LEGO Ninjago Stop Motion Animation Techniques

Posted by Nate Eckerson on

It’s been a good year for big-screen LEGO movie releases! Starting with the LEGO Batman movie in February, this coming Friday (September 22d) the LEGO Ninjago movie is coming to theaters! Many familiar characters will appear, though voiced by different actors than those in the animated series that has been produced to-date.

Since the Ninjago action is moving into the LEGO city universe inhabited by Emmet and friends, the plot is expected to deviate from that followed by the TV series. While this may disappoint some fans, we can expect the same humor and hijinks we’ve experienced from the writers of the original LEGO movie!

Recording Stop Motion Voice Actors

In this BTS featurette, you can see that the TV series actors are recorded in group sessions, versus each actor being recorded solo. This technique, sometimes called "Voices in One Room” is more common in anime, where the animation is completed first, then the actors gather together and match their performances to the movie.

In the session above, you can see that the actors are watching a screen with frames from a storyboard and basing their performance off this. You can do the same by creating storyboards for your own stop-motion projects, then editing the frames into a simple movie. You can use this movie as a reference while recording your voice actors and animating your film!

Animating the Shrug

While the LEGO Ninjago movie will be animated using highly detailed digital bricks and LEGO parts, the moments of characters will be limited to those achievable with real LEGO minifigs, (as opposed to the characters in the TV show who could stretch and twist in ways that real minifigs cannot).

Last we checked, minifigs were not made of rubber...

The “shrug” movement breaks this rule a bit, by allowing a minifig arm to pop out of the torso socket and come forward or back in a way that is extremely difficult to achieve with a physical figure, but technically possible...

Birthday hug!

You can achieve this shrug or “widening” of the arms with a little tweaking and adjustment of a mining’s arm sockets - however the arms need to be fairly new and tight in their joints for it to succeed.

Lose Arm Louie

Ninjago Cameos!

One interesting fact you may be unaware of - Lloyd made a few cameo appearances in the first LEGO movie as a Master Builder. You can see him during the Master Builder assembly where he throws shuriken at Emmett, and then later performing Spinjitzu after the Master Builders are rescued from the Thinking Tank.

Lloyd: Green Ninja Master Builder

Achieving Elemental Effects

Throughout the film there are many effects with fire, water, ice and even some “green”. Achieving these photorealistic effects in stop motion is complicated, but not impossible. To see a real-life example of how these effects are done, step-by-step, watch the tutorial below. The creator is using live video, but the process is no different for stop motion.

So what do you think? Planning on producing some Ninjago movies of your own? Send them to us and we'll post them on the site! Also, check out our previous posts. Is The LEGO Movie Stop Motion or CGI and The LEGO Batman Movie: 6 Facts You Should Know