It’s a blockbuster in every sense of the word.
“The Lego Movie” may not have opened in Australian yet, but our shores are already familiar with this CGI epic that’s grossed more than $400 million around the world.
It’s the latest offering from Sydney-based animation firm Animal Logic – the same brains behind such visual juggernauts as “The Matrix”, “Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire” and “The Great Gatsby”. Not to mention its Oscar-winning effort in “Happy Feet”.
Animal Logic’s strong relationship with Warner Bros. saw it come aboard this latest project surrounding a little plastic man’s mission to save the Lego universe from an evil tyrant. It’s completely computer-animated, but presented in a way that kept audiences guessing about whether stop-motion animation had been used.
“We were inspired by the “brick films”: those kind of fun, go-for-broke movies that kids and adults make with Lego,” explains animation co-director Chris McKay. “The spirit of that is being purely inventive.”
The film was directed by Phil Lord and Chris Miller, the Hollywood rising-stars behind “Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs” and “21 Jump Street”. But it was McKay that supervised the Sydney production of “The Lego Movie”.
“We’re on the cutting edge as far as digital filmmaking goes with Animal Logic,” he told SBS.
“I think this movie should absolutely be called an Australian film. It was pretty much top-to-bottom made here, and if we’re going to have any shot at an Academy Award, we should go as an Australian language film.”
WATCH: Animation co-director, Chris McKay, speaks to SBS’s Manny Tsigas
McKay’s resume includes some slightly less family-friendly animation titles like “Robot Chicken” and “Moral Orel”. Though the biggest challenge here was trying to avoid making a 90-minute commercial for the famous line of Danish toys.
“We didn’t want to make it about Lego, we wanted to make it about creativity,” he told SBS. “We wanted to make it about a guy who’s boring and doesn’t have a lot of sharp edges to him. But that’s we way we all feel. When you sit down and you’re making something, you expose yourself. You’re vulnerable.”
After more than two years surrounded by 300 animators at Animal Logic, McKay is already signed on to direct a Lego movie sequel. Though Animal Logic is still in talks to join him on the project.
The film’s success comes as Animal Logic undergoes some reassembling of its own. CEO Zareh Nalbandian announced the firm’s restructure into three groups: its animation and visual effects arms, along with a film development office based in Los Angeles.
“We develop films out of LA, we develop films out of Australia. Ultimately we intend to make as many of our films as possible in Australia… and not just being passive and waiting for someone to bring a film to our shores,” Nalbandian told SBS. “We’re aggressively building that content.”
WATCH: Animal Logic’s CEO Zareh Nalbandian
Animal Logic already has more projects to tie them over for the next few years, including Angelina Jolie’s Australian-filmed war epic “Unbroken”.
Animal Logic staff say working in a different country and timezone to Hollywood can be beneficial in the creative process.
“We can sometimes come up with creative solutions and try things out without having to present things as often,” said Grant Freckelton, the production designer for “The Lego Movie”.
“That comes up with interesting ways of solving things, but ultimately we’re a passionate group of artists.”
Rob Coleman agrees. The two-time Oscar nominee joined Animal Logic following his work on “Star Wars: The Phantom Menace” and “Stars Wars: Attack of the Clones”.
“I’ve led some pretty amazing animation teams, and I can tell you the team at Animal Logic is absolutely equal to the talent and quality I’ve worked with before,” he said.
WATCH: Production Designer, Grant Freckelton and Head of Animation, Rob Coleman