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According to an interview with Elf director Jon Favreau, the Lego City set was built in-house by the Rusty Smith's art department. The IMDB page for the movie thanks The LEGO Group for the permission to use the LEGO logo and trademarks but has no mention of any further involvement in set design.
My wife and sister-in-law enjoyed our trip to LEGOLand with our sons, everyone enjoyed the models, however not everyone was as keen on the rides, you mileage without kids to share the rides with may be different. The question then comes down to whether you feel the model world is going to justify the entrance fee, personally I found the UK park to be ...
I'd wager it was mostly to save plastic. Many of the 1x family of bricks used to come with far fewer posts inside, like so: http://www.bricklink.com/catalogItem.asp?P=crssprt02 but notice they quit making that style in 1969.
A comment on this thread got me headed in the right direction of research. Before 1958, none of the bricks had tubes inside, though as gev points out, some of the larger bricks had horizontal cross beams. In 1958, Lego applied for a patent for a new design with center posts in the bricks, which allowed for a tighter more stable fit. So, the 1x2 brick without ...
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