The LEGO brand has been growing beyond the toy aisle for years. Today there are LEGO video games, cartoons, animated specials and more, many of which involve some pretty popular franchises (Marvel, DC, Star Wars, etc.). And with this year's The LEGO Movie scoring big with critics and pushing plenty of toys along with movie tickets, the brand has been proven successful at the box office as well.
A sequel for The LEGO Movie is already in the works and is expected in 2017. The first film's writers/directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, will be back as producers and insist they'll remain "very involved." Their decision to take a step back from The LEGO Movie sequel is likely due in part to Lord's and Miller's other duties: serving as producers for Warner Bros.' Ninjago (a LEGO spinoff based on their line of ninja-themed toys).
Talk of a Ninjago movie has been on the table for some time, and seeing as the ninja property has already been a popular series on Cartoon Network since 2011, it's a no-brainer. Warner Bros. would consider it a fitting follow-up to The LEGO Movie. The Ninjago series was created by Dan and Kevin Hageman, who also worked on the story for The LEGO Movie and were reportedly working on a screenplay for Ninjago last we heard.
However, with Warner Bros.' announcement that Ninjago will release on September 23, 2016, they instead listed Bryan Shukoff and Kevin Chesley as screenwriters. At this early stage, a change in writers isn't altogether unusual, but fans will undoubtedly be disappointed at not seeing either Hageman's name listed in today's release date announcement.
Warner Bros.' domestic distribution president Dan Fellman said:
"Following the huge success of 'The Lego Movie,' we are very excited to build on the Lego franchise. We know there are already Ninjago collectors who can’t wait to see their favorite characters on the big screen. This promises to be a terrifically fun and thrilling entry into our Fall 2016 slate, with broad audience appeal."
Broad audience appeal is what allowed The LEGO Movie to surpass so many other kid-friendly films where the sole purpose was selling toys (Disney's Planes, I'm looking at you). But much of what set The LEGO Movie apart - its smart script, interesting characters, clever directing - was due in large part to Lord and Miller, and having them so detached could hurt both films down the line.
Then again, with those two in something of an overseer position for Warner Bros.' LEGO films, there's also the potential for a slew of smart, funny LEGO films to come our way. Only time will tell, and it appears Ninjago - with its untested writers and a director in Charlie Bean (TRON: Uprising), making his feature-length debut - will be the first to attempt matching The LEGO Movie's success.
Ninjago will release in theaters on September 23, 2016. The LEGO Movie 2 is expected in theaters May 26th, 2017.