The Lego Movie is essentially an Australian film.
That’s according to Chris McKay, the man called in to co-direct The Lego Movie in Australia on behalf of co-writer/directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller.
Lord and Miller, known for Cloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs, brought McKay onboard as animation co-director when they were making 21 Jump Street.
“They needed a co-director to come in and start working on the movie while they were doing 21 and ultimately 22 Jump Street,” McKay says.
So after starting work on the movie, he moved to Australia in September 2012 and hit the ground running with the animation and visual effects team at Animal Logic.
“I joke around a lot, but this is an Australian movie,” McKay says.
That’s because so much of it is Australian – “pretty much from the inception of the story all the way through animation, layout, lighting, modelling, surfacing, all the way to sound and the music, which was composed by Mark Mothersbaugh but played here by Australian musicians”.
He adds: “It’s rare to have everything to be all (from one place) for an animated movie, but like I said, this is basically an Australian production.”
Aside from the final week or so, when the movie was tweaked in Los Angeles, The Lego Movie was completely crafted and finished in Sydney at Animal Logic.
McKay says everyone on board The Lego Movie wanted to make sure their film wasn’t a sell-out.
Every day he would sit down and say, “Guys, we have two options: we can make a 90-minute toy commercial or we can make a really great movie.”
He says: “I think also being honest with people and going look, it’s the easiest thing in the world, we could just turn our brains off, and make something that’s really dumb.
“(But) I don’t like watching those movies, I don’t want to make those movies and I don’t think anybody here wanted to make those movies.”
The result is a film that’s won over children and adults alike, resulting in a staggering $US390 million ($A428.15 million) at the worldwide box office already. And it hasn’t even opened in Australia yet.
The film follows Emmet (voiced by Chris Pratt), an ordinary Lego minifigure, who is mistaken for the MasterBuilder who will save the universe from an evil tyrant (Will Ferrell).
The Lego Movie features an incredible voice cast, including Elizabeth Banks, Morgan Freeman and Will Arnett (who plays Batman), and some of cinema’s most iconic characters.
“It was really exciting to have kind of a pop culture blender,” McKay says.
“Because it’s Lego, you can do a Who Framed Roger Rabbit kind of thing, where Gandalf and Dumbledore can be together, where Flash and Speed Racer can run through the background,” he says.
He hopes in the sequel, which Deadline recently announced McKay would direct, can do even more than that.
There’s no doubt McKay is a film buff. His tattoos reference Captain America, Halloween, Superman, Star Wars, Catwoman and Alfred Hitchcock, to name a few.
And McKay knows exactly who will be inked on him next – Unikitty. The new character, who was made for The Lego Movie, is quickly winning hearts.
“Who doesn’t love Unikitty?” McKay says.
“Unikitty’s my favourite character. One of my next tattoos is going to be Unikitty for sure.”
* The Lego Movie opens in Australian cinemas on April 3.