A couple of years ago, The LEGO Movie was nothing more than an announcement. And one that didn’t exactly inspire huge confidence or anticipation. After all, movies based on toys don’t have a great history of success – Battleship and G. I. Joe are oft cited examples, but even the box office juggernaut that is the Transformers franchise are considered to be pretty awful movies. When looking at the output from LEGO, it has been varied in quality – TT Games understood how to capture the joy and humour in a world of LEGO bricks, whereas The Yoda Chronicles TV episodes fall into awful naff kids’ TV clichés.
When the movie hit, it delivered on every level it needed to, which was no mean feat. Super obsessive LEGO fans like those with enough time to write or read a blog had lots of fun nuggets thrown in to make them smile, whether that be spotting Fabuland characters, Blacktron logos and monorails or looking out for familiar sets in the background such as Café Corner (10182). Other mature movie goers enjoyed the sharp dialogue driven humour and sense of nostalgia from their childhood that it evoked. Those who enjoy licensed LEGO got some great gags based on the properties that LEGO has been working with in recent years (although, come on, did Milhouse really need to be in there?). Oh, and those kids, apparently this animated film was for them too. The wacky humour, the imaginative characters, and of course the big reveal of the true protagonist had them smiling on their way out of the cinema.
With so many animated films now only pitching their movie at young children, rather than following the Disney tradition of aiming for something that appeals to the child in everyone, it was a great relief that Phil Lord and Chris Miller had been the guys at the helm. That they understood The LEGO Movie needed to hit all of these different audience, and even better managed to hit them, is a testament to their understand of what LEGO can mean to people. By crafting something unique and surprising, that still seemed to be relevant to what LEGO is, they succeeded.
Critics adored The LEGO Movie, with overwhelmingly positive reviews. The Hollywood Reporter said, “Arriving at a time when feature animation was looking and feeling mighty anemic—essentially reconnecting the same dots until the next big thing comes along—The LEGO Movie shows ’em how it’s done.” Olly Richards in Empire said that Lord and Miller has “gone for broke, unleashing a film that’s insane, witty, uneven and almost certain to delight anyone who’s ever laid hands on Lego.” But perhaps one of the best compliments came from Robbie Collin of The Daily Telegraph, who succinctly said, “Never before have I felt less like a film was selling me a product, and then left the cinema more desperate to fill my house with the product it wasn’t selling.”
Thankfully, the critical acclaim was matched by audience appreciation. It was the fifth highest grossing movie of 2015 in the USA, but achieved the number two spot in the UK. With an estimated budget of $60 million, The LEGO Movie pulled in $468 million worldwide (check out more The LEGO Movie stats at Box Office Mojo. The movies that The LEGO Movie is up there at the top of charts with had double or three times the same budget, making it clear why the slate of sequels and spin-offs has been announced.
Which brings us to awards season. Fans were frustrated that the critically acclaimed, audience bellowed hit wasn’t even nominated for best animated feature. But it has bagged the BAFTA at least. The LEGO Movie also won the Annie Award for Outstanding Achievement in Writing in an Animated Feature Production and the Broadcast Film Critics Association Award for Best Animated Feature. So not a bad haul for an animated movie based on a toy. To finish this article off, we’ll end with words from Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s BAFTA acceptance speech…
“You are our favourite Academy by far, and this is clearly the most fun I've had in an opera house by far, also. You guys win the award for Best Academy. This is the end of the awards road for us, so we can say whatever we want. There's no-one left to impress.”