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Why ‘The LEGO Movie’ Was More Important Than You Think 

The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and do not reflect the views of Her Campus.
This article is written by a student writer from the Her Campus at VCU chapter.

When I tell people that The LEGO Movie is one of my favorite movies, they often think I’m being ironic. And while I do think people who care less about art don’t take animation as seriously, that’s a debate for another time. My love for this movie goes beyond that. When boiled down to its simplest form, it is an hour and half animated adventure about a plastic brick franchise. However, this movie impacted the past decade of cinema. 

At its core, The LEGO Movie is a film about creativity and imagination. It follows quite literally the most ordinary protagonist, Emmett, who lives strictly by the literal instructions pamphlet society provides. And yet, he is the “chosen one” who is responsible for saving their world. The movie’s main message is that everyone can be creative, and that it manifests itself in different ways. 

The LEGO Movie pushed the boundaries of what could be done with the increasingly popular 3D animation. In 2011, when it was first green-lit, most of the other 3D animated films looked the same. They were all striving for my personal enemy, photorealism. Instead, the creators turned to reference the stop motion animated films made by those in the LEGO community at the time. They stylized their designs further by making the characters look as if they had fingerprints, and including the seams where the molds would be on the actual plastic LEGOs. 

Beyond the visuals, they used a different frame rate for the actual animating, to mimic more of that stop motion effect. They achieved this by something called “animating on twos,” which is one new pose every two frames, instead of the typical one pose per frame. They also did not use motion blur. 

This technique would end up being what the creators of the critically acclaimed 2018 movie “Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse” used for their frame rates. “The LEGO Movie” fundamentally changed the way animators approached 3D animation and stylization. 

Despite not receiving any Oscar nominations, The LEGO Movie’s impact on the industry led to the creation of some of the Best Animated Picture nominations in the past few years, such as Puss in Boots: The Last Wish, Nimona, and both movies in the Spider-Verse franchise. They changed lanes into the highway paved by The LEGO Movie and its branch into more stylistic choices. All of them abandoned the bar that Disney had been chasing with photorealism in favor of seeing how they could push the boundaries of what is possible with 3D animation. 

Without The LEGO Movie, there might not have been that shift in the animation industry, or it might have arrived years later. Thankfully, we won’t have to live in a world without that shift. It was difficult to see at the time the impact a movie about a toy franchise would have on cinema, but I would argue that without it we might not have even gotten last summer’s major blockbuster Barbie, also based on a beloved toy franchise. I might also argue that Emmett would add “I’m Just Ken” to his playlist for driving to the construction site. 

The LEGO Movie is a film that explores what it means to be creative, in everything from how to take down the evil president trying to get everyone to follow the instructions, to a bumbling ordinary guy who thinks a double decker couch will be the next big thing. It’s a silly metaphor, but an effective one. One that feels extremely full circle, in that it pushed the animation industry to lean further into their imaginations, film by film, brick by brick (pun fully, unabashedly, intended). 

Campbell is a junior at VCU, majoring in communication arts. When she's not cramming projects for her studio classes she loves reading, writing, and trying Richmond coffee shops like they're checkpoints on a quest.