On Thursday, September 14, 2017, in sunny southern California, the press conference for The Lego Ninjago Movie was held at Legoland California theme park in Carlsbad. It was truly an amazing event. Kids were invited and they had the best reactions to the park, the new Ninjago ride, and of course the new Lego Ninjago Movie.
Legoland pulled out all the stops with life-size Lego figures, a Lego party, and of course access to the park. The Lego Ninjago Movie event made me feel like I was a kid again. This was a different sort of function than I imagined because although it was a press event, kids were invited and encouraged to come ask questions of their own. The cast was brilliant with the kids. They answered the questions accordingly, made the kids feel welcome, and of course provided some fun life lessons along the way for the kids and the adults.
Check out some of the conversations. The Lego Ninjago Movie will be in theaters, TOMORROW, September 22, 2017. [Editor’s Note: There are spoilers for the movie in this press conference.]
Q: Other than the fact that Lego is a phenomenal franchise, what made you decide to join the franchise?
Fred Armisen: I think all of the Lego movies always seem so immediately cool and funny, so it was a very easy decision.
Dave Franco: Yeah, the creative team behind these movies somehow finds a way to make the humor appeal equally to my nephews who are all under the age of 5 and my friends who are in their 30s, and that’s not an easy task.
Michal Pena: And for me, I didn’t care who was making the Ninjago movie, I was going to try and be in it. Because me and my son have been watching the first 2 seasons and you know how kids are, they will watch the same thing over and over, and over. My son was so psyched about it. We came into Legoland and his head almost exploded like 3 times. “Did we just miss that.” He was so psyched. Then when we saw the movie, I swear, my son said, it’s the best movie he’s ever seen in his life.
Q: Mr. Jackie Chan, I see a lot of future martial arts practitioners here. What kind of advice would you give to future Kung-Fu artists and Karate artists?
Jackie Chan: Just practice. You don’t have to practice to knock somebody down, just treat martial arts like exercise. You can do it, and it’s good for your brain, good for your health. Good for your everything. When you know martial arts, you will respect everybody; your parents, your teachers, nature, and the whole world. I think martial arts is a kind of good exercise sport.
Q: Why did you decide to include a line about changing your point of view? I don’t think I’ve seen that specific line in a family film before and I just recently learned that it’s part of coping skills they’re teaching to kids? I also wondered if, for the talent, if there was a time where changing your point of view did help you through a difficult situation?
Chris McKay (Producer): I think the idea was Lloyd was going through something where he was still a kid and he still had a kid mind. He was selfish in the beginning of the movie. He’s selfish and he looks at the relationship with his father one way; that he’s an antagonist. That his father is a problem that he needs to solve, as opposed to looking at it, spoiler alert if you haven’t seen the movie, but he goes through a change because he starts to look at his dad from a different point of view. We want people to look at the Ninjago movie with a different point of view, that’s why Jackie says that in the beginning of the movie, we wanted Lloyd to look at things from a different point of view, because that’s his arc; to go from being a child, where you’re not very sympathetic to other people. You’re not really empathetic. Empathy is a big part of becoming an adult and understanding other human beings, sympathizing, empathizing with other human beings. It’s the idea of looking at people and sympathizing with other people, sympathizing with his dad after observing what his dad went through. That’s a big part of his change. Then that way, he can help his friends, he can become a better leader. So that was, sort of, where some of the impulse for that came from.
Charlie Bean (Director): It spreads out through the whole film too. The ninjas as well, through the way that they are solving their problems. They’re looking at things one way. They’re solving all their problems with these maxi machines and what Jackie is trying to teach them is you have a much greater power inside you, and look at the problems you’re facing a different way. Even Garmadon goes through the same thing as he looks at his family and his relationship with his son.
Q: Olivia, with all of the focus on young cool ninjas, how did it feel to be the caring mom, and then the cool mom you find out is a little cooler than you thought, and making every scene count, every single scene that you were in? For Mr. Chan, what was it about this project that appealed to you?
Michael Pena: That was a very complimentary question.
Olivia Munn: Thank you. What I love about this character is, I wanted to play the mother as the eternal optimist. She’s got her son Lloyd who is going through a really tough time, she just wants to love him through it. No matter what he brought to her, no matter what attitude he had that day, she wasn’t going to judge him for that moment. She was just going to keep loving him through it. What I love is that as we go through the movie, you see this other side of her that you didn’t realize. What I really loved about that was it really showed the depths of her talent and who she is as a person. I grew up doing martial arts and everything that Jackie was saying about what it teaches you and what you learn, is so true. There are things about life and other people’s interactions that you truly only can appreciate when you do martial arts and understand that. With Koko, out of all the things she could do, she chose to be a mother and that said so much to me, that she could have been a hero for many, but she chose to be a hero for one. That to me just shows how important being a mother is. I love that part of her and it was really fun to play.
Jackie Chan: I wanted to do it because sometimes when I do an action movie the children cannot go to see it. This way is how can I let the children know me too. That’s why a long time ago I have Jackie Chan Adventures. So, whenever I travel around the world, even in Germany and Morocco, the children are like, “Jackie! Jackie!” I go wow. This cartoon, children things, when they’re growing up, even now they say, “oh Jackie I watched your movie growing up”. Everybody says that and I’ve been making movies 57 years now. I want the children, before I pass away, to still remember me. That’s why I do, how many 3, because Master Wu never dies. I continue dubbing, dubbing, dubbing.
KidQ: I love the movie!
KidQ: What’s your favorite line from the movie?
Jackie Chan: “I hate Garmadon”. I’ve been practice so long. I had to correct myself. Garm-adon. Every time. Now I never forget, Garmadon. In the movie, you see all the effort is my sound. I hate cartoons. The cartoon character jumps too long. It’s like, “aaaaaaaaaggggghhhhhh”. The director says one more time. I say, “ok aaaghhhh”. Too long. A real human goes “shoo”.
Abbi Jacobson: The fight scene, I’ve never had the opportunity to do a fight scene vocally or ever. When will I ever get to do this? So, vocally, that was so fun to make those sounds.
Justin Theroux: Also, it was so fun to fight with Jackie with zero potential of getting hurt.
KidQ: my name is Channing and where’s the kitty? And what’s its name?
Charlie Bean: The kitty is in Australia. The kitty’s name is Meowthra.
Q: Olivia you have studied karate, you’re a black belt, and you did this between the ages of 5 and 16, yet in another interview, you said you ate lunch in the library at school. So that means at some point you regained a lot of self-confidence and for kids today that’s really important. How did you do that?
Olivia Munn: I moved around a lot as a kid. I was in a military family. I was always the new kid. So, one of the hardest things I think as a kid is finding a group to hang out with and have lunch with. That starts really early on, like cliques start at 5 or 6 years old. So, it’s kind of always been like that. But, I had a realization when I was about 10 years old. There’s a thing that kicks in when you just want to be liked by people, then you want to be liked by the popular kids, then you want that really cool pencil case, and I then that backpack. We didn’t grow up with a lot of money, so that thing was kicking up inside of me when I wanted things and I was feeling envious. I was feeling very alone. Then, I had this realization when I was like you, know what, no matter what there is always going to be someone prettier, taller, nicer, smarter, richer, and there will always be people on the other side of that as well and I just have to do my best at being me and hopefully it will all work out, because I can’t worry about the people ahead of me. I can’t worry about the people behind me. I just have to run my own race. I kept eating lunch by myself, by choice, but it just made me realize I shouldn’t worry about what other people are doing. I just need to worry about myself.
KidQ: Kai is my favorite ninja, so this question is for Michael.
Michael Pena: Where are you, dude? I need to see you right now. Oh, there. What’s up? I’ll pay you later dude don’t worry about it. Checks in the mail.
KidQ: If you were actually a Lego mini figurine named Kai and you could only do three things, what would you do?
Michael Pena: I would say, I would use fire, I would be really humble, and I would help the world.
Olivia Munn: With your humility.
Michael Pena: One humble pie at a time.
KidQ: Hi my name is Alyssa from Family Fun Pack and my question is, all of you in your character voices, can you say a line from the movie?
Olivia Munn: Well, we all used our own voices except Justin. So, you’re going to want to hear some Garmadon.
Michael Pena: What was that line about being bit by a snake that got bit by a spider?
Justin Theroux: Oh yeah. (Garmadon voice) “The reason that I have four arms is because I got bit by a snake that got bit by a spider”.
Olivia Munn: My favorite is when he calls him La-loyd because Lloyd is spelled L-L-O-Y-D, and it was Justin’s idea to mispronounce it.
Justin Theroux: I call him La-loyd the entire movie. It was really annoying.
Olivia Munn: I love that.
KidQ: Zach, do you practice your robot voice at home?
Zach Woods: Well, I was kind of born with a robot voice. Playing a robot wasn’t that hard for me because sometimes I feel like a robot; a little stiff day in and day out. Do you have a robot voice?
KidQ: “EE-OO-EE-OO”. I had another question for Garmadon. Do you practice four arms at home?
Justin Theroux: I have two arms that are taped to my back. But they’re little arms. Only this big and I tape them down in real life.
Q: Jackie, you had Jackie Chan Adventures, you’ve been in Kung Foo Panda, and now Lego Ninjago Movie. Has animation been good at showing how martial arts are performed and what martial arts can do?
Jackie Chan: Yes, because sometimes in martial arts you have limits. In a cartoon, martial arts are unlimited. You can do anything, everything, and you never get old. I just finished my new Jackie Chan Adventures. Probably released later. I hope all the children can see it. Also have a lot of good messages to teach children how to be good children, respect everything. Yes.
KidQ: Did you choose to be a ninja?
Olivia Munn: I was born a ninja. It wasn’t something that I could choose.
Justin Theroux: It chooses you.
Olivia Munn: It chose each of us.
By Cat Combs