Before writing this post, I read article after article on the new movie about Pharrell Williams’ life being told through the lens of the Lego brand in an attempt to truly understand the rationale for the partnership between the musician/producer and the toy industry’s construction toy giant. And, I still don’t get it.
So, here’s the story: The Grammy-winning and Academy Award-nominated Pharrell Williams is partnering with the Lego Group, Oscar-winning director Morgan Neville and Focus Features to create the feature film, “Piece by Piece,” which will tell his story through Lego animation.
Yes. That’s right. A biopic in which Williams is animated, a la the characters in The Lego Movie.
According to the press release, the official film synopsis reads: “Uninterested in making a traditional film about his life, Pharrell set out to tell his story in a way that would set audiences’ imaginations free. Developed from his singular vision, ‘Piece by Piece’ defies genres and expectations to transport audiences into a Lego world where anything is possible.
After reading this, I still struggled to see the fit. Meaning: Why Lego? What does the Lego brand have to do with Pharrell Williams? Or with his vision? So, I read on.
Focus Features Chairman Peter Kujawski stated: “Pharrell Williams is a true trailblazer whose influence across music, art and fashion continually reshape global culture with an undeniable sense of joy. In partnering with inimitable Morgan Neville and the limitless creativity of the Lego brand, his visionary spirit comes to life in a wholly unique and uplifting way that will inspire everyone to dance, to sing, and to use their voice to build the world they want to see, brick by brick, and piece by piece.”
In the press release, Jill Wilfert, Senior Vice President, Entertainment Partners and Content, the Lego Group said, “Pharrell is a true visionary and is someone who continually pushes the boundaries of what creativity means; something very close to our hearts here at the Lego Group. We believe the Lego brick is the ultimate creative medium, allowing people to build, unbuild and rebuild in as many ways as the can imagine, mirroring how Pharrell has continually innovated his own life.”
I even tried to find some deeper understanding in Williams’ on statement, which included, “Building with Lego bricks encourages us to follow our imagination… who would’ve thought that playing with these toys as a kid would evolve into a move about my life? It’s proof that anyone else can do it, too.”
Ah, ok. I see. So, Lego is a metaphor for how Williams continually rebuilt and reshaped himself throughout his career. Is that it? That’s what makes this partnership a perfect fit, and why his story should be told in a Lego world? Or, was it because he played with Lego as a kid – you know, like most kids – that this partnership was just meant to be?
In the world of brand licensing, the partnerships that are most successful are the ones that make the most sense to consumers. The ones that don’t elicit the question “why?” Like the Tetris Tetrimino Waffle Maker, the Angry Birds/Capsule Skateboards partnership, or the Marvel x Vans collab. With each of these, the read is immediate, the co-branding seamless and the products are clever AF.
The Pharrell Williams/Lego venture makes me wonder if another construction system might work just as well. Why not Meccano Erector, K’nex or Lincoln Logs? Eh… probably not nearly as cool as Lego, considering they’re already in the movie business.
Ok, so let’s flip this around. Why not have Lego make a biopic about the life of a famous architect, like Frank Lloyd Wright or Mies Van der Rohe? They probably wouldn’t capture as vast an audience or have the entertainment value as a Lego film about Williams’ life. But, they’d make much more sense as collaborations between “building” brands. Honestly, I’d see either of those in a heartbeat.
All cynicism aside, I’m sure the film will be incredible. I mean, who doesn’t love Pharrell Williams and what he’s blessed us with through his creativity. And, with Morgan Neville on the project, whose endeavors include the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?,” “Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain,” “Johnny Cash’s America” and “20 Feet From Stardom,” this project can’t possibly fail.
Although the tie-in between the two entities is a stretch at best, I’m sure it will be fun and entertaining. Maybe I’ll even have an “a-ha!” moment? We’ll see come October 11th.