EXCLUSIVE: Universal Pictures has completed a five-year exclusive deal with the LEGO Group that will lead to the development, production and theatrical distribution of films constructed from the fusion of original ideas to the colorful building blocks. The deal was spearheaded by Donna Langley, Chairman, Universal Filmed Entertainment Group, and Jill Wilfert, Head of Entertainment of the LEGO Group.
Universal established itself as the leader last year among a pack of studios chasing the rights to make future Lego movies, which Warner Bros had ridden to collective grosses north of a billion dollars. When one of the LEGO films on the drawing board didn’t go forward, a ticking clock expired and the LEGO’s film business became a free agent. Branded IP with proven box office draw doesn’t come along often, and Universal pounced.
The notion of a LEGO franchise was hardly an obvious one when it launched in 2014 with The LEGO Movie, but that film had wit, imagination and irreverence and directors Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, and a second hit was hatched with The Lego Batman Movie directed by Chris McKay. That led to the LEGO Ninjago Movie, and The LEGO Movie 2: The Second Part.
Universal is betting that an injection of new imagination and a cross pollination with its own venerable titles will be the building blocks to a resurgence. From Jurassic Park to its classic monsters, there is a lot of room to roam to launch new franchises. There has already been a Lego treatment given Uni’s dinosaur franchise for TV, with Jurassic World: The Secret Exhibit and the 13-ep miniseries LEGO Jurassic World: Legend of Isla Nublar.
The original LEGO films grossed a combined $1.1 billion globally. Those films remain in the Warner Bros library.
LEGO Group’s Wilfert will serve as producer on all LEGO projects developed and released by Universal. Rideback’s Dan Lin and Jonathan Eirich will produce alongside Wilfert on the next LEGO-inspired film. Lin produced all of the previous LEGO features. The LEGO Group was represented in the deal by Ken Kleinberg and Jill Smith from Kleinberg, Lange, Cuddy and Carlo..
“The LEGO System in Play gives people the ability to build worlds and create stories that they carry throughout every phase of their lives,” said Langley. “To partner with such an iconic brand that remains relevant and is constantly evolving allows for creativity in storytelling. We’re thrilled to start building out the next chapter of LEGO movies together with Jill and the LEGO team as they continue to inspire curiosity and innovation.”
“Universal’s commitment to unique storytelling from diverse voices makes the Studio the perfect partner as the LEGO Group enters this new phase of filmmaking,” said Wilfert. “Donna and the entire Universal team bring a sense of wonder and imagination we share, and we can’t wait to execute on our shared vision.”