Yet another Lego movie premiered last week, this time not a huge blockbuster starring Chris Pratt but rather a more nuanced and grown-up look at the brand, a documentary focused on discovering what makes Lego the cultural force that it is. Narrated by Jason Bateman (most notably of Arrested Development fame), the Lego Brickumentary celebrates Lego’s ability to tap into our human drive to be makers: to build and to design, again and again.
So maybe it’s no surprise that the beloved toy has inspired a number of films that bring the concept of “making” to life in thousands of different ways, teaching us—even after we’ve stopped playing with Lego ourselves, if we ever do—that there’s no end to the creative possibilities of making, given a few tools and some imagination.
Here’s a rundown of some of the best Lego films to date, and what they teach us about making.
The Lego Movie (2014)
A funny, entertaining ride parodying the adventure genre, The Lego Movie was a huge success in the box office with kids and adults alike. It follows the journey of normal guy Emmett Brickowski as he learns that fitting in is awesome, but not as awesome as rising to a challenge with some originality and pluck.
The lesson for video makers is probably just that, albeit in a different format: knowing the trends in video is important, but sometimes you need to turn the tables. The Lego Movie consistently makes fun of the clichés of its type—not least by having Morgan Freeman, Liam Nissan, and Will Ferrell in exactly the roles you’d expect—and precisely by overdoing it again and again, becomes very funny. (Packaged in another way, the lesson is, don’t take yourself too seriously all of the time.)
Everything is Not Awesome (Greenpeace) (2014)
It was an interesting moment when Greenpeace released a response to Lego’s partnership with questionable oil manufacturers later in 2014 with the music video “Everything is Not Awesome.” This is a spoof of a spoof, revising the overly upbeat Lego Movie theme song to a slow, lullaby-like version accompanying the slow submerging of an arctic Lego scene in an oil slick. The video campaign resulted in Lego ending its partnership with Shell.
The lesson to take from this one? In order to make waves, you have to rock the boat. Spoofing and turning tradition on its head is one thing, but when it’s time to get serious (like if you want to affect real change in your organization), you can use video to send a powerful message. As the Greenpeace video proved, sometimes seeing something happen, even in Lego form, is more effective than just hearing about it.
Okay, so this one is a bit of a cheat—Brickfilms is a website, not a film. It’s actually 10,000+ films, sourced from a huge, professional and amateur user community and dedicated to the concept of stop-motion animation, usually using Lego. (There’s also BricksinMotion.com, and the films from both sites are celebrated at a number of dedicated festivals.) The films are about everything, and they’re brilliant.
The lesson here is simple: Anybody can do it.
Maybe the biggest inhibitor of organizations taking on video with vigor is that there’s an unwritten rule that if you’re not a filmmaker, your films aren’t going to be any good. Not true. The tools now available on the internet and smart devices make it possible to make watchable, professional, impactful videos even if you have zero experience making videos. And if you can get a community growing around making videos, you’ll be encouraging the maker movement while invigorating the media culture within your enterprise.
Tell us about your experiences with creative enterprise video via Twitter, using the hashtag #videomaker. We’d love to hear from you!