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'The Lego Movie': Writer and director share about film

Director Christopher Miller, right, and director Phil Lord seen at the premiere of the feature film
Director Christopher Miller, right, and director Phil Lord seen at the premiere of the feature film "The Lego Movie" on Saturday, Feb. 1, 2014 in Los Angeles. (Photo by Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP)
Dan Steinberg/Dan Steinberg/Invision/AP

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From sport to film... It used to be that if you saw toys in a movie, they were just props or product placement.

But in one highly anticipated feature the toys are the stars.

This weekend the highly anticipated film "The Lego Movie" hits the silver screen.

It's a story of a Lego figure named Emmet, voiced by Chris Pratt.

His life seems pretty ordinary and carefully laid out by a set of instructions, which look a lot like what you'd find in a Lego box.

But when it comes to making a movie about Legos, there are no instructions to follow.

Something Phil Lord and Christopher Miller know all too well -- they wrote and directed the Lego movie.

These two have a knack for making unconventional and enjoyable movies where most would expect the opposite.

They also are the duo behind "21 Jump Street" and "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs."

I recently had the chance to chat with them and we began by talking about why anyone would want to do a movie about Legos.

CM: That’s a great question. Toy movies are usually pretty terrible. That’s what we thought at first. The producers said, We are working on the rights to this brand and would you like to make a movie and we said No, we don’t think it’s a good idea.

But we both loved Lego as kids and we had seen a bunch of these brick films online and we started watching them again —fan films, little stop motion shorts people make in their basement an post on to YouTube. They are really, really creative.

PL: We started to feel like, Oh this isn’t a big corporate project. This is like a grassroots movement and maybe we could use a big commercial movie as like a Trojan horse to bring all of this grassroots creativity onto a big screen.

On building a Lego world for the film:

CM: There’s obviously an enormous crew of people, about 250 people in Australia. Most of the movie is actually CG made to look like real Lego bricks. But we were very insistent that it be so real that you feel like it’s a Lego set come to life. There’s also real stop motion in it and a lot of real Lego stuff comped in as well. But we don’t anyone to know what's real and what isn’t.

On creating unique things like Lego smoke and water:

PL: The Lego shower was really complicated because the Lego drops are just too big. Like one drop of water is as big as someone’s head. But then we figured if we took a Lego flower arrangement and turned it clear then that would sort of look  like a shower. And there were a lot of little solutions like that. The Lego builders in Denmark and folks at home are constantly thinking of those kinds of solutions.

On taking liberties with characters like Batman and the Green Lantern:

PL: I think that was part of our original take on it was we need to play as fast and loose with these classic characters as a child would and Batman is so inspiring because he’s the best rich douchey boyfriend you could ever hope to have. That’s the biggest hill to climb if there’s a girl you’re trying to date.

On Lego’s response and role in the film: 

CM: They have (seen it) and they liked it, thank goodness. They are a really successful company and are having huge growth even in a down economy so they didn’t really need a movie. They didn’t really want a movie even. There were a lot of people that saw the movie and then said, ‘I was against it but now I’m super happy.’

We went to them and said the only way this is going to work is if it doesn’t feel like it is coming from you guys at all. You’re going to need to hand us the keys really and let us make a movie because it needs to be a film by filmmakers with a point of view and it has to be like clay in a Claymation movie not like, Here’s the Lego corporation’s idea of what a story should be with all the new toys that are coming out on shelves.

They would turn the designs even better and cooler and more structurally sound.

On making a film that appeals to all audiences:

CM: We don’t really approach doing a family movie any differently than we approach doing an R-rated comedy, other than not being able to drop F-bombs.

Somewhere along the way people lose touch or at least lose confidence in their own creativity and sense of play. It was sort of our goal to make people get back in touch with that.