Hollywood producer Dan Lin was inspired to make The LEGO Movie after seeing his son playing with LEGO bricks – as The LEGO Batman Movie is released, he discusses the latest brick-based cinematic adventure
After persuading the LEGO Group to work with him on The LEGO Movie, Dan Lin is back with The LEGO Batman Movie ready to share another blocky adventure with audiences around the world. The prolific producer explained how The LEGO Batman Movie was developed and how the character of Robin fits into the film.
It’s always very nerve-wracking because in this case we spent two and a half years making the movie, and you’ve no idea what people will think. But we really adhere to the LEGO mantra of only the best is good enough, so we really worked as hard as we could and I’m very proud of the movie. It’s got great themes, it’s really a movie for everyone – kids, adults, boys, girls. It ages a little older than The LEGO Movie because it’s Batman so it’s a little edgier. I’m really excited about the final result.
How do you find the sweet spot that allows a movie to appeal to adults as well as children?
The key for us is that we don’t take ourselves very seriously, yet there are times when we take ourselves very seriously. So you see Will Arnett just really having fun with that character, then we take the story seriously so people will be really surprised when Batman goes on this emotional journey.
Batman starts off as a very lonely person, he thinks he has everything he needs –adulation of fans, a crazy Batmobile, gadgets and money. Then he goes home and he’s got nobody, no real emotional attachments in his life and he has to realise that to truly be happy he has to find people. He has to find his version of a family and so for us it’s an important through line while he goes on all these funny hi-jinks.
How did the concept evolve during the development process?
The themes are constantly refined with these LEGO movies, we start with multiple themes, so many different ideas and then we have to slowly strip it away. The question of can Batman be happy, that was where we started in first place – myself, Phil Lord and Chris Miller from the first movie, and Chris McKay. We said, ‘okay, now we’ve had phenomenal success with the first movie, what story do we tell?’
At first we thought it was going to be The LEGO Movie Sequel, and then we put that aside. Let’s tell a few more stories before we get to that, attack a few more genres. Then when we decided that Batman was going be next we started thinking about what’s in the Batman lore that hasn’t been explored before. There’s obviously been lots of different versions on television and movies and we keyed on can Batman be happy? That’s a theme we can actually explore in a LEGO movie way, so we ran forward from there.
How did you develop the concept into the story for the movie?
There’s lots of different phases – Seth Grahame-Smith came on as a first writer with the idea of Robin. The idea of Robin is inspired by Book of Mormon, but it’s very much a happy Robin. So Batman goes through a lot of things that Robin has in his life, he lost his parents, he was orphaned, but Batman’s the darker version of it. Robin is completely the opposite, Seth came in with a pitch that this is the cheery version of an orphan, he’s a ‘glass is half full’ and sees the good things in life. We cast Michael Cera who just then took it to another level.
You have these essential themes, then everyone starts plussing it. You have the writer come on, then the actor comes on, then the artist and animators come on – so we take this essential idea and we keep making it better and better. Everyone starts making it their own, everyone is a storyteller in their own way so that just before we finish then we suddenly have a fully-fledged character.
What made Chris McKay the right person to direct the film?
He’s a huge fan of LEGO and he’s a huge fan of Batman. So for us, combining those two meant one plus one is three. He really was a big part of the success of the first movie, he did lots of different jobs from being our animation director, essentially the co-director of the movie, he edited the movie and he was voices in the movie. So he knew our process and we thought he was ready to step up, and he really has stepped up to be the lead director of the movie.
How important was casting Michael Cera to give the vocal contrast between Robin and Will Arnett’s Batman?
It’s absolutely key. There’s only so much you can write on a page, but he really brings that character to life. He and Will Arnett have worked together before on Arrested Development, so to see those two going at it again, there’s just a natural chemistry there. There’s just a real charm in Michael’s voice, a childish charm that you really need because he’s lovable. You have to root for him throughout the course of the movie because Batman’s going to put him through some ups and downs and he’s going to disappoint him.
Is there any pressure in bringing Batman to a new generation of fans?
There’s pressure because of Batman, there’s pressure because of the response to The LEGO Movie, there’s definitely a lot of pressure all around. At a certain point we just block it out. Feeling any more pressure is not going to do anything for us, we just make the best movie we can make – if people like it great. If not, we did everything we can and there’s not much more than we left on the stage.