80 years ago today, a guy named Ole Kirk started to make wooden toys in a little shop in Billund, Denmark. Some of those toys are still guarded in a secret underground vault, right below the place where Ole started his now legendary company: Lego.
The vault is called the Memory Lane, and it also contains every Lego set ever manufactured. These videos are an exclusive look inside that magic place, along with the factory where hundreds of thousands of bricks get produced and stored every day. [jump]
I snuck into that secret vault thanks to Jette Orduna, the curator of the Idea House, Lego’s museum. It was an experience that touched me in a way I didn’t expect. This wasn’t amazement or simple awe. I was already astonished to no end by the tour of the Lego factory
. No, this was something else, something bigger than the impressive view of the 4,720 Lego sets inside this lair. These weren’t just simple boxes full of bricks. These were tickets to ride a time portal to emotions and simpler days long forgotten.
I didn’t know that when I was curiously ogling the oldest sets, from the 1950s. Jette was explaining the first Lego sets, obviously enjoying my enthusiasm. “Here’s the wooden box that some shops around Denmark had, usually hairdressers or general stores” she would say while carefully opening it for me to see its contents, simple red and white bricks without tubes, some of them with windows on them, “they contained individual Lego bricks. Back then, parents bought them regularly to their children, so they could keep expanding their Lego system.” Then she would turn her attention to another set, as I kept asking what was this or that. “Yes, it’s called ‘electronic’ because this train could be activated by whistling,” she would explain, whistling herself.
I was just enjoying it like an archeologist. Her explanations, the cool box designs, the quick evolution of the first years... I was amazed by the ingenuity of it all, curious about the origins of the myth. But that was it. Just simple curiosity. Until we got to the 1970s.
Knowing my previous comments, Jette went straight to one of the shelves, at the end of the long aisle. She looked up and down, her lips pressed together, concentrated in finding something. While she was doing this I was filming around, eyes wide open, thinking “oh, is that?” and “nah, that can’t be... can it?” my excitement growing by the second. It was then when she took out a large rectangular box with yellow sides, saying “a-ha! Here it is.”
I turned around and I saw what she had in her hands: the Lego Space Galaxy Explorer.
And then it hit me. Lift off. Godspeed. Boom.
A wave of emotions took control, hitting my head like a Lego Airbus 380. Dozens of images started to appear in my head, Polaroids of Xmas and birthdays that I thought were faded, completely fresh, color-corrected, and restored by the damn Lucasfilm for a Blu-ray re-release. I could even see the Hollywood quote whores saying “Better than ever!”, “The past never looked so good!”, and “Five stars!” embossed in silver on the special edition boxed set. There was my mother and father-who built a huge Lego ferris wheel and the Blue Train for us when we were too young to build it, then never stop giving us new sets every year-and then my two brothers and my sister, playing on the rug, building all kind of new and wonderful constructions populated by the strangest creatures. And that smell. The perfect smell of Lego bricks.