Most of us can probably think of iconic LEGO advertisements from when we were kids, whether it was the little red-haired girl proudly holding her creation, or the Brick Maniac’s zany exploits from the 90s. But it’s not very often that you get to see a LEGO campaign pitch that didn’t come to fruition. In 2016, Brian Ellis pitched a new branding concept to LEGO that unfortunately wasn’t chosen. However, Brian has shared not only the video pitch, but also a full 20 minute documentary of a behind-the-scenes on how it was created. With 5 years of effort put into this bringing friends and like-minded individuals together, it also offers an insight into just how much work needs to be put in for a 60-second production.
If you’re thinking, what so special about it all? There are several. For one, it’s always admirable and insightful to see how fans of LEGO go the extra mile — putting more blood sweat and tears into a production for the toy company whose products we love so much. It also features no computer-generated graphics (CGI), something rare in this age of digital. The stage and models were built by hand, including the costumes, and put together in post-production with traditional non-linear editing software. The LEGO builds were made by LEGO Designer Mark John Stafford, who we recently interviewed for the Jurassic Park: T-Rex Rampage release. Everything down to the soundtrack, which has a Blade Runner-esqe feeling, was composed specially for the one minute feature.
This is a great year for LEGO-loving Netflix subscribers, with two LEGO documentaries being released less than a month apart from one another! You might remember the special LEGO episode of the Toys That Made Us, which we reviewed at its release in May. The second documentary to roll into Netflix’s lineup is LEGO House – Home of the Brick. LEGO House is the LEGO Group’s own museum of play, designed to highlight both the company’s history and creative possibilities of the brick. Seven years in the making, LEGO House was designed by the Danish firm BIG and opened in September 2017. Home of the Brick is a 47-minute documentary that chronicles the journey the LEGO House took from its conception to last year’s grand opening.
Blare Media has finally revealed the full trailer for it’s brick-themed mocumentary Brick MADNESS. The film pits an underdog “Brix” builder against an arrogant long-time champion in a battle to build his way to not only fame, but redemption. The PG-13 rated film premieres on September 8th.
Last night I was able to attend a screening of Beyond the Brick at the Seattle International Film Festival. I have to say that I did not have high hopes or expectations. I have found that, at the best of times, they tend to have a skewed view of the fan community, so I wasn’t really looking forward to seeing how a documentary with LEGO’s official stamp of approval would deal with us adult fans. I am glad to say that my misgivings were unjustified. It was good, even (dare I say it?) better than The LEGO Movie itself. Go ahead, stone me in the comments, but everything WAS awesome.
So what exactly is Beyond the Brick?
In a Q&A session after the screening, one of the directors said that their goal was to create a film that not only told the story of LEGO but showed the vast community that has grown up around it. The idea was to delve into what it is about the LEGO brick that touches us and inspires us, how the system of play drives creativity and who are the people who have been changed and/or affected by LEGO. Did they succeed? I think think they did. I have been a fan of LEGO’s products for 35 years and I learned quite a few things about the global LEGO community that I never knew and was reminded of things that I had forgotten. The filmmakers were able to touch on many different aspects of LEGO and the effects it has had over the years and around the globe. Some of these included changes in the art world, new therapies with special needs children, the adult fan phenomenon, crowd-sourcing before it was a buzzword and sending minifigs into Space.
Was everything really awesome about the film?
No film is ever perfect. I felt there were some key members of the fan community who were overlooked and who could have offered insight into the concepts that the filmmakers were wanting to explore. But, in their defense, they couldn’t talk to everyone and they definitely couldn’t fit every detail into 90 minutes. There were only a few omissions that really bothered me, such as leaving out the collaborators of several projects and making it appear that the projects were built by a single person. One example of those was a minor collaboration I took part in at BrickCon. I was in the film, talking about the build but there were actually two of us there. My partner-in-crime was cut out. There were other, more important examples, involving large convention collaborations, that didn’t give full credit to those involved. But really that is my only serious critique of the film. Overall, it is a very well-crafted film that does an excellent job of showing off the LEGO community to the world. You should go see it or get a hold of the DVD when it comes out.
Check out this clip from the film, via The Wall Street Journal (Many thanks to my coworker, Brett, for sending me the link):
As if The LEGO Movie wasn’t already enough cinematic excitement for LEGO fans in one year, watch out, because here comes Beyond the Brick: A LEGO Brickumentary, a feature-length documentary about LEGO from award winning directors Daniel Junge and Kief Davidson. The documentary covers a lot of ground, from the history of the LEGO company, to the current LEGO fan phenomenon – with a bunch of fan builders and conventions getting the spotlight.
The documentary premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York this April, and today it was announced that there will also be screenings at the Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF) in May. Times and locations as follows:
Friday May 16 4:00 PM – Lincoln Square Cinema, Bellevue
Sean Kenney was recently featured in a 30 minute documentary aired on Japan’s national public broadcasting organization, NHK. Click on the image below for the link to the video, where you can see Sean’s LEGO studio, his Times Square model, and watch him build his largest creation: a life-sized polar bear!
At last year’s BrickWorld, Dr. Jay Hanes from Edinboro University of Pennsylvania and collaborators captured the marvels of LEGO fans and their exhibition and produced a documentary about the love of the brick. At this year’s BrickWorld, you can watch a screening of the documentary and meet the producers and many of the featured builders. You can learn more about “Love of the Brick” here and watch the trailer below: