‘The Lego Movie’ Producer Details His Fight With Warner Bros. to Keep Live-Action Scenes With Will Ferrell

Dan Lin says he even had to pre-sell the basement set to Legoland to help finance the film

Will Ferrell The Lego Movie basement set
Warner Bros.

Will Ferrell came very close to having his entire performance in “The Lego Movie” — along with all live-action scenes — end up on the cutting room floor, the film’s producer, Dan Lin, said Saturday at PGA’s Produced By Conference.

Lin recalled the uphill battle that went into the building blocks of the hybrid animated and live-action movie, revealing that Warner Bros. initially wanted to cut the latter chunk of the film that included scenes featuring Ferrell.

During a conversation with Chris Miller, who penned the screenplay for the 2014 hit along with writing-producing partner Phil Lord, Lin said the budget demands from the studio forced him to treat the family comedy as an “indie movie.” The Rideback Ranch founder even had to pre-sell the basement set, which featured the human characters, to Legoland as an exhibit to partially fund the movie.

The set is where it’s revealed that Ferrell’s character (known as “The Man Upstairs”) and his son Finn are playing out the events in real life that are going on in the Lego universe. The live-action sequence is also a pivotal part of the film, adding a layer of depth in which Ferrell’s character realizes that the villainous Lego named Business is based on him.

“When we finally put [the movie] up for a test audience, real people, it tested very well, and the movie was working,” Lin said. “And I got a call from the head of the studio [Kevin Tsujihara at the time] … but he said, ‘Dan, I have good news for you’ and I said, ‘Wow, what’s the good news?’ And he said, ‘You guys made such a good movie. You don’t need the live-action anymore. Let’s just make it an animated movie.’”

Lin continued: “I’m like, ‘What? The whole reason we made the movie was for the live-action. It was so personal to myself, Chris and Phil — that was the reason we made the movie.’ [He said,] ‘No, we’re gonna save $6 million if you don’t shoot the live-action, and we just release it as is.’ And honestly, I was devastated. I left that office just devastated.”

A spokesperson for Warner Bros. did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment.

Lin — who received PGA’s inaugural Vance Van Patten Award for Entrepreneurship at the event — added that the studio later agreed to the live-action scenes but offered “half the budget.” Although the producer didn’t specify details numbers-wise, the movie had an estimated budget of $60 million and eventually grossed approximately $468 million worldwide. It received rave reviews from critics and fans alike, winning two BAFTA Awards and earning an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song for “Everything Is Awesome.”

“So, everyone says, ‘The Lego Movie’ was oh, so obvious that everyone should have made a movie like that,’ — it wasn’t obvious at all,” Lin added, later joking that he’d “get a lot of heat” for giving the behind-the-scenes details of the production process.

A New York Times story at the time described the film as a “surprise blockbuster” for Warner. The piece also stated that Tsujihara was directly responsible for the making of “The Lego Movie,” having bought a company that makes Lego-themed video games back in 2007.