For almost a century, kids, parents, and grandparents have absolutely loved having LEGO. The toys themselves are ageless, they open an entire world of creativity, and the company itself has done so many great things for children around the world. What isn’t there to love?
The name of LEGO actually comes from an abbreviation of two Danish words “leg godt”, which means “play well”. And play well is certainly what millions and millions of people have done. Their main product is the interlocking plastic bricks that can be built into a plethora of figures, which can be put together and taken apart over and over. Though in recent decades there have been many other products developed under the name, the bricks have still been the main focus and biggest source of profit.
Creation in Denmark
The beginnings of the product go back to Ole Kirk Christiansen (1891-1958) who was from Denmark and was primarily a carpenter building many things from wood. In 1932 he started to make wooden toys, inspired by his children. One of the first things he made was a wooden duck that ended up being in production- and then in 1934 he named the company LEGO. There were a few expansions and a switch-over from wood to plastic in 1949, and then the first version of the bricks appeared being called “Automatic Binding Bricks”.
1954 was when the name was officially registered in Denmark, and by then the plastic toys were accounting for more than half of the company’s output. For years they had been working on a better way to have the bricks be put together and be stable, and in 1958 they were able to patent their current stud-and-tube coupling system. At that point in their history Kirk Christiansen unfortunately passed away and the company was passed to his son, Godtfred Kirk Christiansen.
Expansion into the Present
Godtfred went full steam ahead, and in the decades following there was constant growth and ad-ons. To see the full history year-to-year I’d highly recommend visiting LEGO’s website. Notable milestones however include:
- In 1968 having the first LEGOLAND open in Billund
- 1969 having the introduction of the DUPLO Brick
- 1978 having the introduction of their iconic minifigures
- 1990 the LEGO Group was one of the world’s largest toy manufacturers
- In 1995 Godtfred passed away, and the grandson of Kirk, Kjeld Kirk Kristiansen was in charge (though he officially became chairman in 1986)
Though there were some years of a deficit, namely in 2003, overall the company kept moving forward and has grown across the entire world, selling the toys to over 140 countries! They’ve teamed up with dozens of other companies to create new figures, sets, and stepped into new medias along the way. The current CEO is Niels B. Christiansen who has been on the team since 2017, is reinforcing the values across the globe.
As much as children have loved learning how to build different things and spending hours of playtime doing so, in recent years LEGO has dipped into other markets that have spiked their popularity even more.
Around the globe there are many LEGO Stores that are built more like a creation studio than an actual retail store. Some of the bigger ones are in Disney resorts as well as the Mall of America in Minnesota. There are walls of bricks to choose from, fun activities around the clock, and huge displays all made out of… you guessed it… LEGO!
As mentioned before, there are also many theme parks, all under the name of LEGOLAND. These parks are marketed more towards younger kids, but they still offer many roller-coasters and activities for everyone. Each one has a LEGO miniland, where there are full villages and landmarks made out of millions of the bricks. There are currently eight parks throughout the world, though there are plans for at least three more in the coming years.
One huge step LEGO has done in recent decades is making original games and partnering up with other companies to create some of the most family-friendly, hilarious, hours of fun video games. The company first dabbled in the industry starting in 1995 with Lego Fun to Build that was available on the Sega Pico. As of 2019 there are over 65 games commercially available, but some of the more popular ones in the ’90s would consist of Lego Island (1997), Lego Chess (1998), and Lego Creator: Knights’ Kingdom (2000); all of which were available on Microsoft Windows.
The arguably most popular LEGO games however, would be all the licensed properties that have been created. From stories of Harry Potter, the Star Wars universe, Indiana Jones, The Lord of the Rings, to several DC based games with Batman and Co., and Marvel based games- there are hundreds of playable characters and hundreds of hours of fun. LEGO embraces their quirkiness in these games, and not only are you laughing your way through, but being able to have multi player family game nights that can cross generations is something we should all cherish.
The first appearance of The LEGO Group starting in the movie industry would be in the 1970s. The films are called “Brickfilms”, and were essentially stop-motion pictures made from the plastic toys and figurines. Though these aren’t as well known, you can find the first one on YouTube, En rejse til månen (Journey to the Moon) which is six minutes long. The most popular one from this era would be The Magic Portal. This film was actually one of the inspirations later on when The Lego Movie came out in 2014.
Though there are other films that were direct-to-video, short films, TV specials and series – the most well known would be their feature theatrical films all produced by Warner Animation Group. Starting in 2014 with The Lego Movie, in 2017 we had The Lego Batman Movie as well as The Lego Ninjago Movie, and in 2019 The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part. All of these films have received worldwide critical acclaim as well as being loved by fans everywhere for the great story plots, special effects, and their humor.
As fans continue creating and enjoying LEGO to its fullest, who knows what will come next- but as timeless as the toys are, we’re sure to enjoy them for generations to come.
Awesome article on the history of Lego!
My first set was the Air Ambulance (#386). I received it as a Christmas present when I was 5 years old.
I still thoroughly enjoy an evening of building with my family. We have spent many hours playing the video game versions as well.
I have to admit that I cried during both Lego Movies because of the great memories they brought back.