The animated TV show LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu started airing back in 2011; three years before filmmakers Phil Lord and Chris Miller’s The LEGO Movie hit theaters, in the process making LEGO a lucrative big screen property, in addition to (already) being a longtime popular toy and viable television brand. Ninjago started out as a ninja themed LEGO toy spinoff before becoming a cartoon series. In 2017, the property will be getting a feature-length animated film adaptation of its own, in the form of the aptly-titled The LEGO Nnjago Movie.
Written by LEGO Movie story writers Dan and Kevin Hageman (who previously worked on the Masters of Spinjitzu TV show) and directed by Charlie Bean (the animated TRON: Uprising TV series), The LEGO Ninjago Movie tells the tale of “six young ninjas tasked with defending their island home, called Ninjago,” per the film’s official synopsis. Although the LEGO Ninjago Movie will feature the same characters as its television counterpart, those LEGO ninja warriors are being voiced by different actors – among them, martial arts legend (and soon to be honorary Oscar recipient), Jackie Chan.
Chan is lending his voice to Master Wu: the master of the “six young ninjas” in The LEGO Ninja Movie. Although the movie won’t be hitting theaters until September of 2017, a tie-in short film titled “The Master: A LEGO Ninjago Short” is slated to be attached to prints of Warner Bros. Animation’s next release, Storks, when it arrives in U.S. theaters later this month.
You can watch a clip and check out still frames from The LEGO Ninjago Movie‘s short film below, courtesy of USA Today:
“The Master: A LEGO Ninjago Short” will also feature the voice talents of LEGO Ninjago Movie voice actors Abbi Jacobson (Broad City) and Justin Theroux (The Leftovers) as, respectively, the chicken shown tormenting Wu in the above clip and the short’s narrator – neither of which are the roles they’re playing in the actual movie. The LEGO Ninjago short’s director and co-writer, Jon Saunders, sums up the story in his short film as follows (in USA Today’s article):
“It’s control vs. chaos. Wu is this character very much in control of his entire world, almost obsessive compulsive (about) maintaining perfect order. Chicken is free flow and chaos. When Master Wu accepts that it’s OK his temple got ruined, that nothing is perfect, that’s when they come into harmony.”
Based on Saunders’ comment, it sounds as though Wu in The LEGO Ninjago Movie will not only be a riff on the martial arts master archetype, but also a character who may learn a lesson (about finding the balance between control and chaos) that will be useful for the younger moviegoers who will be seeing the film when it hits theaters. That’s in keeping with the approach taken by The LEGO Movie and, by the look of it, next year’s The LEGO Batman Movie; playing with storytelling conventions in a manner that will entertain adult moviegoers the most, while still keeping the action/comedy and the film’s themes accessible to the juice box crowd, in turn.
That approach has worked great for animated movies such as The LEGO Movie and the Kung Fu Panda series – the latter of which is also a kid-friendly riff on the martial arts genre that counts Chan as a member of its voice cast. If The LEGO Ninjago Movie can emulate their success when it comes to execution, then WB Animation could have another LEGO-themed hit in the making here.
The LEGO Batman Movie opens in U.S. theaters on February 10th, 2017, followed by The LEGO Ninjago Movie on September 22nd, 2017 and The LEGO Movie Sequel on February 8th, 2019.
Source: USA Today
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