Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Past time: Lego - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lego#Theme_parks

Lego

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Lego
The logo for Lego, and the Lego group.
TypeConstruction set
InventorOle Kirk Christiansen
CompanyLego Group
CountryDenmark
Availability1949—Present
Official website

Lego (trademarked in capitals as LEGO) is a line of construction toys manufactured by the Lego Group, a privately held company based inBillund, Denmark. The company's flagship product, Lego, consists of colorful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears,minifigures and various other parts. Lego bricks can be assembled and connected in many ways, to construct such objects as vehicles, buildings, and even working robots. Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other objects. The toys were originally designed in the 1940s in Europe and have achieved an international appeal, with an extensive subculture that supports Lego movies, games, video games, competitions, and four Lego themed amusement parks.

Contents

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Early history

A pile of Lego bricks, of assorted colors and sizes.

The Lego Group began in the workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen, a carpenter from Billund, Denmark, who began making wooden toys in 1932. In 1934 his company came to be called Lego. It expanded to producing plastic toys in 1940. In 1949 Lego began producing the now famous interlocking bricks, calling them "Automatic Binding Bricks". These bricks were based largely on the design of Kiddicraft Self-Locking Bricks, which were released in the United Kingdom in 1947. Lego modified the design of the Kiddicraft brick after examining a sample given to it by the British supplier of an injection-moulding machine that the company had purchased. The bricks, manufactured from cellulose acetate, were a development of traditional stackable wooden blocks that locked together by means of several round studs on top and a hollow rectangular bottom. The blocks snapped together, but not so tightly that they required extraordinary effort to be separated.

The company name Lego was coined by Christiansen from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means "play well". The name could also be interpreted as "I put together" and "I assemble" in Latin, though this would be a somewhat forced application of the general sense "I collect; I gather; I learn"; the word is most used in the derived sense "I read".

The Lego Group's motto is kun det bedste er godt nok which means 'only the best is good enough'. This motto was created by Ole Kirk to encourage his employees never to skimp on quality, a value he believed in strongly. The motto is still used within the company today.

The use of plastic for toy manufacture was not highly regarded by retailers and consumers of the time. Many of the Lego Group's shipments were returned after poor sales; it was thought that plastic toys could never replace wooden ones.

By 1954 Christiansen's son Godtfred Kirk Christiansen had become the junior managing director of the Lego Group. It was his conversation with an overseas buyer that struck the idea of a toy system. Godtfred saw the immense potential in Lego bricks to become a system for creative play but the bricks still had some problems from a technical standpoint: their locking ability was limited and they were not very versatile. In 1958 the modern brick design was developed but it took another five years to find the right material for it. The modern Lego brick was patented on January 28, 1958; bricks from that year are still compatible with current bricks.

Design

Lego pieces of all varieties are a part of a universal system. Despite variation in the design and purpose of individual pieces over the years, each remains compatible in some way with existing pieces. Lego bricks from 1958 still interlock with those made in 2010, and Lego sets for young children are compatible with those made for teenagers.

Bricks, beams, axles, gears, mini figures, and all other parts in the Lego system are manufactured to an exacting degree of precision. When snapped together, pieces must have just the right amount of strength and flexibility mixed together to stick together. They must stay together until pulled apart. They cannot be too easy to pull apart, or the resulting constructions would be unstable; they also cannot be too difficult to pull apart, since the disassembly of one creation in order to build another is part of the Lego appeal. In order for pieces to have just the right "clutch power", Lego elements are manufactured within a tolerance of 2 µm.[1]

Primary concept and development work takes place at the Billund headquarters, where the company employs approximately 120 designers. The company also has smaller design offices in the UK, Spain, Germany, and Japan, which are tasked with developing products aimed specifically at these markets. The average development period for a new product is around twelve months, in three stages. The first stage is to identify market trends and developments, including contact by the designers directly with the market; some are stationed in toy shops close to holiday periods, while others interview children. The second stage is the design and development of the product based upon the results of the first stage. As of September 2008 the design teams use 3D modeling software such as Rhinoceros 3D to generate CADdrawings from initial design sketches. The designs are then prototyped using an in-house stereolithography machine. These are presented to the entire project team for comment and for testing by parents and children during the "validation" process. Designs may then be altered in accordance with the results from the focus groups. Virtual models of completed Lego products are built concurrently with the writing of the user instructions. Completed CAD models are also used in the wider organization, such as for marketing and packaging. Also the naming of the bricks such as 2x3 or 4x4 was made by intelligent children who tried describing the materials they used to create such a "invention". [2]

Manufacture

Since 1963, Lego pieces have been manufactured from a strong, resilient plastic known as acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS).[1] As of September 2008, the engineers use the NX CAD/CAM/CAE PLM software suite to model the elements. The software allows the parts to be optimized by way of mold flow and stress analysis. Prototype molds are sometimes built before the design is committed to mass production. The ABS plastic is heated to 232 °C (450 °F) until at a dough-like consistency. It is then injected into the molds at pressures between 25 and 150 tons, and takes approximately 15 seconds to cool. The molds are permitted a tolerance of up to two thousandths of a millimeter (2×10−6 m), to ensure the bricks remain connected.[2] Human inspectors check the output of the molds, to eliminate significant variations in color or thickness. Worn-out molds are encased in the foundations of buildings to prevent them from falling into competitors' hands.[citation needed] According to the Lego Group, about eighteen bricks out of every million fail to meet the standard required.[1] Lego factories recycle all but about 1 percent of their plastic waste from the manufacturing process every year. If the plastic can't be re-used in Lego bricks, it's processed and sold to industries that can make use of it.[3][4]

Manufacturing of Lego bricks occurs at a number of locations around the world. Molding is done at one of two plants in Denmark andCzech Republic. Brick decorations and packaging is done at plants in Denmark, the United States, Mexico and the Czech Republic. The Lego company estimates that in the course of five decades it has sold some 400 billion Lego blocks.[5] Annual production of Lego bricks averages approximately 20 billion (2×1010) per year, or about 600 pieces per second: if all the Lego bricks ever produced were to be divided equally among a world population of six billion, each person would have 62 Lego bricks.[1]

In 2007, Lego Group announced a restructuring of the current production setup including the outsourcing of some of the production work to Flextronics, a Singaporean electronics company.[6] Lego Group plans to close the production facility in Enfield, Connecticut and outsource this work to the Flextronics factory in Mexico.[6][7] Flextronics will also oversee the factory in Kladno, Czech Republic. The Czech facilities would also be expanded due to the planned closing of the Swiss factory in Baar, which mostly manufactured TECHNIC parts.[7]On February 19, 2008, Lego announced that the Lego Group would instead take over operations of the Kladno factory from March 1, 2008.[8] On July 1, 2008, Lego announced their intent to take over plants in Mexico and Hungary and "phase out the existing outsourcing agreement with Flextronics during 2009."[9]

Today

Since it began producing plastic bricks, the Lego Group has released thousands of sets themed around a variety of topics, like the new "Atlantis". Other Examples include town and city,space, robots, pirates, Lego Trains, Racers, Vikings, castles, Bionicle, dinosaurs, holiday locations, scuba diving and undersea exploration, the wild west, the Arctic, airports and miners.

New elements are often released along with new sets. There are also Lego sets designed to appeal to young girls such as the Belville and Clikits lines which consists of small interlocking parts that are meant to encourage creativity and arts and crafts, much like regular Lego bricks. Belville and Clikit pieces can interlock with regular Lego bricks as decorative elements.

Also the new creation of DesignByMe 3.0, which replaces the Lego Factory name gives people the chance to customize and build their own Lego set, any shape or size. Users can even customize the box that the set comes in.

The one continuity not really touched on by Lego is that of military toys. While there are sets which can be seen to have a military theme, such as Star Wars or the German and Russian soldiers in the Indiana Jones sets, there are no directly military-themed sets in any line. This is following Ole Kirk Christiansen's policy of not wanting to make war seem like child's play.

The Lego range has expanded to encompass accessory motors, gears, lights, sensors, and cameras designed to be used with Lego components. Motors, battery packs, lights and switches are sold under the name Power Functions. The Technics line utilizes newer types of interlocking connections that are still compatible with the older brick type connections. TheTechnics line can often be motorized with Power Functions.

Bionicle is a line of toys by the Lego Group that is marketed towards those in the 7–16 year-old age range. The line was launched in January 2001 in Europe and June/July 2001 in theUnited States. The Bionicle idea originated from the earlier toy lines Slizers (also known as Throwbots) and Roboriders. Both of these lines had similar throwing disks and characters based on classical elements. The sets in the Bionicle line have increased in size and flexibility through the years.

The Lego group's Duplo product, introduced in 1969, is a range of simple blocks which measure twice the width, height and depth of standard Lego blocks, and are aimed at younger children.

'Fabuland' ran from 1979 to 1989. The more advanced 'Lego Technic' was launched in 1984. 'Lego Primo' is a line of blocks by the Lego Group for very young children that ran between 2004 until it was discontinued in 2006. In 1995 'Lego Baby' was launched for babies.

One of the largest Lego sets ever commercially produced is a minifig-scaled edition of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon. Designed by Jens Kronvold Fredericksen, it was released in 2007 and has 5,195 pieces.It was surpassed, though, by a 5,922 piece Taj Mahal.[10]

Licensed themes

Over the years, Lego has licensed themes from several cartoon and film franchises. These include Star Wars, Batman, SpongeBob SquarePants, Harry Potter, Indiana Jones, Spider-Man, Ben 10, Toy Story and Thomas the Tank Engine.

Although some of the licensed themes, such as Lego Star Wars and Lego Indiana Jones, have had highly successful sales, Lego has expressed a desire to rely more upon their own characters and classic themes, and less upon licensed themes related to movie releases.[11]

Robotics sets

Lego initiated a robotics line of toys called 'Mindstorms' in 1998, and has continued to expand and update this range ever since. The roots of the product originate from a programmable brick developed at the MIT Media Lab, and the name is taken from a paper by Seymour Papert, a computer scientist and educator who developed the educational theory ofconstructionism, and whose research was at times funded by the Lego Group.

The programmable Lego brick which is at the heart of these robotics sets has undergone several updates and redesigned, with the latest being called the 'NXT' brick, being sold under the brand name of Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 or 1.5. The set includes sensors that detect touch, light, sound and ultrasonic waves, with several others being sold separately, including anRFID reader.

The intelligent brick can be programmed using official software available for both Windows and Mac computers, and is downloaded onto the brick via Bluetooth. There are also several unofficial programs and compatible programming languages that have been made to work with the brick, and many books have been written to support this community.

There are several robotics competitions which use the Lego robotics sets. The earliest, and likely the largest, is Botball, a national U.S. middle- and high-school competition stemming from the MIT 6.270 Lego robotics tournament. A related competition is FIRST Lego League for elementary and middle schools. The international RoboCup Junior soccer competition involves extensive use of Lego Mindstorms equipment which is often pushed to its extreme limits.

Related products and services

The Lego Group has used the Lego toy system to branch out into a number of other areas.

Video games

Lego has branched out into the videogames market with a number of titles, including Lego Star Wars: The Video Game, Lego Star Wars II: The Original Trilogy, Bionicle Heroes as well as the Lego Star Wars: The Complete Saga and Lego Indiana Jones, a Lego Batman, Lego Battles and the Lego Universe MMOG. Also, Lego has announced that they will be making Lego Harry Potter Years 1-4 set for release in June 2010, and Lego Rock Band, was released in the fall of 2009. Another game announced is Lego Indiana Jones 2: The Adventure Continues including Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and total remakes of the other movie's levels was released in the fall[when?] of 2009. The newest addition to the Lego video games is Lego Star Wars III: The Clone Wars, based on the first and second seasons of The Clone Wars. The game is set for release in the fall[when?] of 2010.

Lego Digital Designer is an official piece of Lego software for Windows and Mac OS X which allows users to build with Lego bricks on their computers. Users can then publish their creations online on the Lego Factory website, or purchase the physical bricks to build them. Lego Digital Designer includes some Lego products which only exist online, including models for the children's television programmes TUGS, Thomas and Friends and Speed Racer.

Official website

The Lego website has developed over the years, and aims to provide many extra services for fans, as well as simply a shop and product catalog. My Lego Network is a social networking site that has replaced Lego Club pages. It involves items, blueprints, ranks, badges which are earned for completing certain tasks, trading and trophies called masterpieces which the user uses to go to the next rank. The website also has a built in inbox that contains prewritten messages. (This was to avoid cyberbullying.) The website has automated characters within the website called networkers. They are able to do things which normal users can't do. (Such as sending messages that were not prewritten, selling masterpieces, blueprints and other things of that sort.) And last, there are modules which are set up on the user's page to 'grow' certain things or just for showing picture compositions.

Business consultancy

Since around 2000, the Lego Group has been promoting 'Lego Serious Play', a form of business consultancy fostering creative thinking, in which team members build metaphors of their organizational identities and experiences using Lego bricks. Participants work through imaginary scenarios using visual three-dimensional Lego constructions, imaginatively exploring possibilities in a serious form of play.

Theme parks

Lego Imagination Center
at the Mall of America

Merlin Entertainments operates four Legoland amusement parks, the original in Billund, Denmark, the second in Windsor, England, and the third inGünzburg, Germany; there is also one in Carlsbad, California. On July 13, 2005, the control of 70% of the Legoland parks was sold for $460 million to the Blackstone Group of New York while the remaining 30% is still held by the Kirk Kristiansen family. There are also four Legoland Discovery Centers[12], two in Germany (Duisburg and Berlin), one in Chicago, Illinois, and one in Manchester, UK[13].

Retail stores

T. rex model outside the LEGO store at Downtown Disney in Orlando

Lego operates 43 retail stores (34 in the United States, 4 in the United Kingdom and 5 in Germany), including ones at the Downtown Disney shopping complexes at Disneyland and Walt Disney World Resorts as well as in the Mall of America in Bloomington, Minnesota. There is also a franchised Lego store in Abu Dhabi. The opening of each store is celebrated with weekend long event where a Master Model Builder creates, with the help of volunteers most of which are children, a larger than life Lego statue which is then displayed at the new store for several weeks.[14]

As of recently three Lego stores have opened up in the world that encompass a new idea for the Lego retail side called Lego education. At these three stores (which are located in Concord North Carolina, Hanover Maryland, and Berlin Germany) there are separate area's to the side of the store that are used as classrooms where specially trained facilitators teach kids ranging from 4- 12 about numerous different subjects while using Lego product. This is a new concept that is being tested and has only been around for about 8 months.[15]

Children's clothes

Since 1993 LEGOwear Clothes have been produced and marketed by a Danish company called Kabooki under license from LEGO Group. The clothes are for boys and girls from 0–12 years old and the partnership also ties in with other LEGO spin offs such as Bionicle.

Board games

Lego has, in the past, intermittently published or licensed a small number of tabletop games which incorporate Lego pieces, such as minifigures, and/or imagery of them[16] and in 2009 launched a range of 10 German-style board games designed by Cephas Howard and Reiner Knizia under the name Lego Games.[17]

Films

In the past, Lego has turned down approaches from Hollywood to make a feature-length film based on the toy. However, this stance has since softened. A number of straight-to-DVD computer animated Bionicle movies have been produced. A movie called LEGO: The Adventures of Clutch Powers was released on DVD in February 2010. This was a completely computer-animated film made by Tinseltown Toons. It is a crossover movie comprising many Lego themes.[18]

It was announced on August 12, 2009, that a live action feature film was in development. The film is said to be an action/adventure-comedy that will combine both live action andanimation. The film will be made at Warner Bros. with Dan Lin producing. No release date has been set yet.[19] The film starring Nathan Kress portrayed the human owner of Lego.

Books

Lego has an ongoing deal with publisher Dorling Kindersley (DK), who are producing a series of illustrated hardback books looking at different aspects of the construction toy. The first was The Ultimate Lego book, published in 1999. More recently, in 2009, the same publisher produced The LEGO Book, which was sold within a slipcase along with Standing Small: A celebration of 30 years of the LEGO minifigure, a smaller book focused on the minifigure. In same year, DK also published books on Lego Star Wars (Lego Star Wars: The Visual Dictionary) and a range of Lego-based sticker books.

Although no longer being published in the United States by Scholastic, books covering events in the BIONICLE storyline are written by Greg Farshtey. They are still being published in Europe by AMEET. BIONICLE comics, also written by Farshtey, are compiled into graphic novels and released by Papercutz.

In culture

Lego's popularity is demonstrated by its wide representation and usage in many forms of cultural works, including books, films and art works.

Books

Several unofficial books have been written about Lego. The Unofficial LEGO Builder's Guide was written by Allan Bedford, targeted at children, with the aim of teaching a variety of building techniques at various scales (including minifigure scale and Legoland 'Miniland' scale), as well as including a small encyclopedia of some of the most common different types of Lego brick available.

There have also been many different books published about the Lego Mindstorms robotics product, some of which focus on its use as an educational toy within schools.

Films

There are a number of short movies or recreations of feature films that have been made using Lego bricks, either using stop motion animation or computer-generated imagery (CGI). Making these is a popular fan-activity, and is supported by community websites such as BrickFilms - these films are often known as Brickfilms[20] Other examples include Batman: Revenge, a 6-minute long fan-made stop-motion film, and the award-winning music video for the song "Fell in Love with a Girl" by The White Stripes, in which director Michel Gondryfilmed a live version of the video, digitized the result and then recreated it entirely with Lego bricks.

Lego features in the upcoming Toy Story 3 feature film.

Art

Several artists have used Lego in their work, with the resulting works sometimes being described as 'Lego art' or 'brick art'.[21]

One of the more notorious examples is Polish artist Zbigniew Libera's "Lego Concentration Camp",[22] a collection of mock Lego sets with a concentration camp theme.

The Little Artists (John Cake and Darren Neave) have created an entire Modern Art collection in Lego form. Their exhibition 'Art Craziest Nation'[23] was shown at the Walker Art Gallery inLiverpool, UK.

Danish artist Jørn Rønnau created a sculpture called The Walker out of 120,000 Lego bricks for the travelling exhibition 'Homo Futurus' at the end of the 1980s. The sculpture later went on display in the Danish pavilion at Expo 2000.[21][24]

Six people, in North America, Europe and Asia, have become Lego Certified Professionals, certified artists that use Lego bricks as their medium. The Lego Group recognizes their efforts and they have the ability to not only use the Lego name and copyrighted logo, but have earned a special, in-depth relationship with the company. They are Robin Sather, Dan Parker,Sean Kenney, Nathan Sawaya, Rene Hoffmeister and Nicholas Foo.[25]

Television

Lego was the subject of Episode 5 of the 2009 British TV series James May's Toy Stories, in which presenter James May built a full-sized two-storey house from 3.3 million Lego bricks in a vineyard of the Denbies Wine Estate in Dorking, Surrey. The house was later dismantled, as the space was needed for wine-making and the house lacked planning permission, and the bricks were taken to Legoland Windsor for use as part of an annual building event.[26][27]

An episode of The Simpsons, "Hungry, Hungry Homer" involved the Simpsons family going to Blockoland, a parody of Legoland, which is completely made of blocks. Bart buys a T-Shirt made of bricks, accidentally calling it a "Lego shirt" before Marge corrects him.

Mocpages/My Own Creation

MOCpages is a website where people can upload and share their Lego creations (called MOCs,an abbreviation of "My Own Creation") with the world,created and run by Sean Kenney.

Although there is a wide variety of themes that MOC builders could potentially use as the focus of their creations, there are several very popular themes which are more common among builders and seem to draw the most attention in articles and interviews regarding creation of such designs, the most popular being Halo, Star Wars,and Batman.

Online

In 2001, Brendan Powell Smith started an online web project to create an illustrated version of the Bible using Lego bricks, called The Brick Testament. The project has grown to cover over 400 stories, with over 4000 images, each of which is a photograph of a hand-built Lego scene. The web project drew international media attention, and has been published as three hardcover books.

The search engine Google paid tribute to the 50th anniversary of the Lego patent by replacing its usual logo on the Google homepage with one made from Lego bricks, along with the Lego figure on one of the letters.[28]

There are also several online webcomics that art illustrated with Lego, such as the Irregular Webcomic!.

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