Playing Outside the Box
Directors Mike Mitchell and Tricia Gum bring a new POV and multimedia animation to By Tom Mclean The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part.
F ew films in recent years have surprised viewers more than 2014’s The LEGO Movie. Written and directed by Christopher Miller and Phil Lord, what could have been — and many expected to be — a two-hour toy commercial was instead an inventive, funny and emotional moviegoing experience.
With the huge commercial success of the movie spawning successful spinoffs The LEGO Batman Movie and The LEGO Ninjago Movie, the original gets a direct sequel with The Lego Movie 2: The Second Part, due in theaters February 8 from Warner Bros. with most of the original voice cast returning alongside Miller and Lord as writers and producers.
Stepping into the director’s chair is Mike Mitchell, whose diverse directing credits range from live-action comedies Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo and Sky High, to hybrid features such as Alvin and the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked and straight-on CG animation on Dreamworks Animation and the 2016 hit Trolls.
The idea of making animation more tactile was a major factor in designing the look of Trolls, and it carried over to the physical nature of LEGO for the sequel. “Everything has gone CGI and everything is behind a screen now, and for me that’s why we really wanted to get tactile in Trolls and we really brought that into the LEGO film, because I really miss that,” says Mitchell.
Mitchell, who came aboard after original helmer Chris Mckay took on instead The LEGO Batman Movie and Rob Schrab came and left over creative differences, says Miller and Lord convinced him to take the job with the story pitch and were deeply invested and hands-on with the movie.
“I wanted to remind everyone what was so great about the first film and then evolve from that, so it’s essential to have those guys around,” says Mitchell. “I always describe myself like an Ob-gyn who’s delivering Chris and Phil’s beautiful baby.”
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part picks up just after the original’s ending of Will Ferrell telling his son Finn (played in both films by Jadon Sand) that his little sister, Bianca, was going to be allowed to play with the LEGOS as well, and her adorable DUPLO creations arriving to “destwoy” Bricksburg. The LEGO characters begin a journey into Bianca’s play universe comprised of 11 radically different play planets, collectively known as the Systar System.
The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part stars Chris Pratt, Elizabeth Banks, Tiffany Haddish, Will Arnett, Stephanie Beatriz, Charlie Day, Alison Brie, Nick Offerman and Maya Rudolph. The film is produced by Dan Lin, Lord, Miller
and Roy Lee, the team behind the LEGO film franchise, and by Jinko Gotoh. Patrick Marc Hanenberger is the production designer, and Claire Knight is the editor. The music is composed by Mark Mothersbaugh.
Co-director Trisha Gum brought plenty of stop-motion expertise to the movie, having previously worked on projects like Robot Chicken and the acclaimed Amazon kids’ series Tumble Leaf. Gum’s role in the movie included everything from working with actors in the recording booth, to working with Mitchell, Lord and Miller on editorial, and overseeing production in Vancouver at LEGO franchise veterans Animal Logic’s new facility there.
Gum especially relished the prospect of bringing to life Bianca’s worlds. “She’s really crafty, plays with LEGO, but also likes to do mixed media, as most little girls do,” she says. “We really wanted to make this feel hand- made and crafty, and so there’s a lot of cut paper and fabric and things like that, that really give it a more multimedia kind of feel to it.”
The goal was to convey the idea that Bianca is doing everything in her world, from puppeting the characters to moving the fabrics. And then LEGO had to be incorporated into that. One example was creating a look for sky and particularly water in the Systar system using fabric. “Water was a big thing that we had to R&D because it comes out of fountains and sometimes it leaks or the characters are interacting and swimming in it,” Gum says. “We had to figure a way to move the fabric so it felt like a little child’s hands were actually touching it.” LEGOS were incorporated to the mix as bubble effects and splashes.
Adding New Elements
One element the sequel is unable to repli-
Co-director Trisha Gum as keeping the charm and integrity of the first LEGO Movie — of Emmet and all his friends that come back. I think it has a beautiful mix of what we all loved about the first LEGO Movie, and then just gave it whole new unique look and another point of view.” ◆