Did 'Lego Movie' Rip Off 'Toy Story'?

Warner Bros just announced that The Lego Movie has garnered a sequel, which will be released on May 26, 2017. This is a little like realizing that your new puppy, which is a spectacular dog and worthy of much love and affection, is pregnant, and the new puppy will arrive in three short years. Excitement! Regardless of the inaccuracy of the metaphorical gestation period for a dog, let the people rejoice!

With the sequel officially in the works, it's time for a game of: is The Lego Movie the next Toy Story? Let's see.

Delicious Animation? Check.

You could practically feel the smooth apples of Woody's cheeks, and run a finger down the roughened edge of his ripped shoulder (before it was repaired in Toy Story 2, that is). While The Lego Movie is much more angular, it goes all the way in faithfully recreating the aesthetically pleasing shapes, colors, and hefts of Legos, those devilish objects that can turn a darkened floor into a torture maze.

Even in the trailer, there is a satisfyingly granular texture to Batman's face during his close-up. It looks like real plastic, smudged a bit by the fingers of eager children. The crisp animation invites viewers in, rather than alienating them, because we could pluck these characters off the screen and dunk them into our bowl of Cheerios.

Hilarious and Endearing Blooper Reel? Check.

While we had to wait until the end of Toy Story for the bloopers, The Lego Movie opened in theaters as Warner Bros released its blooper reel. This montage works comedically with a combination of pratfalls and classic verbal slip-ups: Batman groans, "Boy did I just date myself with 'bank teller'" after he rattles off a string of professionals who could go by "Lucy." Batman and Emmet sound like the middle-aged men they are as they discuss how nice it would be to have just the arms of chairs to lean back on. The blooper reel even pays homage to Buster Keaton's iconic house-falling scene in Steamboat Bill Jr. as the facades of houses collapse on top of Lego characters. In this case, it's extra funny because the facade is the entire house. Check it out.

Keaton's original.

And finally, the Toy Story 2 blooper reel.

What makes both the blooper reels from Toy Story and the blooper reel from The Lego Movie so endearing, ultimately, is the conceit that these toys are still alive outside of the bounds of the film. Not only do we forget that they are animated, we forget that they are even toys in the first place. They are purely human in these outtakes, as their refreshingly self-aware commentary further fleshes out their on-screen selves.

Technocrat Meets Everyman? Check.

Both films feature a self-assured and technology-laden hero who is paired up with a more ordinary character with deep connections to his environment. This is not to say that Woody is ordinary, but rather that his scope of fighting crime is contained within the wild-West themed wallpaper of Andy's room. Emmet, meanwhile, has a job in construction. He is literally contributing to the built environment of Bricksburg. It's up to Batman and Buzz, respectively, to shake them out of their everyday worlds and introduce them to a new paradigm.

Inspirational Message Geared Toward Children? Check.

If we peel back the "learn to make new friends" message of Toy Story, the first film is secretly teaching us to accept and adapt to new technology. Buzz flies in and Woody, whose greatest claim to innovative gadgetry is a string connected to his voice box, feels outclassed. As the two learned to work together, a generation of children learned that the Internet was to be loved rather than feared. Ever wonder where the name Buzzfeed originated?

Conspiracy theories aside, Toy Story did teach us that we could accept the coming challenges and ever-shifting world of the internet age. The Lego Movie, meanwhile, almost seems to provide an antidote to the routinization, consumerism and anonymity that a highly technological society can engender. Emmett Rensin writes:

The Lego Movie is pointedly critical of late capitalism consumer culture. The villain is named Lord Business, after all; he hates "hippie-dippy stuff." The inhabitants of Bricktown drink Over-Priced Coffee™. The film's anthem is the Brave New World-ish "Everything Is Awesome." The archetypical proletariat protagonist, the climactic class revolt, the laughable "relics" made from middle-class waste—The Lego Movie lays it on so heavy, even a five-year-old would get the drift.

While he admits that The Lego Movie doesn't go as far as to overthrow capitalism, and while the conflict serves as a medium for the estranged relationship between a young boy and his anal-retentive father, it nonetheless works to enlist the current youth generation in a critical roasting of their society. Get off the iPads, it seems to say, and put your imaginations to work with what you have been given. If one boy can animate Legos to such a creative extent, there's no telling what stories you can tell with the toys that surround you.

Here's to The Lego Movie 2, and ultimately, the Lego Movie 3.

Image: Warner Bros. Pictures