GODTFRED KIRK CHRISTIANSEN was a man with a knack for making dreams come true. He was the wonder-monger who created Legoland on a moorland in Jutland, Denmark’s splinter-shaped peninsula. On June 7 1968, he inaugurated a model village that singled itself out from all others; it was entirely built with the versatile toothed plastic bricks, Lego.
Christiansen’s father, Ole, was the one who started it all. Ole was a jobless carpenter who, with his vivid imagination and carpenter’s bench, came up with an idea to make toys that will not only appeal to the natural creativity and curiosity of young children but are also durable. The result was toys of wood, yoyos, elephants on wheels and much more. He called them “Lego” (play well), a name created by placing the Danish words “leg” and “godt” together.
In 1954, Godtfred, who had begun working in his father’s atelier at the age of 14, hit on the idea that the Lego bricks could be worked into countless combinations. They became instant successes. Fifteen years later this wizard, who could well have been dubbed “the Walt Disney of the Children’s Toys”, set up a Lillliputian world on over 100,000 square metres of heath, near the little town of Billund where he was born. Legoland now attracts millions of visitors a year.
Unlike Madurodam, its Dutch counterpart which is entirely devoted to the wonders and achievements of the Netherlands, Legoland is a cosmopolitan miniland which emphasises entertainment and play – important elements in a child’s world. In Castleland, young visitors can take a boat ride through Captain Roger’s Caves where they will see exciting scenes of pirates’ lives. Thrill-minded medievalists can take a Dragon Ride while others delight in train rides along a roller-coaster-like monorail. Daredevils can scream their heads off in gravity-defying rides in the “Legocopter” and “Duplo” planes. For the intellectually stimulated, the indoor Lego playroom allows them to try their hands at building models out of Lego and Duplo blocks; the best works will then be selected and prizes sent to the winners.
The cynosure of all eyes, however, is quite naturally Legoland’s model village built at a scale of 1 to 25 and assembled using a staggering 45 million Lego bricks. Many of the world’s man-made marvels, such as Mount Rushmore memorial in South Dakota depicting the faces of US presidents Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln and Roosevelt; the Taj Mahal, the Statue of Liberty and the Temples of the Nile Valley were represented but so were some less impressive architectural achievements. The Amalienborg Royal Castle in Copenhagen, an important symbol for the Danish people, was constructed with nearly a million blocks of Lego bricks. Other enthralling displays include “cross-sections” of Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Bergen, fishing villages with boats chugging into their harbours, medieval towns, and many more features from around the world. Among the indoor attractions, the Titania’s palace, an 18-room dollhouse that took 15 years to build, is certainly the most captivating.
Legoland is open from late March to late October. Two other Legoland theme parks have recently been opened: one in Windsor, England in 1996 (www.legoland.co.uk) and the second one in California in 1998 (www.legolandca.com)