We popped into Animal Logic in Sydney for a chat with The LEGO Movie 2 visual consultant Grant Freckelton, about everything from classic post-apocalyptic flicks to suspicious LEGO minifigures.
Grant Freckelton has been involved with all of the LEGO movies so far, in various capacities. So, what does his role as visual consultant on The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part entail?
“The visual consultant role is being someone who knows the universe, knows the techniques, knows the design style and so on, so I help guide the team on certain aspects of the film,” he explains.
The LEGO Movie 2 is a little darker than the first movie. Freckelton tells us that it’s partially because the first movie’s human star, Finn, is five years older.
“That was always part of the thinking in making it post-apocalyptic, the notion that Finn’s world is becoming darker, but it was also becoming more neglected. He doesn’t go there to play as much.”
Part of the deeper side of this second film sees pressure put on the ever-positive Emmet from various sides to change, yet he manages to remain true to himself – despite discovering that everything isn’t necessarily awesome.
“That’s right, there’s a nuance,” agrees Freckelton. “The first one was like ‘YAY!’, but ‘Everything Is Awesome’ wasn’t a literal thing that everything was awesome, it was an ironic thing. We were always going to lose the irony of the joke this time around and just embrace it, and the final song was an attempt to go, ‘Look, reality isn’t awesome, but you’ve got to try to make it a better place’. I don’t know, some guy, some musician said that or something…”
Beyond Apocalypseburg, with Finn’s little sister Bonnie now older and into her own LEGO adventures beyond toddler Duplo blocks, it makes for two different but similarly-themed worlds to collide – in space!
Says Freckelton: “I’ve always liked the juxtaposition of the two worlds in this movie. Rex is born out of ‘cool space!’ – you know, Star Wars and James Cameron movies and so on, and then the Systar System was born out of ‘70s space operas, films like Starcrash and the Dino De Laurentiis style – the Flash Gordon, pulpy side of things, mixed with kids craft styling. Once we hit on that, that world sort of started to come together.”
Freckelton has some history with Mad Max, which we reckon may have had some influence on the current Apocalypseburg state of the first movie’s Bricksburg…
“Yeah, I worked on the 2006 iteration,” he tells us, “doing concept art way back when it was Mel Gibson. I wouldn’t say that the world in The LEGO Movie 2 is specifically Mad Max-ish though; we were looking at tons of post-apocalyptic films. There are aspects of The Salute of the Jugger, if you’ve heard of that dodgy film, plus Damnation Alley and other sorts of post-apocalyptic films. Even though technically it’s not post-apocalyptic, The Cars That Ate Paris is thrown in as well. Mad Max is just the most famous example of that genre, so everybody goes ‘Oh, its Mad Max…’ and I’m like, ‘Yeah, but also it’s…’”
The LEGO Movie 2 continues the first film’s vibe for visual humour. One of the most wonderful, literally show-stopping moments is a “Let’s all go to the lobby” styled intermission. What the…?!
“That was actually in a different scene initially, and then they deliberately put it in a cooler shot, just to make it even funnier,” explains Freckelton. “That was just them
being crazy – there’s zero story point behind it.”
Other scenes will build to a climax only to deliver a very funny micro-payoff. These are small toys we’re talking about, after all.
“That’s part of [writers] Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s comedic sensibilities, to always juxtapose something you think is going be cool with something really dorky.”
With Bonnie being at the perfect age for them, LEGO Friends mini-dolls – slightly more human-like minifigures – make their film debut in The LEGO Movie 2. They posed similar challenges for animatorsto the classic minifigures.
“The biggest challenge with the mini-dolls is they’ve got even less articulation than minifigures! So, they’re posed to sell an attitude, but what we’ve got to play with is solid legs, solid arms and so on. That’s the fun of LEGO though, having all of those limitations and trying to work with them.”
As for new minifigure designs to the universe, there are some surprise cameos that we won’t spoil, and the rather peculiar Larry Poppins.
“That was one of the last-minute jokes,” says Freckelton. The guys are always doing ‘joke passes’, so they’ll try to squeeze as many jokes in as possible right up to the last minute. That one was in the last couple of weeks of production.”
Speaking of minifigures, we’ve noticed that Hot Dog Guy – a bloke in a hot dog suit – pops up everywhere. Our theory is that he’s biding his time in plain sight, preparing to strike as the evilest being in the universe…
“Like the Thanos of the LEGO universe?” grins Freckelton. “I think he’s just a dude in a hot dog suit.” Ouch, burned!
“A lot of that was just that we’ve always liked the sillier LEGO costumes – it’s just ’cos we’ve made ’em, and now we can use ’em, and it’s funny lookin’,” he continues. “We made the vampire a master builder in the first film, then we reused him as a villain in Batman. So, they kind of swap and change – it just comes down to available bricks, and the mentality that a kid’s playing with it, so if they want a vampire to be cool in one movie then not cool in the next, that’s their prerogative.”