This weekend, fans of Lego young and old (but mostly old) will assemble at at the Convention Center for the first ever Bricks Cascade Lego convention. We spoke Thomas Prill, the president of Bricklandia Inc., for an introduction. A long-time fan, he also gave us his personal take on the Lego brand.
Prill used some terms we were unfamiliar with, so, for your comprehending convenience, we've also included a basic Lego glossary:
AFOL — Adult Fan of Lego
MOC — My Own Creation
Minifigs — minifigures, the plastic people that come with Lego sets
Polybag — small, plastic bags that Lego in which small sets are shipped
Brick — individual set piece made by Lego
Stud — the cylindrical bumps on the brick
WW: What are some of the events and games at this year's convention?
Thomas Prill: Just to name a few, there's a team speed-build competition, a freestyle build competition and a blind build.
What's a blind build?
The contestant knows what set they're given and they have the instructions, but they don't get to see their hands or the pieces. They have to build within the polybag, and they're judged on accuracy.
What do the winners get?
The winner of the Best in Show category will win a box of Lego worth $150. Theme coordinators also build the trophies, which are engraved with the name of the category, and measure eight studs by eight studs. They're usually a miniature scale of something that represents the category. The trophy for the pirate theme, for instance, might be a miniature treasure chest made out of bricks.
Do people practice?
You get practice just by working on the sets. For the blind build, we all practice for that when we go to Fred Meyer. At the store, you feel through the polybag for the unique, specific parts that you need for your MOC.
How many people do you expect to attend?
This being our first convention, we're hoping to get 130. Most of them are from Portland, but a lot of people travel, and some from as far away as Connecticut. Some of these people go to every convention that they can.
As an AFOL, do you think Lego has been corrupted by movie and brand tie-ins?
More so this year than any other years, Lego is bringing in Hollywood. Lord of the Rings came out recently, but it really started with Star Wars. Now there's Batman, and Marvel, and Disney, of course. We applaud them for doing that. They have a monopoly. There's Mega Bloks, I guess, but there aren't enough of them out there in the world. Lego is the best toy in the world. No, we don't pan them much.
How awesome is the Lego Star Wars game?
I've not actually played that one. It's hard to compete with World of Warcraft. People probably pan Lego because they're trying to get into that video game niche. But the nice thing is that Lego does it, really, for the kids. It's innocent and harmless, and you don't have to worry about adult content putting your kids in compromising position.
What's up with the new Lego “Friends”? Why do girls need pink Lego sets with dolls? Is Lego trying to force our children into stereotypical gender roles?
A lot of girls aren't attracted to the regular sets because of the color. We Lego builders like that different sets are available. If you only have primary colors, and don't also have the pinks and the fuchsias, then you're missing out on different houses that you can build. For instance, I had a grandma with a fuchsia house. She called it pink, but it was fuchsia. It's neat to have that option.
Does your daughter play with Lego?
I do try to encourage that. She isn't quite the fan that my son is. She likes the friends, but she plays with all kinds of bricks.
Does it bother you when people say "Legos" instead of "Lego"?
It doesn't bother me, personally, because every mother will tell their kid to go play with their legos. It's just what they grew up with. But if you're an AFOL in an AFOL group, I will tell you what Lego will tell you, that Lego is a company, not a brick. Lego tells you that they make bricks. They don't do much of it these days, but five years ago they were coming to every convention and telling people that it isn't "Legos." I do like Lego enough to call them "Lego," and if you do get up at the convention you'll get all sorts of people correcting you.
Is there anything else you think the general population should know about Lego?
Lego is a toy that is enjoyed by both children and adults. It is a medium that you can use for art and architecture. The realistic things take skill, and anything done out of love is meant to be difficult. Lego, in that respect, has created that can be picked up and enjoyed by kids and adults, so it's a great family activity. I know people like to pan AFOLs, but we know what's important, and it's family. We're normal, we're probably more normal than those people who were panning us.
Go: Brick Cascade, 2012. Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE ML King Blvd. June 2, 10 am-4 pm, June 3, 9 am-3 pm. $8 for spectators.