Cracking Lego’s Best Recurring Jokes
Play enough of TT Games’ Lego titles, and you’re bound to notice a few things that keep popping up. No, we’re not talking about gameplay elements like piles of bricks that shatter into showers of Lego studs, hidden minikits, or the almighty stud magnet. Have you ever wondered why Lego games have all those hidden discos? Is there a story behind the pigs? What’s up with the carrots? We spoke with TT Games about several of these recurring gags during our visit for Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and are back with some of the stories behind them.
Lego minifigures can’t seem to resist the disco call, whether Batman’s shaking his groove thang on the floor or Frodo brings the power of dance to the Shire with his disco phial. TT Games’ interest in booty-shaking action goes back to the first Lego Star Wars game, which was based on the prequel trilogy.
“I think it was 3 o’clock in the morning on the morning of submission,” recalls Jez Pardon, head of animation for Traveller’s Tales. “I did the Kaminoan dance to go in the disco; the disco was already built. Debs Crook [lead technical construction artist at Traveller’s Tales] had been reading a book about the making of the first movies. In there it said that Kamino was based on the idea of space being this clinical, sterile environment, or the ‘70s idea of that. What’s more ‘70s than a disco? That’s how the disco got in Kamino as well. That was born and I was asked if I’d do an animation, and I did this really terrible dance animation for the Kaminoans.”
Terrible? You be the judge.
There’s another thing that pops up when you least expect it in Lego games. It doesn’t dance, but it can spin like nobody’s business. “The washing machine – I think that was first seen in the swamp in Star Wars 2, and it’s just one of those things where someone put it in and then we’ve run with it,” Pardon says. “Every game we do, you’ll see it in different guises. It’s become one of our things, ‘Oh, we’ve got to get the washing machine,’ and you’ll see it all over the place but used in different ways.” It’s popped up in the background of games like Lego Jurassic World, but the animation team has incorporated it into the gameplay as well. For one of the machine’s biggest moments, take a look at Cyborg’s transformation from Lego Batman 3: Beyond Gotham (about the 1:00 mark in this video).
These Little Piggies
Who doesn’t like pigs? They’re cute, smart, and made of bacon. TT Games is clearly fond of the little critters, too, as they’ve been appearing regularly in the past few Lego games. “I was trying to look for the origins of pigs, and I think they came in later on in another Disney game, Pirates of the Caribbean,” Pardon says. “They were a rideable character in that. So they’ve popped up a lot. They’re just great fun to throw in there and literally we just throw them out there. They’ve got thrown in a trebuchet in one of our games – again, they’re just fun characters, and we’re hoping to get more in the future.”
Carrots are another longstanding prop in the Lego games, though they have their roots (sorry/not sorry) deeper in Traveller’s Tales’ history. Before becoming a household name for working on Lego games, the studio worked on a variety of other licensed games, including the kart-racing game Muppet RaceMania. Watch this trailer, and you’re likely to spot a familiar veggie.
“They were just collectibles that you had in there, and they had little eyes on them and they were kind of cute,” Pardon says. “Jim [Cunliffe], the head of art kind of liked them, and he thought to bring them into Lego and Lego had a model of them. It was cool, it fit. So why not throw them into the mix as well? So there wasn’t any great thinking with it. It’s like the banana, pulling out the banana – it looks like a weapon, so if they accidentally pull it out, it’s a throwaway gag. But it’s fun. A lot of these gags, it’s all about lifting and lightening the tone of what we’re looking at. Because we do some fairly tense scenes.”
Pardon mentioned having to adapt tense scenes, which is where gags can help out. The team had to learn about balancing humor and drama early on, particularly in scenes involving Anakin’s turn to the dark side. “We did a scene back in the first Lego game where Anakin does a Force grab on Padme, and at the time she’s pregnant,” Pardon says. “It was so dark, it was just on the wrong side of the line. You just realize, wow, when these characters act, they can really carry it. It was just too intense, so we took it out and there’s a very, very toned-down version of that scene that’s in the game now (see it around 3:28 here). That’s what we fall back on if we need to – prop gags, if you like.”
It’s a silly gag, but it works. A character needs to give something to another character, but it takes a while for them to find the appropriate item. “I think the first of those prop gags originated in Lego Star Wars 2 – Obi Wan dips into a chest to pull out the lightsaber, and he pulls out a cup and several other things,” Pardon says. “I think that was the first of the random-prop gags.” (You can see if for yourself at around 44:15 in this video.)
For more on humor and the Lego games, take a look at our video interview with two of the studio’s writers. Click on the banner below for more features on Lego Star Wars: The Force Awakens.