Topic: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

Welcome to the Weekly Bricks in Motion Filmmaking & Brickfilming Discussion thread!
These threads are designed to inspire discussion, debate and discourse on the topics of filmmaking, brickfilming, storytelling and LEGO. Each week I will start a new thread with a new discussion topic. Everyone is welcome to contribute as long as you have something thoughtful to say. Paragraphs are encouraged! If you are going to participate in this thread, please keep the discussion civil and refrain from pointless jokes, image macros, or “memes.”

Please feel free to continue to contribute to the previous discussion threads as well. Just because they are older doesn't mean they aren't relevant any more!

Previous Discussions:
Week 1: Why LEGO?
Week 2: Dealing with the Mockers
Week 3: Brickfilms With Licensed Themes
Week 4: Challenges Unique to Brickfilmers



This week’s discussion topic:

Should brickfilms avoid certain topics such as explicit violence, mature language, and potentially offensive or disturbing themes because LEGO is primarily a children’s toy?
LEGO is a children's toy. However, it is abundantly clear from the large online fanbase that LEGO appeals to all ages, young and old alike. The LEGO Company has recognized this over the years, and have turned some of their focus to marketing to adult enthusiasts. Because of this wide spectrum of ages all involved with the same product, a vast number of interests and subjects have been built, recreated, involved or associated with LEGO, including both young "age-appropriate" themes, and older "mature" themes.

Though it has embraced the adult community, The LEGO Company still firmly asserts itself as child and family friendly. Nowadays LEGO brickfilms are easily accessible to all ages, and since YouTube generally relies on self-moderation when it comes to most (but of course not all) explicit content, it is easy to access content that some parents or children might find objectionable. Should brickfilms avoid certain topics such as explicit violence, mature language, and potentially offensive or disturbing themes because LEGO is primarily a children’s toy? Alternately, are brickfilmers responsible for warning viewers about possible mature content in their brickfilms?

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

In my opinion, I think it doesn't matter that LEGO is meant for kids. It's our medium for story telling, and sometimes stories are not kid friendly. I do think there should be warnings for each mature styled film.

"I wear black even when I'm not animating. I'm like a walking funeral parlor."
-PushOverProductions

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

This is a tough question.

I believe that any filmmaker has a right to make whatever film they like in terms of content, as long as they can give prior warning if there's anything parents might find unsavoury. I think the same goes for brickfilms: I enjoy Keshen8's brickfilms (mostly) but would I want my 4 year old godbrother watching them? No.

In all honesty, I think that the fact that LEGO is such a recognisably family friendly brand makes brickfilmers more responsible to correctly warn viewers about offensive content. It is primarily a children's toy, and people surfing the internet aren't normally going to think a brickfilm will turn ugly when they click on it.

Also, I think it's kinda' weird giving minifigures blood and guts. Family friendly nature aside, stuff like Forrestfire101's Captain America animation just looks wrong, in my opinion. I can't quite put my finger on why.

One thing I do have a problem with unnecessary use of language. Bad language may not be acceptable in everyday conversation (well, depending on how bad you want to go) but in film and television it can be used very cleverly, or to quickly establish the tone of a movie. For instance, The Usual Suspects frequently drops the /f/ word, but it's used as a device to set the tone and establish the mindset of the characters. In X-Men First Class, that brilliant cameo scene uses the same word to great comic effect. What I dislike is when people, especially in brickfilms, add swearing because they think it's cool, and sounds grown-up. You want a video set in a LEGO world to seem grown-up? You don't start with bad language. That can be a device later on, but I'd start by using mise-en-scene, lighting, and general dialogue to establish a more grown-up tone. The language can come later. This is a very teenage thing, and a lot of brickfilmers are teenagers, so I guess this issue is only to be expected.

Hope I didn't go off course with that.

http://www.brickshelf.com/gallery/ZoefDeHaas/stuff/sig1.png
"Nothing goes down 'less I'm involved. No nuggets. No onion rings. No nothin'. A cheeseburger gets sold in the park, I want in! You got fat while we starved on the streets...now it's my turn!" -Harley Morenstein

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

jampot wrote:

Also, I think it's kinda' weird giving minifigures blood and guts. Family friendly nature aside, stuff like Forrestfire101's Captain America animation just looks wrong, in my opinion. I can't quite put my finger on why.


It's gore [email protected]#$, people love mindless violence, and it's quick sickening. I agree with you on your language point. While I stand by what I said, I would like to clarify that I believe everything should be used in moderation.

Why is [email protected]#$ a filtered word? It isn't a bad word, it's an actual term.

"I wear black even when I'm not animating. I'm like a walking funeral parlor."
-PushOverProductions

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

As far as content for my own films I try to stay true to the feel of the theme I'm working in. So for most of my brickfilms the only content that some may find objectionable would be violence. So I put a warning on my channel that most of my videos will have some violence. Now for other birckfilmers, I love an action video as long as there is no blood. I hate a lot of blood in real films and I hate it even more when it is in a brickfilm. It's like why would a minifig bleed? As far as language I stay far away from that, I think every brickfilmer that puts bad language in their videos needs to warn the people that are viewing the video before it starts. That's my take on this. mini/smile

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

Should brickfilms avoid certain topics such as explicit violence, mature language, and potentially offensive or disturbing themes because LEGO is primarily a children’s toy?

No.

LEGO isn't exactly the most cute and whimsical of toys. You can tell cute and whimical stories with it, but its not all pink and glittery. I probably have more black bricks than any other colour, and I only refrain from bad language because...actually, I don't know. Swearing can be an art when used correctly - I just don't think I've mastered the art. I swear when I'm annoyed or stressed, which is all the time, but I've never felt confident enough to use it in my writing.

Now, re-enacting the D-Day landings with My Little Pony - THAT would be disturbing and in bad taste...although it would at least be memorable - in an 'Itchy and Scratchy' sort of way.

Last edited by Max Butcher (June 2, 2014 (12:11pm))

'BUILD' - THAC XIV

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

Yeah, as long as you give a little bit of warning that your film is for mature audiences, I don't think that brickfilmers should be in any way barred from telling more adult, graphic, or mature stories.

LEGO is your medium of story telling, just like Clay, CGI, or flesh and blood humans. Your medium SHOULD NOT dictate what your story can or cannot be about. That's up to the director and the director alone. If people are not allowed to sometimes go to darker places with a medium, be it for serious commentary or just for the fun of it, then can it really be taken seriously as a genre?

And while you should give a bit of warning to people who may not want to see stuff like that, parents are still responsible for keeping their kids watching what they should, and if they feel that YouTube isn't a safe enough option, then they have to keep their kids off and going to other places.

https://i.imgur.com/gGaR9Oz.png
Youtube @TheRealSonjira I consider it a personal defeat if my pee is not perfectly clear every time.]

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

My next script has at least 30 offensive words, in 3 minutes. Lego is a film making medium to me and that's all, just because it has childish connotations shouldn't change that, that's what 'Mature Audience' warnings are for.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

People can use as much gross content in their films as they want.
I just don't want to watch them.

I don't because I've never cursed anyway and I'd like to not put anyone off who's watching my films.

With blood though, I'm mostly annoyed that people use weird slightly orangey clay for blood.  The colour is off and it doesn't look right.  Also, people sometimes use realistic blood, but that looks weird because LEGO in't very realistic looking.
i kinda wish that if people were to use blood to make it out of red LEGO bricks, and use some replacement animation to have some interesting liquid effects with it.  it would take some time to think out, sure, but in the end I think that it would look really cool, it should have proper warning of course, though.

I'm a bit annoyed though that people rarely ever put such warnings upon their films, and usually I don't know until after I've watched it.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

I've always wanted to make a joke about content warnings, such as: "Warning: The Following Contains a Man's Head Exploding, a Car Crash, 3 uses of the word 'Bugger,' and a flashing image when our protagonist travels back in time"

Quite often I deliberately want people to be surprised by any violece in my film, so I don't do content warnings. Because I watch 'Game of Thrones' on Sky, I have to enter a PIN number whenever I watch an episode that has a lot of sex/violence - so I know when an episode is going to contain a lot of violence and I'm subsequently prepared. However, when I first saw Alfred Hitchcock's 'Frenzy', I didn't know it was rated '18' so I was shocked and disturbed by how strong the violence was even for a Hitchcock film. I certainly wasn't expecting rape shown so graphically (this coming from the director who shot a naked woman in a shower being stabbed multiple times without actually showing anything). But this meant I actually was shocked and disturbed - and is one of the reasons why the best way to experience any art is to be completely unprepared for it.

To be fair, the BiM film directory gives warnings...but I don't think anyone uses the film directory anymore. I remember also when certain YouTube videos would be blocked until you were a certain age, but I think they've stopped that now.

'BUILD' - THAC XIV

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

I usually don't approve of overtly adult things in ANY art form, weather it be film, paintings, or music. Whenever crude language, sexual themes, or violence is present in art, I feel that this is a cheap sell-out; the artist attempting to get more attention and views from vulgar and taboo material. However, that's not to say that I don't approve of obscene material all of the time...

A great example of my reasoning is an interview with Stan Lee that I saw in a video on youtube a few years back. They asked him what he thought the difference was between violence and action - A question many would back down from, as, even I (before watching the video) had a hard time explaining the difference. However, Stan the man put it best when he said his thoughts: Action is just tasteful violence!

Sure, many of the gags run in the old Three Stooges shorts could be portrayed as cruel and harmful in the wrong setting, but, because they are played off for laughs, and no true harm is shown over the course of the shorts, I think that the violence there is not only acceptable, but, actually pretty hilarious.

And, though I disprove of much of the language and violence present in the Godfather Trilogy, I do believe that the  Francis Ford Coppola greats wouldn't have made as much of an impact, (or have even been given credit) had they have been rated PG. Godfather needed to be R, as, not only was it a sort of "warning label" for kids, but, it also set it apart from the Film-Noirs of the previous decades. - This film was darker, grittier, and, had to stand out of the pack to be recognized.

However, this issue truly is a double edged sword, as the same argument could be made the other way. Peter Pan is a GREAT movie, and, a definitive classic among the original Walt Disney produced animated films. And, though it has an alcohol reference, and a drug reference, it's still more child... no... "family friendly" movie. That was the magic of Walt Disney; he could take something, easily considered for more mature audiences, (Like 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea) and make it for everyone... That's why I'll always put Peter Pan, Citizen Kane, and Star Wars over films like The Godfather, The Matrix, and even Saving Private Ryan. - The PG films are just as good as the R rated greats, and yet, the PG ones will always have the potential to reach a much greater, and important, audience - kids.

As for my own brickfilms, I always shoot for a "Disney" final product, even IF the original concept was R, or even NC-17.

Warning: Some Graphic Violence depicted ahead!

I once had this recurring dream that was very surreal, and dark...

Spoiler (click to read)

It was about a father and his daughter who often went scuba diving in the Pacific ocean. However, one day, while they were diving under, they were attacked by a group of sharks. The man was able to fight them off, but, before he could, his daughter's stomach was practically ripped open - Blood, and her internal organs were all out. The father, knowing nothing else to do, started ripping himself apart, giving his daughter a chance to live with his blood, organs, heart, etc. In his dying moments, he stitched her up, and she was able to swim to the surface, alive and well.

Violence over.

The story really stuck with me, as, it's drama, love, and emotion was enough to keep my mind thinking of it. And, even though the last time I had that dream was nearly 6 years ago, I still remember it.

A year or two back, I was filming an Atlantis-based brickfilm, and, wouldn't you know, I gave my story the same characters and situation as was in the dream, however, the attack, the gore, and the violence was all gone. Instead of a tragedy, the third act had them finding a still thriving Atlantis, and, their decision (rather forced, due to their lack of oxygen tanks) to stay there; A story very deep and interesting at heart, even if it doesn't seem so upon a surface summary.

I guess my point is that, as with Stan Lee's argument; If violence (and even other adult themes) are used in a creative, and even, PG-ish way, and still be successful, then, that artist has done something greater on his own, rather than relying on shock-factor, or other cheep tricks to hook in an audience.

Another great example of this is a scene from the Beatles Yellow Submarine animated film. In one part, the sub is being attacked by a large boxing kangaroo. To appease it, they hand it a big cigar. Normally, especially in a children's film, I'd disapprove of this. However, just after puffing on it for a few seconds, the cigar blows up in it's face, obviously a gag distraction given from the Beatles for a quick escape. However, when it blows up in the kangaroo's face, this could be taken as a somewhat "anti-smoking" ad, showing that smoking may look fun, but, it can lead to disastrous, and dreadful, consequences. And, it didn't take an after-school special, or some seriously-toned short to do such; The Yellow Submarine was able to do it in a way that would appeal to kids, and, still gets the message across equally, if not better, than the other methods would have.

Thus, I end on this note: I'm not for restricting artistic ability in any way, shape, or form. However, I believe that if you CAN make an impact, difference, or statement in a G rated way, then, you've not only got a stronger will, but, you also are considerate of others - trying to reach the greatest audience possible; everyone.

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

just put a warning at the beginning of the video just because theres kids who look for lego videos and just to keep them from gettin in trouble/seein somethin objectionable

i think its great because it begins to feel like real people sort of rather than fake plastic toys. idk how to explain it but it feels really refreshing. unless its a forrestfire101 video like that one where the flash orgasms too fast or whatever . at that point it feels forced and annoying. when its like. family guy-esque humor where its racist/sexist/offensive just for the sake of being racist/sexist/offensive im not about it but like if its actually adding to an interesting story i love it

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Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

This is one topic that I personally think has been discussed and mulled over too much around the brickfilming community. If my memory serves me correct, it would usually lead to flame wars and some swearing. So, please everyone. Despite the ever-present warning that Nathan puts at the top of every discussion thread, please be civil in this discussion. Even though flame wars might be funny to read, we don't really need another one taking up the forums, now do we? mini/wink

I mimic others' opinions when I say that I personally don't prefer to watch brickfilms withmature themes and humour. And despite Rsteenoven's words, I personally think that doing so distracts from the positive idea that LEGO is a toy intended for children, when minifigs are dropping acid or doing other naughty activities. It's just as bad as reading a disturbing Toy Story fanfic... mini/what (please excuse the example, I'm just trying to get a point across).

If mature themes can be handled *ahem*... maturely, than full speed ahead! But, if it's an overload with sexy humour and raunchy vocabulary, I would prefer that people just didn't do it.

Dyland wrote:

R rated greats

Never seen any of them (at least none of the ones you've mentioned, wahowha! mini/tongue ).

Have you seen a big-chinned boy?

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

I do not believe in censorship of art, period. However I think when someone is considering using 'mature content' in an animation made with LEGO they need to ask themselves if they can effectively communicate the sort of feeling they are trying to convey with LEGO bricks.

I have seen adults watch horrible brickfilms who have been unable to contain their laughter because they cannot get over the fact the LEGO minifigs are walking around, if you are a member of this forum you are almost certainly completely desensitize to this. Since I watch a lot more animation then say, my parents, I will see an animation and be far less focused on the novelty of the animation and will be able to spend more time focusing on the themes and/or plot.

I don't think all stories can be told *well* with LEGO, it is a medium and it has it's strengths and weaknesses. When you are making something that you want people to take seriously you should ask yourself who will take it seriously and and if the people who wont matter, if the group of people who can't view it objectively mostly don't matter to you there is no reason not to create it.

On a different note, I think what we deem as 'mature content' varies drastically from region to region. Here in Seattle the F-word isn't really an offensive or rude word, it's just a part of everyday language. However the use of the word 'gay' with a negative connotation would be taboo here while in the mid-west school children wouldn't think twice about using it to describe something they did not like. I feel it's easy to understand the reasons why you might try to avoid words with strong racist, sexist or homophobic connotations, those things aside I can't imagine how what is often considered 'foul language' is going to detract from the story or entertainment value.

I feel the main reason I have not used swearing in my current script is I usually go for a kind of innocent 1950's b-science fiction sort of setting which would not use profanities of hardly any kind, however if I was striving for a more 70's - 80's exploitative/action film strong language would add to the setting/mood and I don't think the fact that it was made in LEGO would change my choice of language (a la Weed Cops)

The fact that violence is considered more acceptable then strong language or sexuality is kind of a desturbing problem with our society (or at least American society)

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

I don't feel the need to swear in real life so I don't feel the need to do it in a film - lego bricks or otherwise.

Likewise, I don't want to hear it in real life so I appreciate warnings against films that contain swearing and then make my own decision.

Aka Fox
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Best brick films: My selection

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

I like what mobiledeli did with Egyption Holiday by creating a directors' cut. He made the normal version with no swearing, but the director's cut contained brief cussing. The swearing in the director's cut brought a comedic moment while the story was progressing.

"I wear black even when I'm not animating. I'm like a walking funeral parlor."
-PushOverProductions

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

I think Egyptian Holiday is a great example of effective use of language in a brickfilm.

http://www.brickshelf.com/gallery/ZoefDeHaas/stuff/sig1.png
"Nothing goes down 'less I'm involved. No nuggets. No onion rings. No nothin'. A cheeseburger gets sold in the park, I want in! You got fat while we starved on the streets...now it's my turn!" -Harley Morenstein

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

jampot wrote:

I think Egyptian Holiday is a great example of effective use of language in a brickfilm.

I think that a great example of a mature-ish situation presented in a brickfilm is present in Nathan Well's own brickfilm, "Beast!"

Spoiler (click to read)

In the end, Dr. Wilson, in his monster form, is cornered by police on a rooftop. They shoot him, and he transforms back into his minifig self, only to realize that he was the beast that killed his assistant all along! So, he basically commits suicide, as he lets himself fall off of the building, onto a car below. Then there is a dramatic pull-away from his dead body on the car.

Both shots contain adult full-frontal male nudity! - Something that would only pass under R or even NC-17 if done in live action, I think we all can agree. However, just as with the "where's my pants" guy in the LEGO Movie, things can be done in LEGO that couldn't be done in live action.

I think this almost boils down to the "Why Do You Choose LEGO As Your Medium," thread too. Things, such as nudity, can be done in a brickfilm in a much more PG way. - And, I think that's a beautiful thing.

SlothPaladin wrote:

I don't think all stories can be told *well* with LEGO...

- Though I agree with that statement, I think that some other stories can ONLY be told with LEGO; at least if they want to do it in a family-friendly way. Kids, teens, and adults can ALL watch "Beast" together, no matter where they live, and still enjoy it. Hey, maybe it's even pushed some boarders, and allowed more adult-like content to be acceptable in the norm for younger audiences!

Overall, I think this sums it up perfectly:

Mickey wrote:

If mature themes can be handled... maturely, than full speed ahead!

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

As someone with libertarian principles, I don't believe anyone should be restricted in the content.  However, I think, that since Lego is associated with family-friendly activities, that 1) people who build should try to avoid the practice whenever possible, and 2) if not, an advisory for parents is the responsible thing to do.  Working in toys, I discuss Lego with many many people weekly and when the subjects of brickfilming come up, so many parents express their surprise at what kind of lego films are accessible to children and they screen them first now that they are wary.

I pretty much don't see the need to use such content.  Movies like the Lord of the Rings are very intense in the violence, but are largely bloodless.  The violence in the shower scene in Psycho is entirely implied, yet very effective.  I see virtually no use for obscene language except unless the story is making a point about obscenity.  A lot of people are turned away from the explicitness of sex/violence because it so permeates entertainment today, and many are starved for alternatives.  The abscene of such content doesn't mean dumbing down a message.  I managed to write five scripts for my series and outlines for several more that are filled with adult themes, but have taken the care to keep everything family-friendly.  I always have Brick 7, the voice of the mother, read the script as well and advise me on any content that may not be family-friendly.  She's great on that.  We discuss ways to re-word things without watering down the message.  One word change in particular was more effective than what I wrote.  In the end, I think that parents appreciate that stories are written at their level, but that they aren't afraid to share it with their children.

By the way, there are other topics that can offend people.  Many ppl who are fine with gratutious sex/violence have a problem with religious references, or smoking, for instance.  If you make a lego motion picture, you'll find someone who will be offended.  In conclusion, you have the right to pursue your artistic endeavor the way you want.  And viewers have the right to decide to watch it or not watch it.  And if there is useless "adult" material, I won't.

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"None practice tolerance less frequently than those who most loudly preach it."

Re: Brickfilming Discussion Week 5: For Mature Audiences Only

The question, as originally posed, is “should brickfilms avoid certain topics…because Lego is primarily a children’s toy?”

Quite simply, no.

On the most basic level, Lego bricks are purely a medium. Artists, if we want to use that term, use many different forms of media to tell stories or convey ideas that may contain ‘mature’ content. Cartoons, action figures, dolls, clay and plasticine are all forms of media that are associated with, or known to appeal to, children and young people; and all have been used at one time or another to convey ‘mature’ content.

To go further, the fact that a certain medium (in this case Lego) is associated with or specifically marketed to children can make the use of that medium all the more powerful when conveying ‘mature’ content. An artist does not limit him/herself by the original intention or preconceived notion of the media they choose. Quite the contrary, an artist often seeks to subvert the original intention, use it and present it in a completely different light to convey a message, challenge the norm or evoke a response (like Cindy Sherman’s extremely graphic use of, among other things, dolls to comment on the objectification of women or Zbigniew Libera’s Lego Concentration Camp set.) To say that Lego should not be used to convey mature content and ideas is unimaginative and stifling.

However, like many here have already commented, such content does not appeal to all. Also, such content should not be viewed by everyone. That leads us to, what I believe to be, the more pertinent question; “What is the obligation of a brickfilmer who chooses to convey mature topics in a brickfilm?”  The specific legal requirements differ from country to country, but basically, most movies, music and video games are required to be submitted to a standardized classification system. YouTube does not have such a system. However, I believe that brickfilmers should provide a content advisory at the beginning of their videos if they choose to utilize ‘mature’ content. Artists know the message they are trying to convey and therefore know who their target audience is; therefore they should not be offended by having to indicate who their product is intended for and provide general details of what their product contains.

Unfortunately, a content advisory at the beginning of a video is not always effective in preventing someone from seeing something they should not see. Many YouTube users are young. They are often seeking out content they know they shouldn’t watch. A brickfilmer who utilizes mature content should seriously consider if YouTube is the proper outlet for such content; even if they include a content advisory. An artist needs to take responsibility for the primary dissemination of their product. You can’t hide behind the use of a content advisory when you knowingly distribute your product in a forum that has a large population of people you know that should not view your product.

For the tl/dr crowd:
-    Lego can be used for ‘mature’ content
-    Provide content advisories for ‘mature’ Lego content
-    Control initial distribution of ‘mature’ Lego content

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