busy sitting at home building models.

You don't get to see any kids on the programme either. Only the Adult Fans Of Lego, or AFOLs. The sort of people who stay up all night building complicated models of Georgian Town Houses or Aircraft Carriers. One is trying to start up a connoisseur's magazine called Bricks Culture, and the folks in Billund agree to endorse it. Another has got Lego to buy his bird models, which are rather lovely but sell for £51 a set in Hamleys. But his 1% royalty cheque is apparently enough to buy him a car or a nice holiday so more than a few people must think they are worth that.

He may spend his holiday at Legoland for all I know. I went to the original one in Billund when I was 17, a long time before I had my own child. It was great, needless to say. It put my own Lego building attempts to utter shame. My brother and I once wanted to open up our own Legoland attraction. But as we only had one box of the stuff plus a train set between us and would have had to open it in my brother's bedroom, we didn't get very far with our plan.

Copenhagen at Legoland
Now it's time to rediscover Lego with our daughter. How things have changed. Now it's all sets that resemble Playmobil and the bricks are tiny. Our girl just wants the finished product like it looks on the box (and immediately too), and hasn't yet understood the creative potential of it all. 

Daddy has his boyhood Lego in a big box retrieved from his parents' attic, but it's outfacingly jumbled up. Somewhere in there is a double decker bus, a train set, several lunar landing modules and a lot of bricks that his older brother has scrawled "Iron Maiden" all over from when he recreated one of their concerts in Lego. But we have so far never got beyond the top few inches of the box.

There is now a Legoland in the UK of course, on top of where Windsor Safari Park was when I was a girl. But our daughter hasn't found out about it yet. And I suspect that she won't for a while. A trip to the tiny Lego shop in Leeds usually sets us back financially far enough. We haven't saved up enough for the big guns yet.

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