Lego Promo Eyes New 'Indiana Jones' Fans

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Marketers banking on the new Indiana Jones movie are using Lego products to draw younger fans. A similar promotion worked well for Lego after the revival of the Star Wars film series.

MICHELE NORRIS, host:

Okay, so crystal skulls aren't really real. But that doesn't bother the marketers from Lucasfilm. They're betting that plastic crystal skulls, Lego versions, are going to help them sell Indiana Jones to kids too young to remember the earlier films.

Lucasfilm has had a long and successful partnership with Lego and Lego's "Star Wars" has a huge franchise.

As Nancy Mullane reports, the two companies are using Legos as what you might call a gateway drug to get kids interested in the movie.

NANCY MULLANE: It's Lego pandemonium at the Hillsdale Mall in Northern California. Dozens of kids and their parents have come to watch a Lego model designer construct an eight-foot R2-D2 entirely out of Lego bricks. You remember R2-D2 - the shorter of the two droids in "Star Wars."

In a roped off area nearby, kids of all ages are standing elbow-to-elbow at low tables piled with Lego bricks.

Mr. CHARLES CATALANO(ph): My son Brent is seven years old, and he absolutely just loves Legos. And you can see it right here.

MULLANE: Charles Catalano says his son has been saving his allowance. And last week he bought his first Indiana Jones theme set, the Jungle Duel, for $9.99. Catalano says his son's interest in Indiana Jones all started when Indy showed up in the middle of a Lego "Star Wars" videogame.

Mr. CATALANO: And then you use, instead of a blaster you have the bull whip. And he just thought that was the coolest thing, and you know, had never seen any of the movies, just his understanding of Indiana Jones is through really Lego. They're cunning.

MULLANE: Lego began introducing "Star Wars" theme sets 10 years ago when the Danish-based space company joins forces with the U.S. movie giant Lucasfilm. Howard Rothman is president of Lucas Licensing.

Mr. HOWARD ROTHMAN (President, Lucas Licensing Ltd.): It was almost like, you know, the marriage of chocolate and peanut butter. It was something that was meant to go together.

MULLANE: At first the two companies collaborated on the "Star Wars" Lego play sets, offering a winged fighter and Lego characters Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader. But Indiana Jones was another story.

Mr. ROTHMAN: There's a whole generation that grew with Indiana Jones. And we're all in love with him and can't wait to see the movie. But for a kid today, they have none of that legacy.

Mr. MICHAEL MCNALLY (LEGO Systems): The question mark was there of like, well, how are our kids going to know about Indiana Jones?

MULLANE: Michael McNally is an officer with Lego Systems.

Mr. MCNALLY: And then it really became a conversation, I think, with Lucas where it evolved to a point of who better to introduce this to kids than Lego.

MULLANE: McNally says they're putting the Indiana Jones sets next to "Star Wars" on their Web site, in their stores and in their magazine. And the campaigns is working. Kids are craving it.

(Soundbite of mall)

MULLANE: Back at the (unintelligible) Mall, 7-year-old Brent Catalano(ph) has left behind R2-D2, and has moved on to the Lego store, where he's standing staring at the newest Indiana Jones play set.

Mr. BRENT CATALANO: Hey, Dad, look at this. (Unintelligible) and then you like do something and it goes...

MULLANE: Brent says next he wants to buy one of the larger theme sets; it's called Race for the Stolen Treasure and it costs $29.99, so he's going to start saving for it. In August, Lucasfilm will be releasing a brand new feature-length animated film called "Star Wars: The Clone Wars." But before the movie comes out, Lego will be introducing Clone Wars-themed played sets.

For NPR News, I'm Nancy Mullane.

(Soundbite of Indiana Jones theme music)

NORRIS: One of our own is heading off on international adventures, although he probably won't be dodging giant boulders or hunting crystal skulls. Our assistant producer, Raul Moreno(ph), has apparently decided the Peace Corps is more exciting than working for ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. In all seriousness, we will miss Raul, and we wish him the very best in his adventures and we're betting he'll look really good in a fedora.

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