Franchise Fred Interview: Lego Ninjago Movie Director Charlie Bean

Now we’re going to get into the real nitty gritty of LEGO movies and that means spoilers for The LEGO Movie and LEGO Batman, and potentially spoilers for the new LEGO Ninjago Movie. We won’t come out any say what happens in LEGO Ninjago but if we’re discussing recurring themes of LEGO movies you may piece it together.

Charlie Bean directed The LEGO Ninjago Movie. This full length martial arts adventure in LEGO form stars Jackie Chan, Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Olivia Munn, Abbi Jacobson, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Pena, Fred Armisen and Zach Woods. LEGO Ninjago opens this Friday, September 22.

Franchise Fred: Is the idea of each LEGO movie that it’s a different kid playing with LEGOs?

Charlie Bean: Yeah, that’s interesting. I think that these stories, what connects these stories like The LEGO Movie and Batman and Ninjago is that their stories are being told through LEGO. So it’s their story that they’re telling. I think there’s a bit of interpretation there. Is this Jackie’s story that he’s telling? Is it him or is it in the imagination of Jake, the boy that’s in the curio shop? I have my own idea about it but that’s up for interpretation. In the first LEGO Movie, you have these different universes like Star Wars and DC that can collide together because really they’re in the universe of the real world. This is all taking place in Will Ferrell’s basement so those universes can collide because the universe is the real world universe. Just like in our movie, we have real world elements. You have a housecat that can come into this world because we’re in the real world. The real world of the person who’s thinking about it leaks into the story they’re telling.

FF: So far these are presumably three boys playing with LEGOs. Could there be one that’s a girl’s take?

CB: Definitely. I think for sure. I’m not sure what the next LEGO movie is going to be. I think LEGO 2 for sure but this is a big part of it. I think that will be a big part of LEGO 2.

FF: Since The LEGO Movie introduced live-action footage, is there talk in each LEGO movie about if and how there might be a live-action component?

CB: Yeah, I mean, I think these movies are not like other animated films. It’s sort of been established in the first film that these stories are an interpretation of somebody’s story from the live-action world is telling a story through LEGO. There’s always an opportunity for that which is kind of a cool thing about these films. It doesn’t have to be that way. Look at Batman. Batman doesn’t have any live-action in it. But this one, I think the opportunity is there and if it feels right for the story we’re trying to tell, yeah, it’s a cool thing.

FF: Does this stay mostly in the Ninjago world where the other films brought in other LEGO universes?

CB: I think so. With this one we didn’t want to localize this story in the island of Ninjago. This is where this one was taking place. It’s not that it needs to be disconnected. I mean, Lloyd, the green ninja, is in the first LEGO Movie so these universes have a tenuous connection. This is a story about Ninjago and it was about the island of Ninjago so we wanted to tell a story that was localized to that, yeah.

FF: Is part of the Ninjago brand that it’s Americans in an Asian inspired world?

CB: I don’t think it’s as specific as that. In our film, we’ve got Jackie Chan who’s not American. We’ve got a multi-cultural group of people. We think of it as a multi-cultural world that’s cross cultures, cross genders, cross age groups, everything.

FF: What was the division of labor with your co-directors?

CB: These movies are huge. They’re such a huge challenge so we had a story edit team that was split over an L.A. team and a Sydney team. It was just sort of divide and conquer. I was in Sydney, as was the whole production of the movie so story and edit was split between the two. Also we certainly utilized the 24 hour cycle where we’re passing stuff back and forth because they’re on the other side of the time scale.

FF: What’s next for you?

CB: I don’t know what’s next. I’m trying to figure that out. I think a break. I’m going to take a little break and finally have a honeymoon with my wife. We got married over a weekend during production so I think we’re going to explore Australia a little bit.

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