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Consulting for The Toys That Made Us film

by admin on February 7, 2018

in Community Articles

(Written by William)

Back in 2016, theBrickBlogger was contacted by a production company looking to create a documentary about toys. To be more specific, they wanted to look at iconic toys that shaped the fans of today. The goal was to pick out eight major toy lines and focus in on their social impact. As you can imagine, LEGO was one of the toy brands at the top of their list. As I have experience with a wide range of media, along with extensive knowledge about LEGO, plus had some free time, I was selected to work with them. It sounded like an interesting project, so I was excited to have this opportunity. Today, I wanted to share with you about what it was like to consult for The Toys That Made Us documentary. 🙂

I guess the best place to start is to cover what was involved with this project and what I needed to do. First, I coordinated with one of their heads of production to set up a phone conference with them, their lead researcher, and myself. Fortunately, we all were in California so didn’t have a problem with time differences. The conversation lasted probably two to three hours. Once you get me started talking about LEGO, it’s kind of hard for me to stop! This was back in 2016, and their goal at that point was to get a baseline for directions to take the documentary.

The team was familiar with the various documentaries out there and wanted to make sure that they didn’t end up with a copy and paste on the history of LEGO. With most of the toys they had in mind, a history lesson would be perfectly fine, since those toys didn’t have that many documentaries about them. However, there has been so many films and publications on LEGO’s history, they wanted to produce something different. So their initial questions really centered on my opinion as a fan as well as other opinions I’ve noticed from other fans.

Some of the questions I remember were, “What’s the most ridiculous things LEGO has done in the minds of fans?” and “Are there any famous fans that might surprise someone?” Along with these were some solid historical questions that I hadn’t seen addressed in other documentaries like, “What holy grail sets are there?” and “Are there any myths about LEGO that have been mentioned by fans over the years?”

After the first phone call, I stayed loosely in touch with the lead researcher by sending him any interesting articles about LEGO that I thought he might find useful. I chose news pieces that related to various things we spoke about in our call.

Then in the middle of 2017, when the bulk of the research really got started, I had one more phone call with just the head researcher. This second conversation was somewhere between an hour and two hours. This time, they wanted to prepare themselves for a trip to Denmark. To make the experience as productive as possible, we discussed the best people to talk to, and we also bounced around some ideas about questions to ask.

At this point, my part in the making of the LEGO section of The Toys That Made Us was mostly over. But I also happened to be able to participate in another way, which came about by chance. During our previous conversations, I was asked if I didn’t mind being filmed. I said, “yes,” but turns out that they didn’t need me for that. They also mentioned that pictures might be asked for, but again they didn’t contact me.

Fast forward to January 2018. At my local LEGO User Group, one of our members was asked at a convention if he would like sharing photos of his collection for the LEGO episode of The Toys That Made Us documentary. He was given a business card, which, unfortunately, he lost. So not wanting to let this opportunity pass our club by, I reached out to my previous contacts to see if I could figure out who spoke with my friend.

Success was on my side, and I was able to track down the woman our club member met, and got her contact info. This gave an opportunity for our club members to send in pictures of their collection that, hopefully, will be included in the documentary. But I didn’t want to stop there. As I knew I was going to write this article, I also thought to let our readers on the opportunity to share their LEGO collections with the producers. Of course, this might break the lady’s email account, so I asked how this could be done. She suggested sharing photos at The Toys That Made Us Facebook page.

What they are looking for are pictures with as much of your collection as you can possibly squeeze into one shot. It doesn’t matter if it’s built official LEGO sets, custom creations, sets, or LEGO sets in boxes – as long as it’s LEGO, it’s good! However, if you’re like me, it might be hard to fit your entire LEGO collection in one shot, unless you back up really far. So, what I did was sending in a series of three pictures that covered a decent portion of my collection. If you would like to participate, keep in mind that the sooner you send in your pictures the better. I was told that although there is no set date yet at the time of this writing, the next wave of the episodes (which also includes the section on LEGO) is only a few months off.

And to go back to my discussions with the producers, you might be wondering what answers I gave to their questions. Keep in mind that my contributions in this regard may or may not be used in the documentary, but I thought it might be interesting to share them here.

For the holy grail set, I mentioned the #10179 LEGO Star Wars Ultimate Collector Series Millennium Falcon from 2007. At the time of the discussion, a re-release of the Falcon was rumored, but nothing was officially announced. I also mentioned that tastes vary and some good alternative answers are the iconic #375 LEGO Classic Yellow Castle 1978, the #3450 LEGO Statue of Liberty from the year 2000, the LEGO monorail sets, and I might have also mentioned the #1989 LEGO Pirates Black Seas Barracuda from 1989.

For myths about LEGO, I could only think of one. Rumor has it that all the old moulding trays that LEGO retired through the years are placed in an underground secret vault. However, during tours at LEGO’s headquarters at Billund, Denmark, the tour guides make it sound like the trays are mixed in with the concrete foundation of the buildings. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense though, considering they would need to continuously re-pour concrete. So does this mean that LEGO really does have a secret vault where they keep the retired moulding trays? Well, that’s what rumors say…

As for famous people who like LEGO, I can remember mentioning two names during the discussions. The first was Ed Sheeran, who’s actually not too surprising since he did write the song The LEGO House. The other name I can recall was Finn Balor, who is a famous professional wrestler currently signed to World Wrestling Entertainment, Inc.

Oh, and if you were wondering, I was not compensated for my contributions to The Toys That Made Us documentary. That’s not to say I didn’t ask. As I told the producer, I’m always looking for more ways to buy LEGO. But compensation or not, participating in making the film was very fun. I even proceeded to convert the producer and the head researcher into becoming LEGO fans. And wouldn’t you know it, my last conversation with the head researcher revealed the producer did pick up one of the larger sets, which I believe was the #10247 LEGO Creator Ferris Wheel.

That’s all for now! Hopefully, you get a chance to share pictures of your own LEGO collection at The Toys That Made Us Facebook page. And like most of you, I can’t wait to check out the episode about LEGO! In case you are not familiar with the series, the first four episodes began streaming on Netflix at the end of last year focusing on Star Wars, He-Man, Barbie, and G.I. Joe toy lines. The remaining four episodes will cover LEGO, Transformers, Hello Kitty, and Star Trek. Below is the trailer for the series.

What do you think? Have you watched any of the previous episodes of The Toys That Made Us documentary? Which toys, besides LEGO, had an impact on your life? How would you have answered the questions they producers asked me? And are you planning to share your LEGO collection with the producers? Feel free to share your thoughts and discuss in the comment section below! 😉

And you might also like to check out the following related posts:

{ 47 comments… read them below or add one }

James February 7, 2018 at 10:37 AM

I heard that David Beckham, the English soccer player, is also a big Lego fan. I read an article about that once.

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admin February 7, 2018 at 1:48 PM

Yes, I remember reading about him too. Also, Angus McLane, the Pixar guy, who designed the LEGO Wall-E set and also the LEGO CubeDudes. And Trump’s son, Barron, is really into LEGO. 🙂

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 4:43 PM

Sometimes I think Barron would have an easier time with another father.

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Zirondelle February 7, 2018 at 10:05 PM

That’s unkind and unnecessary.

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Tony February 7, 2018 at 11:07 AM

Very cool! It’s interesting that with lego they had to take a different direction because so much has been covered in other documentaries. I’m looking forward to see what angle they take.

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brickmaster February 7, 2018 at 11:22 AM

Interesting to see how long it takes to make a documentary like this. I suppose they also had to reach out to fans of other toys too. I didn’t know about that myth of the molding trays! Are they trying to hide them so some competitor can’t steal them?

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Legostuff71 February 7, 2018 at 12:05 PM

That is so awesome! I watched the episodes on NETFLIX s and had a flash back feeling on the Star Wars ,G.I. Joes and HE-Man collections, of which I was deeply involved in. I was late getting into these themes because I was in Austria in the early 80’s. My grandparents from the States would send me some of these collection for Birthday / Christmas presents. Then when I moved back to the United States ( New York City of all places . What a culture shock). I got into Thundercats, Teen age mutant ninja turtles and Transformers. It wasn’t until the mid 90’s that I got into Lego. My first three sets that I can remember are Driod escape, Final duel and one that goes with the Final duel set ( I forgot the name but, it had Luke as prisoner before meeting Darth Vader). After that I just went crazy and I can’t stop collecting ( and who would want to).

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admin February 7, 2018 at 1:45 PM

Sounds like you had an interesting life! From Austria to New York can definitely be a culture shock! It would be interesting to do a similar documentary series for other parts of the world; like what toys have a sentimental value in Europe, Asia, Africa, South America… I would love to see something like that!

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 4:45 PM

Many of the toys would overlap, though. At least between North America and Europe.

Although I find the Japanese toy industry quite fascinating.

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Hayato February 7, 2018 at 4:48 PM

Yes! Would love to hear more about Japanese toys and their history! They are so different and so interesting.

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 4:55 PM

Nintendo actually produced a Lego clone in the 60’s. N&B (probably from Nintendo and Block/ Brick). Its most interesting aspect was that it contained a lot of round parts. In the 90’s Game Boy game Super Mario World 2, there’s a stage where Mario’s jumping on bricks, which actually is Nintendo’s old brand. Lego sued them in the 1960’s, however.

There’s an old story that Nintendo’s refusing to cooperate with Lego on Mario and Zelda sets, since they’re still bitter about the old lawsuit, but I find it unlikely. In that level of business, it’s pointless to hold grudges from earlier generations. Japanese businesses could often act in incomprehensible ways, however.

http://blog.beforemario.com/search/label/N%20and%20B

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admin February 7, 2018 at 5:08 PM

People don’t like to talk about it, but the toy business is actually one of the most cut-throat and brutal businesses out there. All these companies know if they can get kids hooked early, they will be lifelong fans, and will likely hook their own kids too. So, grudges against another toy company can definitely linger on. 🙄

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 5:23 PM

Super Mario Land 2, I meant.

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 5:15 PM

English Wikipedia mentions:

The first four episodes will focus on the Star Wars, He-Man, Barbie and G.I. Joe toy lines with subsequent episodes featuring LEGO, Transformers, Hello Kitty, and My Little Pony.

In Europe, there are both overlapping brands, and national brands based on various national cultural icons, but generally the listed brands did very well in Europe as well. Possibly Playmobil did better here than G.I. Joe and Hello Kitty, which I think in the 80’s was still somewhat of a niche product.

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 9:07 PM

And Sweden is such a small market, only 9-10 million people, so there isn’t a lot of toys being produced only for the local market. There’s a few plastic figurines and playsets being produced for some of the more popular characters such as Pippi Longstocking, Bamse (comics/ cartoon bear) and Moomin (actually from Finland, but originally written in Swedish).

I guess there has been an import of toys here since at least the late middle ages, and before the American and Asian production, it was from countries such as Germany, England and France. There are few locally produced toys that actually would be commonly known, a few examples are the Brio wooden toy sets, and the Stiga table hockey games.

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 9:08 PM

*Brio wooden train sets*

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Håkan February 8, 2018 at 8:12 AM

Edit. It seems to be Star Trek and not My Little Pony.

https://www.polygon.com/2018/1/10/16875164/the-toys-that-made-us-season-2-release-date-lego-transformers-star-trek-hello-kitty

A possible third season might cover My Little Pony, TMNT, Power Rangers and Pro Wrestling. (The last one was kind of a niche market over here in Europe. Not sure if the action figures ever got imported on a larger scale.)

http://www.denofgeek.com/us/tv/the-toys-that-made-us/270717/the-toys-that-made-us-season-2-netflix-brian-volk-weiss

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DavidH February 7, 2018 at 1:05 PM

That’s a great story! Thanks for sharing. Even if you didn’t get any monetary compensation, opportunities like this can result in new connections and further opportunities.

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admin February 7, 2018 at 1:40 PM

Yes, that’s very true. Even just participating in opportunities like this is an interesting experience.

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Legostuff71 February 7, 2018 at 2:13 PM

I use to be called the “Toy master” . Lol .But , over time is lost or sold some of my collections. It would be also interesting to compare the Quality of toys from then to now and the improvements toy companies over the years. Lego is the winner by far.

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admin February 7, 2018 at 4:44 PM

That’s an interesting angle as well. I remember having some dreadful dolls when I was a child. They were scary. Probably that’s why I preferred stuffed animals. LOL. In our household it was LEGO, PlayMobil and some G.I. Joe and Star Wars action figures. It’s nice to see that they are all still around.

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 4:48 PM

Haha! Dreadful dolls is an old horror trope. Uncanny valley!

So G.I. Joe is still around? I figured the brand did worse than the others you are mentioning, but it’s possible it might be more of an American thing.

(For action figures, my impression is that the most popular figures would be Star Wars, Marvel and DC Superheroes and rebooted TMNT variants. But I’m not into toy stores regularly.)

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 5:01 PM

I remember G.I. Joe did reasonably in Europe in the 80’s, but it was renamed to Action Force, since the term “G.I. Joe” didn’t make much sense in a European context.

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 5:04 PM

Although, when checking out this site, it seems a lot of the production is aimed at collectors, with a lot of Collectors Club and Convention Exclusives, which might be the reason why I haven’t noticed them.

http://www.yojoe.com/action/

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admin February 7, 2018 at 5:09 PM

Yeah, that makes sense. G.I. Joe is a very American thing.

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admin February 7, 2018 at 5:04 PM

Yep, good ol’ G.I. Joe is still around. And it is still definitely popular. And yes, the other ones you mentioned are popular too. 🙂

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Hayato February 7, 2018 at 4:50 PM

I could upload some of the kids’ collection, and I also have some of the old trains safely packed away. Do you know if they are more interested in an adult collection or the collection of today’s kids?

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admin February 7, 2018 at 5:06 PM

They are going for the angle of the toys current adults grew up with. So, if you can dig out your old sets and take pictures of them, or, if you have pictures of you as a child playing with LEGO, they would probably really like those. 🙂

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 4:57 PM

My friend recommended this series, and I could probably watch NetFlix for free from my brother’s account. I should install the system and watch it out. NetFlix also had a few anime series, I’ve seen.

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Legostuff71 February 7, 2018 at 5:26 PM

Playmobil , I forgot about that theme. I had the Playmobil fort and brother had a Pirate ship. The only problem with Playmobil figures is , there’s a piece of plastic in back part of the figure that would break if you’re not carful and the figure would be useless because it couldn’t stand anymore. The toys or theme that I loved was based on a comic book called Asterix and…. The books titles always started like that . I had the figures and I guess they were very popular in Europe. ( I still have some of them are in great shape). Again this was in the 80’s.

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 5:36 PM

Oh yeah. I remember the Asterix figures. They even included the Laurel and Hardy caricatures as separate figures. (It’s a bit unclear how legal that move actually was.)

http://www.asterix.com/licensing/models/play-asterix.html

http://www.comedix.de/medien/figuren/toycloud_play_asterix.php

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admin February 7, 2018 at 7:36 PM

Oh, wow! I completely forgot about those! 😀

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Rob February 7, 2018 at 7:00 PM
admin February 7, 2018 at 7:36 PM

That’s a historic beauty! 😀

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 8:57 PM

My brother might have had that set, I guess I still have the bulk of all the parts, if there weren’t additional stickers and strings included.

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Legostuff71 February 7, 2018 at 8:07 PM

I have the Laurel and Hardy figures . They are dressed in roman armor . Sadly , some of of those figures got lost or broken. So , the ones I still have are the Druid , Black smith,the village chief and a handful of Romans .

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Håkan February 7, 2018 at 8:59 PM

Yeah, Laurel and Hardy had cameos in at least one album, but I believe that at the time, the toy company likely would have needed to pay additional license fees to Laurel Harmon for the use of their likenesses. Just an Asterix license probably wouldn’t be legally sufficient.

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Håkan February 8, 2018 at 7:58 AM

*Larry Harmon*

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Legostuff71 February 7, 2018 at 8:35 PM

Their is one other theme that I loved . I think I was ” sectors” or ” Insectors” . They were like insect soldiers and they ride on large insect creatures. I remember one , that was a tarantula soldier and would ride on a tarantula. Sorry , so many memories about various themes. But, as the shows title these are ” The toys that made us”.

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Håkan February 8, 2018 at 6:47 AM

My friend misses the opportunity to have My Little Pony and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles episodes.

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Håkan February 8, 2018 at 6:53 AM

And I’d like to see Playmobil covered.

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Legostuff71 February 8, 2018 at 8:30 AM

Agreed!

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Miro February 8, 2018 at 1:24 PM

Intersting read. I was contacted by the show last year. I recommended a fellow LUG member that has an extensive collection, including a lot of original historical wooden LEGO. They did do a taping and I am assuming they will feature some portion of his interview. They did eventually find me at Bricks LA this year for a quick photo. Since I don’t a Netflix account, not sure if it will be featured elsewhere, do let me know if it will be.

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Will February 8, 2018 at 1:53 PM

I doubt this series will appear in other places. Netflix’s business model revolves around exclusivity so that you have to subscribe.

Although, in certain countries where Netflix doesn’t have much presence they do from time to time sell Blu-rays and DVDs of their programs for those regions. For example the Marvel series can be found on disc for the UK market. Problem is you need to make sure you can get a player that can play that type of region.

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Håkan February 8, 2018 at 2:05 PM

Of course, there are ways to get around the regional lock system for most DVD players.

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Will February 8, 2018 at 2:00 PM

It’s kind of amazing there hasn’t been a documentary series like this until now. Considering how big nostalgia is when it comes to interesting adults in a subject.

I recently found out about a book that covered the rivalry between DC Comics and Marvel Comics. I think it was called Slug Fest. And the author of it said in a podcast he was surprised something like it hadn’t been covered.

Just examining our exposures to pop culture is an interesting way to self examine why we think the way we do.

Will

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Håkan February 8, 2018 at 3:36 PM

For Marvel and DC, it seems a lot of the rivalry was for show. There was also a lot of camaraderie since all the editors and artists generally hung out on the same restaurants and bars in New York and frequented with each other, anyway.

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