Something I was struggling to get my head around was Lego Harry Potter computer game stickers. A bizarre mutant merging of two mega brands that spans FIVE cultural genres. The toy equivalent of chemically-intensified junk food, some young kids are addicted to these stickers.
Based on a series of successful children's books that were made into films, we have actors playing fictional characters who have then been turned into Lego figurines, transformed into a computer game, and then finally rolled out into a series of stickers. The stickers then go back into a book.
If J.K. Rowling wants to make children's brains around the globe explode, what she should do next is write a Harry Potter book in which there are characters who collect them.
But honestly, I'm glad I'm not a parent of young children right now because their kids must be bombarded by this cross-promo shit which is very cleverly designed. And it's expensive too. But then perhaps tomorrow's generation need this kind of intense post-modern playtime to prepare them for the "brand" new world they're growing up into?
With Lego Harry Potter stickers you have an extremely intense and very clever hybrid of several things that kids love. I've tried to fathom it out below, if only for my own mental clarity and sanity...
First of all kids love adventurous story books. Always have done.
Something else kids have always liked is building blocks.
None of these photos are mine. That table is disgusting. But this photo did bring back tactile physical memories, in my finger tips, of those smoothly glossed, slightly dusty, yellow slopey triangle bricks. My child minder's place had a set just like this. I remember how the yellow slopes would slide off each other perilously. And it used to really frustrate me how the two base ends of the orange bridge piece didn't correspond with anything perfectly, they had to go on pillars that would then stick out a bit. Painful.
So if we're talking books.... Harry Potter was a very successful and very clever children's book. It's an advanced and superbly-written series that draws heavily upon most of the other bestsellers within its own genre, like Tolkien. C.S.Lewis, Enid Blyton and Jill Murphy.
And if we're talking blocks... Lego is a hugely popular brand of toy building blocks that offers a more interesting experience than your traditional wooden shapes.
Over time Lego became more detailed and advanced. My childhood took place at a Lego crossover-stage, so we had stuff like this with some detail appearing, but no collaborative branding:
I think I used to have a crush on that one. I remember his face. Such a lovely, intelligent, helpful smile. A space man too. Good salary. Probably in my mum's attic right now, all taped up. Hot.
And so over time kids showed a preference for the characters and details within Lego, and not so much the basic BORING blocks. That's why Lego started releasing things like this series called Minifgures:
I'm sure a large chunk of their market is also insular teenagers, nerds and nostalgic adults. But yeah. Forget the bricks. Lego's main vein becomes this pop culture brand built around the Lego man icon.
MEANWHILE. Harry Potter had become a hit string of films...
And so over at Lego HQ, the decision was made to collaborate with the Harry Potter franchise to produce some Harry Potter themed Lego.
They'd already done this with other popular subjects like Star Wars and it worked well.
That's a photo of Lego Hogwarts, the witchcraft and wizardry school from Harry Potter. (Like I said, none of these images are mine. That horrid table certainly isn't mine, and my calendar is far more sordid than that one over there)
By this point the Harry Potter films had also been turned into a computer game...
The decision was then made to create a computer game of the Harry Potter Lego series...
This is the bit where you need to suspend logic. The characters have the attributes of Lego men, yet they don't need them, because they no longer need to be attached to Lego structures.
The characters are still the characters from J.K.Rowling's books, but they look more like their on-screen personae, as played by various actors, more than they look like the characters described prosaically in the books.
You can see elements of the actress Emma Watson playing the literary character Hermione Granger, squashed into a cartoon version of a Lego figurine.
She holds her wand using the classic circular grip of a Lego character, even though she doesn't need a hand like that because she is now a computer game character (or in this case, a still illustration of one).
But let's not be iconoclastic. She does need a hand like that because she is "Lego".
The game looks like this when played...
So we've touched upon three major areas within kids entertainment, building blocks, computer games and story books. But there's something else kids have always enjoyed...
The popular notions of hoarding, expanding and working towards acquiring all of something. That's right. Kids love collecting.
And a popular item to collect is stickers. They're dirt cheap to make and affordable to all.
I used to collect these at primary school...
I can still hear the phrases "Got. Got. Got. Got." and "Swap Shop" to this day.
Also, when you look at Grindr (the GPS sex app for men who enjoy sex with men) Merlin's Premier League sticker collections were really very ahead of their time...
With Merlin's Premier League stickers you were essentially collecting, grooming, feeling and looking at a portfolio of athletic men in their prime. Smiling at you.
In fact it was the first time I came across this guy...
Looking at these stickers online just now gave me a real head rush, and I was taken straight back to the world of 6-year-old me who collected them fanatically. The little Tupperware box in which I kept repeats that I could swap, and my little folded up list of footballers who I still needed. Longed for.
If it wasn't footballers, the other thing that you could collect was Spice Girls stickers. In fact, now that I think about it, did Merlin Stickers make me gay? No. Everyone collected them. Because sticker collecting is addictive.
But let's not forget Lego's Merlin:
I'm confusing you now, but yeah, collecting stickers is BIG BUSINESS if you're a toy manufacturer.
... what better to put on a sticker than a Lego Harry Potter character!
You also have the film franchise (Professor McGonagall is essentially a Lego Maggie Smith). And you have a few familiar items from the computer game series too. It's all here, in a colourful, smooth-to-the-touch, collectible sticker.
There's even one that looks like Caitlin Moran:
And then for kids who want to really indulge in the sticker side of things, Lego / Harry Potter brought out this complete book which has a lexicon of them all:
So this product above - what is it?
It is a book based on a sticker collection based on a computer game based on a Lego series based on a film based on a book.
Andy Warhol would shit himself.
I think I nearly get it.