The sequel offers many surprises, interesting animation and a great voice cast including Margot Robbie, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Pratt, Alison Brie, Jonah Hill, Channing Tatum, Tiffany Haddish, Nick Offerman and Will Arnett. cate is the original’s twist, which revealed that the entire movie had taken place in the mind of young Finn, playing with his father’s off-limits collectible LEGO sets in the family basement. The clash between father and son — and collectibles versus toys — gave the film an unexpected emotional grounding in the real world.
Mitchell says the sequel doesn’t have that same type of twist, but it does expand on that element of the plot, introducing Bianca and mom and an older Finn, navigating teenhood, who’s not quite sure it’s OK to still play with LEGO.
”It’s really exploring, when we get older, how much of [all those things that inspired us as kids] that do we hang onto?” says Mitchell.
Animating the mini-figures under LEGO rules is always a challenge, but it’s one that the animators have gotten better at over time. “What Mike and I say is, less is more,” Gum says. ”An animator could do a really subtle eye dart or a really subtle blink that is a lot more effective than having a million different things on a character’s face move. A lot of times, the simplicity really works in our favor.”
Working with the folks at LEGO was another major factor in the making of the film, en-
forcing rules about how the toys could look and move that at first seemed restrictive, but later forced creative solutions that made the movie better, Mitchell says. “I have to credit LEGO and how strict they are. The limitations lead to creativity in a cool way.”
This was most clear with the use in the movie of toys from the girl-oriented LEGO Friends line, which uses mini-doll figures that bend at the waist, but the legs do not bend at the knee or move separately. “Our animators just figured, OK, we’re going to figure out a way to move them so they don’t ever have to bend their legs, and amazing creative solutions come up to these issues.”
“Also, their wrists don’t rotate, but they have more expressive faces and noses, so we really leaned into those limitations,” says Gum. “The animators were able to come up with beautiful things and actually seeing the difference in the way they move is really charming.”
The way the characters move played off each other in a musical song and dance number. “We actually had choreographers come in and we showed them all the different toys and all the different characters that would be in this musical dance number,” says Gum. “[They] all came up with a beautiful dance number where the characters are moving in a way that’s embracing the limitations of the LEGO and it was really fun to see.”
Perhaps the most unusual character in the movie is Queen Watevra Wa-nabi, ruler of the Systar System and voiced by Tiffany Haddish. “She’s just like a pile of bricks,” says Mitchell. “She can turn into whatever she wants to, but we’re challenged to only use the bricks that we have in her body. And to see all the different shapes that she can become has been amazing.”
“You can do a lot of cool things with re- placements and that’s a really fun one for the animators to play with because it feels very stop-motion,” says Gum. ” You can replace as many bricks as you want sometimes with those things and get really great performances out of it.”
A Wild Mix of Styles
Telling a story this way requires more than one form of animation. Mitchell says sometimes they are trying to be as smooth as possible, and others going for more of a childlike stop-motion feeling in which they shoot on twos, threes and sometimes even fours. “There’s a third form of animation that I al- most don’t want to even get into, when these minifigs journey into the live-action world,” he says. ”It’s the most fun, weirdest, funkiest, most creative way that they move, that everyone has to just go to the movie to see it.”
Mitchell credits Gum, Hanenberger and animator Dave Burgess, who also worked with Mitchell on Trolls, for coming up with different looks for each of Bianca’s play planets.
“I think the effects guys had a really good time, too, because most of them are really trapped into doing things on a screen. The wonderful thing about LEGO and this crafty way we started to explore it is, suddenly, all of our effects guys had their crayons out and they were literally drawing on paper for sequences of the film,” Mitchell says.
That room for experimentation has made the film an extremely satisfying experience for Gum. “Creating Bianca’s world, for me, was so satisfying and I feel very proud of it,” she says. “I wanted a female voice to be heard and Bianca’s voice to be really strong and unique in this film, and I think we’ve done that as well