NOTE: This article contains MAJOR SPOILERS for The LEGO Batman Movie. If you haven’t seen the movie, click away now or proceed with caution!
Before 2014, most people would have scoffed at the idea of an animated shared universe on the big screen (crazy Pixar theories nonwithstanding). But leave it to Warner Animation Group to blow expectations out of the water. With The LEGO Movie and now The LEGO Batman Movie, the studio appears to have successfully adapted the shared universe model to the world of animation. Under the guidance of filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller, film producers Roy Lee and Dan Lin, and with assistance from the overall ‘think tank’ of Warner Animation Group, these movies now constitute themselves under what I call the LEGO Cinematic Universe (or LCU).
For fans of the movies who are probably wondering how these movies will eventually connect with each other, you’re in luck.
A few days after LEGO Batman’s release, director Chris McKay sat down with Entertainment Weekly for a post-mortem interview of sorts, talking everything from the surprise appearances of villains from other movies and TV shows, the challenges of signing off on those characters, who he didn’t manage to get in (Kathy Bates’ character from Misery, for example), and fulfilling a childhood dream (casting Billy Dee Williams to play Two-Face).
But the most exciting parts of the interview came towards the end, when McKay began hinting towards the larger mythology of the LCU. Specifically, he talked about the relationship between the LEGO ‘world’ and the ‘real world’ and how that relationship will connect these films down the line:
“Everyone says this, but for lack of a better phrase, there’s a LEGO cinematic universe that we’re building that has a sci-fi premise, as far as the world that the movies are taking place in for the majority of the running time, and the other world that’s out there. I think over the course of the movies, we’re building out the relationship between those. There’s no mandate necessarily to do that, but we are very actively working to find all of the rules and develop that relationship between the real world and the LEGO world. You’ll start to see it in what we’re doing with Ninjago and what we’re doing in LEGO 2.”
To sum up: in future movies, the interplay between the different dimensions will come into focus as it unfolds in the background of all these different stories being told.
But these movies won’t just be connected by a sprawling “sci-fi premise” as it were. Certain characters will have arcs that will play out over multiple LCU installments. An (appropriate) example is Batman, who McKay confirmed as having a major role in The LEGO Movie Sequel. McKay even went as far as to mention that the aftermath of the events of LEGO Batman may carry over into LEGO Movie 2:
“There’s definitely a part for Batman in LEGO 2. Everyone loves Will Arnett and the Batman character. There are going to be repercussions of what’s happened in [LEGO Batman]. If you agree that he went through some change, there’s more stuff in store for Batman in LEGO 2.”
If McKay’s words are any indication, there seems to be a strong, definite direction with these movies. One that can allow the franchise to pursue different storylines and genres while also maintaining a connective tissue throughout.
Animated franchises have been ambitious before (How to Train Your Dragon and Kung Fu Panda), but nothing has been attempted quite to the extent and size of the LCU. Assuming that this franchise keeps up the winning streak, it’ll be fun to see how all these overarching elements play out.
The LEGO Batman Movie is now in theaters. The LEGO Ninjago Movie arrives on September 22, 2017. The LEGO Movie Sequel bows on February 8, 2019 and an untitled LCU film (possibly The Billion Brick Race) is in development.
What do you think? Are you excited for what’s in store for future LEGO movies?