Hi reddit! We are David Pagano (/u/paganomation) and Dave Pickett (/u/davidmpickett) and we both make our livings creating videos using LEGO bricks. We recently co-authored The LEGO Animation Book, which teaches you how to make stop-motion animated films using LEGO bricks and is available in English and German. We also run the blog The Set Bump which covers all things related to LEGO animation.

David Pagano - I am a LEGO animator and writer and the founder of Paganomation, a NY-based production studio that has produced dozens of shorts, music videos, and commercials for The LEGO Group. Our work has appeared everywhere from BrickJournal to the Wall Street Journal. Proof

Dave Pickett - I am the LEGO filmmaker behind BRICK 101, a digital media company that produces and distributes videos featuring LEGO products and pop culture references that entertain, educate, and inspire building enthusiasts of all ages. Proof

We’ll be answering questions starting at 1 PM EST until 3 PM EST.

Comments: 94 • Responses: 25  • Date: 

mastafishere5 karma

So obviously there's a lot of attention on Legos with "The Lego Batman Movie" coming out this weekend and "The Lego Movie" coming out a few years ago. How do you feel about those movies replicating the stop motion style artificially?

davidmpickett5 karma

Great question! This is a topic we've talked about a few times on our blog The Set Bump:

In short, we generally approve of this approach as it enables the producers to create stylish animation that respects the physical limitations of the LEGO system at a scale that would be nigh-impossible with traditional animation.

nerfwarhero5 karma

Dave - what's your favorite lego animation not done by you, and why is it the monty python knights of the round table animation?

davidmpickett2 karma

Hahaha, are you a Spite Your Face Productions employee? Their stuff is great (though The Peril of Doc Ock is my favorite film by them), but I’d have to go with Henri & Edmond – Droits d’auteur (Copyright) mainly because David already had dibs on Robota as his favorite.

Scottiss005 karma

When do You think little guys in space will be done?

davidmpickett6 karma

I assume this question is directed to me since you put my name in the question ;) Believe it or not, LGIS continues to creep towards completion. I've been lucky enough to get some behind the scenes glimpses at it and can attest to the fact that it has not been abandoned. I also shoulder a good deal of the responsibility for the delay since I convinced David to take on the ridiculously time consuming task of writing a book with me on top of his other projects. I would be shocked if LGIS isn't completed by the end of 2017

CheesyMcwheelwagon5 karma

Hi guys, really big fan over here. Have you seen the Lego Batman movie? If you did, what did you think about it?

davidmpickett4 karma

Yeah! I saw it on Thursday on opening night! I thought it was fun. I love the stop-motion-esque animation style that is the "LEGO __ Movie" house style. I also liked how thoroughly the film deconstructed (pun intended) the idea of Batman and how relentlessly upbeat the movie was. All that being said, there were a lot of moments of tonal whiplash and stuff that just felt tacked on. It doesn't approach the awesomeness of The LEGO Movie, but it was the best DC film in nearly a decade (and probably for the next decade is Zach Snyder has his way).

davidmpickett6 karma

Also! We'll be doing a live stream on the Paganomation YouTube channel this Sunday at 12 PM EST to discuss the movie in more depth.

Spastik_Chuwawa3 karma

Hey guys!

I really enjoyed the book (my written review, video review coming soon). My only issue was that The Magic Picnic wasn't available yet. :P What's the status on that?

davidmpickett2 karma

It's like 85% animated. Here's my excuse for the several month lag in release dates: I encountered a lot of obstacles while filming. My old trick to connect my camera to Dragon became unsupported, and then my workaround for that became unsupported. So I got a new camera, but then I had to get a new computer, but then it didn't work so I had to actually dig up an old computer to use. Each of those things took me a week or two to realize, accept and fix. Also I moved to a new studio somewhere in the middle of that.

samwise09123 karma

On a more personal level, what are some of your favorite films?

davidmpickett2 karma

I love films with stunning visuals, magical worlds, and strong narratives. This tends to mean animated films by Laika, Pixar, Disney, or Ghibli, but also live-action films by Gilliam, Lucasfilm, Joss Whedon, etc. In 2016, Kubo and the Two Strings and Arrival were personal favorites.

Breakin_Brad3 karma

How much money do you make through this, and what have been a lot of advantages and disadvantages to this job been?

davidmpickett4 karma

My contract with YouTube prevents me from sharing precise revenue numbers, but here are some ballpark numbers:

  • In 2015, I made 5 figures on YouTube and it was more than I made at my day job working at a non profit. I started thinking about quitting my day job to pursue YouTube full time.

  • In 2016, nearly 10 years after I uploaded my very first YouTube video, I finally was making enough to quit the day job and pursue it full time. I made 6 figures from YouTube in 2016, but my expenses also went up as I moved my LEGO studio out of my apartment into a separate space and hired a part-time employee.

Advantages

  • Being my own boss is great. I have a lot of flexibility with the hours I work and when I take vacations etc.

  • Making stuff out of LEGO is a dream job for me. I love what I do and am much more excited about my projects at work than I ever was at my old jobs.

Disadvantages

  • YouTube is a fickle revenue stream. A lot of the variables that make my business successful are outside of my control and constantly changing.

  • Being my own boss is HARD. I have to set my own priorities and then stick to them.

Carusofilms3 karma

Is Little Guys In Space cancelled? Or is it still in the works? If the latter, what happened to all the updates?

What about NNN Episode 3?

EDIT: The first question was already answered. The second remains relevant though. I really hope it doesn't go the way of Half Life and Kingdom Hearts.

davidmpickett3 karma

I put NNN on hold to write the LEGO Animation Book and make The Magic Picnic. Now that those things are done, I am allowing myself to start thinking about NNN 3 again. I don't want to give any sort of timeline, because I will inevitably just fail to meet it. I have a rough script from a couple year ago, but my thinking on the story has changed significantly since then, so I may have to throw that out and start all over again. When I started making NNN, my hope was that it would be an artistic project that could also support me financially, the reality is that it NNN was never really a financial success. I still love the characters and have so many stories I want to tell about them, but I also have bills to pay and so I can't prioritize NNN the way I would like to.

davidmpickett3 karma

Also, someone once called me "the George R.R. Martin of LEGO animation" and I thought that was very apt :)

SoundBearier3 karma

My daughter informed me that one of her friends has boxes of Lego mixed with Mega Bloks. To whom should I report the family?

davidmpickett3 karma

No judgement here. I had many non LEGO bricks mixed into my collection back in the day. I have only been meticulous about separating them because other fans get angry if I use them in my creations, but I am not a purist. I also have a growing collection of McFarlane toys bricks that is commingling with my LEGO collection

Mantviis2 karma

How long does it take to make a 5 minute video?

davidmpickett2 karma

It depends on how complicated the video is. This one took me 50+ hours of work spread over 4 months. This one took about 5 hours of work over 4 days. Guess which one made me 10x as much money?

imalittleweird2 karma

Hi Dave and Dave! Love your book!!

I would love to know how you guys got into LEGO animation to begin with. What made you start animation with LEGOS as opposed to something like clay?

davidmpickett1 karma

Thanks! Glad you’re enjoying the book :)

I’ve been building with LEGO bricks my entire life. I learned how to build before I learned how to speak. My family got a video camera (one of the big old ones that used tapes) when I was 8 and I was excited to make my own movies. Naturally, all my actors and sets were built out of LEGO. Over the years I’ve tried other creative mediums, but I always come back to LEGO filmmaking.

The_Swarm_Hut2 karma

My question for David:

If you could have any lego series added to Lego Dimensions, what would it be?

My question for Dave:

May you tell me some of the struggles of being a Dave that is working with a David?

davidmpickett3 karma

May you tell me some of the struggles of being a Dave that is working with a David?

We get confused for each other a lot. When we’re at the same LEGO fan convention, we try to make it easier for people by doing things together so they can just wave at both of us and yell “Hey Dave and David” and not have to remember who is who ;)

admaker962 karma

When did you first realize you could make a living doing these videos? And how did you get your first big break? Thanks! and keep up the great work!! :)

davidmpickett2 karma

I've known for a few years that it was possible to make a living off of YouTube, but it was only in early 2016 where my business got to the point where I was comfortable quitting my old day job to pursue it full time.

I don't know if there was ever one "big break" moment for me. I put in 10 years of work on YouTube before I was able to make go full time and there were a lot of ups and downs along the way. A lot of the ups coincided with BrickWorld Chicago, which is the LEGO fan convention where I met David, made my first dollar selling a LEGO DVD, met a lot of awesome employees of the LEGO company and amazing LEGO fans and LEGO-related entrepreneurs.

bricknick_2 karma

What's the most impressive thing you've seen built or built yourself?

Huge fan! Thanks for doing this AMA!!

davidmpickett3 karma

There are so many creative builders in the LEGO fan community, it's hard to pick a single creation that stands out above the rest. I personally and a huge fan of Tyler Halliwell's busts. I've had the opportunity to see them in person at Brickworld Chicago and they are jaw-dropping.

thefourmonkeys2 karma

How many book signings have each of you done and how many more do you expect to do?

davidmpickett2 karma

So far I’ve done 6 signings, and have 3 more scheduled in the coming months. I’ll probably do at least a few more this year, but haven’t planned anything past June.

/u/paganomation has done 2 and has another 1 scheduled. We'll be doing our first joint signing at Brickworld Chicago in June.

joe386581 karma

How much do you think you spend on LEGO a month?

and...

How much (money) do you make a month?

davidmpickett2 karma

I don't track it on a monthly basis, but annually I spend between $1000-$3000 on LEGO. My annual business income is over 6 figures.

d_extrum1 karma

Why lego and not other things like plastic soldiers or duplo?

davidmpickett2 karma

LEGO has always been my favorite medium. I've made a few animations with other stuff (food, clay, toothbrushes, etc.) but I always come back to LEGO.

yellowsplodge1 karma

Lego or Legos?

davidmpickett5 karma

Officially: LEGO bricks, LEGO elements, LEGO pieces
Unofficially: Some times it easier to just say "legos" :)

eameres1 karma

How do you feel about using non-Lego, but compatible bricks? Lego collecting has really driven up the price on Lego sets lately and there are some companies in China jumping in with compatible products. Do you think using those is bad practice?

davidmpickett2 karma

I'm totally okay with that. I use several third party products (BrickForge, BrickArms, Citizen Brick). I also, cut and glue pieces when it serves my needs. I think the only thing you have to be wary of is that some LEGO fans police the boundaries of LEGO and non-LEGO very strongly. Be sure to be up front about what products you are using. If you're not using all LEGO, just say so, that way no one will think you're trying to pull one over on them.

DeanBrickProductions1 karma

How's the progress on Little Guys...In Space and what scene are you currently waiting or getting ready to animate next after the Magic Picnic release?

davidmpickett1 karma

We talked about LGIS in this comment thread: https://www.reddit.com/r/IAmA/comments/5tu7fy/comment/ddp2lfa

Repartee_Animal1 karma

Are you at all worried about the future of digital Lego ventures, like Dimensions or the rampant popularity of Minecraft, weening kids off of the physical toy? Likewise in terms of animation.

Thanks, big fan here!

davidmpickett2 karma

Nah. I think what was worrying is in the late 90s /early 2000s when LEGO was worried about those things and tried to become something it's not - a software developer (see LEGO Island, LEGO Creator, LEGO Racers, etc.). Nowadays, LEGO seems to have a much better sense of what it is and what value it brings. It offers physical play experiences that complement digital play. The wild success of the LEGO Minecraft line (among others) shows that LEGO isn't going away anytime soon.

Clapperburn1 karma

A few questions:

  • Do any of you have any film/animation related education?

  • How much do you use storyboards when animating? - do you create storyboard animatics before beginning animation?

  • How do you sort your lego? - I can imagine that you have quite extensive collections

davidmpickett1 karma

Do any of you have any film/animation related education?

I have no formal training in film/animation. I was part of a student filmmaking group in college, and worked at a video production house for 5 years, but I’ve never taken a class on it. I did take some photography classes in high school though, which were really helpful.

How much do you use storyboards when animating? - do you create storyboard animatics before beginning animation?

Sometimes. Here’s an example comparing storyboards to the finished product for one of my videos. Often times I just take an idea and run with it though.

How do you sort your lego? - I can imagine that you have quite extensive collections

I sort by shape and color, but not consistently. Some bins are all one color but a bunch of shapes, other bins are all one shape but a bunch of shapes. Here’s a sampling of some of my bin categories: “Curvy Slopes” “Tan 2xN bricks” “Tiles with studs” “Whips, brooms, etc.” It makes sense to me, but other people would be hard pressed to find certain pieces.

Ratsnests1 karma

How many Legos have you stepped on?

davidmpickett2 karma

Enough for many lifetimes 😨