‘The LEGO Movie 2’ Introducing New Meta-Universes and Animation Techniques

The 2014 mega-blockbuster hit The LEGO Movie was full of nostalgic characters and plenty of laughs. It also concluded the story with learning that the world of Bricksburg was all from the imagination of a little boy named Finn. At the end of the film, Finn’s hard-headed father allowed Finn to play with his LEGO collection, but must also allow his little sister, Bianca, to play as well.

This is where we begin with The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part.

After having their town destroyed by the LEGO characters created by Bianca, Bricksburg has become a desolate place where the characters live in a sort of ‘Mad Max’ setting called Apocalypsberg. Everyone has toughened up in this new society, except for Emmett (Chris Pratt), of course.

In the Q&A after a screening of the film, co-writers and producing partners, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, alongside the film’s animation director Trisha Gum, were on hand to answer some of the questions we had, especially about the new character imaginations involved in this complicated LEGO world and the new forms of animation being used.

“We wanted to take this sequel and just up the ante for everybody,” said Gum. “How can we keep the charm of the original LEGO Movie and really just wow the audience with new animation and different techniques. Since it’s from a new character’s perspective, Bianca, Finn’s little sister, we really leaned into who was her character? What are her interests? So we started with Bianca as a character and decided that she likes space, musicals, and glitter and she loves singing and dancing. That really helped us craft her world. Within that, we decided that, little girls are really into multi-media — mixing your toys together and mixing how they played together. That was a big part of how we then created the world. It should feel like a cohesive world from one imagination but it’s very eclectic. We wanted to have crafting styles and fabric, as you see in animation, and fuzzy blankets and things that felt very tactile and very creative from a little girl’s perspective but all still in that stop motion world we love. ”

The story uses both Finn and Bianca’s perspectives as they begin to play with each other and the beloved LEGO characters, which at times could be confusing.

Miller explained, “We have a whole storyline that makes sense to us of who is playing with who at which point, but we like that people can interpret it their own way. Even people in the crew interpreted it differently. But the general idea is that when Bianca — who is played by a young Brooklynn Prince, who is an absolute delight of a human being — takes the characters upstairs she’s playing with them and telling a story of her own. That’s sort of analogous to a story that Finn was telling in the first movie, when he was playing both sides of a war that was happening with President Business, who represented his dad in the story. She’s telling a story of converting these…”

“She’s kind of imagining how [the LEGO characters] are experiencing it,” Lord interjected. “One interpretation is not that they are retaining their personalities across two imaginations, but rather that…”

“It’s her representation of what his point of view would be,” Miller filled in.

“Right,” Lord continued. “She’s imagining his point of view of them, and that they represent that, and that she knows that it’s going to take a while to convert them over.”

But, just how could both Finn and Bianca share the same imagination?

“They do exist. Imaginations do exist.” Miler joked. “In the first movie, Emmett wiggled off the table and it was up to your interpretation if that really happened or not. Similarly, it’s up to your interpretation if any of this stuff is really happening. At one point, a character says none of this is even happening. You can believe that or not believe that. It’s your choice.”

Lord added, “The idea is that ideas are free floating things like a virus or something. You can pass from one person to another and they do have an existence out of one person’s mind. They can be shared and that’s what we’re saying about these characters in this movie. They are being shared between two storytellers.”

As for the new forms of animation, The LEGO Movie 2 added several new key animation sequences to the film.

“One of the cool things about this movie that we did — we did cel animation,” Miller began listing. “We used in some of the live action sequences, we just puppet [the] characters on rods — the little LEGO figures bouncing around the basement. We used stop motion. We used CG. We used every possible animation technique that I could think of.”

“I loved that rod — the puppetry part of it,” said Lord. “That’s the coolest thing.”

“On the live action shoot, I don’t remember if it was you, Chris, or Mike, who just started doing the puppets on a rod — if you guys were doing stand-ins for plate selections,” Gum explained.  “All boring technical stuff. We need the VFX artist to understand where the characters were moving so we just had a little puppet on a rod — a little Rex doll and a little Emmett doll, and we were like ‘this is amazing and adorable and charming’ and just sets up the rules of when they are walking around in the real world. How does that look and feel different than them being in the LEGO world? We just leaned into it. A lot of that was rod removal.”

“The plan was to animate it but, instead, we just removed the green rod and then you guys had to animate to match the rod puppetry,” Lord added. “Amazing.”

Check out the new forms of animation when The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part opens in theaters on February 8.