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In Print: On News Stands Now

LITTLE PLASTIC BRICKS

by Tumbleweed Smith

It’s like visiting a Lego art museum with a little bit of Disneyland and Six Flags mixed in. Recently we took a trip to LEGOLAND, an amusement park at Carlsbad, California that is celebrating its tenth anniversary this year. Everything revolves around the little interlocking plastic bricks. The park has full-size cars made completely of Legos. It has statues of people, movie characters, giant dragons and dinosaurs sculpted by the talented hands of Lego artists and designers. The crowning achievement and the park’s main attraction is Miniland: scale models of Las Vegas, San Francisco, New Orleans and New York made from (guess what) Legos.

LEGOLAND has exciting rides, too, everything from roller coasters to miniature Lego cars that kids six years old can drive. You can find plenty of good things to eat and observe. Kids waiting to go on a ride can play with Legos. One of the venues lets kids make their own Lego cars and race them down a ramp. You can watch 4-D movies with special glasses and effects that make you feel what it’s like to zoom down a roller coaster.

My son BZ has been a Lego enthusiast since boyhood. Now his son Max is a huge Lego fan who subscribes to the Lego magazine. He constantly looks at it. Each issue is practically in shreds before the next one comes. “I have a lot of Lego stuff,” says Max. “I’m a pretty good builder.” His daddy helps him a lot.

We took 6-year-old Max, his 3-year-old little brother Aiden and our six-year-old grandson Caleb to LEGOLAND. Making cars and racing them gave the six year olds the most enjoyment. They both say, “I won most of the races.” Aiden liked Miniland.

The park in Carlsbad is one of only four LEGOLAND amusement parks in the world. Others are in England, Denmark and Germany. Another is under construction in Malaysia. The little plastic bricks have created an empire that started in the workshop of a carpenter in Billund, Denmark named Ole Kirk Christiansen. He began making wooden toys in 1932 and in 1934 started a manufacturing group. He named it LEGO, developed from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means “play well.” The company started making plastic toys in 1940.

Plants in Denmark and the Czech Republic produce 600 bricks a second or 20 billion per year. Play sets for different age groups feature pirates, Vikings, castles, Star Wars figures and vehicles, Indiana Jones, SpongeBob Square Pants and Bob the Builder. Characters from Toy Story have just been added.

Lego bricks were based largely on England’s Kiddicraft Self-Locking Bricks, released in 1947. These were originally made of wood, later changed to plastic. Lego later acquired the rights to Kiddicraft. Lego’s modern brick design was developed in 1958 and bricks from that year are compatible with current bricks. Since its beginning, Lego has produced 400 billion bricks.

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