The actors are cheap and don't talk back. The sets? Virtually indestructible and endlessly interchangeable.
Borrow a soundtrack from a popular tune or storyline from a hit movie and if you have patience, a camera and a computer you can create a Lego animated movie that could reach millions of people.
Lego characters – they're among the world's most popular toys -- have become the building blocks for movies that range from a send-up of Paris Hilton being arrested to an exquisitely wry exploration of existentialism.
Where to find them? Surf over to Brickfilms.com, widely considered to be the leading site for serious minded Lego filmmakers and fans. Josh Leasure owns the site.
"Lego is a great medium for storytelling," Leasure tells i-CAUGHT. "It's so flexible in that you have an entire universe at your disposal. You can build any kind of building or environment that you need. You have all the little characters…it's a very familiar toy. So that sort of familiarity makes the films more appealing to people."
David Pagano, a recent graduate from New York University Film School, credits his work in Lego animation with helping him land his first real job with a New York-based production company. i-CAUGHT hired Pagano to create a short film to demonstrate the Lego production process.
Time-lapse video shows Pagano's torso virtually motionless for long stretches, while his arms and hands fly in all directions -- hurriedly repositioning his Lego cast of characters in hundreds of barely noticeable increments. They are captured in still frame and then brought to life when they are played out in sequence.
Most of the animators we spoke with retain their childhood imagination and are decidedly low key. But they come alive when you ask them what they love about creating Lego animations. Said Pagano: "It just goes back to the basic childhood instinctive play….just messing around with some characters in front of the camera." The difference, he said? "Once you've rebuilt Legos into your own world, you then bring that world to life through animation."
The caliber of Lego films on Brickfilms.com suggests that as technology improves and becomes increasingly affordable virtually anyone with an interest in making an animated movie with first-class production values will be able to do so. To Leasure the beauty is not just in the art -- it's in the common sense of purpose shared by devotees.
"It's very community oriented," he said. "And because people put so much effort into it as a community, the Web site [is growing] pretty rapidly."