Is The LEGO Movie Stop Motion or CGI?

Posted by Nate Eckerson on

Hey everyone!

With the release of The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part, we figured it was time to update this post with new content! First things first, check out the sweet trailer.

After watching the movie, we have to give the animators a big round of applause for their consistent attention to detail. From the subtile texture on Emmet’s hair, to the wear and tear on Rex Dangervest’s torso, there is nothing in the movie to make you think it wasn’t being animated with the contents of a giant tub of well-loved LEGO bricks. But getting down to the nitty-gritty dust, dandruff and band-aid level (eww!) is the LEGO Movie stop motion or digitally animated?

Since the first trailer came out in 2013, people were asking the LEGO Movie creators questions about this. At this San Diego Comic-Con, directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller talk about their inspiration for the film.

Phil Lord — “We started from the place of the LEGO fan-films that you see online, that have a level of creativity that is so inspiring, and we thought that if we made a movie that looked like you gave one of those people a bunch of money - that would turn out pretty good"
Chris Miller — “It’s a hybrid, part of it is CG, part of it is LEGO, and we don’t want people to know which part is which, the whole point is to be as seamless as possible”

Chris went on to tweet the following:

He then posted an image of a classic LEGO Space set, which proved to be a red herring, because prior to the movie’s release nobody knew that Will Ferrell was making a live-action appearance at the end, and this set was used during the filming of this sequence.

Finally after the movie was released, Chris Miller tweeted some more information.

This confirmed most of LEGO Movie was animated via CGI, with the exception of… the awesome credits sequence! This was made with thousands of real LEGO bricks by Stoopid Buddy Stoodios (creators of the Robot Chicken series). From start to finish the credits animation production took two months. The final zoom-out, with the individual regions of LEGO stop motion required multiple animators and tens of thousands of individual increments to complete.

(If you’re looking to get some of those labels for your own credits sequence, or labeling bins of LEGO check them out here!)

How was the LEGO Movie Animated?

A great sneak-peek of the animation process is found in a BTS video from the folks at CG MeetUp.

While professional animation and modeling software like Maya was used for creating the images seen in the film, all the LEGO sets and scenery had to be 100% accurate and something that could be constructed from actual bricks. One tool the animators used to accomplish this was the free LEGO Digital Designer software. This allowed them to create mockups and play with different configurations of bricks.

Special care was taken to ensure the LEGO world reflected the dynamics and appearance of real LEGO. The creators examined parts under microscopes to better understand how they wore down over time, experimented with different levels of dust and dirt on surfaces, and added imperfections, such as tiny gaps between bricks.

Around the 4:36 mark, you can see how animation progresses from a series of hand-drawn sketches, or "storyboards", to a finished movie sequence. Storyboarding is a process we teach in the Stopmotion Explosion Book, and something you can use in the creation of your own stop-motion movies! 

This article at CGMeetup has a few more images from the studio. Check out the images of Emmet's expressions, video of the CGI animation process, and a real LEGO mock-up of a ship in the film in the video above!

Make Your Own LEGO Movies!

If you're interested in diving into the world of animation, the Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit is a great place to start! Many topics introduced in this post, from scriptwriting to storyboards to animation techniques and voice acting are equally important in digital and real-world filmmaking.

Learn more about movie making with the Stopmotion Explosion Animation Kit - a complete animation package!