Block Rocking Feats: The Legacy of Lego

by Andrew Regan - Date: 2007-12-19 - Word Count: 485 Share This!

Lego maybe the best known brick on the block, but it wasn't the first toy of its kind and shared many similarities with its predecessors, Meccano and Bayko.

Meccano, a system of metal plates, nuts and bolts, was very much a boy's toy and its technical basis encouraged the building of structures such as model bridges, cranes and cars, which often required and fostered knowledge of mechanics and engineering.

Bayko, invented during the 1930s, was also similar to Lego, in that the Bayko system was primarily intended for the construction of model buildings. Meccano eventually acquired the rights to manufacture Bayko in 1960; but while Meccano is still manufactured today, Bayko production ceased in 1967 following increasing pressure from competing toys. This was despite Bayko models being more realistic architectural reproductions.

Most of us had at least one type of Lego set as a child, and the genius of Lego was their ability to appeal to so many different markets. For the toddlers there was Duplo; the great, big oversized bricks, while for the girls there was the home-maker set; for boys there was knights and dragons, and for technically minded teenagers, Technic Lego, which like Meccano offered the chance to build complex engines, complete with pneumatics, gears and electric motors.

Then came the collaborations; in an extremely shrewd move, Lego struck deals with major film merchandising companies and began to manufacture Lego versions of popular movies and cartoons; Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, Indiana Jones, Sponge Bob Squarepants and even Tomas the Tank Engine all have Lego incarnations.

There are also four Lego Land theme parks; in Denmark, England, Germany and California. Though each park receives in the region of 1.3 million visitors annually, they have reportedly struggled to make money and have not fully maximised their potential ticket sales, though hotels near Lego Land remain busy throughout the year and booking ahead is advised.

Lego retains an important place in the adult world too; the Guinness book of records is full of block rocking feats, such as the tallest ever Lego tower (currently in Toronto at 29.03 metres), the world's longest Lego chain (565 meters long, built in Switzerland), and the world's longest DNA helix molecule.

Lego also seems to have somewhat of a cult following with film lovers; known as BrickFilms or Legomations, many enthusiasts make short movies, or recreate famous scenes from feature films using Lego for the set and cast.

On a more serious note, Lego Serious Play, is a form of business consultancy, designed to foster creative thinking; participants work though imaginary scenarios, building metaphors of their identities and experiences using Lego bricks.

Lego's ability to keep up with the times, and adapt its product to popular themes has been the key to its continuing success, and as long as the company continue to innovate, it's likely that our grandchildren will still be playing with Lego in the years to come.

Related Tags: lego, lego land, history of lego, hotels near lego land, meccano, bayko

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