David Shayne and director Ken Cunningham discussed the upcoming LEGO Star Wars film, which will be released at Walt Disney World. Finn (Omar Miller), Rey (Helen Sadler), Rose (Kelly Marie Tran), and the three droids are all in a unique position to be visited by three Force GhostsObi-Wan Kenobi (James Arnold Taylor), Anakin Skywalker (Shelby Young), who teach him all about enjoying the moment.
The creative duo discussed telling the only Sequel Trilogy stories since The Rise of Skywalker, reimagining Adam Driver's Ben Solo as a youngster on a family vacation, reimagining Yvette Nicole Brown's Freemaker Adventures character, and including the Halcyon in their story. We also discussed launching the official campaign to get LEGO Star Wars to make a Valentine's Day special.
COLLIDER: First and foremost, thank you both so much for directing such a wonderful film. I am not at all ashamed to admit that it made me cry the four times that I saw it.
DAVID SHAYNE: Excellent. I find it weird to cheer up when something caused you to cry, but good.
KEN CUNNINGHAM: I'm just overjoyed.
I keep quoting from the LEGO films as my sequel Trilogy. Before these films, I was never a huge LEGO movie fan, but these films totally changed me. What is it about the LEGO films that strikes the heart in the way that they do? I feel like all of the people who see these movies just fall in love with them.
CUNNINGHAM: Okay, this is maybe a little esoteric or whatever, but I think there's something about the minifig that makes people feel like they can kind of proxy themselves into those characters in a way. That's what I'm referring to in terms of storytelling?
SHAYNE: No. I'm sitting here thinking what a wonderful question and great answer. With LEGO, and this goes all the way back to the video games and early specials, there is a warmth and a creativity that LEGO specifically allows you to instill. It's like making the perfect dish with all the right ingredients. So it does lend itself both to humor and to the ability to put yourself in the position to cry four times.
Ben Solo is the character that made me cry, of course. I want to know, David, if you guys are secret Ben Solo followers? Because there's definitely a lot to fan girl about this character in this movie.
SHAYNE: He's a great character and I think Adam Driver's performance in the sequel trilogy is great. I think in a lot of ways, especially his adventure in this... It's a very familiar thing. I've been there for two kids and I've witnessed how they've fallen for the wrong reasons. Matt Wood is fantastic and just brings the story to a whole new level.
What has it been like to get to tell the only Sequel Trilogy stories that have been published since The Rise of Skywalker?
CUNNINGHAM: Oh, how wonderful it was to get to see the first film and see it several times, but then the latest trilogy is like my daughter's, I'm not sure. But for her, Rey, like she's deeply connected to her, it's... So to be able to combine all of these things into one and have her like, be so ecstatic about it is fantastic.
I'm just giddy with excitement as I continue to get to play these characters. I've been a Star Wars fan since I was a kid. Visions, The Book of Boba Fett, The Bad Batch, and other titles are all wonderful. It's just a joy to get to see them continue to play in this universe.
We've seen the holiday season, we've seen the ghost season, and we've seen summer vacation. When will we get some like, love in the air? When will we get my Darth Vader Funko Valentine's pop? I'm just saying LEGO must elevate itself to the next level.
SHAYNE: Maggie, you have the ability and the fan base to execute it, and you can direct it to the universe.
I will do everything I can to make it happen.
SHAYNE: It's on you. I don't want to retread this one to you and say, it's on you, but it's on you.
Tonight is the first day of the campaign.
SHAYNE: I appreciate it.
This film is filled with so many fun gags. There are so many funny jokes. There's the Anakin with the scuba diving Darth Vader helmet out of the water. Is this like your whole humor or who is creating these? They're genius.
SHAYNE: That's really sweet. It's a huge undertaking, and I'm pretty much there at the beginning with the LEGO and Lucasfilm teams, and we develop the story, and we punch and do everything. We get Motz and Roth who created the original LEGO Star Wars episodes, and we get to do it like a writer's room, and people are pitching gags.
CUNNINGHAM: I mean, we just keep pushing, right? So I leave the door open for my teams to pitch stuff to me, and then I pitch it to these guys. We're just sort of constantly churning through the material and trying to elevate it, like until the point where we just have to stall.
SHAYNE: We're not done, we're just short of time. I mean, really people do that. As we were recording, people were pitching out little jokes, nice size moments during the recording, as we were recording. We just thought, "Well, that's funny, let's try it." So I know it's a cliche, but it's definitely a collective effort.
Ken, what is the most critical thing to keep in mind when you're directing these sequences? Because there are a lot of pretty impressive moments [and] lots of things going on in some of these scenes in this film.
CUNNINGHAM: I mean, again, it's the story, right? That's my guiding principle all the way through it. You kind of like when a scene comes in... You kind of try to incorporate that into the narrative, you know? For that, I went to Baz Luhrmann's films. You sort of try to include that into the narrative.
I knew the Baz influence. So I'm happy to hear that has been confirmed.
CUNNINGHAM: I've always wanted to be a musical performer. So it was like an amazing opportunity to, yeah, do it.
SHAYNE: Ken has been searching for a dance number since the first one for the Holiday Special. We were so ecstatic to finally oblige him and make it happen.
One of the most prominent locations in Star Wars stories lately is the house where slowly the Halcyon has been incorporated into a lot of Star Wars stories. Have you ever been to the actual Halcyon? Have you ever been aboard the Galactic Starcruiser?
SHAYNE: Not yet. I'll have to go to Florida. I'm dying to go. It's so cute.
CUNNINGHAM: What was really cool about this was that we had access to a lot of concept art and stuff. Because he was in the process while we were sort of in the process of designing. So we sort of batted ideas back and forth with the LEGO team in Denmark for the ship itself.
SHAYNE: Yeah, I was just saying Lucasfilm, sorry. Jason Stein and Leland Chee both worked on it. It was just a pleasure to take a look at the briefs and see what happens aboard the ship. It became a natural location. We knew from the start that we wanted to tell the whole story on vacation, and a cruise ship is a great place to send Finn off on his own adventure.
When it came to musical numbers, you had just hired Christian Slater to play Ren, and now you have Weird Al. What was it like getting Weird Al to join you in it? Did you create this character just in hopes that you would get him? How did it all go down?
SHAYNE: No, Maggie, we just said it. We were hoping. He's a Star Wars fan. I mean he's not shy about it over the years. So one day you learn from your casting director, Lindsay sends out the email, "We got him!" And he's like, "Oh, I mean, it's exciting.
Once you got him, did you do anything about it, modify it, or experiment with his own peculiarities and personality traits?
CUNNINGHAM: Yeah, quite literally. We just kind of took it on faith that it would happen. We crafted it with him in mind, from the beginning, before we had him. I mean, I was a little naive, because if we don't if this doesn't happen, how do we go about it? Because then, when he touched it, he would riff things.
SHAYNE: He was a game. It's true, we didn't know what our strategy would've been, but we did it over Zoom. He was in the studio, and we had him play Vic Vankoh and do all of his vocals and come up with funny lyrics. It's a career highlight. I'm so glad you're excited. He's just, you're just ecstatic.
CUNNINGHAM: I mean, it's always funny, right? And when you get past the dialogue and just watching Michael and Al work together, like as musical artists, we just kind of sat back and thought, like, it's just such a joy to just observe that process.
Michael Kramer [would] be like, "Whoa, [can] we try this in a falsetto?" And Al was like "Whoa at the beach," like he was just, he was in, he was a... I don't think there was anything we ever threw at him that he wasn't willing to do. And of course, killed it.
A second huge Star Wars fan has stepped up to play a role in this, named Yvette Nicole Brown. I just love the whole idea of a fake marriage. It's just made me laugh. Was that something early in the planning or something that evolved? Because I just, everything about it makes me laugh.
SHAYNE: We knew we wanted to do an Obi-Wan story. We knew that series was coming out, and we said, "Oh, we have Valeria from Freemaker." That's exactly what we're all about. We just wanted her to come back. We just wanted her to bring her back. We're so glad we got her back. I'm not a big fan of her.
LEGO Star Wars Summer Vacation is now available on Disney+. See the incredible trailer for the film below: