Lincoln Logs and Legos

Hoyt and I saw the Lego Movie on opening day and we both really enjoyed it. To be honest, I didn’t think I would and expected I could sleep for 20-30 minutes. But I didn’t. We tried to go back a week after opening and see it with the entire family plus a couple of friends – which, by the way, leads people to believe that we have five kids, and people get out of the way for the five kid family. We didn’t buy tickets on-line and they were sold out. Sort of a bummer when your whole day was leading up to that event. However a few minutes later with popcorn and Amazon on Demand in the family room everyone was placated.

I really didn’t need to see the Lego Movie again, even though I liked it. In fact, I love watching movies and very seldom need to watch a movie twice. Even if I can’t remember what happened, it seems like a waste of time.

The only movie I can watch over and over again is one that is on no lists of those in the know. Those lists that include films like “Battleship Potemkin” – you know it as the 1925 film by Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein that was a breakthrough in editing. He totally beat MTV to the punch of montage. Then you have your Swedish hero in Ingmar Bergman. Don’t forget Italy’s “The Bicycle Thief”, and the French new wave movement with “Breathless”. We would also want to mention a whole bunch of U.S. films spanning several decades. We would want to mention those, but I don’t have time to. And I suspect my clever and informed readers know more than I do with regard to lists of such things.

All the top lists of films do not list my favorite film of all time. I list comedies in a place that doesn’t allow them to be overall winner for “film of all time”. Sorry, comedies, these are my rules (for the record, it’s Spinal Tap). My favorite film is “Jeremiah Johnson”. This film starred Robert Redford and was directed by Sydney Pollack.

As is the case with many favorite things, part of the favorite factor can be traced to a time and a place. For me, it was the first time that I thought about being on the back side of a camera, making the camera pan, making a shot. I like to believe that I connected with the quiet of the shots, but at the age of twelve I think it was the fight scenes. Jeremiah triumphed in the end, after a difficult path. It was a slice of his life. To this day if I see it on TV I usually put down anything at any time of the day or night to watch it. Everyone needs one move like this – even if it means being Patrick Swayze’s “Red Dawn”. My wife has “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”- even though she wasn’t around in the early 1960s. But that’s the quintessential girl’s movie. No skinin’ Griz or fightin’ Indians. Just Audrey Hepburn being skinny and fashionable.

But I digress. We were talking about the Lego Movie. Legos have been around for over 50 years now, and have really pushed the brand forward in the last twenty years. It’s now even hip to be a thirty year old Lego geek. 40 years ago kids didn’t have the volume of Legos that kids have today. I think we had some Legos, but not many. The way it used to work is you got some Legos to build whatever and then you slowly lost all those Legos. Once the limited cache of Legos was depleted it was just time for you to be done playing with them. The Lego arsenal was just not replenished at every birthday and holiday.

I don’t want to be the old guy in the room saying things like, “We just used to play with sticks”. “Kids today have it so good” or “That Elvis corrupted our youth”. Dearest reader, I am only here to provide perspective on this crazy ever-changing world. One of my perspectives happens to be that I wish the Lincoln Logs people could have brought their game to the Lego level. As a kid, I loved the Lincoln Logs. They’re still around. But not the way the Legos are. I guess it is more difficult to drag Lincoln Logs into the 21st century. It’s harder to visualize a log cabin Star Wars space ship or any other kind of ship using logs rather than Lego’s plastic multi-shaped blocks.

Lincoln Logs were originally invented by Frank Lloyd Wright’s second son, John Lloyd Wright in 1916. The inspiration was said to come from the Imperial Hotel that Frank was building in Tokyo. By the way, have you ever noticed that nobody ever refers to Frank Lloyd Wright as “Frank?” So, inspired by Frank’s building John came up with Lincoln Logs and patented the idea in 1920. It was an instant hit but he sold the idea and company before the real popularity set in. The company’s owners tried to cut costs by going to plastic in the 1970s, until realizing the mistake and switching back to wood. Since then, Lincoln Logs have remained on store shelves but never experienced the renaissance that Legos did.

But let’s not just give up on the L Log, dear problem solving reader. We can figure this out. In fact, I just got an idea. First of all, let’s just make sure Lincoln Logs continue to be made out of wood. Quiet yourself, tree hugger. I know what you’re thinking. What if the sawdust that is used to make wood pellets was also compressed into the shapes of the logs. Or they could use scrap wood. I don’t think we need to take down sequoia trees to make tiny logs. Hmmmmm. One sequoia tree would make an awful lot of……sorry, that was out of line. I just don’t want to see the logs go to plastic again.

The next idea will require the Lincoln Logs folks to step up to the plate. We all know what licensing of Star Wars did for Legos. Lincoln Logs needs to get a piece of that action. Ok, maybe Star Wars isn’t the right fit- and it’s too expensive. Maybe they could start by licensing easier properties. I would propose starting with “Jeremiah Johnson”. That’s it. Jeremiah built several log cabins and there were other log cabins featured. There could even be a young Robert Redford Lincoln Log guy.

Wait, why not license some of the classic films. “Breathless,” the 1960 French movie could feature Paris in black and white Lincoln Logs. Who doesn’t want to see a rustic Eiffel Tower made out of Lincoln Logs. Maybe a Lincoln Log “Bonnie and Clyde.” Their getaway cars could all be made of Lincoln Logs. And while they’re at it, I think we want to bring the girl demographic into what I’m dubbing “Log Mania.” This could be done by introducing a “Breakfast at Tiffany’s” Lincoln Log set. There could be a Lincoln Log New York City and a Lincoln Log Tiffany’s that would display little logs in place of jewelry- of course, these would be fancy little logs.

The Lego movie was entertaining and had a good message, but I think a Lincoln Log movie could do the same. The Lincoln Log movie could be a historical look at Abraham Lincoln, the name sake of the logs, or a movie about the architect known as Frank. This could focus more on Frank’s architecture and less on some of the other parts of his life-like the murders and mistresses and debts, oh my.

It’s all about making logs cool again. Let’s all work together to make logs cool again. I’m hoping this is just the beginning and in a few short years I’ll be dragging a collection of my own kids and other people’s kids to go see Sergei Eisenstein’s Battleship Potemkin as a 3D IMAX Lincoln Log movie. I think I could stay awake for that version.

Sadly yours,

Jason Spafford

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