Last Sunday, I got a chance to see the new Lego Movie. Being a huge fan of Legos as a kid, and hearing from friends and family that the movie itself was actually pretty good, I decided to give it a chance. My expectations were not very high, as I expected the contents of the movie to be heavily targeted towards a much younger generation. I would soon find out that not only was I incredibly wrong in my assumption of the movie contents, but I also learned how incredibly engaging the movie actually was, for kids as well as adults.
Pretty early in to “The Lego Movie,” we are introduced to protagonist Emmet Brickowski (a very suitable Lego name, as many enthusiasts refer to individual Lego pieces as “bricks”), who is quite likable and content with the mediocrity of his life. On his way to work as a construction worker (where he puts together vast amount of Lego pieces to assemble the buildings around him), the perfectly-fitting soundtrack to both his lifestyle and the movie blasts as he joyously completes his morning commute. The song, “Everything is Awesome,” sung by Grammy-nominated singers Tegan and Sara, accompanied by multiple Grammy-nominated rap trio Lonely Island showcases Emmet’s cheerful attitude towards a very average life.
Soon after finishing his work day, Emmet discovers what the movie refers to as “The Piece of Resistance,” from which a Prophecy stated that someone called “The Special” will use to stop the evil Lord Business from deploying a weapon known as the “Kragle” onto the Lego population. Without giving away all of the exciting thrills and comedic, nostalgic references of the movie, Emmet essentially assumes the position of “The Special” and is propelled into a wonderfully imaginative adventure to save the Lego world, aided by his resourcefulness and interesting band of allies he meets along the way.
“The Lego Movie” does a great job of appealing to a wide audience, because it is able to effectively combine adult themes and nostalgic references with a joyful, comedic delivery that seemingly anyone can relate to. It was no wonder the theatre I saw the movie in was completely packed, selling out prior to the show. The movie was incredibly engaging, both to the kids around me and the adults that brought them (theatre was approximately 50% adults and 50% kids). The positive reactions of kid and adult laughter was ever present, as well as a lot of dancing in the theatre occurred (mostly kids), which continued throughout the entire length of the movie.
Increasing the engagement of “The Lego Movie” was the all-star voice cast of actors such as Chris Pratt (Emmet), Will Ferrell (President Business), Will Arnett (Batman), Elizabeth Banks (WyldStyle), Morgan Freeman (Vitruvius), Liam Neeson (Bad Cop), Channing Tatum (Superman), Allison Brie (Unikitty); and even a few cameo voices such as Shaquille O’Neal (himself) and Seth Rogen (The Green Lantern). The highly talented cast was able to really drive the personal touches of each of the Lego characters, personifying those roles in such a way that the audience agrees with the underlying motives of the movie, cheering on the band of heroes to become victorious in their quest to save the Lego population.
While “The Lego Movie” has achieved a large amount of success at the box office, where it debuted as the #1 movie on its opening weekend with $69.1 million in total domestic ticket sales (towering over second place “Monuments Men” at $22.7 million), the Danish toy company is also expecting to see a large increase in sales of its Lego sets throughout the year. With the mass audience appeal of the movie, which took over 5 years and $60 – $65 million to make, Lego is looking to capitalize on this financial momentum of the movie, as it is planning to introduce what is described by Bloomberg Business as an “avalanche” of products.
This “avalanche” includes 17 Lego building sets, a line of collectible mini figures, a video game, a theme park exhibit, a soundtrack album, children’s books, lunchboxes, stickers, books, T-shirts, hoodies, pajamas, backpacks, and Lego-branded undergarments. What is shocking about this is not just the immense product portfolio Lego is planning, but also that at least some of these products will not only be directly aimed at their target kid market of 5 – 12 year olds, but also at adults, as an increasingly greater percentage of Lego sales are being purchased by adults, for themselves.
One of the examples of such a growth in adult Lego sales is the formation of AFOL (Adult Fans of Legos) Associations located throughout the world. Simon Bennet, founder of the United Kingdom’s Brickish (a Lego Reference) Association, can attest to this, as his association now represents over 300 Lego fans (started with just himself) at many BrickCon events, which cater to regional Lego enthusiasts. According to Simon, the typical AFOL member is a “specific kind of person,” “mostly in their 40’s,” where women are becoming members at a larger rate (now up to 30% are women).
Utilizing Hollywood (Warner Brothers) to maximize the financial gains of its product placement strategy is not a new undertaking for Lego. The Lego company, starting in 1999 with its acquisition of the rights from Lucas Film to build Star Wars toys and movies, has had many successful licensing agreements, such as: Harry Potter, Spider Man, Jurassic Park, Spongebob Squarepants, Indiana Jones, Toy Story, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the Simpsons to name several of the highest selling.
For Lego, this has meant a revitalized business, as once it stood on the verge of bankruptcy in the early 21st century. According to Bloomberg Business, there was a huge “turnaround” from decades ago when there was an “ill-fated period of product experimentation,” which “resulted in big losses.” Those losses are clearly a thing of the past, as Lego, increasing its sales by 24% while many other top toy companies took a hit in 2012, passed Hasbro as the now #2 toy manufacturer in the world, only trailing colossal Mattel (producer of Barbie, Fisher Price, and Hot Wheels toys). In 2012 alone, Lego had approximate revenue of $4 billion, while operating with an incredible $969 million profit.
At the top of the Lego licensing hierarchy is Jill Wilfert, VP for Global Licensing & Entertainment, who partnered with Dan Lin, Producer at Warner Brothers, to make the film. According to Lin, his “big pitch to them (Lego) was this was a way for you (them) to get into the story telling universe” and with Jill’s expertise, the collaborative movie’s goal was “to create a Lego-infused movie that would amount to something more interesting than a 100-minute advertisement.” Kerry Phelan, former Lego Licensing Executive and decade long coworker of Jill’s, thought that in order for the movie to be successful, “the story has to be great.” I think it is safe to say that they nailed it.
Although there haven’t been any official releases of the additional financial lift “The Lego Movie” is predicted to have (in terms of product sales), in the past Lego has seen that an incredible 60% of its revenue each year has come from the launch of new products. Knowing that Lego is planning on launching an “avalanche” of new products centered around the movie, which will probably be greater that it has been in years past, I think we can assume a favorable 2013 growth rate for the now #2 toy maker.
I know, personally, I will be buying my niece a Lego Movie pajama set if they make them for babies later this year. Although, for myself, I might hold off on the Millennium Falcon Lego set. At least for now.