LEGO for adults? What?! It’s a common misconception that since LEGO sets are toys, and toys are for children only, there’s something wrong with adults who enjoy those sets. If toys are for children, that means that grown-ups who interact with toys are on a spectrum from quirky to immature to irresponsible, so you can laugh at them and be patronizing. To be clear, I’m not talking about gadgets or other things we call toys that are obviously made for adults.
As a LEGO filmmaker, I find my excitement dampened when I want to show my new LEGO animation videos to friends. “Oh, how CUTE! I’m going to show this to my 3-year-old. He’ll love it!” That sentiment hurts my feelings and makes me never want to show my videos again.
Yes, I often photograph whatever comes to mind, no matter how silly, but since making a LEGO stop motion animation is so labor-intensive, I do think about what my work means. My medieval soldiers meeting a dragon represent our everyday selves encountering something divine and experiencing transformation. Your toddler’s not going to understand that, and neither are you if your mindset is that of an adult watching something made for a child.
I’m at the beginning of my brickfilming journey, but there are those who make technically beautiful LEGO animations that are just as cinematic as live-action films and also help us explore our humanity. I call that art.
LEGO as Art
Have you been to a Nathan Sawaya exhibit or seen one of his coffee-table books? Using only LEGO bricks, he recreates paintings by the great masters and sculptures from Antiquity, among other things. I’ve stood and cried in front of a life-sized sculpture of his, a grey figure with its hands cut off. It’s about the fear of no longer being able to create, and it resonated with me on multiple levels. So did another of a red figure that looked like it was about to take flight, straight up through the ceiling and into the sky. That one’s about harnessing your potential, and it’s my favorite.
Sawaya is one of the best-known LEGO artists in the world, but there are many more. They may not work with the Danish plastic bricks full-time or professionally, but they still create wonderful work. These are artists who see LEGO parts as a medium rather than (or at least in addition to) toys.
LEGO for Adults (and Designed That Way)
The LEGO Group has created product lines marketed to adults. The Architecture sets are a good example. The instructions make assumptions about your cognitive development since you’re not a 6-year-old. The sets are more streamlined and elegant. They don’t include little plastic people and aren’t built to minifigure scale. The boxes are sturdier with muted, more sophisticated colors.
LEGO for Adults in Business
“The LEGO® SERIOUS PLAY® program is a radical and innovative process designed to enhance business performance through building with LEGO bricks.” That’s from the official LEGO website and the topic of another blog post.
LEGO for Seniors
“LEGO building is to be encouraged for senior citizens who want to retain dexterity in their hands as well as mental agility, so you are never too old to play with LEGO!” says Mark Bellis. He’s an engineer and one of many who’ve written in support of LEGO being for people of all ages in a Quora thread.
Adult Fans Of LEGO around the world have conventions and online groups, heated discussions and collective drool sessions over new sets. They have YouTube channels with millions of viewers. They are engineers, architects, city planners, artists, and designers who solve problems using LEGO for the minifigure-scale cities they’ve built, or even human-scale, real-world problems. No, they are from all walks of life and all ages, and they make remarkable and less remarkable things, often out of pure, enviable joy.
How about the teen who made a prosthetic arm for himself out of LEGO? Or the woman who makes wheelchair ramps out of LEGO to increase accessibility in a city with uneven sidewalks?
LEGO for, uhm, *Adults*
Ask your friend, Google, about this one. There are photos and videos. Also, I once searched for a LEGO wheelchair on eBay, and the “nurse” minifigure that came with it had molded breasts. That’s not too bad. Now consider the S&M minifigures, including one with a full-body suit, including a hood with a zipper at the mouth, I once saw on a minifigure customization site. That’s not for children, either.
Consider the myth of LEGO being only a toy for children officially busted. Functional and beautiful builds, gatherings for adult fans, and of course marvelous LEGO stop motion, are just the tip of the proverbial iceberg when it comes to adults joyfully sticking together pieces of LEGO.