Have you seen the Lego movie? I took my kids to see it a few days ago. They absolutely loved it. I asked them to give it a genuine score out of 10, and they all agree it was definitely an 11.
I enjoyed the film just as much. I was a huge collector of Lego when I was a kid. Then life got in the way, and I grew up. But I kept all the Lego in a big box so that I could pass it onto my kids one day. Now I'm a dad, took all the lego down from the attic and dusted it off. However, I noticed that my kids preferred getting new box sets and building those kits using instructions, rather than going through all the random Lego I had, and creating their own models from their imaginations. That got me thinking about magic..
When Lego first started.
Lego has always been about being creative. We all remember having a pile of Lego, and trying to build things. But over time, the way Lego has been sold has changed. Modern Lego sets are now divided up into themed worlds. You buy kits that show you how to make a really cool spaceship, or pirates boat, or city construction sites. Each kit comes with a huge set of instructions which show you how to make the item on the front of the box. Most people tend to go slowly follow the instructions and build the model. At the end, they have an intricate model that matches exactly what's on the front of the box. That's where it stops. The completed model sits around for a while being admired. Slowly over time pieces break off before the model is finally disassembled, and all of the parts thrown into a box with all the parts from other sets. A new set is purchase, and the building begins all over again.
That's so much like the way many magicians purchase magic. They look through magic shop websites, watch some demos, and choose magic tricks that fool them. When the package arrives, they rip it open, quickly examine the props, and start work on the instructions.They learn how to do the basics of the magic trick, perform it a few times, then add it to their collection of old magic tricks that are gather dust.
Should magic really be about collecting new magic tricks, following the instructions in detail, and then moving onto the next trick?
The enemy of Lego is glue.
In the Lego movie, the ultimate weapon the bad guy uses is glue. He plans to fix and freeze the entire Lego world into a perfect model that can no longer be changed or tampered with. Even Lego recognises that this urge to stay within the lines, follow the instructions, and copy exactly what's suggested, is not a great use of their product. Lego is about creativity, and so is magic. It's about using the props to create the impossible. It's about expressing your imagination without the limits of what should, and should not be possible within the laws of physics. There's no need for you to learn a magic trick and feel that is set in stone. Change all the things you don't like about it. Play around with the timing, build your own presentations, and fuse tricks together to create even more imaginative pieces of magic.
I watched my eight-year-old building a Lego model. I think somewhere along the way, he had gone slightly wrong and now couldn't find a piece that the instructions told him needed to be placed on top of the Dragon he was building. He actually seem to be in a bit of a panic about it. When I suggested that he just choose a different piece, he looked at me as if I was mad. I see exactly the same thing with magicians that come into the magic shop. When they purchase a magic trick they will often buy exactly the same playing cards that are used by the magician in instructional DVD, even though any playing cards would do. Some even buy a close-up mat that matches the one used in the DVD just so everything is 'perfect'. It doesn't have to be that way. You can use any props you like. You can change them, paint them, swap out a few to something entirely different. The more you mix around your magic, the more you will discover your own style that is just right for you.
Magic is what happens when you DONT follow lifes instructions.
Create your own patter.
In the Lego movie, everybody sings the same song every day. They all watch the same programs on TV. Their whole lives are planned out, and they follow a set of instructions just like the Lego kits. You don't need to follow the instructions. In fact, most magic creators products will suggest that you create your own presentations. Everybody is different and everybody performs magic differently. Try not to clone the patter that you hear on a magic DVD. Build your own presentations that fit the other magic tricks are you doing, and your magic performing style.
Don't follow the crowd.
Lego release new box sets all the time. They create new themes and heavily promote the collections in all the toy shops. Kids pick a theme they like, and choose the models that build within that theme. It could be City Lego, Pirate Lego, Ninjago Lego. It's cleverly marketed so that there's a desire to collect all the Lego models within that theme. Magic marketing works in much the same way. One month everybody wants to push a coin inside a bottle. The next month we are all mad about creating smoke from our fingers, then it's on to mind reading wallets. It goes on and on as new trends dictate the most cool and sought-after magic tricks for magicians to master.
Rather than going after the latestand most hyped up magic trick to be released this month, forget about following the crowd. Just because something is new, doesn't mean it's any good. It's quite possible that the majority of people can all follow each other into making the same mistakes.
A much better way to choose magic is to sit down and imagine what you would do if you could really do magic. Would you really push a coin inside a bottle? Would you spend your time turning a red playing card into a blue one? Many magic tricks are technically clever, but lack any thought as to whether the effect is actually pointless.
What would you do if you could really do magic right now?
Fantasise about the magic you would create. If you were going to demonstrate that magic to your friends, what would you do to show them you really did have magical powers? Look for magic tricks that are as close to this ideal. Even if you are creating the magic you've dreams about in a smaller way, that's still fine. You might not fly around the room, but you could demonstrate that something can be made to fly. It might b impractical to teleport, but you could demonstrate that it's possible with some small objects. Pick magic tricks because you actually want to do the magic they demonstrate, not because it's cool, or because its just been released.
What Lego really is.
I think Lego is one of the greatest toys ever invented. It's designed to give kids a push to create things from scratch in a structured process, Yet at the same time, it slowly suggesting that they let go of instructions and become creative. It shows kids what can be done if you become an expert, but also hints to them that there's just as much fun being a beginner. Kids might break up their models and throw all the Lego into a great pile before seeking the next kit to buy, but that pile of Lego is always calling out of them to come and play, and see what else they can make.
Your magic drawer, box, or corner of the room may be full of discarded magic tricks and props. That's just like the lego box. It's full of building blocks that you could use to put together something new and unique.
Can you recommend any movies that have a useful message for magicians? Let me know in the comments section at the bottom of this page.