Asterix and Obelix

Donald Duck with his sons.

The Lucky Luke Daltons.

The Smurfs.


The Simpsons.

The Simpsons.

Bert and Ernie.


Our Favorite Cartoon Characters In Adorable, Minimalist Lego

Suddenly, the silliest cartoons from the last 30 years seem remarkably important.

Maybe I’m just anticipating the return of Mad Men too much, but sometimes advertising really is special. While the intent is obviously to sell us stuff, every once in a while, a campaign takes the long way around to do so. They don’t start at catchphrases or demographics. They just boil down why something matters to us.

"Imagine" is a new Lego campaign by Hamburg advertising agency Jung von Matt. (The name alone sets high expectations, but if anyone can invoke the word "imagine" beyond the late John Lennon, it would be a beloved Danish toy company built upon imagination.)

South Park

It’s a series of minimalist Lego designs based upon some of our most beloved cartoon characters. From Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, to The Smurfs, to The Simpsons, to the kids from South Park.

Through the simplest of visual cues, the ads find the perfect balance of implying so the viewer can infer. The effect is like getting a joke a satisfying second late. But rather than laugh, I just smile. The ads simply make me happy and, as a child of the '80s, ever-so nostalgic. (Maybe that response is genuine because, as Copyranter points out, the ads may have been inspired by a fan tribute.)

In fact, without saying a word, Lego has tied themselves to the very framework of invention by cleverly usurping a series of creative characters that they had no part in creating. When you think about it, the methodology isn’t so different from Apple’s famous Crazy Ones spot. Apple was no more responsible for Albert Einstein’s insights into relativity than Lego was for Eric Cartman’s antics with a J Lo sock.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles

With "Think Different," Apple boiled down that it‘s always the unique forces in the world who change it. With "Imagine," Lego boiled down that having fun always starts with creativity. Sometimes it’s remarkably satisfying to be reminded of a simple truth in an advertising campaign, you know, other than the more obvious facts that A) we should all sneak out of work early to go play with Legos and B) that Donatello was the best Ninja Turtle.

[Hat tip: Ignant]

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  • Claire

    Hello, Mark.
    May i use your article on my magazine in Korea? I'm going to translate yours into korean.
    please contact me as soon as possible.

    charmingbbo .com

  • Starrvinartist

    I grew up with Ninja Turtles, cartoons, and Legos so, I love how they blended the two together and used it their campaign.  I recently combined Legos and a Pool Table, Hockey Table, Foosball Table, and Pop-a-Shot Basketball Game.

    Here's to Imagination 
    "leg godt" 

    Sashi Plas

  • laurasweet

    I really feel that I must point out the original artist(s) that clearly inspired this ad campaign and have yet to be credited as this story appears on design blogs and sites everywhere.

    After spotting a piece of original barcode-like artwork by Ashley Browning of Infinite Continues (http://www.infinitecontinues.n... on a forum, artist crumpuppet was inspired to turn cartoon and pop culture characters into similar minimal color block art (

    Those images were then turned into Lego versions for these Imagine ads by Jung Von Matt.

    Just want to give credit where credit is due.

    Laura Sweet
    If It's Hip, It's Here

  • Rick

    Brilliant ads. I wish Lego had never wandered into the pre-determined universe of lego toys. Pure lego is pure invention, imagination and creativity. Lego Pirates or Lego Star Wars gives kids a format to have to play within. That's not to say that kids still cannot play creatively with their Millennium Falcon Lego but, really, it's harder to "imagine" it as a covered wagon. Real lego is open-ended. So, while the ad speaks to this, the product line is anything but unless you can find the generic lego blocks.

  • Günter Soydanbay

    Hi Rick,
    Based on global research, you can be both right or wrong, depending on where you live. Clotaire Rapaille mentioned in his book Culture Code that every culture has a different meaning of Lego. For instance North Americans think Lego is imagination. Kids create, destroy and recreate. Whereas for European kids (particularly Germans) Lego is a lesson to follow instruction to achieve perfection. I found that insight very interesting!

  • Bobrickert

     I disagree Rick. You should see the Star Wars creatures an 8 year-old can make that have never been created by Lucas. Might be harder for you to 'imagine' as you say, with a covered wagon. But neither of them are starting from a blank canvas. My son has roughly 11,000 different Lego pieces. Most of them are pretty generic Lego blocks.

  • ramubay

    FYI:  Donald Duck had no sons.  He had three nephews, Huey, Dewey & Louie.  Oh Uncle Donald!

  • Raymond Manookian

    Sometimes, the simplest ideas are always the best. Really nice!

    Thanks for sharing!