A movie about Legos isn't exactly the first idea that would pop in our head when it comes to a hip new animated movie project, but here we are. The best thing about this project is how good it all sounds when you put all the right elements together. First you put together Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs directors and together with stop-motion aficionado Chris McKay (Robot Chicken). The three of them then put together what we figure is a fantastic script with one hell of a voice cast including the likes of , , and many others. So when does this movie come out? Because surely there's a number of us, including myself, that want to see this very soon.
So how did they manage to put together this adorable-looking stop motion animated film? We were able to sit with the directors as they talked about the whole process of bringing this to life.
How did you adapt the idea of their creativity into a narrative that explores that side?
Phil Lord: It's funny. We started out with this idea that they are a machine of creativity. Let's make a movie - can a regular construction worker learn those skills? We found out that there's a really high bar. The more you hear the word "creativity", the less you want to hear it. [laughs] It started to get really preachy, really fast. There were versions of this movie that felt like a college paper. [laughs]
Chris Miller: So the word "creativity" is not in the movie at all. This movie is, obviously, all about creativity. The idea is that there are two different ways that people play with Legos. There are those that buy the kit, follow the instructions, and build the piece how it is, which is awesome. Then there are the people who dump all the bricks together and build whatever they want to, and that's awesome as well. We wanted to have dialectic on the different ways there are to make things.
Chris McKay: These guys really opened up everybody on the crew to access their inner child. It was a lot like play, in the way we set up all of the departments, and the storyboards, and then going into the animation and layout, and then everything else. It was just "Play like you're a kid. Have fun! What if the story was this?'. You just start running with ideas, and that kind of thing. It was very organic, and almost improvisational. The whole process was just "How crazy can we make this?" The way these guys had talked about it earlier was like "If Michael Bay kidnapped Henry Selick and forced him to make the Lego movie stuck in Michael Bay's brain...". You know, that's what this movie is. It's literally those two guys coming together on this one. It's an explosion of creativity! [laughs] It's almost like a joyride through a ten year old's imagination.
Phil Lord: I know this is a long answer to a short question, but McKay built a creativity machine, that was the production, and he did it in a way that was really flat, and allowed for a lot of dialog in between departments without a lot of layers. The editors could talk to the storyboard artists and request some drawings, and try things out without showing us first so that really got everyone energized. Everyone's office was right next door to one another, so it really became a very fluid creative process.
Did you have anyone in particular in mind when you first started, and can you tell us a little bit about casting this film?
Chris Miller: We thought of Pratt early on because he's hilarious. He's a regular guy. He actually grew up two blocks from me, and he's just a hilarious guys-guy sort of guy. He seemed perfect for that.
Phil Lord: I knew him from on Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs. We had met him, and he was sort of her boyfriend. We just met him as a guy, and then watched him become the funniest person on television. He has a real sincerity to him that we thought was really important to the character. Also, we got a lot of people that we went after. We got this idea to make into a wizard. [laughs]
Chris Miller: We were like "Oh, yeah. He'll never do it!" and he did it! We saw that 'Life's Too Short' that was on, and it was hilarious, so we were like "We've gotta put this guy in the movie!". We asked him to do it, and we thought he's never do it, and he did it too! We couldn't believe it! We've always wanted to work with because he's an amazing guy, and hilarious, and just a wonderful person, and this was a wonderful opportunity to do that. We've been friends with for years. We worked with many years ago, so we tried to assemble some buddies, and some people we really like.
Warner Bros. has had tremendous success with the Lego video game, and they've done some really funny cut scenes. Did you talk with them, or work with them?
Chris Miller: We went to Manchester and met with Jon [Burton], saw his whole operation and what they were doing. They stuff they are doing is really clever, and they really use the "Lego-ness" off the Lego characters. Their arms pop off, and it really helped us. When you are writing it, you tend to think about them as people, and you forget that they are these little plastic dudes. You want to remember to continually use that as part of the charm of them. That really helped us.
Phil Lord: There's been a lot of dialog back and forth. A lot of sharing of digital assets, and every time we cut the movie it goes over to Manchester. They were psyched to have us over there. We were like "We're going to try to break every rule that you guys have had opposed on you." [laughs]
What was the recording process like? Did you get a chance to get any of the actors together, or was it just you one-on-one with the voice talent?
Chris Miller: We did Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, and together a couple of times because they kind off of each other. Also, we did Liam Neeson and Will Ferrell together over the phone, which was kind of funny. Liam was in New York, and Will was in Los Angeles, so they did their scene over the phone, which was kind of awkward at first, but then it became amazing Those were the only ones that we could get in the same room. It was our goal to get - it's more fun to get people together to play off of each other, because there's a lot of improvisation. These people are all super funny people that can riff, so we ended up getting a lot of good stuff out of them. It's like "Oh, you're doing The Hunger Games, and you're doing Anchorman." There were a million different things, but we worked around their schedules and we tried to make it work as much as we could.
The look of the movie is "so Lego". Can you talk about your decisions to create this look, in the old-style animation too?
Chris Miller: We wanted it to feel like a real Lego set come to life.
Chris McKay: You would be surprised how many people were resistant to that idea. On every level, people didn't get it, and didn't think that the charm would come through. Until we proved that you could.
Phil Lord: We had to prove it on every level. On the conceptual level with the folks at Warner, and then again on the technical side, then again with the animators, and with all kinds of people. I'm sure there will be some reviews that are like "Meh. I don't like what they did!", but we discovered that we could get a lot of expressiveness and emotion... You know, what they have done as a team to get so much [animation] out of the dumbest drawings! That was our dream. What a great trick it would be to make you care about the dorkiest looking things in the whole universe.
Chris Miller: In The Muppet Movie Kermit's eyes don't move, and he's just doing this [moves head around] and you get so much expressiveness out of the limitations.
Are you allowed to reveal any other superhero characters that may be in it?
Chris Miller: Yes. We just said in Hall H that there are other DC superheroes in it. Superman is being played by Channing Tatum, Green Lantern is being played by , and Wonder Woman is being played by Colbie Smulders. There are a lot of other characters that we're not allowed to talk about right now from other movies, from other Lego sets. They all, sort of, interact in a way like a kid was playing with a bucket full of Legos. They would play together. That's a really fun part, but we can't really tell you about that stuff.
The Lego Movie will be out in theaters next year.