On Christmas Day, any parent of small children will stifle a yawn, having built bicycles, dollhouses, and train sets the night before. After all, Santa doesn’t deliver unassembled toys. But hang in there a few years, Mom & Dad, because the building shifts from the giver to the receiver. Older kids want to create. In my generation it was Hot Wheels, Erector Sets, and Lincoln Logs. And one other toy surpassed all others for its ease of use and versatility. Lego.
My Christmas gift from my wife this year was a grand piano. Can you top that? Okay, so it wasn’t the kind worth five figures or special movers to get it across the threshold. My piano measures a mere 12″ x 14″ and comes from the Lego “Ideas” collection. When it’s finished it will have been built from 3,662 individual pieces. I can’t wait to get started.
A grand piano made of Legos means the simple interlocking blocks I had as a kid have come a long, long way. Lego Ideas sets are “products inspired by and voted for by Lego fans”. The collection includes a typewriter, a ship in a bottle, the house from the Home Alone movies, and the apartment from the Seinfeld sitcom. Every Ideas product involves thousands of Lego pieces to assemble. Every Ideas product was also completely sold out for Christmas on the Lego website.
Fifty years ago, Lego was blessedly innocent. All you had were small bricks in primary colors and if you were lucky, a paper set of instructions to create a simple house or a vehicle. Otherwise, you just built whatever your imagination could come up with. When my own kids were kids, Lego moved to product-specific sets like a T. Rex from Jurassic World or an X-wing Starfighter from Star Wars. Sure, they looked cool when they were built, but I was always skeptical because the sets removed creativity from the experience. You’d just follow the step-by-steps in the little booklet and voila – a T. Rex. But call me a hypocrite because this sixty-year-old can’t wait to build his step-by-thousand-steps Lego Grand Piano.
Lego has an interesting history – too many chapters to cover here. The numbers tell the story in a nutshell. The Denmark-based company is considered the largest toy company in the world. Their bricks have inspired movies, video games, building competitions, and eight amusement parks. Their factories have been churning out little plastic pieces for almost 75 years. And at last count, that pile of pieces surpassed 600 billion (or 75 Legos for every man, woman, and child on earth).
I didn’t expect to be a Lego fan as an adult but then came the Architecture series in 2008, cool buildings like the Taj Mahal, Eiffel Tower, and Empire State Building. I just had to have one, so last Christmas my wife gifted me the 1,032-piece United States Capitol Building. I didn’t clock how long it took to complete but I must’ve looked awfully confident in the assembly because now I’m staring down the more daunting Grand Piano. Maybe my wife wants me locked down in my home office for the next several months?
To underscore the popularity of Lego these days, the Architecture series alone includes 50 buildings and cityscapes, with more coming out each year (the Taj Mahal was released just last summer). These sets run anywhere from $50 to $250, with the discontinued ones setting you back three times as much. Sure, I’d love a Lego version of Frank Lloyd Wright’s “Fallingwater” house, but I’m not going to pay $800 to a collector just to have one.
No discussion of Lego would be complete without a nod to custom creations. Our local Scheels department store has a larger-than-life Denver Broncos football player made of Legos, posing front and center in the toy department. The Church of Christ creation in the photo here didn’t forget seating for an 80-member choir (below the big yellow crosses). And the biggest custom creation of them all? A full-scale Lego replica of the previously-mentioned X-wing Starfighter, first displayed outdoors in New York’s Times Square. Try to picture 5.3 million Lego pieces and 23 tons of “toy” in the shape of a fighter jet. Or just check out the photos here.
Now that I’m done writing it’s time to break open the first bag of pieces to begin my Lego Grand Piano (and time for you to watch the ingenious stop-motion video below). I’ll use the stopwatch on my iPhone to capture the hours I consume to complete it. Er, days? Weeks? I mean, Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither is a grand piano. You might want to check in with me next summer to make sure I haven’t gone bats.