Legos aren’t what they used to be.

I found this article from CNet yesterday whilst surfing around Ye Olde Intert00bs.

A gentleman named Francisco Prieto created a stop-motion animated film of the brick-by-brick construction of the Star Wars spaceship Millennium Falcon. It took him a ridiculous amount of time, but it came out pretty cool, and you can watch the short film if you follow the link.

I had a habit of building spaceships out of Legos when I was a wee lad of about ten. Also through my teens, ahem, thirties… but that’s another subj. all together, sure to be greeted with envy thinly disguised as scorn and a roll of the eye from the fairer sex. Digression abated, I also built the Millennium Falcon, as well as Colonial Vipers, Battlestars, Apollo landers, and a few seriously bitchin’ designs of my own.

Trekkers, sorry, though I was a fan, the ship designs of Kirk’s day were not the most interesting, owing to Desilu’s ultralow budget. I made AMT plastic models of those instead.

Legos in those days were mostly base plates and bricks. You had trusty two-by-fours, annoying two-by-threes, some skinnies, some thinplates, and a few specialty pieces. The mini-figures that now dominate everyone’s homemade Lego movies had just been developed and had about five variations. I found if I samurai-ed a mini-fig, its legs made for very reasonable space howitzers. To paraphrase the immortal Don Rumsfeld, you go to space with the Legos you have, not necessarily the Legos you want.

But look at this thing:


You’re looking at 5000 Lego bricks in a $500 kit, man!

It’s probably all to scale, too, if scaling to a fictitious trans-atmosphere space freighter means anything. Watching the video, you can easily imagine the ship being built in whatever Lucasian shipyard some fanfic writer dreamed up… it looks to me like a lot of Legos disappear into the guts of the model and are never seen again.

Here’s my dilemma. Looking back on my own construction past, there seems to be a lot of valuable skills and lessons to be learned from Lego. I had no instructions, or even good pictures of the subject. I had to rely on my memory, and pick a scale that wouldn’t leave me with an awesome landing strut and not enough bricks to build the whole ship. I learned proportion, problem solving, some math concepts I have since internalized but still don’t understand… the basics of engineering, if you really think about it.

I haven’t grown into an astronaut, or even an engineer, but I definitely use some version of these skills almost every day in my professional life. They even translate into writing.

And then there’s this new (okay, 2007) Millennium Falcon. Are the same lessons there? Or is the primary skill now “follow directions”? Maybe kids need more today, and aren’t satisfied with building something cool, and then forcing themselves to tear it down if they want to build something new. Maybe they need to develop ideas further in order to be engaged… don’t just make a spaceship, follow up with a script, make a movie, light it on fire, send it along with your art school application, call it a metaphor for the Impact of Reality Shows Set in Jersey.

Maybe that’s okay, and maybe Lego is just being savvy to the times and rolling with the educational currents. Or maybe they realize these highly specialized bricks, once assembled into a $500 Millennium Falcon, aren’t likely to be useful or desirable in reconstruction… and that with a few strategically-placed whines, more Lego kits will be bought.


About ernestwhile

I live in New York City. I built a world of Lego bricks, colorful and simple and foreign. I've been picking it apart ever since.
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2 Responses to Legos aren’t what they used to be.

  1. The Hook says:

    Is ANYTHING as it used to be?
    I get your point, though…

  2. Claudia says:

    I was actually just thinking about this the other day when I passed by the toy aisles in Walmart. Luckily my parents considered me still in the “Legos for Christmas” age-range before all the specialized kits started rolling out. I’ve felt sorry for kids nowadays who have to, if they want to play with Legos, utilize what’s in these kits. Though I suppose that trying to create something that the kit is not designed to create may present even more of a creative challenge to kids than just trying to create something out of thin air…?

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