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Who Wants to Be A Master Builder: Lego eyes reality TV show

The Lego Movie may not have happened had it not been for video games.

Now Lego is looking into a broader push, not just into movies, but documentaries, a new brand and television.

Jill Wilfert, vice president of global licensing and entertainment for the Lego Group, said that the successes the company had with Warner Bros. and TT Games with their popular Lego titles helped kickstart the conversation that led to that first movie.

"After the Transformer movie broke and was so well received we started getting phone calls from producers and studios who were interested in acquiring the rights to the Lego brand," she told a gathering at MipCom 2014 this week. "We weren't necessarily interested in getting into the movie business at the time.

"Warner was one of the first people who approached us. We had a long-standing, a very positive relationship with them on the consumer product side and the video games we do."

That relationship, she said, got Warner their meeting with Lego.

"They got some fantastically creative filmmakers involved and were really able to convince us that there could be some potential in a Lego movie," she said, "and we're happy they did so because it has been a fantastic success for us."

Earlier this week, Warner Bros. executives announced that The Lego Movie was being turned into a semi-annual film franchise with three more releasing over the next four years.

The first will be in 2016 with a film based on Lego's Ninjago toys.

Wilfert said production has already started on that film. While the film's success, pulling in more than $486 million worldwide, was great for Lego, it wasn't necessarily the goal.

"With the film our goal was to engage families in a creative experience," Wilfert said. "Families could come to the movie and walk away and feel the creativity of the brand, that was our goal."

The experience of handing off film production for a Lego movie to a partner was also likely possible thanks to the lessons Lego learned when they tried to create their own theme parks and video games. Both were, as Mipcom presenter Ali May put it, a disaster.

"It was some expensive lessons we learned," Wilfert said. "What we saw during that time frame was a loss of focus on our core business. We also figured out we don't need to do everything ourselves.

"We've since partnered with TT Games and WB to create our video games, which has been a huge success for us."

While Lego continues to see success in the games and movie business, they also plan to continue to expand the reach of their brand, Wilfert said.

"We are working on a new property that will launch with a TV series in 2016 and one of the things that we are focused on is having real interactivity," she said. "And focusing the idea of the property, the core of it is very much about the digital natives."

While she didn't offer more details, she did mention iPhone users in describing what a digital native is.

The company is also looking at releasing a Lego documentary in 2015 which they have been working on for a couple of years. And most interesting, they want to get into the reality TV show business.

"We're looking at reality competition show formats, which is something new for us," Wilfert said. "The idea of becoming a Master Builder is something we think could be quite resonating with audiences. Something we're out exploring and talking to partners about right now."

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