Warner Bros. Pictures is bringing the next two installments in its DC Extended Universe (Suicide Squad and Wonder Woman) to the International Comic-Con in San Diego this year. It's only fitting, then, that the studio is also bringing The LEGO Batman Movie: a LEGO Movie spinoff headlined by Will Arnett's LEGO Caped Crusader and directed by LEGO Movie's animation co-director, Chris McKay.
There are currently two other major LEGO projects in the pipeline at WB's animation department besides The LEGO Batman Movie; namely, a feature-length film adaptation of the Ninjago animated TV show and a proper LEGO Movie sequel titled... The LEGO Movie Sequel. However, as Arnett reveals in a new interview, the plan has been for LEGO Batman Movie to arrive next, ever since directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller's first LEGO installment hit it big at the box office (buoyed by its strong critical reception and positive word of mouth from general audiences).
Arnett, speaking to EW, explained how the premise for The LEGO Batman Movie first came out of discussions about the eponymous character during the making of The LEGO Movie and evolved from there:
“What came out of The LEGO Movie was the idea of, Batman’s the Dark Knight, so why is he so moody? What’s going on? Why is he so banged up? And wouldn’t it be fun to get in there and explore that? [Exploring Batman’s moodiness] was always the intention, but as you record a few sessions and you get on these tangents, you end up taking the entire story down a road that wasn’t necessarily the intended road. It can totally drastically change the narrative just through goofing around.”
The first reports of LEGO Batman Movie being in development - based on a script by Seth Grahame-Smith (Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter) - emerged in October of 2014. However, Arnett says that he found out the project was going to become a reality as soon as LEGO Movie's U.S. theatrical opening weekend in February of that year:
“The returns kept coming back bigger and bigger, and we felt really good about the movie and were all out celebrating — everybody that was part of the team, the studio, the producers, the cast — and it was kind of tipped that night. ‘Alright, next up is Batman. And I was like, ‘What?! Really?’ They’re like, ‘Yeah man, let’s do it.’ That’s literally how it happened.’”
One element of the Batman franchise's history that will serve as comedy fodder in The LEGO Batman Movie is how much different iterations of the character have varied in tone and style over the years. One of the previously-released LEGO Batman Movie teaser trailers alluded to just that, by running through the onscreen versions of the Caped Crusader from over the decades (from Adam West's campy 1960s rendition to Ben Affleck's grizzled version in Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice this year). Arnett told EW that he look for inspiration from just about every prior incarnation of Batman, while figuring out the temperament and voice for his own (animated) rendition:
“When we were first finding the Batman voice and finding what was making us laugh the first time around, it took us a beat to wade through the different things we liked and found funny about each Batman. I tried to look at all of the Batmen. Now, I feel like I’m in a zone where I’m just really lucky that I’ve got all of these great guys who played Batman before me, and the comics before that, and I get to draw on this deep well and just mix and match.”
Much of The LEGO Batman Movie will revolve around LEGO Batman's struggle to play nice and work with others, offering a nice kid-friendly message about cooperating with others in the process. Arnett is voice-acting opposite his Arrested Development costar Michael Cera as LEGO Robin in this movie, as well as Rosario Dawson (Daredevil) as LEGO Batgirl. However, during his EW interview, he spoke specifically about his experience working on the film with Zack Galifianakis (The Hangover trilogy) - who voices Batman's arch-nemesis in the movie, LEGO Joker - and teased that their characters' relationship may differ from what most filmgoers will go in expecting:
“Zach and I had a really fun session a little while back. I’ve known Zach forever. The dynamic we landed on for Batman and the Joker that really works for us, I would describe as… refreshing. It’s a little bit surprising. It’s not what people are accustomed to with regards to these two characters.”
The LEGO Batman Movie opens in U.S. theaters on February 10th, 2017, followed by Ninjago on September 22nd, 2017 and The LEGO Movie Sequel on February 8th, 2019.