The Digital Bricklayers Behind the Lego Movie

lego movie

On display in the office of Zareh Nalbandian, the CEO of Sydney animation studio Animal Logic, is a handsome chalkboard from a French monastery. When he purchased the chalkboard in a vintage sale 20 years ago, Nalbandian was attracted to the drawing on it: a detailed numerical and pictorial formula for making pigs fly.

“That’s what you have to do in this business,” says Nalbandian.

For more than 20 years, Animal Logic has specialised in realising spectacular screen fantasies as implausible as porcine aeronautics. In three unassuming buildings on Fox Studios Australia’s Moore Park backlot, animators and visual effects artists have slaved to create the superheroics and pyrotechnics of Avengers: Age of Ultron and X-Men: Days of Future Past, the vertiginous bacchanalia of Baz Luhrmann’s Moulin Rouge! and The Great Gatsby, and the colony of shimmying penguins in Australia’s first computer graphics (CG) animated feature, the Academy Award–winning Happy Feet. And they did make a pig fly, sort of, in two Babe movies.

Lately, though, they’ve spent a lot of time fiddling with little bits of plastic. Since animating the 2011 television special Lego Star Wars: The Padawan Menace and 2014’s blockbuster hit The Lego Movie, the studio has turned into Sydney’s own Lego factory. Approximately 150 staffers are in the process of assembling Lego Ninjago and The Lego Batman Movie. (Another spin-off, TheBillion Brick Race, has recently been announced.)

Compared to the studio’s flashier cinematic feats, chucking a pile of Lego bricks on the screen may seem like child’s play. But bringing vast quantities of computer-generated plastic to life is a complex undertaking.

“It’s easy to make things that aren’t meant to look plastic look plastic,” says production designer Grant Freckelton. “It’s not so easy to make things that are plastic look plastic.”

To read the rest of the story please visit The Monthly.

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