Alfred Hitchcock said, “Ideas come from everything,” and certainly Hollywood proves his point.
Just this year we’ve had films inspired by everything from Norse mythology by way of comic books (Thor: The Dark World), real life (Captain Phillips, American Hustle to name a couple) and literature (The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug to name one).
Like Hitch says, story ideas can come from anywhere. Even the board games and toys we played with as kids.
This weekend Hollywood has built a movie around a set of building blocks. The most famous building blocks in the world. The Lego Movie features the all-star voices of Will Ferrell, Liam Neeson, Elizabeth Banks and Morgan Freeman in a story about an ordinary Lego minifigure recruited to stop the evil tyrant Lord Business from gluing the universe together.
Lego’s colourful interlocking plastic blocks are the latest toy to inspire a movie, but they aren’t the first.
The 1977 animated film Raggedy Ann & Andy: A Musical Adventure has the distinction of being the first theatrical motion picture based on a consumer toy. In the movie the rag dolls go on a journey to rescue Babette, a beautiful French doll kidnapped by a pirate. Described as “tedious” and “lacking in pace and humor” by many critics, the movie has also been mentioned as an unofficial inspiration for the Toy Story series.
A few years later came an action figure that would inspire several movies. Roger Sweet, lead designer for Mattel’s Preliminary Design Department, says he wanted “a powerful figure that could be taken anywhere and dropped into any context because he had a generic name.” That character was He-Man, defender of the realm of Eternia from the evil forces of Skeletor.
The job of bringing that bigger-than-life character from the toy box to the screen fell to Dolph Lundgren in the 1987 film Masters of the Universe. The original story wasn’t a hit at the box office and isn’t one of Lundgren’s favourite films.
“How much could I do as an actor,” he asked, “when I was running around in swim trunks and chest armor?”
More successful was Clue, based on the crime mystery board game. Starring Eileen Brennan and Martin Mull as murder suspects Mrs. Peacock and Colonel Mustard, the movie was released with three possible endings. The various endings were split up between theatres, so no two prints were the same, but the DVD release features all three conclusions.