Lego (trademarked in capitals as LEGO) is a line of construction toys manufactured by the Lego Group, a privately held company based in Billund, Denmark. The company’s flagship product, Lego, consists of colorful interlocking plastic bricks and an accompanying array of gears, minifigures and various other parts. Lego bricks can be assembled and connected in many ways, to construct such objects as vehicles, buildings, and even working robots. Anything constructed can then be taken apart again, and the pieces used to make other objects. The toys were originally designed in the 1940s in Denmark and have achieved an international appeal, with an extensive subculture that supports Lego movies, games, video games, competitions, and five Lego theme amusement parks.
Since it began producing plastic bricks, the Lego Group has released thousands of sets with a variety of themes, including town and city, space, robots, pirates, trains, Vikings, castle, dinosaurs, undersea exploration, and wild west.
New elements are often released along with new sets. There are also Lego sets designed to appeal to young girls such as the Belville and Clikits lines which consists of small interlocking parts that are meant to encourage creativity and arts and crafts, much like regular Lego bricks. Belville and Clikit pieces can interlock with regular Lego bricks as decorative elements.
While there are sets which can be seen to have a military theme – such as Star Wars, the German and Russian soldiers in the Indiana Jones sets, the Toy Story green soldiers and Lego Castle – there are no directly military-themed sets in any line. This is following Ole Kirk Christiansen’s policy of not wanting to make war seem like child’s play.
The Lego range has expanded to encompass accessory motors, gears, lights, sensors, and cameras designed to be used with Lego components. Motors, battery packs, lights and switches are sold under the name Power Functions. The Technic line utilizes newer types of interlocking connections that are still compatible with the older brick type connections. The Technic line can often be motorized with Power Functions.
Bionicle is a line of toys by the Lego Group that is marketed towards those in the 7–16 year-old age range. The line was launched in January 2001 in Europe and June/July 2001 in the United States. The Bionicle idea originated from the earlier toy lines Slizers (also known as Throwbots) and Roboriders. Both of these lines had similar throwing disks and characters based on classical elements. The sets in the Bionicle line have increased in size and flexibility through the years. Bionicle was replaced with Hero Factory in 2010.
The Lego group’s Duplo product line, introduced in 1969, is a range of simple blocks which measure twice the width, height and depth of standard Lego blocks, and are aimed at younger children.
‘Fabuland’ ran from 1979 to 1989. The more advanced ‘Lego Technic’ was launched in 1977. ‘Lego Primo’ is a line of blocks by the Lego Group for very young children that ran between 2004 and 2006. In 1995 ‘Lego Baby’ was launched for babies.
One of the largest Lego sets ever commercially produced is a minifig-scaled edition of the Star Wars Millennium Falcon. Designed by Jens Kronvold Fredericksen, it was released in 2007 and has 5,195 pieces. It was surpassed, though, by a 5,922 piece Taj Mahal.
In May 2011, Space Shuttle Endeavour mission STS-134 brought 13 Lego kits to the International Space Station, where astronauts will build models and see how they react in microgravity, as part of the Lego Bricks in Space program. The results will be shared with schools as part of an educational project.