One of the big challenges for the makers of The Lego Movie has to have been how to handle characters and characterization. How do you make a little plastic toy with very limited movements and facial expressions come alive for the movie viewer?
Obviously a great deal depends on the voice actor, who is the primary way that the character is brought to life. They got terrific ones and the voicing went a long way toward making the plastic toys feel like real people.
It needs more, though. Most writers realize that dialogue is more than the spoken word. It includes a wide range of facial expressions and body movements that sometimes convey more information than what’s being said. Someone devised a set of clever motions for the little characters that do a surprisingly good job. When Emmet first meets WyldStyle/Lucy, she twirls her hair around in a way that suggests a woman flipping long hair back off her face. That movement is repeated a couple of times and signals a major change for her. And there are those awesome colorful stripes in her hair. An inspired bit of decoration that says a lot about the character!
Emmet does backflips once or twice and the producers manage to show the entire figure shaking when he’s being interviewed by the Good Cop/Bad Cop. And then there’s the way the movie uses those silly clawed hands of the figures. Frequently, they very nearly touch during moments when characters want to recognize friendship…or more. It’s more moving then one might expect.
And of course, the faces. They do a lot with changing the big dots that form the eyes, slashes of eyebrows, and the elongated oval mouths. Narrowing the eyes and/or taking ovals out of the circle (like Vitruvius’s below) combined with the various shapes of the mouth (compare the smile on Emmet’s face with the frown on WyldStyle’s in yesterday’s picture.
The changes are frequently subtle (like the way Vitruvius has one eye narrowed in the image in yesterday’s post), but whether or not one is aware of it consciously, we do register the shapes as an expression and react to it as if we were seeing that eye shape on a real person.