Brickfilm is the time-consuming and painstaking practice of creating stop-motion films using plastic building blocks and little yellow men. For years, dedicated hobbyists have spent hours of their life building sets, shooting frames and editing to bring children’s toys to life for entertainment value.
And what a talented roster of film-makers there are in the brickfilm community! Today’s edition of Stuff to Watch brings together some of the finest examples of stop-motion the web has to offer. If, like me, you still have a big box of childhood LEGO in the attic then prepare to be inspired.
What Is Brickfilm?
The first known brickfilm was shot between 1985 and 1989 by a man called Lindsay Fleay. It was the first of its kind, shot on 16mm film and even now it looks impressively smooth. By the time the Internet had established itself as a home for anyone with an obscure hobby, brickfilm communities sprang up all over the Web.
The activity achieved such a cult status that the Internet Archive established a section dedicated to brickfilm which currently features more than 600 movies. I should add at this point that brickfilms aren’t necessarily solely made from LEGO – some people use MegaBloks and various other items to spice up their productions.
LEGO have embraced (and undoubtedly benefited from) the activity, with the company recently releasing their own LEGO stop-motion app, LEGO Super Hero Movie Maker. For a short overview of how the professionals get their films looking so good, here’s a quick tutorial for anyone interested in the stop-motion world of brickfilms.
And now, onto the films themselves…
The Magic Portal (Lindsay Fleay)
The aforementioned first of its kind, The Magic Portal is a film that has inspired thousands of budding brickfilmers to produce their own animations. While every production requires a lot of time, patience and expertise; brickfilms produced today are thankfully a bit easier to pull off.
Consider the editing involved in shooting on 16mm film versus a folder full of neatly labelled JPEGs. Adding sound, music and special effects is also a lot easier thanks to the powerful software we’ve come to know and love – all things to remember while watching this epic brickfilm.
2011’s AAA Games Recreated in Lego (Alex Kobbs)
If you’re a gamer who enjoyed last year’s abundance of triple-A titles then you’ll be delighted to watch this homage to 2011’s gaming greats, produced by Alex Kobbs of Kooberz Studios. Alex made the film for the 2012 Interactive Achievement Awards as an opening video.
If you enjoyed this film you can find out how it was made in the video below.
Grace is a ten-minute long action-drama complete with proper voice acting and smooth animation. It was an entry for the Brickfilms.com “Fame, Infamy and Glory” contest, and went on to scoop first place.
It’s easy to understand how it won once you’ve seen it. Some brickfilms focus on action, others comedy, but this one goes for an elaborate plot and dialogue and pull it off rather well. That and a couple of awesome fight scenes make this one fine brickfilm indeed.
The Battle Of The Brick (Alex Kobbs)
Produced by Alex Kobbs, the same author of the LEGO video game parodies above, The Battle of the Brick is a Halo-themed half-hour long ‘capture the flag’ special. With a runtime of just under 30 minutes, it’s no wonder if took Alex 6 years to finish.
It was worth it though, for the results are spectacular. It’s the little details that make this one special – the sea lapping at the shore, the trees swaying in the breeze – and if you’re a Halo fan then you’ll love it all the more.
GO MINIMAN GO: 30 Years Of The Minifigure (Nathan Wells)
Created by brickfilmer Nathan Wells, GO MINIMAN GO was made especially for LEGO to celebrate 30 years of their little yellow man. This is purely stopmotion eye candy – there’s no story, just tidbits of animation from LEGO sets old and new.
As you’d expect, it’s brilliant!
Robota (Marc Beurteaux)
Marc Beurteaux worked on Robota for 3 years (on and off) in his basement studio and emerged victorious with this tale of a dystopian LEGO underworld inhabited by robots.
I particularly enjoyed Robota for its moody atmosphere and Blade Runner-esque setting. For a brickfilm, this one’s particularly dark.
Days Of Our Pizza
Finally, to finish on a lighter note there’s Days of Our Pizza, a brick-comedy. Shot in a cheesy US soap opera style, hilarity ensues as a pizza delivery guy finds himself slap bang in the middle of a love triangle.
The voice acting in this one is spot on, fusing dumb Internet humour with delightful LEGO animation for a light and entertaining short.
Are you inspired yet? Taking on a brickfilm can be quite a lot of work, especially if you’re working alone. The dedication and skill shown by the filmmakers here can be hard to emulate but modern technology and patience can achieve wonderful things. Check back in the week for a good look at LEGO’s new stop-motion brickfilm iPhone app.
Do you like brickfilm? Have you made any? Have you got any favourites we’ve not mentioned? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.