With the theatrical release of The LEGO Movie (2014), the famous building-block company have gone wide with their latest animated adventure, but they have been quietly working in the medium for some time now. Their first foray was LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu, and now there is Legends of Chima.
The show premiered on the Cartoon Network in January 2013, and all ten half-hour episodes are now available on DVD in a two-disc package. The full title is LEGO Legends of Chima: The Lion, the Crocodile, and the Power of Chi!.
The LEGO brand is a great one, but at first glance I found it a little hard to figure out how the Legends of Chima fitted in to it. Then I took a walk down the LEGO aisle of the local toy store, and my eyes were opened. The land of Chima is populated with at least 50 different anthropomorphic animals, and each of them are available in multiple sizes. Suddenly it all made sense.
My children grew up in the Pokemon era of the ‘90s, so it has been quite a while since I have watched these types of shows. The first thing I noticed about Legends of Chima is just how impressive the animation is. The characters in this series are three-dimensional, and the look is fantastic.
The story is a pretty familiar one: the good guys versus the bad guys. The Tribes of Chima are those great-looking anthropomorphic animals I mentioned earlier, with the good guys led by the Lions, and the baddies led by the Crocodiles. The Eagles and Gorillas hang with the Lions, while the evil Ravens and Wolves are with the Crocs. At stake is “CHI,” which is described as a mystical energy source that powers everything in the land.
In the opening episode “The Legend of Chima,” this battle is made personal between two former boyhood friends. Laval is the prince of the Lions, and it is his “Day of Becoming,” a celebration marking the day he becomes old enough to own his own CHI. During the ceremony, the Crocodile, Wolf, and Raven Tribes attack Lion City. To defend themselves, the Lions call on their friends the Eagles and Gorillas. The fight ends with Cragger’s parents dying, and he takes over as King of the Crocodiles. He and Laval were friends as they grew up, but now it is war between the Tribes.
This sets the course for the remaining nine episodes, which feature various battles between the different factions, new friendships, betrayals, and everything you would expect. In the final “For Chima!” it looks as if the situation will be resolved, and Laval and Cragger will become friends again and all will be well. But this brief moment of respite does not last, as all of Chima are faced with a much bigger enemy at the season’s close. The ending finds the Tribes gathering to head out to the Outlands, in order to save Chima.
While these types of shows have always been basically advertisements for the toys, they can be pretty good too. As a veteran of the Pokemon years, I believe the Legends of Chima series is vastly superior, especially the animation. The various alliances get a little confusing over time, but kids seem to love that stuff. Enjoy it with the little ones, just keep them out of the LEGO aisle when you go to the toy store.