The Lego Movie topped the charts Sunday, earning almost $70 million in its opening weekend. The colorful comedy features the voices of a huge cast of big name movie stars, such as Will Ferrell and Morgan Freeman, as well as some actors you wouldn’t expect. Shaquille O’Neal provides the voice for the Lego version of himself and Billy Dee Williams reprises his defining role as Lando Calrissian…in Lego form. Such success in the box office shouldn’t come as a surprise, as The Lego Movie follows a formula that has caused audiences to flock to the theaters over the years.
The formula is simple: Take a movie about childrens’ toys, bring those toys to life on the big screen, throw in some visual puns for the kids, some wordplay for the adults, top it off with a sentimental message about believing in yourself and watch the tickets sell. It is a formula that has been followed by just about every company out there, from Disney to Pixar to Warner Brother’s latest and one that has been around since the movie industry began.
The most well-known example of success using this formula would be Pixar’s 1995 box office behemoth, Toy Story. The story of a group of toys that come to life when their owner, a young boy named Andy, isn’t present, the film did an excellent job of using the recognizable toys that audiences grew up with, such as Mr. Potato Head and the Etch-a-Sketch. The nostalgic factor, the clean animation, and the voices of stars like Tim Allen and Tom Hanks pulled movie-goers into the theaters, topping the charts in the film’s opening weekend and becoming the highest grossing domestic film of the year. The success of the first film caused the studio to produce two sequels, both following the same formula and both dominating the box offices upon their release.
More recently, Disney took the formula and added a twist with the release of Wreck-It-Ralph in 2012. Rather than toys, the film focuses on video game characters that live within the arcade, treating the performances in the various games as a job that must be done, lest they face the dreaded “Out of Order” sign. The film uses recognizable video game characters, such as Bowser from the Super Mario Series and the titular character from the Sonic the Hedgehog, and various video game cameos and references that delighted kids and their parents. The film finished its opening weekend at the top of the box office and won Disney an Annie Award for Best Animated Feature.
The Lego Movie is Warner Bros. attempt at finding success using the same formula. Following the story of Emmet Brickowski, an ordinary Lego construction worker who follows the instructions he is given to a “T,” the film sends a message of how believing in yourself and constructing your own path in life is the key to finding happiness. If fact, during the second half of the film, the ham-handed approach will beat the audience over the head with that message again and again and again. Luckily, the animation draws the audience into this Lego world and the play-on-words sprinkled throughout the film provides enough laughs to ensure The Lego Movie will become yet another example of a movie studio using the formula for success.
By Jonathan Gardner
Box Office Mojo