This post really should be about the very large LEGO dinosaur foot I’m obsessed with. Instead, it’s the Cliff Notes version of LEGO animation history and links to the fun documentary tour de force by sillypenta on YouTube. His 3-part program is what passion looks like: countless bits of historical footage of LEGO films, meticulously labeled and edited into a story, and woven together with an original LEGO stop motion animation.
First, let me make sure you know what a brickfilm is.
Table of Contents
- What is a Brickfilm?
- 3 Things To Remember About LEGO Animation History
- Bonus Things To Remember About LEGO Animation History
- About the Documentary: The History Of Brickfilms (A LEGO Animation History)
- See Full Brickfilms From The Documentary
- Why should you care about LEGO Animation History?
What’s a Brickfilm?
brickfilm: a film made with LEGO. Ordinarily, I would stay stop-motion animation made with construction toys, including LEGO, but early brickfilms also included live-action video.
So you’ll see a helicopter, for example, flying around a building, and it’s being moved with a fishing line while a video camera records footage. True stop-motion animation involves taking a photo, moving your LEGO person (called a minifigure) or car or whatever object you have, just a tiny bit, and taking another photo. You then repeat those two steps again and again and again.
The documentary shows a helicopter, and Superman, for that matter, crashing into the building because a swinging fishing line is hard to control. Part of the problem is that, at the time, you had to use a camcorder, starting and stopping the recording as quickly as you could.
Part 1 of sillypenta’s series includes this LEGO commercial, above, for the Pirates theme. FYI, Star Wars, City, DUPLO, Harry Potter, LEGO Art, and DOTS are examples of themes.
If you were to binge-watch all 3 parts of sillypenta’s program, it would take you just under 1 hour and 45 minutes. “This is too much to keep track of. I liked it better when The Magic Portal was first,” says the minifigure son after getting a full-on lecture from his professor-like dad.
I don’t want you to feel that way, so I’ll tell you the . . .
3 Things To Remember About LEGO Animation History
(in my far-from-humble opinion)
3 LEGO Animations and Sets of Historical Significance
1. “Journey To The Moon” by Danish cousins Lars C. Hassing and Henrik Hassing
- it was very meticulously planned
- it was made on relatively expensive film
- it was completed in 1973, before personal computers, let alone free video editing software on every personal computer
- the filmmakers were tweens!
2. “The Magic Portal” by Australian student Lindsay Fleay
- so many people think this was the first-ever film made using LEGO
- it influenced so many other brickfilms
- it was made with (Australian) government funding
- the LEGO company initially stopped it from being entered into film festivals.
3. LEGO Studios Steven Spielberg MovieMaker Set
This set included a webcam, minifigures, earthquake baseplates, collapsible towers, and more. My favorite thing: a super cool, giant dinosaur foot! This was the first set of the LEGO Studios theme.
- it made LEGO fans aware of another way to use LEGO, i.e. to make films
- many brickfilmers who began their LEGO filming journey with this set then are professional animators today
- of the dirty little secret: the promo for this set wasn’t made with the included webcam because that little camera could produce only images that looked grainy and horrid
- there was that giant dinosaur foot. Just for you, I’ve created this link to the section of video that shows the items from the set, including The Foot.
If you have more memory space in your head, keep this in mind as well:
Bonus Things To Remember about LEGO Animation History
Remember that stop-motion animation is labor intensive under any circumstance, but we have it easy because so many of us have digital cameras, including those in our phones.
Can you imagine your LEGO filmmaking ancestors using
- Super 8 film
- VHS camcorders
- horrible, grainy, early digital webcams?
And having to watch their motion-picture masterpieces on
- Super 9 film projectors
- dial-up Internet?!
Evolution of LEGO
There was a time when MINIFIGURES didn’t exist, and a time when minifigures existed but couldn’t move. Poseable minifigures created more story possibilities for brickfilms.
When THEMES or product lines emerged, so did more storyline options. Think in terms of pirates, space, and Star Wars.
The History of Brickfilms (a LEGO animation history)
Seán Willis, known as sillypenta on YouTube, is a brickfilmer in Ireland and the marvelously hardcore documentarian behind this series of 3 videos which includes:
- an original, funny brickfilm about an explorer, complete with professorial voice, elaborate mustache, and bowtie, who’s fascinated by brickfilm history and eager to tell his son all about it
- countless LEGO-animation clips
- interviews with brickfilm rockstars, and best of all,
- links to every single clip he’s used, so you can binge-watch all kinds of LEGO stop motion animations, including LEGO TV commercials, and hear brickfilm-legendary Biff and Mario say, “We both had this vision about this far-out babe,” while a police officer says, “Like, what have you boys been smoking? Some groovy grass, perhaps?”
See Full Brickfilms from the Documentary
If a clip you saw intrigued you, you can see the entire thing thanks to Seán Willis’ dedication. Click on one of the links below. When you get to the video, scroll down to the video description box to gain access.
1. The History of Brickfilms: 1970s & 1980s – More LEGO animations than you might think! (12 minutes long)
2. The History of Brickfilms: 1990s – An overlooked decade in LEGO animation? (23 minutes long)
3. LEGO Studios: The major impact of a minor LEGO theme (53 minutes long)
Why should you care about LEGO Animation History?
- if you’re a brickfilmer, certainly a beginner one, you can watch to get inspired and steal like an artist. Watch for technique and inspiration.
- you’ll be able to connect with hardcore AFOL (Adult Fans Of LEGO)
- it’s fun! Delight in human passion, ingenuity, and perseverance.
Learn about earlier LEGO animations for inspiration and another way to connect with the passionate community of LEGO enthusiasts. YouTuber sillypenta’s documentary on this topic is informative, thorough, and funny. YouTuber sillypenta’s documentary on the history of LEGO animations is informative, thorough, and funny. Follow him and bookmark his documentary playlist, because he’s planning Part 4, and it’s going to be exciting!