We already know how huge the release of Star Wars: The Force Awakens was, so it probably came as no surprise that an announcement trailer for The Force Awakens LEGO video game would also draw enormous interest.
The recently released all-CG trailer, which mimics the teaser trailer for the feature film – albeit with LEGO-like embellishments – has already chalked up more than five million views on official YouTube channels.
But it also left plenty of people wondering who was behind it. Was it the same team from The LEGO Movie? Was it the game developer TT Games (part of Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment)?
It turns out that a small, but prolific, studio named Plastic Wax in Sydney delivered the announcement trailer. They’ve had their hand for several years in cutscenes, cinematics and even other LEGO game work.
So when the studio caught wind of the LEGO Force Awakens game project they took it upon themselves to craft some look frames, in LEGO form, based on the film teaser. Plastic Wax then pitched them to Warner Bros. Interactive and were given the job.
“At it’s core, the brief was pretty straightforward,” recalls Plastic Wax Executive Vice President Dane Maddams. “It was basically to recreate the Force Awakens teaser with LEGO, and to inject the special brand of humor that LEGO games are made for. In addition to that we were given a draft script, which we picked up and continued to develop until you get to the result we see today.”
So how was this LEGO game trailer actually pulled off?
Plastic Wax began by literally tracking the cameras for each key film teaser trailer shot. “Our goal was to follow the film scenes as closely as possible, up until the punchline or funny moment where we got to mix things up a bit,” outlines Maddams. “Our real aim though was for people to look at our trailer and mistake it for the real thing until they looked closer and realize that it’s made from LEGO.”
For example, the film teaser trailer’s classic Millennium Falcon loop-de-loop shot was carefully matchmoved. Plastic Wax then animated a spacecraft that was based on the official LEGO Falcon toy.
“From there,” says Plastic Wax Head of Production Mick Hammell, “our asset and lighting team would go in and add elements like carbon scoring inside grooves along with all the other noise and dirt that makes the Falcon look authentic.”
Since Plastic Wax had been involved in previous LEGO trailers, they had the benefit of already working with CG LEGO character models directly from existing playsets. The studio also built assets out of LEGO (in CG) for environments or special props in the trailer.
“We take macro photo reference of real LEGO toys,” notes Hammell, “then use this to make sure that all our CG LEGO characters share all those same details.”
For environments, Plastic Wax relied on some in-house procedural tools to give a LEGO appearance to certain areas – look out for sloped bricks on angled surfaces, for instance. The studio rendered in V-Ray and aimed to replicate some of the smallest details.
“If you look closely at the back legs of a LEGO minifig you’ll see a small ‘L’ and ‘R’ printed on the toy legs,” states Hammell. “We also model by hand the seams that match the realistic plastic molding on the LEGO.”
A final effort to ensure the game trailer matched the film teaser came during the compositing stage.
“Our comp team sampled the images, broke down the various color temperatures and created unique film lookups for each shot to ensure that audiences would not be able to tell them apart,” says Hammell.
Certainly, seeing BB-8 with a LEGO stud on his head gives the game away quickly that this isn’t quite your normal kind of trailer, but Plastic Wax manages to preview the fun and humor behind the much anticipated June 28th release of the LEGO Star Wars: The Force Awakens Video Game.