How to make LEGO stop-motion movies

Author, screenwriter and LEGO YouTuber Emma Kennedy gives us a crash course in making LEGO stop-motion movies.

Sometimes, as I sit in the LEGO shed, looking at all my pots and pieces and sets, I find myself wondering what I can do with them all bar staring at them. Like a scrag end of mutton or the carcass of a chicken, I think all things should be put to good use, and LEGO is no exception.

It’s all very well gazing at your modular buildings in blissed out wonder or shoving the odd minifigure with the end of your finger, but there’s only so much staring one pair of eyes can do. So, what can you do with your LEGO collection when you’re an adult and not given to whiling away the hours playing?

The obvious solution is to take your set apart and build something else with the bricks, and if you think that’s your bag, then head to Rebrickable for all manner of suggestions.

But if you’re like me, and the thought of taking apart your copy of 10278 Police Station to build a Corner Hotel instead is beyond the pale, or gives you abdominal pain even contemplating it, then I have a curveball to chuck at you that will a) show your sets off to great advantage and b) be unbelievably time consuming, which – let’s face it – is the holy grail of all hobbyists.

The answer, dear pals, is stop-motion animation. 

Over at Relax With Bricks, every now and again I will be called upon to animate an AFOLWAC (Adult Fans of LEGO Who Are Chums) into a scene of their choosing – the most recent request being to animate the scene in Star Wars: A New Hope where Obi-Wan Kenobi tells the Stormtrooper these are not the droids he’s looking for, but with the AFOLWAC’s minifigure playing Obi-Wan.

That’s impossible, you might think. Well, no, not if you’ve got 75290 Mos Eisley Cantina sitting on a shelf behind you. That set is so hopeless I thank all the LEGO gods I’m finally able to get some use out of it.

Replicating favourite scenes from films is a good place to start: you’ve got a visual to follow, and you can record the soundtrack or, if you prefer, make your own. One of my favourites was remaking the food poisoning scene from Bridesmaids. Top tip: LEGO flames make excellent projectile vomit.

There are lots of brilliant apps you can download for stop-motion animation, and once you’re ready to roll, it really is a case of setting up your shot and then taking one frame at a time. You don’t need a fancy camera, either – I use my iPhone – and if you haven’t got a tripod to hold it, you can make one out of LEGO.

For best results, make sure your filming set is well lit, but to be honest, once you’ve mastered making your minifigure walk (one leg up, opposite arm up, then down and repeat on the other side) you’re off. Sticky putty is super useful for sticking your minifigure down on surfaces without studs, and it’s well worth securing any large baseplates so they don’t move when you’re rearranging your minifigures. 

Emma Kennedy LEGO stop motion

Backdrops are also vital, and you might like to invest in a couple of large, generic printed backgrounds. Sky is useful, but you could also use countryside, cliffs or an urban landscape. If you haven’t got a backdrop, don’t worry: this is where your modular buildings come in handy. Need a street scene? Stick your action in front of 10264 Corner Garage or 10255 Assembly Square, or that never-to-be-rebricked 10278 Police Station

I’m not very good at animation. The short films I do are rough around the edges – but it doesn’t matter. It’s great fun, and after hours of painstakingly moving a leg here and a hand there, it’s always hugely satisfying to see the end product.

There are some phenomenal LEGO animators on YouTube, and you will be astonished at what they can produce, but you don’t need to be able to recreate Top Gun in LEGO (someone has actually done this, it’s incredible) – all you need is to enjoy yourself, so get those minifigures moving. 

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Emma Kennedy

Emma Kennedy is an author, actor, presenter and AFOL who runs Relax With Bricks on YouTube. Follow her LEGO antics on Twitter at @legowith.

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