The LEGO Movie briefly touched on all the different LEGO worlds that are available for kids to build. The LEGO Ninjago Movie is a whole world set on the island of Ninjago, with Master Wu (Jackie Chan) leading the six ninjas to defeat Garmadon (Justin Theroux).
Charlie Bean makes his feature film debut directing The LGEO Ninjago Movie. Bean joined the cast at LEGOland for the film’s press junket, where Nerd Report got to sit down with him to discuss the making of the movie. The LEGO Ninjago Movie opens Friday, September 22.
Nerd Report: What theme is this room?
Charlie Bean: Looks like Indiana Jones maybe, I think. There’s a bunk bed in here if you want to do it from there.
NR: So is Meowthra all CG or some live-action cat?
NR: I imagine there are some things you can’t train a cat to do?
CB: We were just talking about this. The cat that you see in the live-action footage at the beginning and end of the film is the same cat that we model the character after. We shot a bunch of footage of that cat, trying to get the cat to do stuff in a green screen set. Cats are not like dogs. You can’t train them to do things in the same way. They just do whatever they want to. They’re pretty difficult. She was quite the diva.
CB: That comes from the canon. We’ve got this story about Lloyd, the Green Ninja and his father is Garmadon. That goes all the way back to the show. I think that for early discussions with Chris and Phil, that seemed like the red meat to go after. That seems like such an emotional story there that that was the story we really wanted to tell because it had so much potential.
NR: Since there have been LEGO Ninjago cartoons before, were the voices established by other actors?
CB: In terms of casting, when you get into a big cinematic experience, we wanted to not just do the same thing that people have heard. We wanted to broaden what we could do with the cast and the voices. The characters are based on the television show but an opportunity to work with Jackie Chan, we leapt at that kind of thing, and bringing other comedic voices in too. And I mean that not in just the sounds of the voices but the comedic voices like Justin Theroux and Abbi Jacobson. These are all writers that brought a lot to the movie as comedic writers as well.
NR: How did you want Mark Mothersbaugh’s music for LEGO NINJAGO to be different from The LEGO Movie?
CB: Mark and I talked a lot about this and talked a lot about genre. We talked a lot about marital arts films and we looked at and listened to a lot of Shaw brothers movies. We looked at monster movies and genre stuff, like Godzilla and this kind of stuff. We looked at and started to access styles and go after genre stuff for these types of films. Ultimately, I think it came down to us thinking about theme and the themes for these different characters and that felt really fun. We had a theme for Lloyd and a theme for Garmadon and a theme for Wu and that started to take shape really thematically like that in a traditional score.
NR: How do you do the anime fight motion scene in brick form?
CB: You mean the speed lines when the dragon’s shooting missiles and things? That was a lot of different trial and error. I knew that the feel and the look that I wanted from that based on anime, stuff that I love and those types of films that I’m obsessed with and that stylistic choice of speed lines. I wanted to do a nod to that. I just love the way it feels and looks. So we tried lots of different techniques and how to do it. I knew I wanted to do it with bricks and do something that was physical. We do it with actual bricks racing past. It was strangely similar to how you do it in 2D. It’s not that dissimilar. The thought behind it, the technique behind it is based in the same theory.
CB: So many. From Tai Chi Master and Drunken Master, The Shaolin Assassin, 36th Chamber of Shaolin, STephen Chow movies are so great. All Wu-Ping’s stuff, Jackie’s movies, Police Story, PRoject A, Snake in the Eagle’s Shadow, The Five Deadly Venoms, Enter the Dragon. So many of these films. We were constantly watching these movies. They’re so great.
NR: When you chose the live-action martial-arts montages did you have to pick PG-friendly fight scenes?
CB: We found those little fight sequences on Shutterstock. The M.O. for those was what’s the cheapest version of a martial arts film first? That was the determining factor.
NR: Did you have fun creating the fake titles?
CB: Exactly, that is the fun of all those things, play on words. Judo Future Boy. The challenge to the editors, Doug and Todd who were with me on this movie from the very beginning worked on Batman, worked on The LEGO Movie, they have the spirit of these movies embodied in what they did in those sequences. Find funny footage and create a funny Kung Fu title to go with it.