Sunday, June 9, 2019

Legoland California's Weathered 20th Anniversary

Although I was a die-hard Legomaniac in my youth, I must admit that Legoland California was never really a priority destination for me. By 1999 every 12 year old I knew was into video games, building bike jumps, and juvenile vandalism. Lego was for the kiddos and when Legoland California opened up I was less than a month away from becoming a pubescent teenage monster. 
Teenage Monster (Not Me Though.)
That being said, even at that age it wasn't hard to understand the appeal of Legoland. Just about everyone that's ever assembled a Lego set has daydreamed about shrinking down to play with their creations. The Legoland theme parks are the closest anyone can ever come to that dream with attractions such as: the Volvo Driving School, Skipper School, and Police and Fire Academy.
However, I'd say most people leave the park thinking that Legoland California seems to focus more on the spectacle of seeing sculptures made of Lego rather than blowing up the scale of their toys. When I mentioned to friends or coworkers that I'd be visiting the park with my nephew the most common critique I'd hear is that Legoland is boring because it's mainly just Lego sculptures. They'd tell me that the rides are only exciting for younger children and that the park in general is pleasant but for older kids it's not worth the drive or expense. That wasn't exactly the first time I had heard of Legoland's lackluster reputation but it is important to note that almost everyone agrees that younger guests always seem to have the most fun. Seems like a big “no duh” sort of situation. The toys are marketed towards younger kids and guess who likes the park the most?
Cactus Family.
But kids don't really seem to care about the sculptures. All day long I'd see children running straight towards the rides or gift shops, zooming past faded and drooping monuments. I'd be hard-pressed to say Lego themselves seem to care about many of the dioramas by looking at the condition they're in. A lot of the pieces were dirty and worn from years of exposure to the elements. Some have obviously been repainted and some seemed almost completely forgotten. At other times it felt like I had entered a time capsule. 

An Accurate Lego Version of Bartok.
Remember 1997's animated hit Anastasia? I spotted this perfect brick version of Bartok, the completely non-annoying bat character from the film, hidden behind some glass outside of the Lego Factory Tour

Aunt Hilda: The Canadian Lego Goddess.
Also sitting in the factory was a statue of Caroline Rhea from the much acclaimed talk show The Caroline Rhea Show. Don't forget she also played Sabrina's aunt Hilda for 7 seasons on the popular comedy show Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. According to the November 2004 edition of San Diego Magazine the statue was added in 2002 and is composed of more than 14,000 bricks! 

"Get To Da Lego Choppa!"
Sitting above Mrs. Rhea is what looks like the severed head of Icy Hot's own Shaquille O'Neal, a disobedient Santa, Jesus, and Arnold Schwarzenegger.
I later spotted the Governator again in the Block of Fame section of the park. 
The Governator.
Schwarzenegger was the governor of California from 2003 to 2011 so I'm betting this piece was added sometime around then. He finds himself in some strange company with Dali, Marilyn Monroe, and Abraham Lincoln.

Fisherman's Wharf Seals
One of the main diorama sections of the park is Miniland USA which features replicas of famous cities throughout the country. It's neat seeing city life represented in Lego bricks, especially if you've been to their real life counterparts. This section of the park is the most in disrepair. Many interactive sections were inoperable and some of the parts of Vegas were especially dirty and weather worn. Sort of like the real Vegas I guess. 

One Lonely Swimmer.

Murky Pool Water. Yup. Vegas.
The Bride And Groom Are Activated By A Switch
There is some decent Lego artwork sprinkled throughout the park but it was hard to ignore the dilapidated sculptures and general lack of care for some of the attractions. The park is celebrating its 20th year of operation which should give Lego some motivation to repair or update the scenery. Much of the artwork, while not necessarily bad, just seems to follow trends that were popular 20 years ago. Sort of how animation styles from the 90s look dated now, Lego artists have evolved much more over the years and I think it's time to swap out a majority of the statues with something more contemporary. The existing works aren't intrinsically bad, just older.
Don't Mess With This Dude.

Ultimately I must say: don't let the name fool you; Legoland is definitely more like a small regional theme park than Disneyland. For a lot of people, that's not a bad thing at all. If you think your kids are small enough, you can get the tickets cheap enough, and you come prepared knowing what to expect, everyone will have at least a little fun. Also, be prepared to visit the gift shops often as they are practically half of the park but ultimately that's to be expected when you visit a theme park based on a toy series.

I Dig This Spooky Guy.

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