Thursday, February 13, 2014

Animation, Nostalgia, and The Lego Movie

I'm not much of an animation guy. I love cartoons and animated movies as much as anyone else, but I've never been fascinated by it the way some people are. I mean, let's be honest. I spent almost two hours today trying to make Chris Christie eat a Subway sandwich. And that came out subpar, at best (pun 100% intended). You could say it's not really my forte, but that would be putting it nicely. I guess that's one reason why I'm taking this class.

Which leads me to last weekend. I didn't see the Lego Movie on opening day because it was an animated film. I didn't see it because it looked funny, or even because Chris Pratt voices the main character. I saw The Lego Movie because - from the trailer alone - I got nostalgic. I don't think I've played with Legos - really played with them - in upwards of 8 or 9 years. That's almost half of my life; enough time to get appropriately nostalgic about plastic bricks, I think. 

Stick with me: I'll tie this all together. 

I loved The Lego Movie. Thought it was absolutely brilliant. The writing was about as perfect as it could be for a kids movie (entertaining for adults, but with enough silly humor and butt jokes to keep kids - and myself - laughing) and I was totally right about the whole film making me a bit nostalgic. But, surprisingly enough, the thing that really did it for me was the animation. 

As was mentioned in the blog before, the animation is a weird mixture of what appears to be CGI and stop motion, even though I believe the whole thing is done digitally. The attention to detail is impeccable; Lego figures can only bend their legs about 90 degrees at the waist and can't move from side to side, all of the buildings and vehicles are comprised of billions and billions of tiny lego blocks, and nothing is perfectly fluid. The fire and water effects are particularly amazing and stop motion-esque. All done with the appearance of being lego bricks. 

The film would absolutely not be such a success if had been animated differently; I can almost guarantee that. It made me feel like I was a kid again, sitting in my room with all my Legos, seeing what kind of crazy shit I could come up with and create. This movie reinforced what I've slowly been realizing about animation, and that is that a good story should not improve an animated film; it should be the other way around. The animation should be a reflection of the story you are trying to tell. The Lego movie took this in a very literal sense, and it turned out perfectly. I'm honestly not sure who to thank for this. There are the two directors, Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. But then there's also the massive list of people involved in actually animating the film, including the art team, special effects people, and even the cinematographers. To make life easier for everybody, I'll just leave the link to the IMDB page right here.

So while I may not be able to make any chubby governors eat five dollar footlongs, I'm starting to begin to appreciate the relationship between animation and writing a great story. And that's something that I like to think of as being my forte. Sorry Mike Levien; I know you had mixed opinions about The Lego Movie, but I personally thought everything was awesome. 

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