Subtitles section Play video Print subtitles You've probably seen one of these, a Lego Brick. But have you ever wondered how it all started and why it's called Lego? Actually, the name is much older than this plastic brick. Are you curious? Let me tell you how it all began. Many years ago there was a skilled and hard-working carpenter named Ole Kirk Christiansen. Ole was a respected carpenter with his own company, but times were hard. So he didn't have much money and had to dismiss his last worker. Ole: "Come on in". Worker: "I have closed down the workshop and packed my things". Ole: "Thank you. I suppose I'd better write you a paycheck". Ole: "Take care." Ole: "Well, that was the last one. I just didn't imagine that it would come to this". Wife: "I know. It's hard to understand, but at least now it can't get much worse." But it did get worse. Shortly after, Ole lost his wife. But Ole was a special person. He wasn't the type that gave up. And with the responsibility of his four sons, he had to think of something. Ole had gotten an idea and for him, it never took long to put an idea into action. Ole's little invention made his boys so happy that he thought maybe he should start making toys. Ole decided to give it a try. Luckily, he had saved up a lot of wood from the carpentry production. He could now use it to make toys. Time passed by and even though Ole was a skilled carpenter and had a good eye for quality and detail, sales were very slow. Luckily, one of his sons, Godtfred, started helping out his dad after school. Together, they just barely managed to keep up the production. Eventually, word began to spread that the wooden toys of the finest quality were being made from that little workshop in Billund. One day, a man drove into town. A man who would change Ole's future. He was a wholesaler from factory shop. 'I heard that you are making some very nice wooden toys' Ole: 'Well, one does his best'. The wholesaler was very impressed with all the wooden toys. And placed big order before he left. Ole: 'Now there's finally someone who can see the opportunities and what we are doing' 'Look at this. The wholesaler wants to put a lot of our toys into his store for the holidays it's going to be a good Christmas this year that will be busy". Now, there was a lot to do with the little workshop and Ole could rehire his former workers. Ole only used the highest quality wood which was hand-picked and very carefully prepared They worked day and night to get the order finished So the wholesaler could get the toys out in stores before Christmas. Godtfred: "Is there something wrong, Dad?" Ole: "I'm afraid that we are in big trouble". In the middle of their work, Ole received a letter saying that the wholesaler had filed for bankruptcy and couldn't buy the toys that he had ordered Godtfred: "What are you gonna do? What about Christmas? Now we can't even afford food?" Ole: "I'll do it". Godtfred: "What are you gonna do, Dad?" Ole: "I'll do it myself. I'll drive around selling the toys" There was no time to lose. Ole packed the car with all the toys and drove off. Ole was a very good toy-maker but was not a very good salesman. He didn't like praising himself or talking about how carefully the toys have been made but he had to keep trying Ole: "This is going to be a blast. Is there anything you were interested in?" 'It looks exciting but i don't have a lot of money right now. Maybe we could trade in and call it even.' Ole: "Well, i would prefer money" 'but' In the end, he succeeded in selling all the toys. He didn't receive as much money as he had hoped. But the family managed and they had plenty of food for Christmas Time passed by But the toys didn't sell as quickly as they had expected Ole thought perhaps the company needed a good name 'What should it be? It has to be short word. I wanted to convey playing well' In Danish, `playing well` is called `LEG GODT` 'What should it be? What should it be?' 'If only i could get some sort of a sign' 'LEGO' As you can see, Ole himself ended up finding a very suitable name. But what he didn't know was that in latin, the word 'LEGO' means 'I put together' The name 'LEGO' was well received. And the company slowly started to move forward. Godtfred: "We have made 3000 krones this year. And we more orders than usual" Ole: "Did you say 3000 krones. Then you need to see what i've been looking at" Even though Godtfred wasn't comfortable spending money on a milling machine. He could see that it was useful and that the quality of the toys improved 'Could you finish the last batch and get it ready for shipping?' 'I will' 'Dad.... dad, i saved a lot of money for the company today' Ole: "Really? how?" Godtfred: "I figured we could save money in the locker. It's like only coated the duck twice instead of three times" Ole: "You what?" Unfortunately, Godtfred's idea didn't go over well with Ole. Ole made Godtfred unpacked all the ducks himself gave them the last layer of locker and bring them back to train station. Ole believes in high quality and not cheating his customers when Godtfred returned, Ole explained that wasn't the way to create a good brand. This little lesson opened Godtfred's eyes to the fact that every detail matters and only the best is good enough. In the late 1930s, LEGO was making a profit even when the second world war broke out. They tried to make the best out of a difficult time. It seemed nothing could go wrong. But a stormy night in 1942 changed their luck. 'There's a fire. The workshop is on fire.' But when the firemen arrived, they were unable to save the workshop it burned to the ground and all the drawings and models were destroyed. Ole was beginning to lose hope. All that he had worked for was gone and he almost lost his company but being responsible for his children and workers inspired him to rebuild LEGO A new factory was constructed Soon the production of the wooden toys started again The little company fought it way back into the market Gradually, the LEGO factory began to run smoothly and Ole started looking for new challenges One day, he went to Copenhagen to look at a new machine that had just arrived in Denmark. It was a plastic moulding machine and Ole was very excited about it Ole: "Should we buy it? i'm sure it's a good bargain and it would give us a lot of opportunities" Godtfred: "Well, it does sound interesting but it is a lot of money" Ole: "I'll take that as a Yes" When the plastic moulding machine finally arrived, Ole started making little plastic teddy bears and raddles. But he still had the plastic brick that he had received at the fair. There was something about that he couldn't stop thinking about. And even though no one else could see the potential in them. Ole decided to redesigned and put them into production. But it was when LEGO first launched the great Ferguson tractor, that the plastic toys became a success. Unfortunately the sales were dropped during the summer and the company had too many toys in stock. Godtfred: "This can't be right. Of course, our products can be sold the whole year, not only for Christmas" Godtfred decided that he would go out and sell the toys himself. Godtfred brought his wife as a company and moral support "If you can't get cash,we need butter and eggs" Well, it wasn't that bad. Godtfred was a success in his trip around the country which helped LEGO to get out of its financial crisis. They reached home just in time for Ole's birthday party. Ole turned 60 and the whole family was gathered to celebrate with him. Ole: "Well, I guess it was a long trip along the country" "Hey, I got an idea. Eh, listen. Listen. What about a picture with the three generations" Everyone thought that was a good idea. And we were placed on the sofa with all the presents and flowers around us. On a business trip to England, Godtfred met the head of a big shopping center on his way home. They discussed the toy industry. And the conversation would be very important to the future of LEGO. "Damn that industry. I just think that toys are no good nowadays" Godtfred: "What do you mean? I think they are working very well". "Oh, they work fine. Sure, but there's no system in anything" Godtfred: "System?". Godtfred: "System? Hmm. There isn't any system". Ole: "What in the world are you doing, Godtfred?" Godtfred: "There isn't any system. The toys need an idea and a system built around it. I want to put system in the play. Children have only been offered ready-made solutions. They need something different that will strengthen their imagination and creativity". Ole: "So, you are trying to put LEGO into a system? Interesting". That same year, LEGO started producing the first LEGO system of play. Children could now build houses from the LEGO bricks. The town planned gave play a realistic town setting and with this, children learned about traffic safety. My sister and I could play with the new LEGO system for hours. Some people said we were the luckiest children in the world. Because we grew up in a toy factory. It was a huge breakthrough. And Godtfred decided to try selling it outside of Denmark. The system of play was so popular that they managed to sell it to many countries. "Look what I just built". "That is really nice, Cal". Even though LEGO was meant for only building houses, there was still a lot of opportunities. There was just one problem. "Hmm, I can't lift it up. It keeps falling apart". That made Godtfred wondered. He wanted to find a way to make the LEGO bricks stick together. But that was easier said than done. Godtfred noticed that the LEGO bricks got a better clutch powers with tooth inside. Now, it was no longer just bricks but a whole construction system with endless possibilities. This was ground breaking for the LEGO product. With a child's imagination, LEGO could be anything in the world over and over again. The imagination is the limit. "Look, Dad. Now, I can build everything" Unfortunately, Ole never got to see how successful the little bricks actually became. Godtfred was left on his own and he had to go through another fire at LEGO that destroyed most of the wood production. Just like his father, Godtfred knew that he had to try to get the best out of any situation and never give up. Godtfred took the hard times with his head held high. As sales grew, the company also got bigger. He had to think ahead and he decided not to resume the production of wooden toys and to only focus on the LEGO system. And it turned out to be great decision. Many new models were built and LEGO got stronger in the toy industry. Staff: "Sir, which one of these do you think is the best?" Godtfred: "Hmmm, Err, that one". Even though it got busier at LEGO, Godtfred still had bigger plans. Now, he wanted to build an airport. So, it would be easier to sell his toys to the whole world. Like father, like son. It didn't take long to put his ideas into action. Only three years later, Billund airport was opened. Then many guests and business connections who visited the company always wanted to see their modeling department. Gradually, it got so crowded that it was hard for the employees to keep up their work. Godtfred: "I think we'd better wait a while". Godtfred could see that something had to be done. He needed a bigger place to display the LEGO models. Employee: "Er, I don't want to interrupt. So, I'll just put this package of our new LEGO train on the table". Godtfred: "Jut put it there". The idea grew quickly from an exhibition room to an amusement park. Godtfred: "And then, we could have a tower so you could look over the whole park from above, the whole town. It would be land made out of LEGO, LEGO land". "Well then, it looks interesting. But how many visitors are you actually counting on?" "Well, I guess eh two hundred three hundred thousand". "Three hundred thousand?" Even though it sounded like a lot, my dad was actually pretty far off the mark. There were six hundred thousand guests the very first year. My family and I were there to greet the guests. We've kept up this tradition ever since. Now, you know how it all began. LEGO wouldn't be what it is today if it hadn't been for my grandfather's sense of quality and search for profession. My father firmly believed in the endless possibilities of the LEGO system. I seek to take the LEGO idea even further. Encouraging children to explore, experience and express their own world, a world without limit. And we are still convince that only the best is good enough because children deserve the best.