Denmark is supposed to be the happiest country in the world, despite being full of old krones. It’s given the world the amazing talents of Niels Bohr and that band that did the song Barbie Girl. It’s also the country that gave the world LEGO, and that’s a very, very good thing.
I used to play with Lego as a kid, and while for years I always enjoyed getting presents of Matchbox cars, Star Wars toys and Evel Knievel wind-up stunt bike sets (which used to break within half an hour), nothing lasted as long or brought so much joy as the simple act of slotting bricks together to create… well, anything I wanted. That was always the joy of LEGO. The only limit to what you could build was your imagination and if you had enough blocks.
Like they say, when I became a man I put childish things away. Well, for a while, anyway. I hit that age where toy cars and LEGO made way for girls and clubbing. There were some things I couldn’t get over and that seemed to be fit with the sort of “adult” I wanted to be: comic books, costumes, 20-sided dice and so on; but I boxed up my toys and gave them to charity. I wasn’t a kid anymore… except I was, really. I always have been and deep down I always will be.
Throughout my adulthood, I started acquiring things like Star Wars and Star Trek models, superhero statues, movie memorabilia and so on. I bought Hotwheels of the various Batmobiles, and recently got ones of the Mystery Machine, the USS Enterprise and Herbie. I got a Playstation, then the next version of it, and the next, and games that appealed to me like the Arkham ones or Marvel’s Ultimate Alliance series. For my kids I bought toys, and for myself I bought collectables. Only I didn’t.
I bought toys for myself too. I’m not fooling myself.
My son loves LEGO as much as I do, and while other toys fall by the wayside he just can’t leave those coloured blocks alone. Being an old Lego-head myself, I got some of the Lego games to play and we enjoyed the experience together. Then we’d play with the blocks, and I’ve still got the creative knack. When they started doing short movies, we enjoyed watching them together. When the Minifigures came out I got some for him and some for myself too. I’m a bit fussy, though, choosing to go for specific ones like the Elwood Blues or the Evel Knieval. I even modified the hippie and others and you can find some of the photos of them online. They’ll be hard to find, though, because it turns out lots of people put pictures of their LEGO online.
Lego has gone through a resurgence in recent years. It was always around, but the Star Wars range really boosted it. It wasn’t just fun, it was more faithful to the original product than many of the more standard adaptations. And hey, I’m a Star Wars fan, I buy Star Wars toys, so I had to get them! They’ve done a lot since them, and releasing sets of Marvel and DC superheroes has increased their status in the nerd community immeasurably. Not like they really needed it, though. But they’ve treated the characters with respect along with humour, and that’s why some have argued that Batman in the new LEGO film is the best representation of him ever. Sorry, Chris Nolan.
They’ve done so many types, so many homages to great characters and franchises, that they’re impossible to ignore. LEGO Ghostbusters sets are due out later this year and I’m sure they’ll be every bit as popular and accurate to the original as they should be. In LEGO Rockband, there are miniature plastic versions of so many great bands and they’re all treated with respect too. LEGO’s not sold out in any way, the emphasis has always been on creativity and play. If anything, it’s more like the end product being greater than the sum of its parts.
One of the themes in The LEGO Movie is that the joy of toys is playing with them as you see fit. Toys are meant to be enjoyed and the best ones expand the imagination. I’d never be the sort of ass like you see in the movie who’d actually glue my Legos together to keep them pristine. I nearly could have been, but I’m not and I’m thankful for that. I’m glad I didn’t grow up too much.
I’m not sure why Denmark is the happiest country in the world, but I know why I’m happy. I’m happy because I play, and I’ll thank LEGO for that. I’ll thank Denmark too – if they’re listening.