The LEGO Movie could become The Toy Storyof your kid’s generation ($230 million so far, besting the first installment of the current top-grossing animated franchise of all time), so you’d better take him to see it or he’ll grow up to be a disconnected pariah. You will also face intense,Star Wars-figure-esque pressure to purchase merch: there are 17 movie-specific buildings so far, plus associated characters — all “I want one!” products whose numbers will only increase with a sequel expected in 2017. How did the LEGO brand get so big? These ten factoids help explain.
1. A quick primer: The Danish carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen founded the company in 1932. His family still owns the business, which is based in Billund. They’re filthy rich.
2. The name Lego is derived from the Danish words leg godt, meaning “leg god”… no, just kidding, it means “play well.”
3. In 2013, sales were a cool $4.6 billion. “In less than 10 years, we have now more than quadrupled our revenue,” LEGO CEO Joergen Vig Knudstorp said last month. Give that dude a bonus.
4. Part of that recent success has come via co-branding with the likes of Star Wars, Harry Potter and SpongeBob.
5. LEGO also crowdsources ideas; this year’s winner pitched a Ghostbusters project, which will debut in June, to celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary.
6. Speaking of films: The LEGO Movie has grossed $230 million and counting, making it by far the most successful movie of 2014. You may not see a sequel until 2016 or 2017, however, because Hollywood can struggle to clone animated hits.
7. The biggest criticism of LEGO of late is that that the toymaker sells spaceships to boys and fairy castles to girls rather than gender-neutral products to both, as in yesteryears. The girl who starred in a 1981 LEGO ad, for instance, just became something of an Internet sensation and has been hailed as “a living embodiment of female empowerment.”
8. People have been building crazy stuff with Legos for years, but now people are getting so obsessed that they’re making the toys a permanent presence in their homes. If you’re inclined to make a Lego wall, for instance, you can follow this family’s lead.
9. You don’t even need to build with actual Legos anymore. Using Google Chrome, you can build (virtually) anything you want at buildwithchrome.com.
10. So, Danish carpenters are still making all these Legos, right? Nah, they’ve hired robots. And you thought world domination was a joke.