Lego Movie

There is poetic irony in how modern technologies are often used to mimic the look and feel of older practices. Computer-generated imagery is no exception: there are numerous examples of state-of-the-art CGI being used to emulate more rudimentary forms of animation. Mars Attacks! used CGI to create its malevolent aliens but nevertheless tried to give them a stop-motion feel. Even claymation champions Aardman saw the advantages of going digital, using CGI to animate some of the characters in The Curse of the Were-Rabbit. (Laura Ivins made an interesting video essay about this movie and its cleverly disguised CGI).


The best case in point may well be The Lego Movie. Oswald Iten’s very thorough video essay for the Swiss film magazine Film Bulletin details how the film’s animators limited the possibilities that CGI offered them, in order to achieve a more lo-fi look. Their self-imposed restrictions included creating their world solely out of existing Lego bricks, and having the characters only move in ways that would be possible with those real bricks. Basically, they were going for the (very cheap) brickfilm look using (much more expensive) computer animation.


But there is more, as this video essay points out. The animators forewent motion blur to stay close to the stop-motion aesthetic. In addition, they liberally borrowed and simulated techniques from classic cartoons, such as smearing fast movements and even creating three-dimensional speed lines out of Lego bricks. Within the subgenre of video essays that analyze technical aspects of filmmaking, this one is top notch.