On days like today I wish I had my own LEGO studio. Working out of the dining room table, when you have thousands of LEGO pieces, a 6 year old who has to play with whatever movie set you just built, and a mother visiting that insists on cleaning up after you regardless of your organization system… I love them all, but leave my LEGOs alone! OK, I feel better now.
After the emotionally wrenching Day of the Dead movie, I decided to do something without a plot. I’d gotten LEGO 10235: Winter Village Market because someday I want to do Alan Moore’s The Killing Joke as a brickfilm and that got me thinking. Just how many ways can you use a carousel? Without much thinking, at least four. In addition to Joker vs. Batman and the obvious park scene, a Victorian setting could give me a chance to try some “filters.” And of course, you have to do a scary movie. Bonus: it gave me a pretty easy way to experiment and see just how smooth I could get the animation (still need to futz more with frame rates). So there you have it. The Winter Village Market is a solid build, The carousel build was very enjoyable. And from from a brickflimer’s point of view, there are lots of uses, some creepier (and more fun) than others.
Inspired by Paul Hetherington’s brilliant use of Ninjago skeleton heads in his Fun Haus, I set out to capture the pageantry of the Mexican Day of the Dead celebration. In Panama, where I grew up, Dia de los Muertos was a somber and not particularly memorable afair. So I embraced the Mexican way. No one does it better.
This was my fist attempt at portraying dance with LEGO and it was challenging. Capturing the energy of an Aztec dancer was difficult. I really enjoyed trying to replicate the flowing skirts of the female dancers and give them movement using LEGO bricks. I’m happy with how they turned out. I just wish I’d had time to work through a couple more prototypes of the skeleton marionettes common in Day of the Dead processions. I even got to work in the Mexican wrestler minifigure.
Best for the story but hardest for me was when I went from recreating Day of the Dead customs in LEGO into personal history. My dad passed away over three years ago. Depicting our family’s reality since his passing, in the excruciating slow process stop-motion affords you was painful. But worse was hearing the loss in my mother’s voice as I listened to her last line over and over again trying to reduce all the static in the recording. More masochism than therapy.
So there you have it. My Day of the Dead LEGO stop motion movie. Enjoy and remember your loved ones.
Are LEGO robots capable of more expression, both body and facial, than minifigs? Certainly if you build them like Legohaulic‘s incredible E-MOTE experiment. Animating them I imagine would feel more like puppetry.
More recently, The Set Bump blogged about “Major Malfunction” by MisterMulluc. A truly great piece of animation. But in my opinion, the piano playing robot steals the show. Monseiur Caron is also experimenting with some robot design for animation. I can’t wait what his result is. Especially since my own list of projects won’t let me attempt this for a while. Back to swapping minifig heads I go.
Update: David at The Set Bump points out that it’s “large-scale brick-built characters in general that are more capable of emoting. “little guys” and “playback” by Paganomation make that clear.” I couldn’t agree more.
The reaction from friends and family to A Day in the Life of an Adult Fan of LEGO, my entry to Rebrick’s Show Us an AFOL brickfilm contest, has been great. That’s probably because it is more of a “biopic” than I care to admit.
As an adult fan of LEGO, or AFOL as we call ourselves, I can say that:
A LEGO replica of the Death Star has taken up most of our dining room table for months at a time. The same can be said of brickfilm movie sets, and less glamorously, just hundreds of random LEGO parts.
I routinely try to get my son to spend his allowance or birthday money on LEGO
I have pulled an all-nighter on a week night finishing up an entry for a brickfilm contest.
But the most important thing that came out of this was recognizing my tendency to tell stories too complicated for the medium or time limits. I decided to enter with only eight days left in the competition so I didn’t have time for my usual subplots and extraneous characters. I didn’t have time to waste on scenes that I loved in concept but didn’t come across clearly. For once, I didn’t have to explain a plot subtlety to my wife. You’d think I’d be smart enough to take that as a sign. But It’s funny how easy it is to ignore or rationalize a bloated and confusing plot. This time I ended up well under the two minutes maximum on the first pass! I usually spend gut-wrenching hours editing down a video.
And this is why I’m an AFOL. It’s not just a creative outlet. It causes me to take long and hard looks at myself and do better.
Replicating trailers with LEGO is a great way to practice your stop motion animation skills without having to worry about the story. Instead you can focus on your animation skills, lighting and editing. And if you are good enough (and fast enough) you can get some good coverage in the blogosphere.
10211: The Grand Emporium is a great set for any LEGO movie maker’s backlot. It has a beautiful façade with some fun builds and the window displays, food vendor and other bits will make your street scene come alive.
Other things I has going for it from a movie making standpoint:
It’s a corner building. Isn’t whipping around a corner avoiding scrambling bystanders more exciting? Yes it is.
It includes a window washer on a suspended scaffold. Here comes LEGO Superman to save the day.
A great roof for a watchful LEGO Batman to perch on. It’s got a billboard, a skylight, and some nice detailing to offset the brooding.
The inside is too crammed for an iPhone, much less a digital SLR. So any shooting beyond an inside-looking-out shot or a perspective shot down the escalators, which are a fun build, is going to take some futzing. My only nitpic is that the chandelier is beautiful but its attachment is delicate.
If you are going to splurge on an off-the-shelf set, this is the one to do it one. At $150 I am extremely satisfied. It took me a day to build taking my time and I’m going to get lots of use as the anchor of my LEGO backlot.