Balgownie illustrator explains how The Lego Batman Movie was made

CREATIVE: 'Just lucky people are investing in the industry,' says Adam Murphy, as when the Australian dollar is good US film companies look here for talent. Picture: Supplied

CREATIVE: 'Just lucky people are investing in the industry,' says Adam Murphy, as when the Australian dollar is good US film companies look here for talent. Picture: Supplied

The much anticipated Lego Batman Movie was released in the US last week to rave reviews, hopefully on track to do the same when released here next month.

What many may not realise is the majority of the film used a pool of Australian creative talent at Sydney’s Fox Studios, including Balgownie dad Adam Murphy.

After completing work experience at Disney’s Sydney office in the late ‘80s, a then 15-year-old Murphy was offered a job as an illustrator.

Now 42, he’s worked on numerous classic characters and blockbuster films, and said the job of an illustrator has come a long way from drawing frame after frame on mountains of paper.

“Now all that stuff’s all gone, they’re all digital files now. I still remember … the sound of the sharpening of pencils around the studio,” Murphy said.

The Lego Batman Movie only runs for 104 minutes but Murphy said it was at least three years – if not more – in the making.

“It goes through so many versions: there’s the initial pitch to studio, then they have their notes, it comes back and adjust certain things. By the end of it you’ve done so many versions and different ideas,” Murphy said, while laughing his drawings get worse and worse throughout the process.

The LEGO Batman Movie

“By the end of it he’s looking like a thumb with ears because you’re just working so fast and the deadline doesn’t move.”

Murphy works predominantly with the directors as a Story Artist, working out how different scenes will look and workshops them in the style of comic book panels, or storyboard.

“Sometimes roles haven’t even been cast yet [when work begins],” he said.

“So a lot of the time they’ll be using temp voices in the edit suite when we’re doing the storyboard.”

Once the scenes are composed, Murphy’s illustrated panels head to the layout department for the “sets” to be built on a computer and the department works out how to compose the different shots.

Then the actors voice their scripts and it goes to the animators (another hat Murphy sometimes wears) to bring the characters to life.

“The voice is often the basis for the performance, the animators will listen to that voice and imagine in their mind’s eye the performance based on their voice,” he said.

ACTION PACKED: Still from The Lego Batman Movie which stars Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes and Zach Galifianakis. Picture: Supplied

ACTION PACKED: Still from The Lego Batman Movie which stars Will Arnett, Michael Cera, Rosario Dawson, Ralph Fiennes and Zach Galifianakis. Picture: Supplied

“Some people have really great voices for animations and great range, but other actors – like very famous actors – mightn’t have the best voice for animation but they’re big stars so it’s tricky.” 

The next frontier for Murphy is Animal Logic’s new movie, Peter Rabbit, and illustrating custom portraits as part of the Welly’s Wonders venture with his wife Demelza Haines.

The Lego Batman Movie in cinemas from March 30