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The LEGO Movie

The LEGO Movie

In this first book on The LEGO Movie, renowned film and TV scholar Dana Polan shows how, through irony, savvy self-awareness, and knowingness about the culture industry, the blockbuster animated film makes for essential cinema.

Series: 21st Century Film Essentials

November 2020
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216 pages | 5 x 7 | 18 b&w photos, 7 b&w illus. |

What happens when we set out to understand LEGO not just as a physical object but as an idea, an icon of modernity, an image—maybe even a moving image? To what extent can the LEGO brick fit into the multimedia landscape of popular culture, especially film culture, today? Launching from these questions, Dana Polan traces LEGO from thing to film and asserts that The LEGO Movie is an exemplar of key directions in mainstream cinema, combining the visceral impact of effects and spectacle with ironic self-awareness and savvy critique of mass culture as it reaches for new heights of creativity.

Incorporating insights from conversations with producer Dan Lin and writer-directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller, Polan examines the production and reception of The LEGO Movie and closely analyzes the film within popular culture at large and in relation to LEGO as a toy and commodity. He identifies the film’s particular stylistic and narrative qualities, its grasp of and response to the culture industry, and what makes it a distinctive work of animation within the seeming omnipresence of animation in Hollywood, and reveals why the blockbuster film, in all its silliness and seriousness, stands apart as a divergent cultural work.

  • Prologue
  • The World of Animation and the Animation of the World
  • The LEGO Movie as Savvy Cinema
  • Through the Rabbit Hole, into the LEGO-Verse
  • Falling into Narrative
  • The Extraordinary Ordinariness of LEGO
  • The Secret Life of Toys
  • Production History, Part 1: Project Development as LEGO Goes to the Movies
  • Production History, Part 2: The Animation Process
  • Production History, Part 3: The Screenwriter-Directors
  • Reception and After-Life
  • Coda
  • Acknowledgments
  • Notes
  • LEGO Bibliography
  • Index

Dana Polan is a professor of cinema studies in the Tisch School of the Arts at New York University and former president of the Society for Cinema Studies. He is the author of eight books in film and media studies, including The Sopranos and Pulp Fiction, and approximately two hundred essays and reviews.


“Dana Polan is a master-builder of film criticism…[Polan] riffs on…The LEGO Movie with the speed, wit, dexterity, and precision of Wyldstyle, building new arguments by dissembling and reassembling one part of the film after another. It's a dazzling performance, as fast-paced and all-over-the-place as his subject—zigging-zagging this way and that—and comes together in one analytical set-piece after another.”
PopMatters, "The Best Books of 2020: Non-Fiction"

“[The LEGO Movie] nails much of what makes Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s blockbuster so smart.”
The Film Stage

“Dana Polan is one of the most respected scholars in media studies and his book, The LEGO Movie, displays his rare ability to weave together a shrewd and refreshing array of insights. He systematically proves that this smart, savvy movie is well aware of its place within both consumer culture and the entertainment industry.”
Richard Neupert, author of John Lasseter and the Rise of Pixar Style


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This book may also be available on the following library platforms; check with your local library:
3M Cloud Library/bibliotheca