As the old Hollywood saying goes, "One good film deserves another franchise," and never was it clearer than the surprise success of Warner Bros.' The LEGO Movie. Even before the film had been released to audiences, the plans were in place for not only The LEGO Movie 2, but a motion picture adaptation of the spinoff toy line 'Ninjago.' If mixing DC's biggest superheroes with LEGO could work, then there's surely room for some ninja/LEGO action as well.
However, Warner Bros. must now face the decision of moving forward with a sequel to capitalize on the breakout hit's momentum or building a Ninjago Movie instead. Will they be developed simultaneously? Will they share a universe? And most importantly, which one can audiences expect to see hit theaters first?
There's no question that The LEGO Movie proved skeptics wrong, taking what seemed at first to be a shaky premise and building it into an irrefutable first chapter in a brand new movie franchise (read our review). Much of that credit belongs to the directors Phil Lord and Chris Miller (Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs, 21 Jump Street), and that seems to be all too clear to the executives at Warner Bros., who are keeping the pair attached to the budding universe (at least for now).
According to a report from THR, the coming weeks will see the studio decide just how quickly they will put success into motion, and green-light both planned additions to the LEGO movie family. It seems that the prior deadline for putting Ninjago into production has been moved forward by the toy manufacturer (easy to understand, given the success of Lord and Miller's venture), but WB only has rights to one sequel, meaning the ninja-themed film could be fast-tracked to add yet another branch onto the franchise, laying the foundations for a shared brand that could be best for everyone.
Which project is put into motion first is largely an afterthought, since the leadership and writing of each film is heavily overlapped. Lord and Miller may have gotten screenplay credits for The LEGO Movie, but it was based on a story developed with Dan and Kevin Hageman, the creators of the animated series Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu. That same pair has already submitted a story treatment for Ninjago, with Lord and Miller staying on as producers. Tron: Uprising's Charlie Bean is on hand to direct.
Even though much of the talent will remain from one project to the next, it remains to be seen if Ninjago - clearly a property aimed at children - can find the same wide appeal at the box office, even if its eastern themes and Chinese influence could help it overseas. And as promising as the public reaction to The LEGO Movie may be, Dan Hageman feels the pressure it brings:
"The success of 'The LEGO Movie' is great, but it's also a burden and a curse... It set the bar really high for the franchise."
Only time will tell how the producers intend to move forward, and just how connected the budding franchises may be to one another. What do you think makes the most sense? Should the filmmakers take the brief cameo of the Green Ninja as a jumping-off point for a Ninjago film, or aim it squarely at younger audiences? Share your thoughts in the comments.
The LEGO Movie is in theaters now.
Follow Andrew on Twitter @andrew_dyce.