There’s a moment in The LEGO Movie 2 where a raptor is after the wi-fi password, and is told to ask Sharon. It’s an in-joke, and STACK had a chance to sit down with the actual Sharon in question, co-producer Sharon Taylor of Animal Logic, to find out a bit more about what went on behind the scenes of the blocky new sequel.
The first LEGO movie must have been a hard act to follow, especially that point when it shifted from the animated world to real life. How was the weight of expectation while creating The LEGO Movie 2?
You can’t ever take back that reveal from the first film, and living up to that – knowing we could never repeat it – so you’re coming at it from a different angle. So, now it’s taking it into a world that’s the sister’s point of view, and Bianca’s story of how she came to be in love with LEGO. There’s a certain charm to that, but reliving the first film was never going to happen.
In The LEGO Movie, and in turn this sequel, there are brand new LEGO creations everywhere you look. Who comes up with these designs?
It becomes a partnership, so the film is made between the team at Animal Logic – we’ve had I think over 500 worldwide working on this movie – the frontend team in Los Angeles, so the directors and the producers and writers, plus we have a strong collaboration with LEGO’s design teams themselves. Some of the designs are straight taken from their sets, like I believe Benny’s spaceship was on the first one, but this time it became like, “How do you plus it?”, and they became an extension of our production designer’s team. This is because we do like to make sure that everything can be built, so they’re very much involved and it’ll be sort of “Have you tried this?”, “Let’s try this” and looking at different bricks and how it can all come together to achieve the design, so it’s a very fun process.
The centrepiece of Apocalypseburg, with its fallen Statue of Liberty, is particularly extraordinary…
One thing that the LEGO movies do give our crew is the fact that their designs become toys for the whole world to play with, so that’s a bit of an added benefit working on these ones!
How much say do LEGO have in what ends up onscreen? For example, the Wizard of Oz minifigure characters that feature briefly – do LEGO say, “Hey, we’ve got these coming out, can you put them in the movie?”
We tend to trawl their library of licensing. Of course, a lot of them are pop culture references, and so the writers will also be looking for who they might want to pay homage to from a certain period of time or for a certain gag, so it really does become this back and forth process between licensing for LEGO and the Warner Brothers structure, seeing who we can pull in and who we can’t. Then, of course, the ones that you can’t get become the challenge to try and get in there. One great gag example is that we have all three versions of Wonder Woman, so you try to build in gags in themselves with the licensing that does exist.
Some of the characters created for The LEGO Movie 2 that are based on real world people are sure to surprise (no spoilers here). Who comes up with these cameo ideas?
Lord and Miller [producers Phil Lord and Christopher Miller] just have this way of tapping into something that audiences are going to love, and trying to build in again those pop culture references and things that you never thought of. They sort of instigate it and then everybody’s riffing off each other – it becomes an improv process, and at that point exactly who came up with that idea can be lost to time. It would have just been a conversation of one of the crew with those guys and the next thing you know it’s in the movie.
Speaking of characters, there’s a really cool supporting cast, including two very British connections in The IT Crowd’s Richard Aoyade and The Mighty Boosh’s Noel Fielding. One’s a sentient ice cream, the other a sparkly non-threatening teen vampire. Were these actors purposefully cast, and is there a connection there?
I don’t think they were necessarily tied together, the casting department together with the filmmakers really try to make sure that it’s about “plussing” each character – who can bring the character to life. There’s a lot of back and forth about finding the most relevant people at the time to really bring those characters to life, but some of them happen very early on in the process, as we’re designing the character we’ll know exactly who’s going to voice it. Then, in other instances, it’s not until at the very end that the lines start to form and you’ve been through the improv of the gags and the lines that are coming through that you actually lock in who your cast is going to be at that point. So, each character goes through its own little story arc in itself, just to find that cast and really bring the whole film together.
What’s with Chris Pratt voicing two characters?
Well, let’s say it wasn’t just because we were trying to save budget…!
This movie is definitely more song-heavy than the first… LEGO: The Musical?
It’s definitely a musical – I think we always knew that with this film coming from the sister’s point of view we had to have a musical component. So, that’s the thing that remained consistent throughout the whole story process and definitely gave the LEGO I think a different life – it really took a view on how she was playing and how she interacted with the LEGO.
Like the first movie, there’s a great array of everyday bits and pieces popping up throughout…
Yes, there’s a lot more of that mixed media approach to it, between the cake pops and all the different candies coming, and in the stickers, the glitter… It’s much less about just the LEGO, but it’s sort of how Bianca brings everything to play together.
“It’s definitely a musical – I think we always knew that with this film coming from the sister’s point of view we had to have a musical component.”
Was there anything that you feel like you got away with, that you thought you may not get past the LEGO people?
We of course wanted to remain true to the LEGO itself, probably not quite as much as LEGO, but it really is about how can we bring that brick world to life, and as we were designing things to bring stickers in, or things to interact with the LEGO, it wasn’t like “Can we get away with it?” but it was like, “Can we sell this in a way that remains true to the brand?” So, those challenges we always love to tackle, and LEGO is a great partner and really understood what it added to the story and what it added to Bianca’s story more than anything.
It isn’t that LEGO sets are strangers to often huge sheets of stickers, either…
Yes, but if anything they’re placed very strategically – covering multiple bricks, so there’s all different rules like that that they have in, I guess, the LEGO bible. They did allow us to bend some of those rules for this movie though, which was great. They gave us a lot of leeway – like the jungle scene, with building some of the plantimals and things like that which were completely made-up characters.
So, are there any LEGO movies in the future for us to look forward to after you finish work on the upcoming DC Super Pets?
At this stage with LEGO movies I think we’re just sort of looking. It’s got to be the right story – of course there are still a lot of places the LEGO movies can go, and I do think that this film did open up other possibilities for stories and threads to follow.
Thanks for your time, Sharon. The LEGO Movie 2 is now showing in cinemas around Australia – and, darn, darn, darn, darny-darn, after all that we didn’t get the wi-fi password!
Read our review of The LEGO Movie 2 here.