The Lego Ninjago Movie panel at Comic-Con was full of actors cracking jokes, kids in costume garnering adoration from cast and crowd alike, and an exciting peek into how the Ninjago mythos will be incorporated into the Lego cinematic universe.
Producer Dan Lin was on hand to talk about the film, accompanied by members of a star-studded cast including Dave Franco, Justin Theroux, Olivia Munn, Abbi Jacobson, Kumail Nanjiani, Michael Peña, and Zach Woods.
Some highlights from the panel:
- Yes, that did say mythos above – The Lego Ninjago Movie is an adaptation of a TV show that’s been around for years, and if you didn’t know that, you’re not alone. As Theroux (voice of bad guy Garmadon) put it, “Ninjago is like Fight Club for ten-year-olds. If you’re over that age, you don’t know it exists.” And as excited as fans of the show are, Lin emphasized that the film stands entirely on its own, and will have humor for adults and kids alike.
- Panel attendees were treated to the world premiere of a new trailer in which a terrifying villain was introduced – a real cat named Meowthra, storming in like a true kaiju to knock over Lego buildings and wreak destruction. (One girl asked Franco, who has two cats of his own, if Meowthra was one of his – though the answer was no, he wished it were yes.)
- The cat’s not alone. Lin said they’ll also have “real water, real trees, real grass. I don’t want to give away too much, but we also have other real world elements that slip into the world. Like in the first one, you had the Kragle, and you’ll see we’ve taken that to the next level.”
- The actors have been doing voice work for over a year. Franco and Theroux recorded together the most often as their father/son dynamic plays a big part in the movie. When the group was able to have big sessions together, improv was highly encouraged. Jacobson had even just done a session the morning of the panel, and she said going from that to seeing everything animated and in action is really awesome.
- Though Jackie Chan wasn’t at the panel himself, he did send in a video for the fans, describing the film as “big action, big laughs, big heart.” His team choreographed and performed all the fights for the movie, with animators using footage of the stunts to create Ninjago‘s action scenes, often shot-for-shot.
- If Nanjiani and co-star Fred Armisen didn’t have a feud before, they certainly do now! When the panel moderator Scott Mantz encouraged applause for Armisen despite his absence, Nanjiani booed loudly into the mic, and later joked that he was “very happy Fred’s not here because he’s not a good person. Hashtag Fred sucks, let’s get it trending.” You heard the man. #FredSucks
- In addition to the standard SDCC name tags, each actor also had a special Lego name tag, complete with minifigs of their characters, to their delight. Nanjiani asked the audience how much they would pay for one of them, and the resulting cheers inspired Nanjiani and Peña to briefly take on hilarious auctioneer personas. (The auction ended at $150.)
- Munn talked about how doing voiceover work has helped her do live-action comedy: “You have to drop your ego when you’re in that situation. You kind of feel a little silly: you have to be really big, and you gotta really use your whole body just to make one word sound authentic. And that actually really helped me while filming Office Christmas Party because it loosened me up so much more.”
- Lego Ninjago is not a sequel to The Lego Movie or The Lego Batman Movie – Lin said there really isn’t any tie-in, and it is very much its own thing, with its own vibe and theme: namely, ninjas and robots.
- The filmmakers decided on aquatic-themed villains instead of classic Ninjago bad guys in order to distinguish it from the television series. According to Lin, “we wanted to offer something in the theater that you hadn’t seen before on TV, and it’s something new. And you’ll see that Garmadon has a nautical theme. And the cat you saw – we’re dropping in some live action elements, and when you see the movie, it’ll make more sense why Garmadon’s infatuated with shark creatures.”
The Lego Ninjago Movie hits theaters September 22nd.