When “The Lego Movie” premiered in 2014, it was a surprise critical and commercial hit.
The surprise was partly due to the expectation that the film would be one long commercial for Legos when, in the end, it was a pretty good movie.
The film did help sell Legos, but it also opened to almost universal acclaim. It also grossed nearly half-a-billion dollars worldwide. Naturally, Warner Brothers wanted a follow up film — actually, several more Lego movies.
The next film in what’s become the Lego franchise is “The Lego Batman Movie” and it opens on Feb. 10. Will Arnett is the voice of Batman, Michael Cera is Robin and Zach Galifianakis is The Joker.
Dan Lin produced “Lego Batman” and the original “Lego Movie.” He visited The Frame studio to talk about building an unexpectedly successful movie into a film franchise.
On whether the success of the first “Lego Movie” meant the filmmakers had less creative freedom on the second film:
It’s just the opposite. If we don’t have creative freedom, and if we don’t take risks, we’re doomed to fail. We’ll definitely make a bad movie. So the challenge for us is, How do we protect that with just a lot more stakeholders? How do we get them involved? How do we get them involved early? How do we educate them on why we’re doing things? But for us, no, we’re not going to not take risks. This is actually the time to take even more risks.
On the comparisons between “The Lego Batman Movie” and “Deadpool”:
We were already making this movie before “Deadpool” came out, so we had no idea. I love that people talk about our movie as being like a family version of “Deadpool,” but it’s kind of a coincidence. It’s kind of a great catchphrase and a great marketing hook, but we certainly weren’t looking at “Deadpool” as a model. We were already doing this version of Lego Batman in the first movie, we’ve now just given him his own movie.
On the challenge of sustaining Will Arnett’s brash Batman character for an entire movie:
He cant be a jerk for the whole movie. That’s the main thing. ‘Cause certainly, too much of that egotistical, selfish character is going to make him an unlikeable character. So it’s a very tricky balance. We have to set him up in that way, but then you have to show his vulnerability. You know, he’s just like the rest of us. Ultimately he’s looking for a family, he’s lonely.
On whether Lego has any “red lines” when it comes to things like guns or smoking:
They don’t want Lego [mini-figures] to kiss. They let us try it. In the first movie, we tested it and we tried to even make it funny and moms hated it. And so we’ve learned that we never want characters to kiss in a Lego movie [although they can hug or hold hands]. As filmmakers, we don’t want gun violence in our movies, especially family movies. And so [director] Chris McKay and the actors came up with a “Pew pew!” [sound] … It is hilarious. So those “pew pews” are not sound effects, they are really the actors making those noises.
On other Lego movies that are in the works:
What we pitched is that we’re going to build to the sequel. “Lego Batman” is not a sequel to the first movie, it’s a standalone movie. And what we’re going to do is take our “Lego Movie” approach and approach different genres. So the first movie was an adventure movie. It’s basically a kids’ “Matrix.” Second one with Lego Batman is a superhero action movie. Next one, “Ninjago,” which comes out this fall, is going to be a martial arts/kung-fu movie. And then we’re going to build to “Lego Movie 2.” That’s phase one for us, and then phase two we’re going to approach other genres.