However, what made Legos really blow up in our home was Ninjago. And the TV show is entirely to blame. Don’t get me wrong. The toys are fun but the TV show is what made our five-year-old’s imagination go up to eleven.
Now, we had seen the Lego Movie and the Batman movie and other Lego cartoons. We had a sense of the snarky humor that defined Lego cartoons. (We later saw the Ninjago movie and everyone in the house thinks it’s much weaker than the TV show, by the way)
But Ninjago was different. It was funny and kid—safe but it had a much stronger sense of drama. In fact, at most, I’d describe it as an action dramedy that sometimes becomes a flat out drama. (Seasons five, eight and nine are particularly dark for me)
(I also have to add we have not watched any Bionicle, which also sounds like a more dramatic Lego cartoon so I can’t compare it)
My original one-sentence description of Ninjago was Lego meets Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. But, for many reasons, I would now describe it as Lego meets Avatar the Last Airbender. The show consists of story arcs that last one to two seasons and has a remarkably strong focus on character development. In fact, I’m convinced Avatar was a strong influence on Ninjago.
Indeed, trying to explain it to the grandparents is hard because the show changes so much from season to season. There is no ‘watch this one episode and you’ll get it’ because even the genres can change from season to season. The best I can do is Legos that fight :D
The relative complexity of the story-telling (contrary to what some fans say, this is still a kid’s cartoon first and foremost. Of course, I’m the guy who argues that My Little Pony:Friendship is Magic and Doctor Who are children’s shows (and I love them)) is what I think really hooked our son. He’s been given enough ongoing story to really become invested in it. And that has spilled out into playing with the toys and telling his own stories.
I think that I didn’t get into a cartoon that was focused on long term story telling and character development until I discovered Robotech and I was about twice our son’s age. And, without rewatching it, I’m pretty sure Robotech is a more mature story, seeing as how it’s a war story that includes death, soap opera romance and near genocide. But I was, you know, ten.
Man, what will our son be watching when he’s ten?