The internet has been a buzz with news of The LEGO Group’s upcoming new sets, including set #60134 – Fun at the Park. This is a great little set, perfect for us toy photographers because it includes more than 10 mini figures, and a few accessories we haven’t seen before like a hot dog bun and a baby stroller.
Everyone is talking about this set because it includes a mini figure in a wheelchair. While this is not the first wheelchair mini figure from LEGO, it’s the first one featuring a young person rather than an older Duplo figure. This is being hailed as a victory for disabled kids who can now play with LEGO bricks and will see themselves reflected in their imaginative play. The advocacy groups Toy Like Me and Wheels4Lego appear to be claiming victory for this revolutionary new accessory we can all play with. (Considering there’s normally a two year lead time for new sets at LEGO, its hard to image that a campaign that only ended in December of 2015 could really be responsible for a set announced a month later.) The thinking behind the young adult in a wheelchair is that it will help all children view someone in a wheelchair as normal and help to break down stereotypes about people with disabilities.
While this is all fabulous and I applaud LEGO Group for being so responsive to its fans, I can’t help but think that LEGO is first and foremost a building toy. If you want a wheelchair to play with, build one. A quick search of YouTube reveals no shortage of videos showing you exactly how to build one. Is not the foundation of the LEGO building block to have the power to build your own creations limited only by your imagination?
My reservations regarding this set are the same ones I had regarding set 21110 – Research Institute. You know the one everyone made a fuss about in 2014 because it featured three female scientists. While this is a cool set, I love the chalkboard and the dinosaur skeleton; I felt that anyone with a few spare mini fig parts could have made those female scientists. They were assembled from commonly available mini fig parts. If I (or my child) need a female to play with, we make one, be it a scientist, a fireman, an astronaut or a robber. Its part of the joy of Lego, if you don’t have what you need, you make it. You don’t have to rely on the big toy company to solve your problems for you; you can solve them yourself.
Again, I applaud Lego for being responsive to its fan base. The LEGO Group will end their partnership with Shell when the existing contract expires because of a Greenpeace campaign, they will no longer be asking builders why they are buying their bulk LEGO so as to not imply censorship because of a campaign launched by Ai Wei Wei and now they are releasing a young boy in a wheelchair due to a campaign for more diversity in their mini figures. These are all example of their willingness to change, but I can’t help but wonder if we are not the real losers here.
These seem like hollow victories to me, akin to putting a color overlay on your Facebook picture to show support for a cause or human tragedy. What have we really gained? If we want to help the environment and we think big oil is responsible, then we should stop buying LEGO which is an oil based product. If we want our children to be more respectful and understanding of people with disabilities, shouldn’t we be leading by example? Why do we look to big companies or government to fix our problems, why can’t we show some initiative and create our own solutions? The LEGO Group has given us the building blocks we simply have to use them.
I for one will be buying this set, not because it has a wheelchair (although that’s cool), but because of the hot dog bun. I can imagine all the photos that will be created using the Hot Dog Guy and that bun. I can’t wait to see someone post a photo of a hot dog family by creating a Mr. and Mrs. Hot Dog and their baby wiener.
What is your favorite part of “Fun at the Park”? Will you buying this set when it comes out and if so why?