“One sounds more like ‘plink’ than like ‘plunk,'” he said, smiling into the camera from the LEGO House. “But they have the same chemical composition, and the plant-based one is equally strong,” said Bjarke Schønwandt. He’s The LEGO Group’s Quality Director of the Consumer Perceived Quality department. The executive was talking about traditional LEGO bricks and environmentally sustainable ones. He was asked many questions, and he replied with transparency, humor, and geeky joy. After all, when asked about a color variation on the Technic Lamborghini Sián, he reached for markers and a paper flip chart on an easel and drew a graph to explain. He also talked about the importance of having multiple suppliers and why that was a safety-net from a supply standpoint while being a risk in terms of color variations in the $380.00 Lamborghini Sián LEGO set.
The LEGO House
Passion, details, and commitment. Those are the three words that come to mind when I think about the speakers at AFOL Day at the LEGO House of September 24, 2020. The LEGO House is an attraction in Billund, Denmark, where you can geek out on all things LEGO. Play with the little plastic pieces, enjoy LEGO history, try not to drool over fantastic creations at every scale from tiny to huge, program robots, and much more. Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, this event was virtual, and diehard LEGO fans attended from literally around the world, including Pakistan, Greece, Indonesia, Canada, and Singapore.
LEGO Mysteries Solved
Questions scrolled by non-stop in the chat box. From why glossy paper is used in the building instructions (worldwide, it’s the most widely available type of paper) to whether the Star Wars Bespin Duel set would be available worldwide (no answer) and which element was most often reported as missing (statistically and mathematically: free key rings). The various speakers did their best to answer them, and a number of fans thanked the speakers for their honest replies.
Interesting: Customer Service gets more calls about ninjas and Star Wars stormtroopers missing from LEGO sets than, say, farmers and policemen. How can you tell if a set left the LEGO factory without a minifigure, or if a kid took FN-2188 to school and lost him there? “We have our ways,” Bjarke Schønwandt says with a knowing smile.
It was fun to learn the details and stories and reasons behind things you might experience as a you build a LEGO set. I’ve had the experience of consciously reminding myself to position whatever I’m building exactly as shown in the pictures. “I should keep the side with the round thingy on my left so I don’t build this thing backwards.” Sure enough, the BI (Building Instructions) speaker talked about orientation.
Adapting Building Instructions
The BI speakers also talked about physical development and cognitive development. A younger child might be physically able to put smaller, trickier pieces together, but s/he might look at the instructions and not be able to understand them even though LEGO instructions have no words.
They also pointed out that an adult might buy a set out of love for the subject, the Lamborghini, for example, or a Star Wars X-Wing Fighter. S/he has the physical ability to handle the building pieces and the mental ability to understand more complicated instructions. However, this might be his or her first time trying to build a LEGO set, and so the instructions might be simplified, not because of a lack of understanding, but to avoid frustration. The goal is to make this a fun experience for someone new to the LEGO building system. “They can be successful even if they’re building with their head under their arm,” Bjarke Schønwandt grins.
Poul Schou, Senior Vice President for Product Development for the LEGO Group was one of the speakers. He has worked for LEGO for more than 30 years. What I remember most about his Q and A session was his story about traveling to Papua New Guinea.
He recalled that he arrived at an elementary school and unpacked a large suitcase full of LEGO pieces, expecting the children to be excited about the colorful building blocks. Imagine his surprise when the children sorted the bricks and other pieces by color and type before sitting back with polite smiles.
They didn’t know what to do next because they had never seen LEGO before. When Poul started creating a tower to show them how the pieces connected and they realized they could build things, their eyes lit up.
When it’s a dreary day and Poul is feeling less than motivated, the memory of the sheer delight he saw on the faces of those children inspires him to go to work.
LEGO Stop Motion Animation
If the speakers discussed brickfilms, I missed it, so I must tell you about them here!
The LEGO House includes different “zones” for different types of experiences. I would have to hold myself back to avoid knocking over children while RUNNING straight to the Green Zone. That’s the one full of little plastic people, minifigures. More importantly, it’s the home of the Story Lab, where there are sets and cameras so you can make a LEGO stop motion video and immediately share it with your cult following!
The video I’ve embedded below is more than 30 minutes long, so I’ve cued it up to the section where you can see the brickfilm stages.
For me, AFOL Day at the LEGO House was from 6:30 AM to 10:30 AM on a weekday. Was it worth the early rise and disruption of my schedule? Yes! Have I placed a visit, nay, pilgrimage, to The LEGO House on my Bucket List? Absolutely!
And you? Are you interested in traveling to Denmark to see The LEGO House, or will a video tour be enough for you?