With the Academy Awards just around the corner, there will be one blatant omission from the animated movie category: The LEGO Movie. The film does not need an Oscar nomination, as it did phenomenally well at the box office, becoming one of the highest grossing animated movies of all time. The directors are pretty clear that they are not looking for any Academy Award accolades, especially when they can build their own.
The question though is whether or not The LEGO Movie deserved a nomination for best animated film? The answer is a resounding ‘Yes!’ and here are the reasons why:
Production Value: One of The Most Detailed Animated Movies Ever Created
The LEGO Movie was one of the most complex and ambitious animated movies ever produced. According to Business Insider, “there were a total of 3,863,484 unique Lego bricks in the movie…if you wanted to recreate the entire movie, you would need 15,080,330 Lego pieces.” No other animated movie has had to base their animation on over 3 million toy pieces before.
Also, the 3-minute stop animation ending credits took 50 people over a year to make using 60,000 pieces of LEGO. This may be one of the most painstakingly detailed ending credits of all time. See it for yourself.
These two animated achievements alone deserve recognition by The Academy.
Story Line: A Multi-layered Story That Challenges Societal Norms
Now ignore the production value and focus on the strength of the story. On the surface, The LEGO Movie has a cliche storyline. An ordinary individual, Emmet, is chosen to save the world.
If you look past that though, the are many complex layers underneath it. A critique of American mass culture, an introduction to a burning man type society (an unambiguous nod to Aristophanes’ satirical play “The Birds,” written about 2,400 years ago, which included a chaotic realm called Cloud Cuckoo Land). And even a 2nd Inception type level of the story where you find a LEGO Hobbyist father, obsessed with keeping his LEGO perfect with the help of Kragle Crazy Glue and his son, who just wants to create fun worlds with LEGO. The two of them determine the outcome of the main LEGO characters through their own process of play.
That’s quite a few layers for a film simply called The LEGO Movie. Based on that title, the writers could have easily cooked up a weak plot to only appease kids so that they could sell more LEGO. Instead, they created a complex enough story line to cause a political debate which the New Yorker, Fox News, and the Economist covered. Here is an excerpt from the Economist about the film: “You can make what you like of “The Lego Movie”, but your correspondent found its message to be pleasingly libertarian: suspicious of top-down power and supportive of individual rights (such as the right of Lego people not to spend eternity in the position Lord Business deems correct). Its target is dull conformity. “Take everything weird and blow it up!”
When was the last time an animated movie stirred up this level of debate?
Competition: More Ambitious Goals Than Their Nominated Counterparts
If you still are not convinced, take a look at the animated movies nominated this year: Big Hero 6, Song of the Sea, The Boxtrolls, The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, and How to Train Your Dragon 2. There are some strong animated movies here that undoubtedly deserve an Oscar nomination. Big Hero Six is a great heartfelt, tear-jerking story. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya, from the legendary Miyazaki’s Studio Ghibli, produced many other amazing animated films. The other nominees are also strong films.
However, they did not take on the challenges that The LEGO Movie chose to do. From recreating an entire movie out of LEGO to attempting to address the ills of our economic and political system, all while also being extremely witty and entertaining. The other movies also did not have a demanding fan base, the way the LEGO community has. There are the fanatic LEGO kids, the tweens/teenagers of First LEGO League, as well as the adult fans of LEGO, and everyone in between. Those are drastically different populations to please and the producers were able to ride that fine line extremely well.
Even the critics agreed. The LEGO Movie is one of the highest rated animated movies ever on Rotten Tomatoes, beating out all of this year’s Oscar nominated animated films. One year after its release, critics still consider it a ground-breaking movie.
Impact: Children Are Inspired To Build More
Now if all of those reasons are not enough, the one that resonates most with us is that The LEGO Movie inspired our youngest LEGO enthusiasts. Every good movie is inspirational in some way, but how many films compel kids to go home and start immediately creating? In our classes, a year later, our LEGO engineers are still referencing that movie as they build their creations.
Scene built by our engineering students
Some of these kids may end up becoming our future engineers, scientists, and next great innovators, shaping the world the way the LEGO Master Builders do in this movie. And they may in fact reference of all things an animated film about LEGO, as one of their inspirations. Name an Oscar nominated movie this year that has the potential to make a similar impact.
If you watch any great Oscars acceptance speech, it’s about being inspired to pursue some impossible, irrational dream? The LEGO Movie achieved their impossible goal of creating a complex enough movie that critiques American mass culture, captures the zeitgeist of the LEGO world, all while inspiring the next generation of creators. Because of this, it should be recognized as one of the best animated films of the year. Luckily for The Academy, they’ll have a second chance when The LEGO Movie 2 is released. The consolation prize of having their subversive “Everything Is Awesome” song nominated for best song is simply not enough, even if it is a catchy song.