'Lego Movie': Phil Lord and Chris Miller on creating the unique look

How much dust and dandruff does it take to convincingly render a world composed of Legos and inhabited by mini-figures? How do you render clouds of smoke using plastic play pieces?

Such are the questions that filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller faced while crafting the animated hit "The Lego Movie."


In this clip from a recent presentation of "Lego" for the Envelope Screening Series, Lord and Miller talk about how they gave the Warner Bros. film a handmade aesthetic while also incorporating CGI imagery.

"We tried to trick [the studio] a little bit because we knew that they didn't want it to be a stop-motion film because they thought that felt small," Miller says. "And so we started using the word 'hybrid.' … But our intention was to do it exactly like a stop-motion film, so much so that you wouldn't know what was CG and what was real — down to having scratches and dust and thumbprints and dandruff. We had meetings about how much dandruff to put onto the set."

("'Some' is the correct answer," he adds.)

The filmmakers also had to use their imaginations to create decidedly non-blocky images from Lego parts. They used scoops of Lego ice cream to create bubbles, for example, and wigs from clown mini-figures — "theoretically painted white," Lord says — to make smoke effects.

"That's the kind of low-tech solution that you wouldn't think of if you gave yourself all the tools of CGI or even traditional animation," Lord says. "So it leads to all these fun solutions."

For more from Lord, Miller and "Lego" star Chris Pratt, watch the clip above and check back for more videos.

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