It’s Play­time:

Animation Magazine - - Features -

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

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