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Warners greenlights ‘Lego’ feature

Building blocks snap into place for 2014 release plan

Warner Bros. is building up its “Lego” movie, greenlighting the animated-live action hybrid for a release in 2014.

Studio has tapped Oz vfx-toon house Animal Logic to do the animation, which is expected to comprise 80% of “Lego.” And the film has been approved for an incentive from the Australian government and one from the state of New South Wales.

Officials from New South Wales are expected to unveil details of the “Lego” movie at a Sydney news conference next week, coinciding with the start of production.

Warner Bros. has not yet set a specific release date.

Greenlight comes a week before Warner’s opening of “Happy Feet 2,” from helmer George Miller and Dr. D Studios — five years after the original “Happy Feet” grossed $384 million worldwide and won the Oscar for animated feature as Animal Logic’s first CG feature.

“Lego” has been in development at Warner Bros. since 2008, when the studio began working with the toymaker on a family comedy based on the popular building blocks with Dan Lin and Roy Lee producing and the writing team of Dan and Kevin Hageman tapped to pen the script. In 2010, Warners brought on the “Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs” team of Phil Lord and Christopher Miller to write and direct.

Lord and Miller have working on post-production on Sony’s feature version of “21 Jump Street,” due out in March. Warners recently brought on Chris McKay, director of Adult Swim’s stop-motion animation/comedy “Robot Chicken,” to serve as co-director on “Lego” under Lord and Miller.

Plot details for “Lego” — an action-adventure set in the Lego world — remain under wraps. Casting for the live-action characters is set to begin in January.

Producers have made several trips to Denmark to work with Lego execs on the concept. Jill Wilfert, VP of licensing and entertainment at Lego, is exec producing, with Lin Pictures’ Seanne Winslow co-producing.

Warner set up a co-development fund in 2007 with Animal Logic, which produced and provided animation for last year’s “Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole.”

Lego and WB have partnered for several years producing Batman toys and videogames and will launch a new set of playthings around next summer’s “The Dark Knight Rises” through the Lego Batman collection. “Lego Batman: The Videogame,” published by Warner Bros. Interactive Entertainment, has sold more than 12 million units since 2008.

During Comic-Con in July, the studio announced an expanded relationship with Lego, granting the toymaker access to DC Entertainment’s complete library of comicbook characters and stories to launch DC Universe superheroes as figures and playsets in January.

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