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Remember a few years ago when tons of youtube and social media personalities glowed about how great the LEGO Movie was and how it came out of nowhere?  Well, it got me thinking.  If everyone loved the film then why didn’t it do better?  Don’t me wrong, it wasn’t a bomb.  On a budget of 60-65 million it made 469 million.  But with the way it’s been talked about you would think that it’s a billion dollar grossing film… like “MINIONS”.  Heck the Lego Movie’s most popular character Batman received his own movie(in 2017) but that one only made 312 million at the box office.  Then there’s the Lego “Ninjago” movie that didn’t even crack 150 million world wide.  So what happening?  Why did the first film do well but since then there seems to be diminishing returns(box office wise at least)?


Well I believe that the Lego films initial success has more to do with the fact that there’s been lego movies more than a decade before that one was released.  But before I get to that how about a little background on lego and it’s movie history?


LEGO was created in 1949 by former carpenter Ole Kirk Christiansen(1891-1958).  The current design for lego was first developed and patented in 1958.  Lego’s have been part of history really for over 70 years. (So it’s a generational toy).  When it comes to the first lego movie that actually happened(unofficially)in 1973 and was called En rsjse oil manen(Journey to the Moon) created by Lars C. Hating.  Since then there have been many lego “fan films” not officially backed lego films(even though lego has shown to be okay with the lego fan films. Lego even created software for fans to create lego fan movies).


The first actual lego film wasn’t in 2014 it was 2003 with “Bionicle: Mask of Light”(part of the toy line).  But if you want a lego logo film then that would be 2010’s “Lego: The Adventures of Clutch Powers”.


So with a decades long lineage lego is now a generational toy.  Nearly everyone has either had legos or played with them.  There’s a nostalgia there.  Over almost 20 years there has been a lego film of some sort.  Most are straight to video(dvd, blue-ray, vod, etc.)or to television.  Because of this there is an audience that is used to a 2 hour block of lego animation so when the first theatrical film was released the fact that it was a financial success shouldn’t be a surprise.  The fans of the property were ready for it.  However that may also be the reason why the theatrical films aren’t doing as well too.


Theatrical films aside there are a ton of LEGO multimedia.  Video games(lego, marvel superheroes, dc superheroes, Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars, etc.) television shows(Chima, Ninjago, various star wars, scooby doo and jurassic world specials as well as the star wars freemaker adventures).  What these properties had that the initial LEGO movie didn’t was an existing audience.  If you were a marvel comics, movie or animation fan then there’s a great chance you’ll watch the various Disney Marvel Lego specials.  The same with DC Comics, Star Wars and so on.


Not counting the already existing fans of the product “The LEGO Movie” had to also get people that weren’t interested in lego to want to see the film.  That can be difficult since the film wasn’t based on any one particular existing property.  One way the film makers tried to fix this it seems is by throwing in a ton of different properties(and easter eggs) into the film.


I think one reason for the decrease in box office has to do with everyone that likes lego can go almost anywhere to see it animated(or otherwise for their lego fix).  But for the sake of this analysis let’s just(mainly) focus on the animation and not the toys.


1.  Too referential.  The LEGO Movie possibly throws too much at the screen.  The problem with referential humor is 1. not everyone is going to get the reference and 2.  The humor has a very short shelf life.


2.  There isn’t as much emotional impact with this film as other cgi animated films(ex. the best of PIXAR and Dreamworks Kung Fu Panda and How To Train Your Dragon Franchises).  The father son moment at the end was good however that was basically it.  A part of the reason for the not so enormous box office may have to do with that in the moment the movie is fun but it’s not a film that a ton of people (and more specifically kids)are going to see over and over again. 


3.  There are too many LEGO movies on VOD, DVD, straight to tv films and video games and those are based on already existing IP’s.  Examples: Indiana Jones, Lord of the Rings, DC Superheroes, Marvel Superheroes, Scooby Doo, Star Wars and Jurassic World.  Not only that 4 of these films came out in 2018.  I’ve also noticed after watching these films it’s that the most have the same feel.  It has the same type of comedy.  So maybe that’s why not as many people saw “The Lego Movie”, Why watch more the same thing?


4.  Diminishing Returns.  The Lego Movie made 469 million.  The Lego Batman Movie made 312 million.  The Lego Movie Ninjago couldn’t even make double it’s production budget WORLDWIDE!!!(it only made 123.5 million on a 70 million budget).


5.  Toys and merch based off of the film.  Finding the merch sales for the movie has been difficult.  But I have to wonder do they match what the other lego properties sell(DC, Marvel, Star Wars, etc.).  If it’s like what the Power Rangers toys make based off of the show then continuing with the franchise makes sense.


So with all that being said will the LEGO Movie 2 be as successful or more so than the first one?  Who knows.  Currently it’s has a good score on the various aggregator sites(if you care about that kind of thing).  It well be interesting to see what happens though.  I see the future of the theatrical franchise resting on this film because if it makes as much or less than the first film then the Warner Animation Group may stop anymore theatrical films from being made.


This won’t hurt the lego multimedia wise though since product is still being put out like the Cartoon Network “Unkitty” series, the “Lego Super Heroes” Series, “Ninjago”, as well as “The Lego Movie The Billion Brick Race” which is set to come out later this year.  So while the theatrical film franchise is in doubt everything else seems to be doing well.


* LEGO is an Danish mash-up of the word “leg godt” which translates as “play well”.

* Lego films are also called “BrickFilm(s)”

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