Synopsis of Toy

"A new toy every day!"

There are two kinds of gift-wrapped presents you can divine just by holding the box and giving it a good shake: a book, and a box of Legos. Literacy is a wonderful thing, but let’s face it, if you’ve got visions of toys dancing in your head, you’d probably rather hear that glorious Lego rattle. Sure, your mom used to step on them barefoot or vacuum them up because she couldn’t see them hiding in the carpet. And sure, you lost plenty of the small pieces to the cushion cracks of the car’s backseat and the not-often-mowed lawn and the dog’s digestive track. But never mind those perils, because some rides are worth the price of admission.

In 1932, in the little village of Billund, Denmark, there lived one Ole Kirk Christiansen, a master carpenter and joiner. His fledgling company made stepladders, ironing boards, and you guessed it, wooden toys. His son Godtfred soon joined up, and in 1934, their company took the “Lego” name, formed from the Danish words “Leg Godt,” which means “play well.” After World War II, plastic became available, and the Danish company now made their toys in both wood and plastic. By 1949, the company was producing two hundred different toys, including “Automatic Binding Bricks,” the precursor to Lego bricks as we know them today. The first sets were introduced in 1955, a part of the “Lego Systems of Play” line. But as of then, all the toys were still exclusive to the clog country.

Godtfred, the company’s resident brick-player, worked out the Lego-exclusive stud and tube coupling system (the way the bricks hold together, for you patent patois laymen), and it was patented in 1958. Since the Lego models were sturdier now, the sky was the limit for new model designs. Buildings and structures led to trains and cars, but once Lego figures were introduced in 1974, the structures and modes of transportation were humanized. Now, there were endless little worlds to create and inhabit with the Lego population: castles, pirate ships, Wild West ranches, cavalry forts and space stations. The toys could also provide a kid with his or her very own career fair—try playing with the figures and accoutrements of a policeman, an athlete, an astronaut or a cowboy, and see what strikes your vocational fancy best.

Lego toys came stateside in 1961 and sold as vibrantly as they had in Europe. Today, the company is still family-owned, run by Kirk’s grandson, Kjeld Krik Kristiansen. They’re sold in over a hundred countries, and their seemingly endless product line ranges from Duplo preschool toys (introduced in 1967) to Lego basics to Lego Technic sets to Lego Mindstorms, which let a player design and program real robots. There are three Lego theme parks—in Denmark, England, and San Diego, California. Over 300 million children have owned Lego sets, and right now as you read this, over 68 million people, kids and grown kids alike, have those plastic pieces either in their clutches or in their toy chests or a plastic bucket or unevenly distributed throughout the carpet and lawn. This is the king of all construction toys, a playtime institution, a way of life—after all…they can’t easily be contained.

Release History of Toy

1949 - Automatic Binding Bricks
1955 - first Lego building sets
1958 - Lego patent granted
1967 - Duplo bricks
1973 - Lego Ship
1974 - Lego people
1984 - Lego Castle series
1989 - Lego Pirate line

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