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In the LEGO Simpsons episode Brick Like Me there are many shots where the tops of studs are clearly visible but lack the logo- the smooth tops make them look like a cheap knock-off brand. A standard normal mapping technique could render the logos without much additional computing time there and in lower budget animated shows like Ninjago or the Star Wars specials, and possibly even the computer games, but I wonder if there are other reasons the logo isn't there — advertising restrictions? (If that's the case an illegible logo would look better than smooth.)

enter image description here

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    That picture from Simpson series looks like a knock-off brand episode, to be honest. LEGO has produced Simpsons sets and CMF series, but minifigures had unique moulds for their heads (unlike adopted/modified standard minifigure heads pictured here)
    – Alex
    Mar 16 at 19:51
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    I added a link to the production notes to the original post, but this quote says it is official: "The idea of the episode was conceived several years ago, where the toy company approached Fox about producing a Lego set of the Simpsons' home... While that merchandise was still in the works, Wilfert pitched the idea of a Lego couch gag: "We went to the guys at The Simpsons and said, 'Wouldn't it be fun if you did your opening couch sequence Lego-style?' They quickly came back to us and said, 'Forget the couch; let's do an entire episode!'""
    – Lucas W
    Mar 17 at 20:33
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    It's likely that it is advertising related - many countries have fairly strict laws on product placement (especially to children) and advertising - for example here in the UK we have rules such as "Advertisements for merchandise based on a children's programme must not be broadcast in the two hours before or after episodes or editions of that programme." So by not having LEGO logos on the bricks, and correcting/using "Other building block toys" they are probably trying to allow broadcasters to show ads for LEGO, Megablocks, etc. within those time constraints. Mar 18 at 9:36
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    It wouldn't surprise me if they left off the logos to optimize performance of the 3D renders, but it could also be an artistic decision because they felt the logos would be too distracting.
    – chicks
    Mar 18 at 14:20
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I can not give a clear answer for licencing, as that is a very broad topic covering various mediums and possibly covers legislation across nations and regions. There are a few practical design cases I can think of though.

Early media

For interactive media, games historically have had limitations on processing and graphical power. Early games, such as LEGO Island released in 1997 had extremely limited graphics (by modern standards) yet were still very effective at representing LEGO bricks and characters fully.

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Rather than attempting to recreate LEGO pieces as realistically as possible, they aimed to make the characters and environment full of life, immersive and fun. Very important for a product aimed at children.

Many designers completely ignore the realistic limitations of the hard plastic joints and pivots of a real minifigure and went for a more expressive style. Arms and legs unnaturally contort to give more expression and dynamics to the characters.

enter image description here

I believe the idea of LEGO bricks and what they represent to the imagination were considered more important to the physical aspects. Aside from technical limitations, the need to represent the bricks as accurately as possible just was not necessary and could even detract from the style.

It is even possible that rendering every individual stud on a brick could have produced a sickening Moiré effect as objects were moved around and their scale changed. This issue would be particularly worse at lower rendering resolutions.

Hyperrealism

The LEGO Movie released in 2014 was perhaps the first time LEGO fully embraced realistic animation. Although being fully animated digitally, they embraced the visual aesthetic of fans making stop-motion LEGO animations (also known as Brickfilms).

The painstaking details, involved placing minifigures under microscopes to capture the seam lines, dirt and grime into the digital textures. The character Benny the spaceman for example, includes the broken helmet chin strap, a common defect of the space sets.

enter image description here

It seemed from the design brief, it was important to provide realism to capture the physical nature of bricks for the sake of nostalgia, in combination with having certain creative freedoms to still make the parts feel alive and animated.


Summary

I could quite easily cover many more examples but I think it would generally be the case that many production companies contracted to design these media by The LEGO Group would have their own production standards, guidelines and interpretations of the artistic and technical style.

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  • why is the link for the moire effect broken? Mar 20 at 8:59
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    @mindstormsboi Thank you for letting me know, I am not sure but the URL should be fixed now. Regarding the edit, although both spellings are valid, I like to use British English in my writing so I have kept licencing as it is.
    – Ambo100
    Mar 20 at 18:04

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