An ordinary LEGO minifigure, mistakenly thought to be the extraordinary MasterBuilder, is recruited to join a quest to stop an evil LEGO tyrant from gluing the universe together.
“The LEGO® Movie” is the first-ever, full-length theatrical LEGO® adventure.
Directed by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller (“Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “21 Jump Street”) the original 3D computer-animated story follows Emmet, an ordinary, rules-following, perfectly average LEGO minifigure who is mistakenly identified as The Special, the most extraordinary person and the key to saving the world. He is drafted into a fellowship of strangers on an epic quest to stop an evil tyrant, a journey for which Emmet is hopelessly and hilariously underprepared.
Chris Pratt is the voice of Emmet. Will Ferrell is the voice of President Business, aka Lord Business, an uptight CEO who has a hard time balancing world domination with micro-managing his own life, and Liam Neeson is the voice of Lord Business’s loyal henchman, Bad Cop/Good Cop, who will stop at nothing to catch Emmet.
Voicing the members of Emmet’s rebel crew on this heroic mission are Morgan Freeman as the ancient mystic Vitruvius; Elizabeth Banks as tough-as-nails Wyldstyle, who mistakes Emmet for the savior of the world and guides him on his quest; Will Arnett as the mysterious BatmanTM, a LEGO minifigure with whom Wyldstyle shares a history; Nick Offerman as the craggy, swaggering pirate Metal Beard, obsessed with revenge on Lord Business; Alison Brie as the sweet and loveable Unikitty and Charlie Day as Benny, the 1980-something Spaceman.
Warner Bros Pictures Presents, in association with Village Roadshow Pictures, in association with LEGO System A/S, a Vertigo Entertainment/Lin Pictures Production: “The LEGO Movie,” starring Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie and Charlie Day, with Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman.
The screenplay is by Phil Lord & Christopher Miller from a story by Dan Hageman & Kevin Hageman and Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, based on LEGO construction toys.
“The LEGO Movie” was produced by Dan Lin and Roy Lee. Jill Wilfert, Matthew Ashton, Kathleen Fleming, Allison Abbate, Zareh Nalbandian, Jon Burton, Benjamin Melniker, Michael E. Uslan, Seanne Winslow, Matt Skiena and Bruce Berman served as executive producers, and John Powers Middleton as co-producer.
The creative filmmaking team included cinematographer Pablo Plaisted, production designer Grant Freckelton, editors David Burrows and Chris McKay, and composer Mark Mothersbaugh.
Chris McKay also served as animation co-director.
“The LEGO Movie” will be distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures, a Warner Bros. Entertainment Company, and in select territories by Village Roadshow Pictures.
Anyone who ever designed a universe from a heap of parts on their bedroom floor will know what “The LEGO Movie” writer/directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller mean when they say that, growing up, they always had buckets of LEGO® bricks. “We’d build spaceships and all kinds of crazy things, but it wasn’t just the building, it was the infinite possibilities of things to make and express that was so irresistible and exciting,” says Miller.
As filmmakers, their interest took a different focus. “Chris and I were inspired by the ingenuity and humor that comes out of the international LEGO community,” says Lord, referring to such outlets as LEGO Cuusoo, the LEGO Group’s fan submission site for potential new products, “ReBrick” forums where people can share their creations, and the growing number of unique short films, using LEGO bricks and minifigures, that are produced and shared online by individuals from every corner of the world.
Such is the fascination of the LEGO brand, an endlessly evolving and hugely popular construction toy that has cultivated creativity across generations and cultures since its inception. Committed to upholding that principle, Lord and Miller knew from the start that this could be no standard animation but a virtual build, a feature-length motion picture made entirely of LEGO bricks and elements.
“We both thought,” Lord continues, “‘Wouldn’t it be amazing to make a big, fun, action-packed LEGO adventure that captures the feeling of being a kid putting these pieces together, but on a truly epic scale?’ And what if it could retain that handmade quality these little films have that’s so engaging. Because part of the appeal of LEGO bricks is how accessible they are as an art form, we wanted to make a film that felt like something anyone could do in their own basement…provided they had a gigantic basement and a few million bricks!”
Actually, closer to 15 million, if you count each brick, character, set piece, and prop needed, as the filmmakers ultimately realized their vision for the film.
Family-friendly with an edge, “The LEGO Movie” offers not only big action and big laughs, but some big ideas, too.
“I wanted to make a movie I could enjoy with my kids, something that captured kids’ imagination and ingenuity,” says producer Dan Lin, one of the architects of the project. “More importantly, I have two boys, and they’re really rambunctious, so toys sometimes fall and get broken. What I love about LEGO toys is that not only can something be built, it can be re-built into something even better.”
That sentiment is shared not only by the filmmakers but their all-star vocal cast, many of whom similarly cite a strong personal attachment to the material. Will Ferrell, who embodies the role of President Business and his covert identity, Lord Business, says, “As a dad now, it’s really fun to have it come full circle in seeing my kids play with LEGO bricks the way I used to, and it’s interesting to see my 3-year-old as engrossed as my 9-year-old. The hard part is to hold myself back from saying, ‘Here, give me that; let me build this part for you.’ I have to resist and let them explore it on their own.”
Indeed, “There are two different ways people play with LEGO bricks,” Miller relates. “One is to follow the instructions on the kit and put together this awesome thing, whatever it is, which you then set on your shelf and never use so it doesn’t break, and the other is to take a pile of random pieces and make something from your own imagination, then take it apart and make something else. ‘The LEGO Movie’ uses these two different approaches as the basis for its story, which is really about innovation and creativity and the importance of change.”
Producer Roy Lee calls the directors “two of the most creative people I know. They did an amazing job on ‘Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs,’ which was a fairly thin book, and they came in and reinvented some of the characters and really expanded it from what was on the page. With the LEGO concept, we had a blank canvas and they were the perfect guys to come in and invent a whole new world to explore.”
But it’s a world due for a disastrous end if not for one accidental hero: Emmet.
A construction worker and self-described nobody, Emmet adheres to the rules in every aspect of his life, content in the belief that he is the most ordinary, unremarkable person ever, until a crisis of monumental proportions reveals a surprisingly extraordinary side of him he never knew.
“On day one, we talked about our experiences building something out of LEGO bricks and the frustration we’d sometimes feel when we couldn’t find a specific piece right away. That feeling encapsulates who Emmet is to us,” says Dan Hageman, who, with writing partner and brother Kevin Hageman worked on the story with screenwriters Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. “He thinks his happiness is tied to following the instructions yet the fate of the world will rely on him discovering his own creativity,” adds Kevin.
Chris Pratt, the voice of Emmet, says, “This challenge takes him through LEGO realms he didn’t know existed, where everything is just ridiculous but in a good way. It’s all beautiful, imaginative, exciting and very funny. There are loveable characters, amazing sets, insane action, a lot of love and a really positive message that you can feel comfortable bringing your kids to see.”
“There are several themes, but the central theme is that there is something special inside of everyone,” Lin says.”
Adds Lee, “Even though you might think you’re an ordinary person, you can still really have a huge impact on the world around you.”
Joining Pratt and Ferrell in bringing these ideas home through their vocal characterizations are Elizabeth Banks, Will Arnett, Nick Offerman, Alison Brie, Charlie Day, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman.
“Everybody had too much fun,” says Banks, who recorded some of her scenes as rebel girl Wyldstyle alongside Pratt and Arnett. “We were all just trying to make each other laugh. Chris and Phil love this world so much and they really designed everything with a focus on funny, and how they could make it as fresh and original as possible, and we had a great time with these characters.”
Some of that, Lord believes, comes with the territory: “There’s something very funny about a really cute, bright yellow character with LEGO proportions acting tough, or threatening to destroy the world. It’s just so funny to see them take it all so seriously.”
What the filmmakers genuinely took seriously were the time-honored tenets of the LEGO brand and what it means to its legions of fans worldwide. Says Lord, “It was kind of scary to make a movie based on such a trusted and beloved toy. It was a tremendous honor, but a responsibility, too.”
Visually, Lord and Miller sought a photo-real, non-traditional computer animation style resembling stop-motion, to give their characters and settings the endearing homemade aesthetic that defines LEGO construction. Rather than cheat the images with seamless CG backgrounds and drawn bricks, the animators created each individual component and virtually built every scene brick by brick—a technique that proved especially useful when the story called for buildings and other objects to be blasted to pieces and then re-assembled, on the fly, into weapons or high-speed escape vehicles.
“It’s easy to make straight lines with CGI, but the look we wanted was tactile and organic,” says Lord. “It’s more complicated to do it that way but it elevates the quality of the film and it’s more in line with the values of the story. We spent a fair amount of R&D on working in the scuffs and fingerprint smudges, and trying to achieve a realistic amount of variation and irregularity in how the bricks are put together and come apart.”
To execute these concepts, the filmmakers worked with renowned animation studio Animal Logic, based in Australia, and welcomed Chris McKay of “Robot Chicken” fame as animation co-director. McKay orchestrated the efforts of hundreds of artists while also serving as one of the film’s editors, maintaining a constant flow of communication and invention between the directors, storyboarders, animators and editors. States Lin, “McKay served so in many roles on this movie. We couldn’t have done it without him.”
As McKay recalls, “Phil and Chris fostered an almost playful environment within and between all the various departments, so we could run with our ideas and see how far we could take them. It was a very organic, creative flow, from the time we set up the storyboards, to the animation and layout and through the entire process.”
For the filmmakers, the physical limitations of LEGO minifigures is their charm, so there was no question of altering that in adapting them to a big-screen adventure. In the movie, the characters move and interact authentically, often as if being puppetted by an unseen hand. Even in their expressions, the mandate was not to stray from the standard minifigure repertoire: flat painted eyes, brows and mouths. But within those guidelines, McKay and his team mined a range of emotion.
What’s groundbreaking in “The LEGO Movie” is its ambitious scale and the extent to which it uses LEGO bricks as a medium to achieve depth, richness and action. “Everything audiences see—whether smoke or water, rock formations, fire or even explosions—is made of LEGO pieces. We wanted to depict natural elements built out of bricks as they’ve never been seen before on the big screen,” says Lin.
“When you see the LEGO ocean with its waves of undulating bricks, the storm crashing down on the pirate ship and the vastness all around, it’s wild,” says Miller. “We used lighting and camera angles you’d expect on a big-budget action movie, to make it as cinematic as possible.”
“My favorite thing is how the story crosses through different LEGO worlds,” offers Lord. “We started by storyboarding an action chase that starts in the city and spills out into the Old West. It turns into a kind of barroom brawl until the cops from the city break into it and then it’s like some ‘70s cop movie, like ‘Bullitt,’ and it’s fun to see the elements combine and collide without anyone missing a beat.”
“Then Batman shows up and it gets even crazier,” adds Miller.
In addition to favorites like the LEGO BatwingTM, the movie rolls out an arsenal of fantastical new vehicles, enabling Emmet and his friends to evade or face their enemies on the city streets, on the sea, under the sea, or in outer space. It also introduces a cast of brand new heroes and villains, who interact with a diverse group of existing LEGO minifigures drawn from years of history and pop culture.
During the three years of development and production, the directors often relied upon their private stash for inspiration. “Our offices were filled with LEGO bricks and we were always trying to figure out silly ways to put them together or use them to illustrate a plot point. I’m actually wearing LEGO pants right now,” Miller claims, prompting Lord to add, “I built my desk chair out of LEGO bricks. And these shoes. They’re not the most comfortable shoes, but you get used to it. The trick is, you have to break them in.”
True fans and true originals, they brought equal parts reverence and irreverence to “The LEGO Movie.”
States Miller, “What we always try to do with our movies is create something that would make us laugh, and make our friends laugh. We don’t ever want to do something that talks down to kids.”
“Obviously, kids and their parents will get it,” Lord says, “but we wanted to bridge the generations and keep in mind that there’s a community of adult LEGO fans who make the most complex and incredible creations a kid might not even think of. My favorite films are the ones I can take my granny to, or my parents and my girlfriend, or my nieces and nephews, and know we will enjoy it together. That’s the most fun you can have at a movie theater—when people of all ages are laughing together.”
Emmet never met an instruction manual he didn’t like. Whatever the rules are, he’s glad to follow; whatever song is playing on the radio, he’ll sing along; whatever everyone else has for lunch or watches on TV, well, he’s cool with that. He even consults a book to remind him to shower and put on his pants (in that order) every morning before joining the Bricksburg citizenry on their orderly commute to work.
“We wanted someone with incredible comedy chops as our lead, but someone who can also be sweet and endearing, and embody this ‘regular guy’ spirit. Chris Pratt was our first choice; right out of the box,” says Lord.
Each day on the construction crew, Emmet happily razes any buildings deemed “weird” and replaces them with ones that look exactly like all the others, on orders from President Business. Says Pratt, “The city of Bricksburg is this big sprawl where everything looks the same and it’s all pre-fab modular homes, and any areas that have any flavor are being destroyed. So it’s being built as a kind of homogenous, utopian model, though you quickly sense there’s some underlying darkness here; something is controlling the people of Bricksburg.”
But life as he knows it is about to change when Emmet accidentally veers off the path at his site, falls headlong into a freshly excavated pit, and meets the trespassing Wyldstyle: the most beautiful and exciting woman he has ever seen. From her graffiti-splashed black hoodie to the turquoise and hot-pink streaks in her hair, to her take-charge attitude, there’s clearly nothing ordinary about this woman.
Elizabeth Banks says, “I enjoyed being an action hero. Wyldstyle is trying to live up to her name. She has a nice rebellious streak in her, which is something I think most kids can relate to, and she’s pushing the envelope a bit to establish her own way in life and her own look. What I loved about the character is that she’s smart and strong. She has kick-butt powers and a lot of sass and she’s no damsel in distress. She’s there to save the day.”
While recording her dialogue, “I rarely wore shoes,” Banks reveals. “I was usually barefoot because I like to jump around and move. You can’t make noise over your vocals, so I have to take my shoes off, especially in an action movie. There’s a lot of punching and jumping and running, and I did all of that behind the microphone.”
Wyldstyle is a Master Builder, the first one Emmet has ever met. “In the story, there are legendary individuals called Master Builders, who are highly creative and can take any pile of bricks, or whatever is available, maybe a stop sign and a dumpster, tear them apart, and rebuild them. They can turn anything into anything else,” Miller explains.
“Our thought was that all of the extraordinary characters from history and literature are Master Builders, so people like Shakespeare and Abraham Lincoln, Wonder WomanTM and Robin Hood would be in that pantheon together, sharing their extraordinary abilities,” adds Lord.
But the Master Builders, once revered, have been forced into hiding because President Business, aka Lord Business, abhors their spontaneity and innovation. What’s worse, he’s not satisfied with driving them underground. He wants to eliminate them and their influence completely with one super, horrible, secret weapon called the Kragle, and Wyldstyle is part of the rebellion trying to stop him before it’s too late.
When Wyldstyle encounters Emmet at the construction site, she is there searching for the one thing that can block Lord Business’s terrible plan, according to prophecy: The Piece of Resistance. So when that vital piece turns up inexplicably fused to Emmet’s back, like it or not, the guy whose only ambition in life is to fit in suddenly becomes The Special, the most important person in the universe. And the most hunted. Before he knows what’s happening, Emmet is careening at high speed through the Bricksburg cityscape on Wyldstyle’s custom-built motorcycle—which she keeps modifying along the way—with Lord Business’s robot assassins in fierce pursuit.
Will Ferrell calls his character “a real control freak. Lord Business runs everything and doesn’t want any creative expression or anyone building anything that’s not on the instruction worksheet. He’s built the entire universe just the way he wants it, just perfect, and it drives him crazy that people come around and dare to change things.”
“He’s a frustrated Master Builder, himself, and generally not a very nice person, who becomes a super villain and wants to glue the whole universe together so it can always be exactly how he designed it,” offers Miller.
Lord Business is also remarkably tall for a LEGO minifigure, notes Ferrell. “In his public persona as President Business he has a more pleasant look, very corporate, three-piece-suit and a tie and not a hair out of place. However, when he reveals his true self, the maniacal Lord Business, he wears an impressive cape and 20-foot-tall boots—or, the 20-foot equivalent in LEGO terms—so he can look even more evil and terrifying.”
Lord Business’s number one enforcer is the alternately intimidating and wacky Bad Cop/Good Cop, a swivel-headed minifigure with a split personality, each of which is voiced by Liam Neeson.
“What’s so fresh about Bad Cop/Good Cop is that we literally see both sides of him,” says Dan Lin. “He’s Bad Cop whenever he’s executing Lord Business’s orders, and that’s the straight-ahead tough guy we’re used to seeing in the movies. Then he’s got the Good Cop side too, so he’s fighting with himself. One side of his face has the mirrored sunglasses and gritted teeth and is very stern, and the opposite side is much softer, with a smile, and Liam gives each of them their own identity.”
“When I saw some of the animation, and bearing in mind the history of New York police, I thought he should be Irish, and specifically from the North of Ireland,” says Neeson, who gave Bad Cop that particular accent, while bringing a distinctly different inflection to his better half. “The Good Cop, he’s Irish too, but he’s a wee bit more feisty.”
Neeson additionally voices Bad Cop/Good Cop’s father, Pa Cop.
The actor finds echoes of Arthurian legend in Emmet’s journey, saying, “The basis of all those stories was the quest, going after the impossible and trying to win it and, in the process, bettering the world, and that’s certainly the basis for ‘The LEGO Movie.’” That aside, what struck him most was its humor. “The witticisms these characters throw at each other is quite extraordinary, this crazy, zany brilliant dialogue.”
Neeson and Ferrell acted out some of their interactions and improvised together, via headphones, while Neeson was in a recording studio in New York and Ferrell was in Los Angeles. “Liam’s measured and mostly serious delivery as Bad Cop juxtaposed against Will’s outsized comedy take on Lord Business is hilarious,” says Lin.
In Morgan Freeman’s case, it’s his famously rich and authoritative voice that makes his characterization of the presumably wise wizard Vitruvius so laughable. Whether in his dramatic roles or noted documentary narrations, Freeman’s delivery unfailingly lends an air of truth and substance to whatever is being spoken. However, audiences will quickly grasp that not everything Vitruvius says can be trusted—or even makes much sense.
An ancient hippie sage clad in sandals and a tie-dyed shirt barely visible under his voluminous white beard, “Vitruvius talks a good game but he’s a little hazy on the details: like the prophecy and how, exactly, they’re going to stop Lord Business,” Miller concedes. “It’s almost as if he’s making it up as he goes along.”
Longtime fans of Freeman’s work will be surprised that this is the first time he has applied his resonant voice to an animated movie.
Once in possession of The Piece of Resistance, Emmet, Wyldstyle and Vitruvius must find a way to use it, but their appeal to the Master Builders for help falls flat when those accomplished individuals are underwhelmed by Emmet’s lack of experience—not to mention ideas, skills, confidence, and anything resembling a plan.
Luckily, the trio still has some friends they can count on: Wyldstyle’s enigmatic boyfriend, Batman, voiced by Will Arnett; the sweet but somewhat tightly wound Unikitty, voiced by Alison Brie; a remarkably resourceful pirate named Metal Beard, voiced by Nick Offerman; and a loopy, out-of-date Spaceman named Benny, voiced by Charlie Day.
Fearless as ever, dark as ever, and gravelly voiced as ever, Batman demonstrates what a team player he is, ceding the main hero role to Emmet even while Emmet is kind of stealing his girlfriend. But that’s OK, says Arnett, because, “as a boyfriend, LEGO Batman isn’t the greatest. He’s a little self-absorbed and probably not as sensitive as he should be. But, hey, he’s Batman; he’s got a lot of stuff going on.”
Sharing their recording sessions allowed Pratt, Banks and Arnett to harmonize their roles in a way rarely realized in animated movies. “We were able to develop a rhythm to how these characters worked with each other and how they complement each other and that was a real treat that, I believe, pays dividends on screen,” Arnett adds.
The group’s first destination is Cloud Cuckoo Land, a new environment created for the film and described as a realm of no rules, no government, no bedtimes, no frowny faces and no negativity. It is presided over by Unikitty, a kind of fluffy kitten crossed with a unicorn and dipped in sugar. At least on the outside…
“Cloud Cuckoo Land is a wonderful playground where everything is fun and light, and Unikitty is all about gumballs and cotton candy and happiness. But don’t cross her,” warns Brie. “She has quite a temper. You never know when she’s going to go off.
“It was fun to play Unikitty because her moods are so extreme,” she continues. “She has some anger management problems. When she gets angry, she still tries to say nice things, only in a mean way, which is a good example of the kind of adult humor that plays through the movie. The kids will be having a good time and the adults will be getting these jokes that the kids will understand later.”
That’s not so much the case with Metal Beard, who is himself a walking, visual joke. “He’s a crazy pirate who lost his body in an battle with Lord Business and has ingeniously, if haphazardly, replaced all his parts with an assortment of tools and objects that make him look like a Swiss Army knife, with a tiny little head on top,” says Miller.
“One arm is a shark and the other is some kind of cannon,” says Offerman, “which makes him especially salty and crusty and out for vengeance.”
For Metal Beard’s voice, the actor says, “I took the spirit of the artwork and animated sequences I’d been shown and tried to capture that flavor, with a notion of whimsy, plus a combination of all the cartoons I’ve loved in my life, all mixed into a savory goulash that became Metal Beard. You change a lot of pronouns, like, ‘hand me over me bottle of rum.’ For some reason making your pronouns archaic makes them more seaworthy and, of course, you have to throw in the occasional ‘Arrrgh.’”
The group’s final member is Benny, the Spaceman. Along with Batman, the Spaceman is one of two existing LEGO minifigures in lead roles, whereas minifigures Emmet, Wyldstyle, Vitruvius, Lord Business and Bad Cop/Good Cop are newly designed for the film, as are the two brick-built characters, Metal Beard and Unikitty. A space traveler from the early ‘80s, Benny was a beloved part of Phil Lord’s and Chris Miller’s childhoods and there was no way they were going to leave him out of the fun.
Benny sports a helmet with a broken chin guard, suggesting that oxygen deprivation may have contributed to his current state of mind. Says Animal Logic CG Supervisor Damien Gray, “We put a lot of work into aging him, giving him teeth marks, scratches and dust as he’s been around for more than 30 years. It’s all part of his character. He’s a little out of kilter and out of sorts, displaced in time and space.”
He’s still game, though. Lin says, “Benny adds a whole new flavor to the group and a heightened energy, and few people can bring energy like Charlie Day. Benny comes into the story after the rest of the team is formed. He’s not sure how he can help but he’s very enthusiastic, though his grasp of technology is very much of the past and this constantly frustrates him.”
“Everything is awesome. Everything is cool when you’re part of a team”
Work on “The LEGO Movie” exemplified the spirit of the film’s fun and insanely catchy theme song, which proclaims, “Everything is cool when you’re part of a team.”
Production ran more-or-less concurrently in three locations: the Los Angeles hub, where the concepts, story, character and design scheme were developed and where directors Lord and Miller spent the bulk of their time; the physical production, at animation studio Animal Logic in Australia, where editor and animation co-director Chris McKay relocated to work with an in-house team of 250 to execute those ideas; and the LEGO headquarters in Denmark, where top designers under the direction of Design Vice President Matthew Ashton (also an executive producer on the film) offered their expertise to help craft some of the unique characters and props the filmmakers devised.
The process was more cyclical than linear, with ideas and artwork moving in a continuous flow. Filmmakers would travel to Denmark or Australia, and key artisans from Animal Logic and LEGO Group made the trip to L.A. Mainly, though, they relied on daily video conferencing and cineSync software, which enabled them to review and edit together in real time.
It was important that everything on screen was not only assembled out of individually rendered virtual bricks but could theoretically be assembled by hand with actual bricks, so some of the more complex set pieces were put to the test at LEGO HQ for structural integrity. Drawings, ideas and descriptions would go from the Los Angeles production office to the LEGO Denmark operation, where a model was sometimes built and photographed for the directors to review. Adjustments could then be made at both ends, often through multiple iterations, before the final design was given to the animators to create a computer model, which might then spark another round of adjustments.
“The LEGO Corporation was very hands-on,” says Roy Lee. “We showed them what we wanted to do and they gave us a lot of great ideas on how to make it work or work better.”
“We’d say, ‘We need a spaceship, or we need a pirate ship that turns into a submarine,’ and they would come back with something amazing that not only looked great but had humor in it,” Dan Lin elaborates. “We’d share those models with the animators and figure out how to translate those designs to the movie.”
In other instances, animators originated their own models using the vast library of bricks they had already assembled.
Upon initially reviewing the script with filmmakers, Matthew Ashton says, “There was a lot of work the animation team could do without our support, but there were some key things on which we felt we could offer some help. I have a team of 60 designers, all with different specializations. Some are really good at classic models; some are good at the futuristic space stuff; and others excel at functionality, trap doors, how to get weapons to pop out of a vehicle and those sorts of things. We took the reference material and executed it in a way that made sense from a building angle and would also look good on screen. The most important thing for us was the story and working with the filmmakers to ensure that when their ideas were translated into material for the screen it looked super-impressive.”
“It’s truly been a partnership with our film designers and the LEGO designers,” Lin concurs, “because they know the capabilities and the restrictions of the bricks better than anyone but, at the same time, our team was thinking about things in a cinematic way, and they brought a different perspective in how to use a LEGO brick. So you had artists on both sides working together.”
“Our core philosophies are in line with what they are trying to promote, as far as imagination and quality and fun, and they let us make the movie we wanted to make,” says Miller of the LEGO contingent. “We all had the same goal: to make this movie the best it could possibly be. They’ve been very supportive.”
The toymakers’ input was especially invaluable for action sequences that required breaking down existing props and structures and re-assembling their parts into new objects, like a building remodeled as a truck, or a truck becoming a plane. CG Supervisor Aidan Sarsfield at Animal Logic explains, “In the story, a big part of the Master Builders’ arsenal is that they can build something out of anything. The elements of an alleyway can be turned into a getaway car, and that posed some interesting challenges for the rigging guys and the designers who built the assets, the individual pieces and props. They had to think of how to build a car out of pieces that could also be used to form an alley set.”
“They produced something like 24 different models based on our idea for a scene where coffee shops, cars, dump trucks and ice cream trucks on a city street are repurposed into incredible flying machines that could be used in a dogfight,” offers Lord, as one example. “It was both a focused and an open-ended idea, and the LEGO designers came back with some fantastic things.
“Work like this requires the intelligence of so many different people,” he concludes, “and it reflects what the movie is about, in fostering the kind of environment where creativity can flourish.”
As Lord and Miller envisioned, “The LEGO Movie” would look and play like an action film, and that guided every creative decision, from the earliest stages.
Production designer Grant Freckelton states, “There were dozens and dozens of sketches made before anyone actually put two bricks together. Every animated movie has to be created from scratch but this one had to be created from scratch out of LEGO pieces, so we had to translate all our ideas into that form.”
Freckelton and his team downloaded free, publicly available software called LEGO® Digital Designer. “We were able to start designing and building from our drawings, using virtual LEGO bricks,” he says. “In addition, they provided us with a parts wall, with every single available part and part number so, as we built, we could refer back to the individual pieces, take photos, and get a sense of the shape and all the fine detailing. There was a lot of macro-photography of real bricks, because what Chris and Phil were striving for was absolute photo-realism and the feeling that we are actually inside a real LEGO set.”
The bricks themselves, separately modeled, were made to show subtle signs of wear, as if they had been tossed around in the normal course of play, rather than out-of-the-box shiny and identical, then presented in such a way as to ensure those gradients were visible on screen. Lighting Department Supervisor Craig Welsh, of Animal Logic, worked closely with Freckelton to achieve this effect. “We did a lot of photographic reference in different lighting conditions, with different constructions, to develop the shaders, the surfacing and texturing,” he says. “The default shading was fairly bland and we knew we’d need to work little incongruities like scratches and divots in the plastic into our surfacing work to make the light react in realistic ways, as it would if you were holding a LEGO brick very close. Then, we rigged lights for the sets, props and characters to make them look as if they’re positioned in a miniature set and lit with actual light fittings.
“If you want photo realism it’s often not so much a sense of what you perceive as what you’d miss if it wasn’t there,” Welsh adds. “One mistake can take someone out of the feeling that they’re watching something real, so that’s why we put so much effort and attention into it.”
That was true of every aspect of the project. Says Dan Lin, “Every single detail had to be right and exactly as it was envisioned. Chris and Phil really cared about both the big picture and the minutiae. Their approach inspired the rest of the team to do the same. Even a scene as deceptively simple as the opening in Emmet’s apartment, we spent hours on end discussing, going back and forth with different iterations.”
“The LEGO Movie” contains 3,863,484 unique LEGO bricks. Some are reused and reconfigured in multiple scenes, making up sets, characters and props, for a total of 15,080,330 bricks—the number that a person would need if he or she wanted to recreate the entire film by hand.
The film also features 183 unique minifigures, many of which are particularly special to the directors. On an early visit to LEGOLAND® Billund in Denmark, Phil Lord saw a host of new minifigures and was delightfully re-acquainted with some of his childhood favorites, which he wanted to include. He recalls, “Whether something was new to me, or a classic that I had forgotten, I took pictures and sent them to Chris, and said, ‘Is there any way we can work this into the movie, maybe have this guy just walking in the background?’ The space-themed pieces from the late ‘70s, early ‘80s, have a big part in the movie because we grew up with that, and a lot of adult LEGO fans have a deep nostalgia for that era.”
Cinematographer and Animal Logic layout supervisor Pablo Plaisted further defined the live-action sense the filmmakers wanted to give the animation by embracing the unique challenges of filming in a LEGO world. The most important of these, he says, “was finding a visual language that audiences would instantly recognize as stop-motion whilst allowing us the freedom to embrace what is great about CG. We needed audiences to believe they were looking at something real and tiny whilst also making that tiny thing feel grand and cinematic. Not only that, the unique proportions of the characters meant rethinking even basic assumptions about framing. The end result is a very unique and exciting look.”
Audiences may be amazed at how much they come to care about the fate of little, yellow, plastic characters with painted-on faces, for which Phil Lord and Christopher Miller credit the Animal Logic animators and the commitment of Chris McKay. “It’s incredible to see how much humanity Chris and his team were able to give these characters, in tandem with the actors performances, based on just our ideas and some drawings,” Lord attests.
McKay took on dual roles for the film, serving first as an editor while the story and storyboards were being developed and then moving to Australia to oversee the animation. Best known for his work on the acclaimed Cartoon Network series “Robot Chicken,” his stop-motion/claymation background proved an asset to “The LEGO Movie,” which, while not filmed in stop-motion, was meant to have a similar rhythm.
The intent, McKay says, was not to make the minifigures’ actions fluid but to work with them as they really are. “There are only so many moves they can technically make, to bend and turn, so we had to think all of that through. Sometimes we walk or hop them, and other times it literally looks as if a hand has picked a character up and propelled him forward.”
It all comes down to details, offers Story Department co-producer Igor Khait. “If you’re trying to create an illusion of life using little bits of plastic it requires a tremendous attention to detail. There are no simple shots. Even a shot that has Emmet moving across his room and picking a book off the shelf can take many revisions and edits just to sell the believability of it. It means a lot of very nuanced movement.”
In maintaining the integrity of the LEGO minifigure, the characters’ features had to remain flat, like 2D stickers. As Animal Logic Animation Department Supervisor Alfie Olivier explains, “It’s a 2D face on a 3D character.” It was a painstaking process of producing a catalogue of eyes, mouths and brows that were then projected onto the characters to help make Emmet charming, Wyldstyle intriguing, Bad Cop threatening and Lord Business, well, just plain nuts.
“Chris McKay is phenomenal,” Olivier continues. “I don’t think I’ve ever worked with an animation director who was so vocal in acting out every single little emotion as though he was the character himself. There was no mistaking what we needed to do.”
McKay encouraged the animators to imagine what their creations were experiencing and how that could be conveyed not only in their expressions but their body language. “It was about authentic behavior,” he says. “I wanted everything to feel as real as possible and that meant understanding what these characters were thinking and feeling. How sympathetic and relatable can we make them?”
There were a variety of ways Phil Lord and Christopher Miller could have approached a LEGO movie, traditional animation being one of them, but that would not have honored the LEGO experience for them, or its intrinsic charm. From the project’s inception, the only way they imagined a big-screen LEGO action adventure was the way “The LEGO Movie” was ultimately conceived and produced: inviting audiences into a LEGO universe both fantastic and familiar, with the promise that any one of them might be able to do the same.
Says Lord, “People talk a lot about how we're living in a time when a lot of creativity is outsourced to somebody else. But LEGO bricks bring creativity into everybody’s home, and that's what really appealed to us as filmmakers—to make a film that’s not only entertaining but celebrates innovation and imagination and maybe inspires other people to do original work. So it was a good marriage of an idea with our agenda to make people more creative. That’s our evil master plan,” he jokes.
“We think of it not as a brand but as a medium, like clay,” says Miller, who, like Lord and like countless people the world over, has priceless memories of lost afternoons immersed in other worlds of their own making. “It’s like clay for telling stories, when you dump out those bricks and try to build a castle or a space station, or whatever you want. And anyone can do it. The possibilities are infinite.”
CHRIS PRATT (Emmet) is most recognized for portraying Andy Dwyer on NBC’s hit comedy series "Parks and Recreation" opposite Amy Poehler, Nick Offerman, Aziz Ansari, and Rashida Jones. Emmy-nominated “Parks and Recreation” has recently been renewed for its sixth season.<;p>
In 2011, Pratt starred in “Moneyball,” where he delivered a memorable performance as Oakland A’s first baseman, Scott Hatteberg. The film also starred Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman, and received six Academy Award® nominations, including a nomination for Best Picture.
Pratt also starred in the feature “Five-Year Engagement” with Jason Segel, Emily Blunt, and Alison Brie in 2012. In the same year, he portrayed an iconic member of SEAL Team Six in Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty,” which earned Best Picture nominations from both the Golden Globes and Academy Awards.®
Pratt most recently starred in the comedy “Delivery Man,” opposite Vince Vaughn. He will soon be seen in the Marvel feature “Guardians of the Galaxy,” in which he plays Star-Lord, the leader of a group of alien superheroes sent out to defend the galaxy.
In addition to acting, Pratt’s passions include hunting, fishing and writing. He currently resides in Los Angeles.
WILL FERRELL (Lord Business/President Business/The Man Upstairs) most recently starred in the hit comedy “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” which he co-wrote and produced through his Gary Sanchez Productions. Released in December, 2013, the film has already eclipsed $140 million worldwide.
His recent projects also include the Jay Roach comedy “The Campaign,” in which he starred opposite Zach Galifianakis, and the ambitious “Casa de mi Padre,” a comedy spoof in the Latin American telenovela style, filmed entirely in Spanish, for which Ferrell served as producer and also starred as the lead.
Other credits include the independent film “Everything Must Go,” which premiered at the 2010 Toronto International Film Festival. In 2010, he lent his voice to the title character super villain in the 3D animated film “Megamind,” which also starred Brad Pitt, Tina Fey and Jonah Hill. In 2010, Ferrell collaborated with long-time producing and writing partner Adam McKay on the buddy-cop film “The Other Guys,” co-starring Mark Wahlberg, which grossed over $100 million domestically.
Ferrell earned a 2009 Tony Award nomination for his Broadway debut, headlining the sold-out, Tony Award-nominated one-man comedy show “Will Ferrell: You're Welcome America. A Final Night with George W Bush.” At the end of its Broadway run, Ferrell performed the show, live, in its entirety on HBO, earning a pair of Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Comedy Special and Outstanding Writing.
In 2007, Ferrell and McKay founded the overwhelmingly popular and award-winning video website Funnyordie.com. With hundreds of exclusive celebrity videos and a steady stream of viral hits, Funny or Die has become the place to be seen for comedic celebrities, and the obvious destination for a daily comedy fix. The site’s first video, “The Landlord,” featuring Ferrell confronted by a swearing two-year-old, received over 73 million views. It now averages over 7 million unique viewers and over 24 million video views per month.
Ferrell earned his second Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy or Musical for his portrayal of IRS agent Harold Crick in the 2006 film “Stranger Than Fiction.”
The Irvine, California native starred for seven seasons on NBC’s seminal late-night hit “Saturday Night Live.” His work on “SNL” brought him dual Emmy nominations in 2001 for Outstanding Individual Performance and Outstanding Writing on a Variety, Music or Comedy Program.
ELIZABETH BANKS (Wyldstyle) starred as Effie Trinket in the international hit “The Hunger Games,” and most recently reprised her role in its highly anticipated sequel, “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire,” which had a blockbuster opening on November 22, 2013. She has also appeared in “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” “Man on a Ledge,” opposite Sam Worthington,” and “People Like Us,” opposite Chris Pine and Michelle Pfeiffer.
She will soon be seen in the comedy “Walk of Shame,” also starring James Marsden and Sarah Wright, set for a March 14, 2014 release.
Banks recently wrapped production on “Little Accidents,” opposite Boyd Holbrook. Sara Colangelo wrote and directed the feature adaptation of her 2010 award-winning short film of the same name, which premiered at the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Banks also recently wrapped production on the independent film “Love & Mercy,” directed by Bill Pohlad, which takes an unconventional look at the life of The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson; and “Every Secret Thing,” directed by Amy Berg and based on the best-selling novel by Laura Lippman.
She was recently seen in the 2012 release “Pitch Perfect.” Banks also produced the film with her husband, Max Handelman, through their company, Brownstone Productions.
In 2011, she was seen in Paul Haggis’ “Our Idiot Brother,” opposite Paul Rudd, Emily Mortimer and Zooey Deschanel, and in Jacob Aaron Estes’ “The Details,” with Tobey Maguire, both of which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival, and in 2010 starred opposite Russell Crowe in “The Next Three Days.” In 2008, Banks received critical acclaim for her role as First Lady Laura Bush, opposite Josh Brolin in Oliver Stone’s “W,” with an impressive cast including James Cromwell, Richard Dreyfuss, Ellen Burstyn and Jeffrey Wright. She also starred with Seth Rogen in Kevin Smith’s comedy “Zack and Miri Make a Porno.”
Banks’ additional feature credits include her breakthrough roles in the Academy Award® winning films “Seabiscuit,” in which she starred as Marcela Howard opposite Jeff Bridges and Tobey Maguire, and Steve Spielberg’s “Catch Me If You Can.” She has also appeared in “Role Models,” “Meet Dave,” “Invincible,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” “Fred Claus,” “Sisters,” “Slither,” “Heights,” “The Baxter,” “The Trade,” “Ordinary Sinner,” “The Uninvited,” “Daltry Calhoun,” “Sexual Life,” John Singleton’s “Shaft,” with Samuel L. Jackson, and the cult hit “Wet Hot American Summer.” She also appeared as journalist Betty Brant, a role that director Sam Raimi created for her, in three blockbuster “Spider-Man” films with Tobey Maguire, as the title character.
On the small screen, Banks earned an Emmy Award nomination in 2011 for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Comedy Series for her performance as Avery Jessup on “30 Rock.” She has also appeared on ABC’s “Modern Family” and in a recurring role as Dr. Kim Porter on NBC’s “Scrubs.” In 2007 she appeared in the CBS miniseries “Comanche Moon,” Larry McMurtry’s prequel to “Lonesome Dove.”
In addition to producing “Pitch Perfect,” Banks also produced the 2009 sci-fi thriller “The Surrogates,” starring Bruce Willis, through her company, Brownstone Productions. Upcoming feature projects for Brownstone include “Tink,” a live-action romantic comedy in which Banks will star as the title character of Tinkerbell; “Forever 21,” a comedy which Banks will star in and produce; and “Too Far From Home,” about three astronauts stranded on the international space station.
Her extensive theater credits include many roles in American Conservatory Theatre productions, as well as the Guthrie Theater’s production of “Summer & Smoke,” directed by David Esbjornson. In 2006 Banks played Cherie, the female lead in William Inge’s comedy “Bus Stop,” as part of the Williamstown Theater Festival.
Originally from Massachusetts, Banks received her Bachelor’s Degree from the University of Pennsylvania and graduate degree at the American Conservatory Theater.
WILL ARNETT (Batman) can currently be seen in CBS’ new comedy “The Millers,” where he stars as Nathan Miller. He recently wrapped production on producer Michael Bay’s “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” where he stars as Vernon Fenwick, opposite Megan Fox.
Arnett was recently seen on the highly anticipated return of the Emmy Award-winning “Arrested Development,” that launched new episodes on Netflix in May 2013. He is best known for his work on the critically acclaimed Fox sitcom, where he portrayed Gob Bluth for three seasons and earned his first Emmy Award nomination.
His television work includes starring roles opposite Christina Applegate and Maya Rudolph in NBC’s “Up All Night”; and opposite Kerri Russell in Fox’s comedy series “Running Wilde,” for which he also wrote, alongside writer/director Mitch Hurwitz. Arnett frequently guest starred on NBC’s “30 Rock,” playing Devon Banks. In 2012 he earned his fourth Emmy nomination for Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for this role. Arnett also lent his voice to Fox’s animated sitcom from creator Mitch Hurwitz, “Sit Down, Shut Up.”
Arnett starred in the 2010 western action film “Jonah Hex,” based on the DC Comics character of the same name, with Megan Fox, Josh Brolin and John Malkovich. He also starred in the romantic comedy “When in Rome,” opposite Kristen Bell, and in “G-Force,” a combination live action/CG film from producer Jerry Bruckheimer, opposite Penelope Cruz, Nicolas Cage, Steve Buscemi and Zach Galifianakis. In addition, he voiced a character in the hugely successful 3D animated adventure film “Monsters vs. Aliens,” alongside Reese Witherspoon, Paul Rudd and Seth Rogen, which opened number one at the box office. He also starred in the basketball comedy “Semi-Pro,” opposite Will Ferrell and Woody Harrelson, and lent his voice to the hit animated comedy “Horton Hears a Who.” In 2007, he was seen opposite Will Ferrell in the figure skating comedy “Blades of Glory,” and also co-starred opposite Will Forte in “The Brothers Solomon.”
Previously, Arnett was a regular on the NBC comedy series “The Mike O’Malley Show.” His additional television credits include guest-starring roles on “Parks and Recreation,” “Sex and the City,” “The Sopranos,” “Boston Public,” “Third Watch” and “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” Arnett also appeared on NBC’s “Will & Grace,” playing Jack’s dance nemesis while auditioning to become a backup dancer for Janet Jackson.
Arnett’s other feature credits include “Ice Age 2: The Meltdown,” “R.V.,” opposite Robin Williams, “Monster-In-Law,” “The Waiting Game,” “The Broken Giant,” “Southie” and “Ed’s Next Move.” Additionally, he can be heard in a variety of commercials, most notably as the voice of GMC Trucks and Bank of America.
NICK OFFERMAN (Metal Beard) is today best known for the role of Ron Swanson on NBC’s hit comedy series “Parks & Recreation,” in which he stars with Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari. For his work on the show, Offerman won a Television Critics Association Award for Achievement in Comedy in 2011, having earned his first nomination in 2010. He also received two Critics’ Choice Television Award nominations for Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.
On the big screen, Offerman was last seen in the August 2013 box-office success “We’re The Millers,” with Jennifer Aniston and Jason Sudeikis, and “In A World…,” the Lake Bell film that premiered at Sundance. He also has upcoming “Knight of Cups.”
This past summer he starred with Megan Mullally in the play “Annapurna” at the Odyssey Theater. Offerman also produced and starred in “Somebody Up There Likes Me,” which premiered at the 2012 South by Southwest Film Festival and “The Kings of Summer,” which premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival. In 2012, he co-starred with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill in the action comedy hit “21 Jump Street,” in addition to starring in the indie films “Smashed,” with Octavia Spencer and Megan Mullally, and “Casa de mi Padre,” with Will Ferrell, Gael Garcia Bernal and Diego Luna.
His long list of film credits includes “All Good Things”; “Taking Chances”; “The Men Who Stare at Goats,” alongside George Clooney; “Harmony and Me”; “RSO [Registered Sex Offender]; “The Go-Getter”; “Wristcutters: A Love Story”; “Sin City,” with Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke; “Miss Congeniality 2: Armed & Fabulous,” starring Sandra Bullock; Wes Craven’s “Cursed”; “Groove”; “Murder by Numbers”; and “City of Angels.”
In addition to his current series, television audiences have seen Offerman on multiple episodes of Adult Swim’s “Children’s Hospital” and ABC’s “George Lopez.” He has also guest starred on numerous other series, including “CSI: NY,” “Gilmore Girls,” “Monk,” ““Deadwood,” “NYPD Blue,” “24,” “The Practice,” “Will & Grace,” “The West Wing” and “ER.”
Offerman got his start in the Chicago theater community, as a founding member of the Defiant Theatre. Most recently he has been seen starring in “American Ham,” a musical-comedy with Megan Mullally. Offerman received a Joseph Jefferson Award for his performance in “The Kentucky Cycle,” at Chicago’s Pegasus Players Theatre, and was awarded a second Jefferson Award for the puppets and masks he crafted for “The Skriker,” at the Defiant. He also worked extensively at Steppenwolf, The Goodman, Wisdom Bridge and Pegasus Players, among others. His stage work also includes the off-Broadway play “Adding Machine,” and he is a company member of the Evidence Room Theater Company in Los Angeles.
As an author, Offerman released his first book, Paddle Your Own Canoe: Nick Offerman’s Fundamentals for Delicious Living, published by Dutton in October 2013.
ALISON BRIE (Unikitty) currently stars as the adorable but tightly wound Annie Edison on NBC's hit comedy "Community." She also has a recurring role on the Emmy Award-winning drama "Mad Men," playing Trudy Campbell.
On the big screen, Brie will soon star in “Search Party,” with Krysten Ritter, Adam Paly and T.J. Miller. The film, about two guys who go to great lengths to save their friend stranded in Mexico, will be released on September 12, 2014. She also recently completed production on the independent feature “No Stranger Than Love,” with Justin Chatwin and Colin Hanks.
Brie has had back-to-back films premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, with “Kings of Summer,” opposite Nick Offerman and Megan Mullally in 2013, and “Save the Date,” opposite Lizzy Caplan in 2012.
Her other film credits include “Five Year Engagement,” with Emily Blunt and Jason Segel; “Get a Job,” opposite Bryan Cranston; "Scream 4," with Courteney Cox, David Arquette and Neve Campbell; and "Montana Amazon," alongside Olympia Dukakis and Haley Joel Osment.
Brie attended the California Institute of the Arts, where she received a Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in acting and also studied at the Royal Scottish Academy of Music and Drama in Glasgow, Scotland. Upon graduation, she landed guest spots on Comedy Central and the Disney Channel’s "Hannah Montana." She also performed on stage in the Blank Theatre Company's Young Playwright's festival and in shows at the Odyssey, Write-Act and Rubicon Theatres, where she received an Indy Award for her haunting performance as Ophelia in the Rubicon's production of "Hamlet."
CHARLIE DAY (Benny) is an actor, writer and producer whose comedic talents have made him a favorite of audiences and critics alike. Day made his major feature film debut in the 2010 comedy “Going the Distance,” alongside Drew Barrymore, Justin Long and Jason Sudeikis. The following year, he starred in the hit comedy “Horrible Bosses” with Jennifer Aniston, Jason Bateman, Jason Sudeikis, Kevin Spacey and Jamie Foxx, under the direction of Seth Gordon.
He most recently starred in director Guillermo del Toro’s sci-fi action adventure “Pacific Rim,” and lent his voice to the animated feature “Monsters University.”
Among his upcoming projects, Day will reprise his starring role as Dale in the comedy sequel “Horrible Bosses 2,” for director Sean Anders, set for a 2014 release.
On television, Day is currently starring in his ninth season on the FX comedy series “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia.” In 2011, Day’s performance as the hapless Charlie Kelly brought him a nomination for Best Supporting Actor at the inaugural Broadcast Television Journalists Association Critics’ Choice Awards. He also serves as a writer and executive producer on the show, which he created in collaboration with his friends Rob McElhenney and Glenn Howerton.
Previously, Day had a recurring role on NBC’s “Third Watch” and a regular role on the FOX comedy “Luis.” He has also guest starred on several series, including “Reno 911!” and “Law & Order.” Behind the camera, he has served as a consulting producer on the CBS series “How to Be a Gentleman” and an executive producer on the FX series “Unsupervised.”
Day began his acting career on the stage, including four years at the Williamstown Theatre Festival. He went on to play the lead role in “Dead End” at the Huntington Theatre in Boston.
LIAM NEESON (Bad Cop/Good Cop/Pa Cop) is an award-winning actor who has been internationally recognized for his work in both major studio blockbusters and acclaimed independent features. He has been honored for his depictions of three very different real-life figures. Neeson received Academy Award®, Golden Globe and BAFTA Award nominations for his performance as Oskar Schindler in Steven Spielberg’s 1993 Oscar®-winning Best Picture “Schindler’s List.” Three years later, he played the title role in Neil Jordan’s biopic “Michael Collins,” earning another Golden Globe nomination and winning an Evening Standard British Film Award and the 1996 Venice Film Festival’s Volpi Cup for his impassioned portrayal of the Irish Republican hero. In 2004, Neeson starred as controversial sex researcher Alfred Kinsey in Bill Condon’s “Kinsey,” for which he garnered his third Golden Globe nomination and an Independent Spirit Award nomination, and won a Los Angeles Film Critics Award.
Neeson most recently appeared in the hit comedy “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” and in writer/director Paul Haggis’ romantic drama “Third Person.”
In 2012 Neeson reprised his role as unstoppable CIA operative Bryan Mills in “Taken 2,” the successful follow-up to the 2008 hit crime thriller “Taken.” He also starred in Peter Berg’s actioner “Battleship,” was Zeus in “Wrath of the Titans,” and starred in Joe Carnahan’s thriller “The Grey,” which topped the box office in its opening weekend. His recent film credits also include Jaume Collet-Serra’s thriller “Unknown”; Paul Haggis’ thriller “The Next Three Days”; “The A-Team”; and “Clash of the Titans”; as well as the indie films “Chloe,” directed by Atom Egoyan, and “After.Life.”
Among his upcoming projects will be Jaume Collet-Serra’s “Non-Stop” and “Run All Night,” Seth MacFarlane’s comedy “A Million Ways to Die in the West,” the animated feature “The Prophet,” based on the classic Kahlil Gibran book, and the much-anticipated “Taken 3.”
Neeson is also well known to film fans for his work in two blockbuster film franchises: playing the role of Jedi Master Qui-Gon Jinn in “Star Wars: Episode 1 – The Phantom Menace,” and the enigmatic Henri Ducard in Christopher Nolan’s “Batman Begins.” In addition, Neeson lends his distinctive voice to the character of Aslan in “The Chronicles of Narnia” films: “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe,” “Prince Caspian” and “The Voyage of the Dawn Treader.”
Born in Ireland, Neeson began acting in 1976 with the Lyric Players Theatre in Belfast, and made his professional debut in Joseph Plunkett’s “The Risen People.” After two years, he joined the famed repertory company of Dublin’s Abbey Theatre, appearing in their production of Brian Friel’s “Translations.” He later won a Best Actor award for his performance in Sean O’Casey’s “The Plough and the Stars” at the Royal Exchange Theatre in Manchester, England.
In 1980, director John Boorman spotted Neeson as Lennie in John Steinbeck’s “Of Mice and Men,” and cast him in the Arthurian epic “Excalibur.” During that decade, he played a wide range of characters in such films as Roger Donaldson’s “The Bounty”; Roland Joffe’s “The Mission”; “Lamb,” in the title role; Andrei Konchalovsky’s “Duet for One”; “A Prayer for the Dying”; Peter Yates’ “Suspect”; “The Good Mother”; and “High Spirits,” which marked his first collaboration with director Neil Jordan.
Neeson’s film work includes Sam Raimi’s “Darkman”; “Crossing the Line”; “Under Suspicion”; Woody Allen’s “Husbands and Wives”; John Madden’s “Ethan Frome,” playing the title role; Michael Apted’s “Nell,” with Jodie Foster and Natasha Richardson; “Rob Roy,” as the title character; Barbet Schroeder’s “Before and After,” opposite Meryl Streep; “Les Miserables”; Kathryn Bigelow’s “K-19: The Widowmaker”; Martin Scorsese’s “Gangs of New York”; Richard Curtis’ ensemble hit “Love Actually”; Ridley Scott’s “Kingdom of Heaven”; and Neil Jordan’s “Breakfast on Pluto.”
Throughout his film career, Neeson returned to the stage. He made his Broadway debut in the 1993 revival of Eugene O’Neill’s “Anna Christie,” for which he garnered a Tony Award nomination. In 1998, he played Oscar Wilde in David Hare’s play “The Judas Kiss,” which opened in London’s West End and later moved to Broadway. He returned to Broadway in 2002 to play Proctor in Sir Richard Eyre’s acclaimed production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible,” opposite Laura Linney, earning a second Tony Award nomination and a Drama Desk Award nomination. Neeson also starred in the 2008 Lincoln Center Festival presentation of Samuel Beckett’s “Eh Joe,” directed by Atom Egoyan and produced by Dublin’s Gate Theatre.
MORGAN FREEMAN (Vitruvius) won an Academy Award® for Best Supporting Actor for his role in Clint Eastwood’s “Million Dollar Baby,” for which he also won a Screen Actors Guild (SAG) Award® and received a Golden Globe nomination. In 2009, he reunited with Eastwood to star in the director’s true-life drama “Invictus,” on which Freeman also served as an executive producer under his Revelations Entertainment banner. For his portrayal of Nelson Mandela in the film, Freeman garnered Oscar®, Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award nominations, and won the National Board of Review Award for Best Actor.
Freeman has been honored with three additional Oscar® nominations, the first for his chilling performance in the 1987 drama “Street Smart,” which also brought him Los Angeles Film Critics, New York Film Critics, and National Society of Film Critics Awards, and an Independent Spirit Award for Best Supporting Actor, as well as his first Golden Globe Award nomination. He earned his second Oscar® nomination and won Golden Globe and National Board of Review Awards for Best Actor for the 1989 film “Driving Miss Daisy,” in which he recreated his award-winning off-Broadway role. He gained his third Oscar® nod, as well as Golden Globe and SAG Award® nominations, for his performance in Frank Darabont’s 1994 drama “The Shawshank Redemption.” Among his many other accolades, Freeman was named a Kennedy Center Honoree in 2008, and, in 2011, was honored with the 39th AFI Lifetime Achievement Award, and the Cecil B. DeMille Award at the Golden Globe Awards.
Freeman most recently starred with Michael Douglas, Robert De Niro and Kevin Kline in the comedy “Last Vegas.” His recent credits also include Louis Leterrier’s thriller “Now You See Me,” the science fiction actioner “Oblivion,” in which he starred with Tom Cruise, and Antoine Fuqua’s action thriller “Olympus Has Fallen,” all released in 2013. In 2012, Freeman starred in Christopher Nolan’s “The Dark Knight Rises,” reprising the role of Lucius Fox from “Batman Begins” and “The Dark Knight,” to conclude the director’s Dark Knight trilogy.
His upcoming projects include the action adventure “The Last Knights”; Wally Pfister’s directorial debut, “Transcendence,” alongside Johnny Depp; the Richard Loncraine comedy “Life Itself”; Luc Besson’s “Lucy”; and the family drama “Dolphin Tale 2.” He will also serve as narrator for the IMAX documentary “Island of Lemurs: Madagascar.”
Freeman’s long list of film credits also includes “Dolphin Tale”; “RED”; Rob Reiner’s “The Bucket List,” opposite Jack Nicholson; Robert Benton’s “Feast of Love”; Ben Affleck’s “Gone Baby Gone”; Lasse Hallström’s “An Unfinished Life”; the Jet Li actioner “Unleashed”; the comedy “Bruce Almighty” and its sequel, “Evan Almighty”; “The Sum of All Fears”; “Along Came a Spider”; “Nurse Betty”; “Deep Impact”; Steven Spielberg’s “Amistad”; “Kiss the Girls”; David Fincher’s “Se7en”; “Glory”; “Lean on Me”; “Harry & Son,” directed by and starring Paul Newman; and “Brubaker.” He also lent his distinctive voice to such projects as Spielberg’s “War of the Worlds” and the Oscar®-winning documentary “March of the Penguins.”
In 1993, Freeman made his directorial debut on “Bopha!” and soon after formed Revelations Entertainment. Other Revelations productions include “Levity,” “Under Suspicion,” “Mutiny,” “Along Came a Spider,” “Feast of Love,” “10 Items or Less” and “Maiden Heist.”
The Memphis-born actor began his career on the stages of New York in the early 1960s, following a stint as a mechanic in the Air Force. A decade later, he became a nationally known television personality when he created the popular character Easy Reader on the acclaimed children’s show “The Electric Company.”
Throughout the 1970s, he continued his work on stage, winning Drama Desk and Clarence Derwent Awards and receiving a Tony Award nomination for his performance in “The Mighty Gents” in 1978. In 1980, he won two Obie Awards, for his portrayal of Shakespearean anti-hero Coriolanus at the New York Shakespeare Festival and for his work in “Mother Courage and Her Children.” Freeman won another Obie in 1984 for his performance as The Messenger in the acclaimed Brooklyn Academy of Music production of Lee Breuer’s “The Gospel at Colonus” and, in 1985, won the Drama-Logue Award for the same role. In 1987, Freeman created the role of Hoke Coleburn in Alfred Uhry’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Driving Miss Daisy,” which brought him his fourth Obie Award. In 1990, Freeman starred as Petruchio in the New York Shakespeare Festival’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” opposite Tracey Ullman. Returning to the Broadway stage in 2008, Freeman starred with Frances McDormand and Peter Gallagher in Clifford Odett’s drama “The Country Girl,” directed by Mike Nichols.
PHIL LORD & CHRISTOPHER MILLER (Directors / Screenplay / Story) are best known for co-directing the hit action-comedy “21 Jump Street,” starring Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum, which took in over $200 million worldwide last year. The critically acclaimed comedy was honored with a Critics Choice Award nomination for Best Comedy of 2012 and Lord and Miller recently wrapped production on the sequel, “22 Jump Street.”
The duo also co-wrote and co-directed the animated feature “Cloudy With A Chance of Meatballs,” loosely based on the beloved children’s book of the same name. Lord and Miller’s unique comic sensibilities earned the film a Golden Globe and Critics Choice nomination for Best Animated Feature along with four Annie Award nominations for excellence in animation, including Best Direction and Best Screenplay. Lord also executive produced the micro-indie film “Pincus,” in 2012, which was nominated for a 2013 Independent Spirit Award.
They also directed the pilot for “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” one of television’s most anticipated series of the 2013 Fall Season.
In May, Lord and Miller signed a three year exclusive deal with Twentieth Century Fox Television where they will develop, write and direct comedy projects, both in live action and animation for network and cable television.
Their collaboration started when Lord and Miller met at Dartmouth College. The two contend it was a comical misunderstanding that landed them a job developing Saturday morning cartoons for the Walt Disney Company, which led to their stint developing primetime animated shows for Touchstone Television. In 2002, they executive produced, wrote, and directed the short-lived but highly talked about animated series “Clone High,” on MTV. The series was critically acclaimed for its well-developed and unique personalities as well as for its witty, fast-paced dialogue, but is probably best known for causing a hunger strike in India and being quickly cancelled. Lord voiced the characters of Principal Scudworth, Genghis Khan, and Geldhemoor, the Humkeycorn; Miller voiced the characters of John F. Kennedy and Mr. Butterworth.
Among their television writing credits, Lord and Miller served as co-executive producers on “How I Met Your Mother,” the Emmy-winning primetime sitcom that began airing on CBS in September of 2005; and executive producers of many pilots, including “Awesometown,” featuring the comedy troupe The Lonely Island, and “Phil Hendrie,” featuring the radio genius of the same name. The team also worked as consulting producers on “Jake in Progress” and “Cracking Up” (created and executive produced by Mike White), supervising producers on “Method & Red” and “Luis,” and staff writers on “Zoe, Duncan, Jack & Jane.”
Lord graduated cum laude from Dartmouth College with a degree in Art History. His college animated short, “Man Bites Breakfast,” won Best Animation at the 1998 New England Film and Video Festival and was also included in several other festivals, including ASIFA East and ASIFA San Francisco. He is a native of Coconut Grove, Florida and likes bikes.
While still pursuing his education, Miller received the 1998 New England Film and Video Festival Awards prize for his animated short, “Sleazy Goes to France.” He also served as editor-in-chief of the Dartmouth College campus humor magazine, The Jack-O-Lantern. Miller is a native of Lake Stevens, Washington. He left there to attend Dartmouth College, where he found a lifelong friend in Lord while obtaining a degree in government and studio art: three achievements, two of which are useful to his career.
DAN LIN (Producer) is the CEO of Lin Pictures, a production company based at Warner Bros. Its primary focus is producing event films and television series for a global audience. Since his company’s formation in 2008, Lin has produced films that have grossed over $1.5 billion in worldwide box office sales. He has a number of projects currently in development, including “The Brotherhood,” to be directed by Jose Padilha; “Spyhunter,” to be directed by Ruben Fleischer; and the big-screen adaptation of the popular 1960s animated television series “Jonny Quest.”
Lin previously produced the hit mystery thrillers “Sherlock Holmes” and “Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows,” starring Robert Downey Jr. and Jude Law under the direction of Guy Ritchie. Lin also produced “Gangster Squad,” starring Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, and Sean Penn; “The Box,” starring Cameron Diaz; and “The Invention of Lying,” starring Ricky Gervais and Jennifer Garner. Lin also executive produced the action thriller “Terminator Salvation,” starring Christian Bale, and Robert Rodriguez’s family film “Shorts.”
Prior to forming Lin Pictures, Lin served as Senior Vice President of Production for Warner Bros. Pictures. During his eight-year tenure at the studio, from 1999 to 2007, he oversaw the development and production of such films as Martin Scorsese’s Academy Award®-winning drama “The Departed”; “10,000 BC,” directed by Roland Emmerich; “The Aviator,” directed by Scorsese; “Alexander,” directed by Oliver Stone, “TMNT”; “Invasion”; “Unaccompanied Minors”; “Scooby-Doo 2: Monsters Unleashed”; and “Torque.”
In September 2008, Lin was named one of Variety’s “10 Producers to Watch.” He has also been profiled on The Hollywood Reporter’s “Next Generation List” in 2005.
Lin serves on the Board of Directors for the Coalition of Asian Pacifics in Entertainment and is a mentor for both the Producer’s Guild of America and the Center for Asian American Media. He received his undergraduate degree from the Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania in 1994 and his MBA from Harvard Business School in 1999.
ROY LEE (Producer) earned his first motion picture producing credit as executive producer on Gore Verbinski’s 2002 blockbuster “The Ring.” He went on to produce the 2004 haunted house horror “The Grudge,” which, upon its October 2004 release, broke the record for the biggest opening weekend of all time for a horror film. October 2006 saw the release of “The Departed,” a crime thriller directed by Martin Scorsese and starring Jack Nicholson, Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio, which went on to win four Academy Awards®, including Best Picture, Best Director and Best Screenplay.
A Korean-American born in Brooklyn and raised in Bethesda, Maryland, Lee earned a Bachelors degree from George Washington University and a law degree from American University. After a brief stint as a corporate attorney, Lee relocated from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles in 1996 to pursue a career in the film industry. He landed his first job with the production company Alphaville, where he worked on films such as “The Mummy,” “The Jackal” and “Michael.” With his experience tracking scripts at Alphaville, he later co-founded a website called ScriptShark.com, which allowed aspiring writers the opportunity to have their screenplays evaluated by industry professionals. This success led to an assignment with a talent management company, where he tracked short films for distribution on personal computers.
Together with Doug Davison, Lee founded Vertigo Entertainment in 2001, where the pair produced such films as “The Lake House,” “The Strangers,” “Quarantine,” and the animated hit “How to Train Your Dragon.” Lee and Davison amicably disbanded their partnership in August of 2010. Currently, Lee maintains a first-look deal with Warner Bros. and is working on several projects in various stages of production and development, including “Run All Night,” a mob thriller starring Liam Neeson and Ed Harris; “Poltergeist,” a remake of the horror classic; and “The Stand,” an adaptation of Stephen King’s novel.
DAN HAGEMAN & KEVIN HAGEMAN (Story) are brothers. As a writing duo, they caught the attention of numerous Hollywood filmmakers and sold several scripts across a range of genres before marking their feature film debut with the 2012 animated family comedy “Hotel Transylvania,” featuring an all-star vocal cast led by Adam Sandler. A worldwide blockbuster hit, the film earned Best Picture nominations from the Golden Globes and the Annie Awards.
The Hagemans are currently in development on its sequel, “Hotel Transylvania 2.”
Among their additional upcoming projects in development are the action adventure “The Lies of Locke Lamora,” for producer Michael De Luca; the comedy “Untitled ACME Warehouse Project,” for producers Dan Lin and Roy Lee; the action adventure “Temple Stay,” for producers Chris Columbus and Youn JK, with JK set to direct; and the feature film “Ninjago,” with Dan Lin, Roy Lee, Phil Lord and Chris Miller set to produce.
Most recently, Dan and Kevin Hageman also collaborated on the animated Cartoon Network series “Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu,” based on the LEGO® toy series
PABLO PLAISTED (Cinematographer) has a range of credits in the visual effects and animation fields, most recently serving as lead pre-vis artist on the upcoming action adventure “Mad Max: Fury Road,” and the animated family adventure “Happy Feet Two,” both directed by George Miller.
His credits as an animator include the feature films “The Golden Compass” and the original “Happy Feet.”
GRANT FRECKELTON (Production Designer) served as art director on Zack Snyder’s epic animated adventure “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga-Hoole,” and on the documentary short “True Guardians of the Earth,” both released in 2010.
Previously, Freckelton was the visual effects art director on “300,” for Zack Snyder, and on “The Matrix Reloaded,” for the Wachowskis.
His credits in the visual effects field include work as a matte painter on Alex Proyas’s “Garage Days,” and on Phillip Noyce’s “The Quiet American” and “Rabbit-Proof Fence,” as well as both matte painter and concept artist on Baz Luhrmann’s “Moulin Rouge!”
DAVID BURROWS (Editor) most recently collaborated with Director David Scott on the animated sci-fi family comedy “LEGO Star Wars: the Padawan Menace.” The original television movie aired in 2011 and earned a Best Short Animation nomination from the Australian Film Institute.
Previously, he edited Zack Snyder’s animated fantasy adventure “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole,” and was the visual effects editor on George Miller’s worldwide hit “Happy Feet.”
Burrows began his career as an assistant editor working on films in Ireland, the UK and Australia. His credits include “Michael Collins,” “The Avengers,” “Holy Smoke,” “Moulin Rouge!” and “The Quiet American.” He joined Animal Logic in May 2004 to work on “Happy Feet" and has held the position of editor there for the past seven years.
Born in Dublin, Ireland, Burrows graduated from Dublin Institute of Technology in 1994 with a Master of Communications, majoring in film. He moved to Australia with his family in 1998.
CHRIS McKAY (Animation Co-Director / Editor), a Chicago native, is a director, writer and producer. He is the director of the award-winning Adult Swim shows “Robot Chicken,” “Titan Maximum,” and “Morel Orel.”
McKay has worked as a successful producer, editor and writer for Adult Swim/Cartoon Network. He has directed more than 40 episodes of “Robot Chicken,” one of the highest rated and critically acclaimed shows on Cartoon Network, with two Emmy Award nominations as Outstanding Animated Program.
As director and a show producer, McKay made “Titan Maximum,” a groundbreaking animated program for Adult Swim that incorporated traditional stop-motion as well as 2D and 3D animation.
He has been nominated for an Annie Award as Best Director of an Animated Series for his work on the darkly comedic “Morel Orel,” created by TV comedy writer Dino Stamatopoulos.
McKay is a featured panelist at Comic-Con International, Wizard World’s Comic-Con Tour, and the Anime Expo. He is also the writer and director of a horror film currently in development.
MARK MOTHERSBAUGH (Composer) is a unique artist who defies categorization. He first came to prominence in the music world as lead singer and keyboard player of the progressive new wave/rock band DEVO, that released a series of highly eclectic and satirical albums, including “Are We Not Men?” and “Freedom of Choice.” Since then, he has written the music for more than 70 film and television projects.
In the mid-1980s, Mothersbaugh began to write music for commercials and received a Clio Award for his work. He went on to compose music for numerous television projects, including the memorable theme song and underscore for “Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.” That led to a long run of writing music for the popular children’s series “Rugrats” and the hugely successful “The Rugrats Movie.”
In 1996 he met Wes Anderson and scored the filmmaker’s critically acclaimed “Bottle Rocket.” He additionally wrote the music for Anderson’s “Rushmore,” starring Bill Murray, and “The Royal Tenenbaums,” starring Gene Hackman, Gwyneth Paltrow, Anjelica Huston and Owen Wilson. His score for “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” is one of Mothersbaugh’s most memorable, to date.
His additional feature credits include the box office hits “Hotel Transylvania,” “21 Jump Street,” “Alvin and the Chipmunks 3,” and both “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” and its sequel. He scored Catherine Hardwicke’s “Lords of Dogtown” and “Thirteen”; Joe and Anthony Russo’s “Welcome to Collinwood,” starring George Clooney; “Happy Gilmore,” starring Adam Sandler; and, most recently, “Last Vegas.”
His television credits include HBO’s “Enlightened” and Showtime’s “House of Lies.”
Mothersbaugh’s record and song production credits include work with such artists as Vampire Weekend, Tegan and Sara, David Bowie, Cypress Hill, David Byrne, Beck, Iggy Pop, B-52s, Jacob Dylan, Cindy Lauper and A Tribe Called Quest.
Further extending his musical palate, he has also scored numerous video games including “The Sims” and “Boom Blox.”
Mothersbaugh was the recipient of BMI’s distinguished Richard Kirk Lifetime Achievement Award. A world-renowned artist who cites Andy Warhol as inspiration, his paintings and drawings have been shown in galleries around the world. He continues to perform with DEVO, which has had resurgence in recent years, playing concerts across the country, including New York’s Central Park and the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
Mothersbaugh was born in Ohio and studied at Kent State University.