If “The LEGO Movie” isn’t stop-motion, what is it?

Just how much of “The LEGO Movie” is stop-motion?

As of this writing, the most-viewed article on The Set Bump is this short-and-admittedly-more-snarky-than-helpful piece entitled “No, ‘The LEGO Movie’ isn’t stop-motion”. I posted this commentary last year, as a response to several articles that jumped the gun by describing the contents of The LEGO Movie trailer as stop-motion when it was clearly done with CG.

Now, when I say:

It was clearly done with CG.

I of course mean:

Based on my 20+ years of study; and my knowledge of the limitations of LEGO stop-motion, film scheduling, and cash money; I (and my well-trained eye) can say with 99.9% certainty that not one shot in “The LEGO Movie” trailer is pure stop-motion photography.

Of course, motion pictures are illusions by definition, but I was still confident in my assertion that The LEGO Movie wasn’t stop-motion. Further adding to the confusion were contradictory comments from the directors and filmmaking crew, which skirted the line between actual information and marketing hype soundbites. What we really needed was hard evidence in the form of behind-the-scenes featurettes and footage.

And over the past month or so, we got just that.

First up was this “Behind the Bricks” mockumentary featurette, which was basically just a promo piece and not anything about the making of The LEGO Movie itself. Funny, but not helpful. It all still looked like 100% CG.

Next was this weird footage dump from ScreenSlam of some LEGO Movie making-of clips. Still no sign of stop-motion. (They did release some fun behind-the-scenes bits of the dialogue recording session with Chris Pratt, though.)

Then came this (veeeeeery dry) episode and article from fxguide, featuring interviews with Animal Logic crew members who detail (greaaaaaat detail) the CG approach and pipeline used for The LEGO Movie. Vindication was mine!

Finally, earlier today, Art of the Title gave us a look at the creation of the end titles from The LEGO Movie, and — lo and behold — they actually are stop-motion. Annoyingly, I can’t embed the videos here, but you should definitely check out the link. There’s a ton of cool making-of goodness to pour over.

Screenshot 2014-02-25 23.36.35

On the set of the full end title reveal.

So what does this all mean? Well, it means that technically the directors weren’t kidding when they said there was some stop-motion in the film. Although it does still feel a tiny bit disingenuous to describe the entire film as “part-CGI and part actual real LEGO bricks in stop-motion”.

To be honest, having seen The LEGO Movie for a third time this past week, I still wasn’t sure myself as to whether the end titles were stop-motion or not. The animation and physical built pieces looked like stop-motion, but the structure of the “cubbyhole” layout seemed too CG-like to me. Knowing now how much CG pre-vis was done on the sequence, that assertion makes total sense.

Anyway, I guess the most important thing to take away here is that it really doesn’t matter what medium is used to make a film; as long as the story is compelling, memorable, and filled with characters who invite you to join them on their journey. Of course, I’ll still be waiting with bated breath for The LEGO Movie on home video… despite being CG, there are some amazing builds that I really want to go through one frame at a time.

I’ll also be checking the DVD featurettes veeeeery carefully for any signs of stop-motion.

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