A crazy idea from a Hol­ly­wood di­rect­ing duo turned out to be a gold­mine, with The Lego Movie win­ning au­di­ences around the globe

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - MOVIES - PETER MITCHELL

Phil Lord and Chris Miller are cau­tiously sip­ping cof­fee in a pirate-themed room in the Legoland Ho­tel, ad­ja­cent to the Legoland theme park about 90 min­utes drive south of Los Angeles.

The room is a child’s fan­tasy filled with skull and cross­bones on a sail above the bed, a trea­sure chest in a cor­ner and Lego cre­ations adorn­ing the walls, but the cof­fee isn’t good.

“We think about Aus­tralia a lot when we drink this Amer­i­can cof­fee,” Mi­ami-born Lord, 36, says, winc­ing as he puts his mug down on a side ta­ble.

“I'm crazy for the cof­fee in Aus­tralia,” he says.

Lord and Miller, one of Hol­ly­wood's most suc­cess­ful di­rect­ing duos, spent plenty of time in Syd­ney mak­ing their lat­est hit, The Lego Movie. The 3-D an­i­mated film was made at the An­i­mal Logic stu­dios in Syd­ney.

Lord and Miller flew in from their base in Los Angeles, spent weeks in the har­bour city, be­fore jet­ting back to the US to work on other projects, in­clud­ing the Jonah Hill and Chan­ning Ta­tum com­edy se­quel, 22 Jump Street.

The Lego Movie cost $US60 mil­lion ($A66.52 mil­lion) to make and had a bumper $US69 mil­lion open­ing weekend in the US.

World­wide it has al­ready ac­cu­mu­lated $US379 mil­lion in box of­fice. A se­quel was quickly green lit for a 2017 re­lease.

The film cen­tres on the obe­di­ent, or­di­nary Lego con­struc­tion worker char­ac­ter Em­met, voiced by Parks and Re­cre­ation TV sit­com star Chris Pratt, who is mis­tak­enly iden­ti­fied as an ex­tra­or­di­nary mini-fig­ure known as The Spe­cial des­ig­nated by a mys­tic to save the Lego world from a tyrant.

The film, thanks to Lego’s li­cens­ing ar­range­ments with some of Hol­ly­wood’s most suc­cess­ful fran­chises, al­lowed the film­mak­ers to in­clude a who’s who of mini-fig­ures, with Star Wars and Lord of the Rings char­ac­ters rub­bing plas­tic shoul­ders with su­per­heroes Bat­man (voiced by Will Ar­nett), Su­per­man (Chan­ning Ta­tum), Won­der Woman (Co­bie Smul­ders) and Green Lan­tern (Jonah Hill). The 107 minifig­ures used in the film in­clude some new ones, headed by the tough Wild­style (El­iz­a­beth Banks) and the mys­tic Vitru­vius (Mor­gan Free­man).

Lord and Miller, who codi­rected the hit 2009 an­i­mated fam­ily film Cloudy with a Chance of Meat­balls, were work­ing on the script for 2012’s 21 Jump Street when they sent off a “half­baked” email to pro­duc­ers Roy Lee and Dan Lin, who ac­quired the rights from Lego to de­velop a movie.

Lord and Miller were in­spired by the im­per­fect, rough-look­ing YouTube videos chil­dren make with Lego blocks and mini-fig­ures.

“The email said, ‘You prob­a­bly won’t want to do it this way be­cause the guys can’t bend their el­bows and it’s go­ing to be like a crazy eight-year-old took over the movie stu­dio. It’s go­ing to be too nuts’,” Miller says.

“They went down a cou­ple of dif­fer­ent roads with the Lego people and then, as a kind of last-ditched ef­fort, said, ‘What about this thing?’, and they for­warded the email which we sent them.

“They said, ‘Guys, Lego liked your email. Can you write a treat­ment based on that?’.”

The ba­sic, hand­made brick and char­ac­ter con­cept they came up with was iron­i­cally the most com­plex way to make the film, which has com­puter an­i­ma­tion and stop-mo­tion.

“Com­put­ers do clean, shiny, per­fect and smooth an­i­ma­tion very eas­ily,” Miller says.

“A lot of re­search went into putting scratches on them, the ir­reg­u­lar­ity of how the bricks are put to­gether and the im­per­fec­tion you get when mak­ing a film by hand,” he says.

The Lego Movie opens to­day.

Lego char­ac­ters Em­met, Vitru­vius and Wyld­style

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