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LEGOs meets Angry Birds meets disappointment

December 9, 2012
By WES BURNS - Copy Editor ( , Times-Republican

Everybody knows that LEGOs aren't really LEGOs anymore.

When most of us were young and the world was still wet with morning dew and MTV still played music videos and music videos still existed, LEGOs were still LEGOs. They came in a giant bag and consisted of thousands upon thousands of foot piercing plastic bricks you could use to build anything you could imagine, so long as it didn't require any curves.

But you might not know that now LEGOs exist solely as a marketing tool for other intellectual properties.

Don't believe me? Try going to the toy section of your favorite big box store. Don't worry, its Christmas time, so you won't get a lot of weird looks from judgemental store clerks that ask you and your friends to "please put the light sabers back" or "don't you people have jobs?" or "what are you, 30? Get out of here!"

See what I mean? About the LEGOs, that is, not about the judgemental clerks; they have their own struggles to endure.

They've got a LEGO version of everything. LEGO Lord of the Rings, LEGO Star Wars, LEGO Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and LEGO Fast and the Furious.

Yes, LEGO Fast and the Furious.

I take umbrage with LEGO's loss of identity. Gone are the days of a random assortment of blocks with which to create anything you felt like (flying castle with blaster cannons? Where else is the cyber dragon going to sleep? Use your heads, people!) only to be replaced with a crass pastiche of intellectual properties and LEGOs that can only build one specific thing.

But I can't stay mad at LEGOs. Kids like LEGOs, and that LEGO Star Wars teaches children to like the original Star Wars ... and how can that be bad?

The problem isn't with LEGOs, its with the modified LEGOs.

Apparently LEGOs weren't good enough anymore, so they had to add a modifier (like Star Wars) to pick up sales.

Well, where does that stop? It seems like any intellectual property these days has to have at least one modifier on it, if not two or three.

I'll tell you where it stops. It stops at the Angry Birds Star Wars Jenga Death Star game.

I stumbled upon that little gem during an episode of a children's show I unashamedly DVR called "The Regular Show."

I got hooked on it while I was home sick from work and it is good. Legitimately good. I don't care what you think.

So this "game" is a piece of cardboard that looks like a cross between the Death Star and one of those pigs from Angry Birds that you hurl tiny plastic Angry Bird/Luke Skywalkers at until it falls down.

Lets look past the fact that a board game you have to pay for that does the exact same thing as a free video game is ridiculous.

Angry Birds Star Wars Jenga Death Star Game? I got exhausted just typing that unwieldy collection of brand names.

Angry Birds and Star Wars? Did they both get bought out by Disney? Am I going to have to see an Avengers/Angry Birds/Mickey Mouse/Star Wars game before my days on this Earth end?

And how did Jenga slip into that mix? Isn't the Jenga brand a little stale for all this post-modern brand modification?

This has to be the second least fun version of Jenga I could imagine playing, right behind that home made one you played one night in college that you all agreed not to talk about anymore.

With a tragedy of this magnitude we, as a people, inevitably look to assign blame. Sure, we could line up all the executives at LEGO and politely walk them off the side of a cliff. Sure, we'll all feel better for a few days, but are LEGOs to bear all the blame? Where did this wretched notion of combining antithetical brands into one product?

The same place TV shows, Broadway plays and most political propaganda gets their ideas: the movies. One movie in particular, "Frequency."

You see, in the heady days of the year 2000 a little movie about a guy who talks to his dead firefighter father using a HAM radio was released. It starred Jim Caviezel, Dennis Quaid and was ... generally confusing.

Time traveling radios? Fire fighting? Jim Caviezel? So, in an attempt to beat the traffic home, the New Line Cinema's marketing department just listed movies that were somewhat similar to "Frequency."

That is why the trailer for "Frequency" contained the phrase "It's like 'Back to the Future' meets 'Field of Dreams' meets 'Backdraft.'"

And so, New Line Cinema unknowingly set the tone for brand integration for decades to come. The least they could have done is come up with a better movie. Like a movie about Doc Brown traveling to a baseball diamond in Iowa to fight fires.

And if you think that sounds good, wait until you see the LEGO version.


Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist. The views expressed in this column are personal views of the writer and don't necessarily reflect the views of the T-R. Contact Wes Burns at 641-753-6611 or



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