Plans for a Lego Studios Steven Spielberg MovieMaker are expected to be unveiled, but the product will not hit store shelves until November. It is only the second entertainment product ever that Spielberg has lent his hallowed name to a product.
The film-making kit is the latest example of Lego’s aggressive move toward integrating technology with its classic building blocks. It already has a number of popular CD-ROM games in stores and also has had great success with its Lego Mindstorms, high-tech robots that can be manipulated using microcomputers.
“Everyone in the toy business is looking for ways to keep older kids interested in their products, and Lego has really done a great job of using technology to do just that,” said Jim Silver, editor of The Toy Book, a New York-based trade publication. The MovieMaker set includes a digital movie camera, which plugs into a computer port. The camera has Lego pieces on the outside so that users who have trouble keeping a steady hand can build a stand out of Legos and attach the camera to it. The set, which will sell for $179.99, also includes an assortment of Lego props such as buildings, houses and cars, as well as characters including firefighters and dinosaurs and other animals.
The set also includes a book of tips, tricks and challenges for creating movies. Moving clips or still images can be captured on a computer monitor, and all the shots are recorded and stored on a hard-drive. The set also includes a library of sound effects including everything from an angry T-Rex to a kitten. The editing software, which was developed by Lego and Pinnacle Systems, allows users to save completed movies and send their films to friends via email. Starting in January, Lego will offer seven additional sets of props and characters, including a bank, car stunt area and a rotating city. The extra sets, which will cost between $69.99 and $199, do not include the camera or editing software. The MovieMaker has competition in the kid’s digital camera market, including Mattel’s $100 Intel Play Digital Movie Creator and Editing CD-ROM, which comes with a microphone and tripod stand. The only other product that Spielberg branded with his name was a 1996 CD-ROM, “Steven Spielberg’s Director’s Chair,” an interactive, movie-making game put out by Knowledge Adventure and DreamWorks Interactive and distributed by Microsoft. “There is no bigger name than Spielberg when it comes to the movie business and Lego is very lucky to have such a name associated with its product,” Silver said. All of Spielberg’s proceeds from the Moviemaker set will be donated to two charities: the Starbright Foundation, which helps seriously ill children, and The Survivors of the Shoah Visual History Foundation, which preserves testimonies of Holocaust survivors.