STARBURST: Was there ever any doubt that Batman would be the next subject for a LEGO movie?
Dan Lin: Well, we started off thinking about making a LEGO movie sequel but then we thought no, let’s broaden our storytelling universe and tell a story from a different genre. The first movie tackled the adventure genre, now we’re doing the superhero genre, next we’ll do a martial arts movie! So we’ve shaken it up, but the actual LEGO Movie sequel will be along in Feb 2019.
Talking of broadening things out, you seem to have every movie and TV bad guy or monster ever in this movie – including King Kong, Dracula and the Daleks…
Chris McKay: Yeah, that’s the way kids play – it’s certainly how I used to play – to mash up all these characters. But also, it made sense for a lot of reasons in terms of the Joker’s plan this time where he’s really upping his game.
How difficult was it from a legal standpoint to get clearance for so many other franchise characters to appear in this new movie?
DL: Well, there was a lot of goodwill. People really enjoyed the first movie and saw we respected their characters. They realised these were LEGO takes on their characters; with Voldemort for example, it’s not Ralph Fiennes’ version if Voldemort from the Harry Potter movies, it's Eddie Izzard’s version.
CM: And going into the rogue’s gallery and pulling characters from the Frank Miller version or the Animated Series, we had to get the lawyers involved. We wanted to go right back into the old school stuff and have characters like Gentleman Ghost which meant we had to go and find the representatives of the writer on that particular comic book. So even going into the Batman universe itself, there was a lot of legal wrangling.
Chris, as Animation Director on The LEGO Movie, you had a lot of people fooled into thinking they were seeing real stop-motion as opposed to CGI. How do you feel about the question of CGI ‘authenticity’?
CM: When I’m asking an animator to emulate stop motion, it’s not just a computer algorithm, it is an animator making those choices. So even if he or she doesn’t have their hands directly on a mini figure on a table top under hot lights, they are still making moment-by-moment story decisions across each frame for everything that goes on in that frame. As to whether it’s as “authentic” as stop motion or not, I feel like it is because I know the hard work that goes into both because I worked with stop motion on TV for years (on the Robot Chicken series).
Some of this film’s biggest laughs arise from the smaller comic touches such as when we see Batman heating up lobster in the microwave or the silent shot of the Joker’s dejected face scrunching up in anguish. Was it tough to get the balance right with these low-key touches?
CM: Yeah, especially as those moments you singled out are purely visual storytelling things. The decision to hold a shot like that one of the Joker’s face is a visual decision that will work in any language. But to get it right, yeah it’s tough because you’re also up against story concerns and arcs. We had a lot of characters in this movie and we were trying to fulfil all the different relationships,
DL: What I love about it that it’s really bold filmmaking. As a producer, you notice that a shot like Batman cooking his lobster in the microwave has no sound. You’re leaning on the emotion and the joke. It’s a very bold, quiet moment. But if the joke doesn’t work, that’s a thud! Most people are bold by going loud or over the top, Chris is going in the opposite direction to what people expect; instead of going over the top he gives you something quiet and more realistic.
Dan, with the success of the LEGO movies, these are exciting times for the Warner Animation Group. How’s the future shaping up?
DL: My ambition is to continue making fresh, bold movies – not just from previous mythologies but to tell original stories. But expect the same ethos as in the way we attack these LEGO movies. For us, quality is of the utmost importance, we work and work and work these movies to death. When you see a LEGO movie you know what you’re getting, a very irreverent tone but with a lot of heart.
The Lego Batman Movie is in cinemas from February 10th