“Make Your Own Movie: 100% Official LEGO® Guide to Stop-Motion Animation” by Klutz Press
The book’s promises
This collaboration between Klutz Press and the LEGO Group makes many promises, including how to make not 1 but 10 short films with LEGO bricks and LEGO people called “minifigures,” and tips for finding ideas for your films.
The book delivers on its promises in two ways
- It gives very clear instructions with engaging photos, teaching you the basics of LEGO stop motion animation in particular and filmmaking in general.
- Using Klutz Press’ trademark approach, the book includes most of the things you need. In this case, it includes minifigures, props, and cardboard backgrounds to be used as sets for your movie masterpieces. You probably have most of the other things you need: lights, a camera (like the one on your phone or tablet), and editing software for your computer or an app on your phone.
The one thing you’ll have to acquire is a baseplate, preferably a 10 inch by 10 inch one. Green for grass, blue for water, grey for roads/sidewalks/indoors.
The text in this book is in short paragraphs with simple words. Bolded words, text size, boxes in different styles and colors all keep your eyes moving across the pages. Jokes and funny photos keep you smiling. When they’re not the subject of a lesson, beautifully photographed minifigures go about the business of everyday life. They deliver pizzas, trip on bananas, dance with their friends, and run away from the police after stealing gemstones.
In other words, the book is obviously written for children. This means it’s an excellent option for adults with an interest in filmmaking.
All the basics of filmmaking are included in 64 pages of very sparse text with excellent illustrations and photos. You’ll learn enough about storytelling, camera angles, framing, set design, and sound effects to figure out if making movies is for you. You won’t have to worry about finding actors or locations, weather, schedules, feeding everyone, or paying anyone.
PROS: My favorite things about this book
Ah, so many things:
- The cardboard fold-out backgrounds. Hands-down, this is my favorite thing. The park scene is my workhorse scenery. I would buy a duplicate of this book just for the backgrounds.
- The physical aspects of the book. It’s spiral-bound and lays flat. The paper makes the pages easy to turn without tearing or getting dirty or smudged.
- The paper is from trees grown and harvested responsibly.
- The minifigure head with the nauseous face. It makes me smile. I’ve used it for characters about to vomit as well as trumpet and saxophone players.
- The equal number of male and female minifigs included with the book.
- The photos give me ideas for things I could build for my own sets.
- The 10 movie projects. If you follow along with the instructions, you won’t have to worry about plot or technique because you learn as you go.
CONS: Things that made my big smile a little smaller
- There was no mention of the need for a baseplate. If you had no other LEGO sets or pieces whatsoever, it would be difficult and frustrating to make something without one.
- There was no information on editing. I understand that everyone’s software is different and that this is an introduction to the subject intended for children, but there are still helpful tips to be had.
- The fold-out background of the city with minifigures in the background. I really hate that one, because it would have people standing unnaturally, perfectly still while my action was happening in the foreground. We’re filming plastic people and that’s not something you see in the natural world, but when so many plastic people refuse to move, it stands out and adds to any mistakes you may have made, drawing attention away from your story.
- Mini Movie #3 shows you how to make minifigures walk. I think walking is a irritating and time-consuming thing to film. I would move that strategy to #10 and have people focus on the other techniques. That way they will experience more success and joy faster rather than perhaps giving up because of frustration.
- The slate-themed title card. It can be used only once if you write on it with anything that would be visible. If you use pencil and erase multiple times, it would get grimy I would scan it and add information in something like Canva or Photoshop.
- The opening and closing credits section. For me it would be too much trouble to create what the book is suggesting. I would rather type out my credits.
I always say that LEGO products are an art medium, like oil paint, not a toy, because I’m an adult. But of course they are toys, and this book is considered a toy. In fact, it’s considered an excellent toy because it was a finalist for the TOTY Awards. TOTY: Toy of the Year, is a series of awards given by the Toy Association, a non-profit organization supporting toy safety, toy businesses, and philanthropy, among other things.
This book is for
People who think they might want to make movies will enjoy this introduction to the world of cinema.
Filmmakers frustrated with traditional movie making or without access to cast, crew, costumes, and locations, will enjoy this marvelous introduction to a quick alternative for bringing ideas to life.
Children, since they form the target audience for this book.
Reviews on Amazon and YouTube
On Amazon, it was clear that adults were buying the book for their children and grandchildren. They would have us believe that the children were enjoying it, although they didn’t give an explanations, examples, or details. The one bad review I saw was the result of the book having been delivered with damage.
On YouTube, two LEGO fans were disappointed that there were incomplete minifigures. One of them actually looked at the book and understood the mix-and-match intent but was still unhappy about it. The other had bought to book, at a steep discount, strictly for the minifigs and accessories, and had no idea what the book was about before he turned on his camera. He thought perhaps the package had been opened and pieces removed.
A curious detail is that there were two videos that were obviously created by the same person but uploaded to different accounts. They discuss the book and why children would learn from and enjoy it.
Their two negative points are 1) the lack of a large baseplate and 2) the lack of a designated app, or at least full instructions on how to use one specific app so you can follow along from start to finish on a project.
This book is an irresistible combination: Klutz Press and LEGO. The former is known for having clear instructions and packaging books with everything you need to learn the skill it’s teaching. The latter has created a toy (and art medium) system that is versatile, ingenious, and enchanting.
Read it and learn the basics of filmmaking with all the fun and none of the overwhelm of working with a human cast and crew.
Highly recommended for both children and adults.