With the release of The LEGO Movie on DVD and Blu-ray this week, we’re taking a look behind the scenes of the movie with the cast and crew. Christopher Miller and Phil Lord lead the commentary, joined by many of the actors in the studio, as well as Elizabeth Banks who phones in her contributions from an undisclosed location.
Miller and Lord are riding a wave of cinematic goodwill with two of the biggest openings of 2014 (is a 23 LEGO Jump Street far of?), but they managed to tear themselves away from counting their cash and diving into piles of gold coins like Scrooge McDuck to devote an hour and forty minutes to the cause of pulling the curtain back from the magical world of LEGOLAND.
The LEGO Movie (2014)
Commentators: Chris Miller (co-director), Phil Lord (co-director), Allison Brie (actor), Chris Pratt (actor), Will Arnett (actor), Charlie Day (actor), Elizabeth Banks (actor)
1. The design of President Business incorporated elements from a typical businessman, like coffee cup horns that shoot flames. His cape is also shaped like a red neck tie, and the base of his helmet is the knot of the tie.
2. The “8 1/2 Years Later” title card is meant to represent Finn (Jadon Sand), the child playing with the toys, who is 8 1/2 years old. Something not totally clear until the reveal at the end.
3. There is a poster on Emmet’s wall for a movie called Macho and the Nerd. This is, no kidding, the Russian title for 21 Jump Street.
4. With very few exceptions (including some custom head pieces and a few characters like Abraham Lincoln and Shakespeare), every LEGO seen in the movie is a real piece. Creative uses of some real LEGO bricks include ice cream scoops for water bubbles, Emmet’s shower cap from the surgeon character and white clown wigs for some of the dust kicked up during the chase from the Old West.
5. Most of the LEGOs seen in the animated parts of the film are built in the computer. A few exceptions include some titles cards (including the “5 Hours Later” card), some backgrounds (including the city behind Emmet when he first sees Wyldstyle), and the fully stop-motion animated end credits.
6. Miller and Lord wanted Liam Neeson to do the lines for Good Cop and Bad Cop in different sessions, but Neeson insisted on switching between them, making his performance even more impressive (and manic).
7. Emmet’s “friends” at the construction site as well as some of the Master Builders, are cameo voices of actors Miller and Lord had worked with before, including David Franco (Wally), Jake Johnson (Barry), Will Forte (Abraham Lincoln), Channing Tatum (Superman), and Jonah Hill (Green Lantern).
8. Bad Cop’s line “Darn! Darn! Darny darn!” was improvised by Liam Neeson.
9. The face of a LEGO character can, in fact, be erased with nail polish remover, but “it takes a lot of rubbing to get rid of it,” says Miller.
10. Mark Mothersbaugh tracked down Alessandro Alessandroni, who provided the whistling for Ennio Morricone’s spaghetti western soundtracks, to provide the whistling heard in the music of Old West land.
11. Animals from the real vintage LEGO toy line Fabuland can be seen on the walls of the saloon in the Old West.
12. Vitruvius is named after an ancient Greek architect. His outfit includes a tie die shirt, jeans, an open bathrobe, a rubber band around his head, and a partially-eaten sucker for a staff. Meant to be a “Sedona hippie,” he was also given a pair of crocs, which are painted on his feet (though do not appear on the real Vitruvius Lego toy).
13. After the heroes’ stagecoach crashes into the train, a pig can be seen falling to the ground and exploding into a bunch of sausages.
14. In one draft of the screenplay, Metal Beard was Wyldstyle’s boyfriend, but Miller and Lord changed it to Batman because they felt that was even more insurmountable for Emmet.
15. Aside from Vitruvius’s death, the only non-robot that is killed in the movie is a Tiki Guy who gets squished during the assault on Cloud Cuckooland.
16. While there are guns throughout the movie, none of them fire bullets (even in the Old West). Instead, they shoot laser bolts, which are made from LEGO lightsaber blades.
17. Vitruvius’s line “Ah, we gotta write all that down ’cause I’m not gonna remember any of it, but here we go,” is actually an outtake of Morgan Freeman getting frustrated with changes being made to his lines.
18. There was a shot in which Scuba Cops are shirking their searching duties and making out with mermaids, but after test screenings, it was cut because it was considered too racy for a kids movie.
19. The seam in Emmet’s hair was designed before the actual toy was made, and when the toy went through production, it ended up not having a seam on the hair. The shots of Emmet in the real world are mostly shot with a physical toy, but a few shots also use the CGI model, which can be identified by the seam.
20. The screens behind Emmet during his final confrontation with Lord Business are Brick Movies made by fans for a contest. These are included on the DVD and Blu-ray.
21. The expression on Lord Business’s face when he finally sees things Emmet’s way is based on the Grinch’s expression when his heart grows three sizes.
22. Different versions of the script included Unikitty getting together with Batman at the end, as well as her getting together with Metal Beard at the end.
23. The voice of the sister is Chris Miller’s son Graham when he was 3, recorded on Miller’s iPhone.
24. Easter eggs included in the end credits include a Oscar statuette and a Catwoman helmet on animation director Chris McKay’s credit because he’s a big fan of Catwoman; and an owl in production designer Grant Freckelton’s credit because he was the production designer for Legends of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’hoole.
Best in Commentary
- Lord: “I’d like to take this opportunity to apologize to the world.” / Brie: “For having this song stuck in our head for a year?” / Miller: “It’s pretty frustrating.” / Arnett: “You know who sings this song a lot? If you have a five-year-old and a three-year-old. Like ad nauseum.”
- Arnett: “If he came out with a hip-hop record – Michael Bolton – I’d buy the crap out of it.”
- Lord: “For very straight-laced people, we make really stoney movies.”
While it’s fun to sit through a commentary with a large group of people (because it makes us nobodies out here in flyover country feel like we’re laughing together with Will Arnett and Charlie Day), these recordings can be frustrating. In general, actors don’t have as much quality behind-the-scenes information to dole out, and they also have seen the film fewer times than directors so they’re more likely to get distracted and watch the movie rather than simply talk about it. Actor commentaries also tend to be a breeding ground for sarcasm and fake stories that are good for a chuckle but kind of defeat the purpose of the commentary function. (I know I’m starting to sound like grumpy old Lord Business here. Sue me.)
Still, this group had enough friendly interaction to not make things too distracting. Elizabeth Banks calling in was a nice touch and had its heart in the right place, but because she couldn’t see the screen or hear the movie, she was limited quite a bit. When Arnett, Brie, Day, and Pratt focused, they had some cool things to say, but most of the choice moments in this commentary come from Miller and Lord who, in typical filmmaker fashion, don’t think anyone actually listens to these things. (Though we all know that some of you will skip buying a disc if the commentary isn’t included, right?)
In the end, the commentary to The LEGO Movie was good, but the movie is much better. Of course, that’s because The LEGO Movie is a fantastic (you thought I was gonna say “awesome,” didn’t you?) film with plenty of repeat viewing potential. Even with the distractions and diversions, it’s a good excuse to watch the movie once again.