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'The Lego Movie': They Built It, and Fans Came

28 Jul, 2014 By: Stephanie Prange

SAN DIEGO — Keith Malone, director of content development for the Lego Group, said Lego executives — first approached in 2007 — had decided that they would only do a Lego movie “if the fans loved it, and it was great.”

As evidenced by a packed room of young and old fans at a July 27 panel at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con International, they got their wish.

Panelists offered details about the making of The Lego Movie, as the panel promoted the recent Blu-ray and DVD release.

Matthew Ashton, VP of design and executive producer on The Lego Movie, took the crowd through the development of several characters, including Unikitty, which actually started out as Crazy King Carl.

“He was a little bit silly and a little bit annoying and he was really hard for the audience to warm to, so we decided we needed to scrap him and come up with somebody entirely different,” he said.

Producers looked for a character that would complement and contrast with the others.

‘We wanted somebody who just oozed emotion,” he said.  They looked at bunnies and butterflies, and all sorts of animals that make you smile. And then they decided to combine two, kitten and unicorn, and thus was born Unikitty.

But that wasn’t the end of the design process. With a horse body, she loomed over the other characters and “was kind of terrifying,” he said. Thus, she got a kitten body with a horn.

“We thought it would be kind of cute if she moved just the way a kid plays with a horse,” he said, noting that she jumps around stiff-legged in the film.

Lego designer Mike Fuller discussed the long and arduous task of designing wounded warrior Metal Beard. Fuller, who usually designs vehicles, said, he “got emotionally attached to my model for the first time.”

Metal Beard was “smashed up” and recombined several times because he had to be the right size and also capable of several poses.

“It was kind of like casting,” Fuller said, adding he had “a folder full of beards.”

An audience member asked if the movie had been made in stop-motion animation, and Ashton noted that it would have taken decades to make the movie that way.

“It’s CGI made to look like stop-motion animation,” he explained.

Panelists told the crowd a second Lego movie is coming in May 2017.

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