Opening Friday at Laemmle Playhouse 7, the fun and inspiring documentary “A LEGO Brickumentary” explores many of the new ways people are now using LEGO — as a means of social networking, as an artistic medium for sculptures, and in films, to name but a few.
To get an idea just how much LEGO has grown, Carlsbad is the home of one of two LEGOLAND theme parks in the US, the other one in Florida. When the Carlsbad facility opened in 1999, it was only the third LEGOLAND in the world, the first to open outside of Europe. The first LEGOLAND opened in 1968 in the home of LEGO, Billund, Denmark, outside of Copenhagen. Today there are six LEGOLAND theme parks around the world, with three more scheduled to open in the next two years.
In “A LEGO Brickumentary,” directors Kief Davidson and Daniel Junge use an animated miniature figure (voiced by LEGO fan Jason Bateman) to tell the company’s story and unify different facets of the growing LEGO community.
As Bateman explains, Kirk Kristiansen put Billund on the map when he founded the company in 1932. (The word LEGO is a contraction of the Dutch phrase “leg godt,” which means to play well.) It wasn’t until 1949 that LEGO began producing an early version of interlocking bricks. The company didn’t patent the plastic LEGO bricks that we know now until 1958, and miniature figures, or “minifigs,” were introduced in 1978. The company is still family owned, and, according to this documentary, fun to work for.
Entering the world of LEGO one must first learn the lingo. Master builders who make some of the fantastic creations people might be familiar with are only one facet of the Adult Fans of LEGO (AFOL). In some builder groups, tools like metal stabilizing plates and glue are taboo. A whole genre of videos and films now exist and are known as “brickfilms,” which often use minifigs to reproduce frame-by-frame LEGO versions of live-action films, such as “The Matrix” series.
While LEGO is constantly expanding its minifig universe, particularly with the anticipated release of the TV and movie character-driven game LEGO Dimensions, other companies have manufactured LEGO look-alikes or LEGO compatible minifigs and accessories — including miniature versions of various weapons.
“Brickumentary” profiles a man who has built a company around supplying LEGO lovers with the appropriate miniature gun for their LEGO fantasy, thus helping people circumvent the LEGO n0-gun tradition (which was recently relaxed to allow for some movie-themed weaponry).
LEGO as a medium of expression has been dominated by boys and men, but that’s changing. “Brickumentary” showcases Seattle-based Alice Finch, who has won awards at BrickCons, or conventions for serious LEGO people. The documentary shows her massively detailed construction of the Rivendell from J.R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings.”
BrickCon celebrates its 14th year in October and consists of a private convention with presentations, seminars, discussions and contests. It also features a public exhibition of sculptures and Mindstorm robot battles, screenings of brickfilms and, of course, many LEGO vendors.
“Brickumentary” also looks at how the art world has changed its attitude toward LEGO as a medium. Nathan Sawaya recounts how, after facing some skepticism, his work is now accepted at major galleries. His touring exhibition, “The Art of the Brick,” is a huge success, and this year he will begin collaborating with DC Comics.
After seeing “A LEGO Brickumentary” one might be inspired to take up those plastic bricks again, and if that’s the case, Pasadena is the right place to be. BricksLA (bricksla.com) just held its first fan convention in Southern California at the Pasadena Convention Center in May. The next BricksLA is scheduled for Jan. 8-10.
And Brick Fest Live (brickfestlive.com), an independent company not associated with the LEGO Group of companies, produces what is billed as a "LEGO fan experience" and that’s coming to the Pasadena Convention Center on Aug. 21-23.
“A LEGO Brickumentary” shows how LEGO has conquered the world by unleashing creativity. Here in Pasadena, it’s easy to join in the fun.
Laemmle Playhouse 7 is located at 673 E. Colorado Blvd., Pasadena. For more information, call (310) 478-3836 or visit laemmle.com.