I confess: I stalked a little girl through the store because I wanted the tiny pink LEGO teddy bear she was clutching.
It was a special event at the Bricks & Minifigs store in the Dallas, Texas area. The long, shallow boxes on waist-high tables usually filled with millions of random, mostly common pieces of LEGO now held treasures. Yes, Gentle Reader, they were full of premium minifigure accessories. These were special pieces created at the scale of the little LEGO people called “minifigures.”
As I dug through the various pieces, I noticed that the little girl standing next to me held a pink teddy bear with light-blue and white stripes on its belly. There were a few other items in her hand, but they didn’t matter.
I wanted that bear.
Knowing that sometimes children assemble minifigs for fun and then drop them when their parents are ready to leave, I watched the little girl like a hawk. To be more precise, I watched the hand holding the bear. I casually followed the hand when the child moved to another table.
Yes, it felt ridiculous and uncomfortable.
This is when I realized that I was hooked on LEGO.
In the beginning, I had only wanted to make two or three short brickfilms, which are LEGO stop motion animation movies. My intent was to buy only what I needed to make some cinematographic masterpieces and then return to Bricks & Minifigs and sell any and all little plastic parts I’d acquired.
In fact, the very first time I walked into that LEGO after-sale store, I told the nice lady behind the counter that I wasn’t coming back.
At the time of this writing, I’ve made 10 brickfilms (not counting the stripper jumping out of the birthday cake) and taken dozens of photos of LEGO minifigure vignettes. I’ve given a talk on LEGO animation to an advanced, college-level filmmaking class, and I’ve won a LEGO video contest. My LEGO collection is small for an AFOL or Adult Fan Of LEGO, but I keep thinking I’m spinning out of control now that I have what I call “The LEGO Closet.”
More than that, I started using LEGO to process what was happening around me. When a tornado ripped through Dallas, causing power outages and damage I could barely fathom, I made a LEGO vignette. When my father died, I made a LEGO vignette. I even assembled a minifigure to represent how I feel when I get an idea for an art project and before I realize what I’ll have to do to make the project a reality. I feel like I’m on fire and that I can take flight.
LEGO products are a medium, just like oil paints or clay.
You can use them for self-expression and make art even if you can’t convince your hands to draw a picture or wield a glue gun, let alone power tools. They can tell your story even if you don’t like to write words and couldn’t carry a tune in a bucket.
There are plenty of people who argue that things made of LEGO cannot be considered art. They’re wrong, in my far-from-humble opinion, and this Vox article agrees with me.
Then it happened: she dropped the bear.
I felt a rush of adrenaline. One move of the hand and all those other tiny plastic pieces would cover the bear. I might not be able to find her. Someone else might find her first. She might be lost to me forever.
As the little girl turned away from the table to walk out with her father, I snatched up the bear.
If the cute child had returned to the table looking for the bear, I would’ve given it to her because I’m weak that way. But since it was my destiny to own that pink bear, father and daughter left the store while I continued to shop. The bear was in the small bag of LEGO treasures I carried home that day. It even became one of the stars of one of my brickfilms.
This animation was an experiment where I moved the entire set instead of the camera. I also thought the contrast between the genre of music, which I intensely dislike, and the cute bears was funny. During the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown, I needed all the funny I could get.
The Life Upgrade: Self-Acceptance
After the stalking incident, I began to accept that I was an AFOL and that LEGO was part of my creative life. It really sank in that accumulating LEGO isn’t silly, and that I was part of a passionate community of people around the world from all walks of life.
I can use all the self-acceptance I can get, can’t you? That’s definitely a life upgrade.
As for acceptance of the amounts of money I was spending on what most people perceive to be a toy, that took a bit longer.
If you think a tiny pink teddy bear can lead you down the path to greater self-acceptance or personal development, or if you just feel you need to have one, you can easily find one on BrickLink or LEGO.com. You’ll need this LEGO Element Number: 6197803. Design Number: 34762. Official name: Mini Teddy Bear No. 6.
Curiosity is killing me, so please leave a comment: How did your interest in LEGO (or another wonderful hobby) begin and/or intensify? What was your version of the pink teddy bear? And what do you tell yourself to justify your hobby or art purchases?