Lego Batman, more accustomed to solo battles against the Joker, Scarecrow and Harley Quinn, is ready to take on “a dude named Covid.” And he needs a hand from kids everywhere.
That’s the message of a new PSA starring the wise-cracking toy version of the Caped Crusader, who learns during the video short that Covid isn’t a villain in the traditional sense but a virus made up of “tiny particles that infect living hosts to reproduce.”
“Gross,” says the diminutive Dark Knight, who promises to “bat-ter” the illness. “Bat pun intended.”
With familiar voices–Will Arnett as the beloved superhero and Ralph Fiennes as his trusted butler Alfred Pennyworth–the content comes from indie studio Pure Imagination for the powerhouse toy brand.
The team, working remotely across several time zones, went from concept to finished PSA in about five weeks, a lightning fast turnaround for animation, says Pure Imagination co-founder Josh Wexler, who noted that about 25 artists, animators, sound mixers and producers made it happen.
“It’s kind of unheard of,” with spots like these usually taking “three to four times as long,” Wexler said.
He attributes the speed to the company’s “real time production pipeline” and operations in Los Angeles and Trivandrum, India, enabling a 24-hour “follow-the-sun” work day.
Just after getting the green light, his team tracked down Fiennes, quarantined in a country home in Suffolk, a few hours outside London. Arnett had just wrapped the first season run of his hit Fox show, Lego Masters.
Fiennes recorded his voiceover in a cupboard, Wexler says, “literally under the stairs at his house, which is ironic given the Harry Potter connection.” (Fiennes famously played Lord Voldemort in the Harry Potter film series.) Arnett recorded from his backyard in Los Angeles.
The spot is the first of four planned videos in a series, and each will tackle slightly different aspects of the pandemic but mostly emphasize the importance of good hygiene for a young audience.
The first video, called “Hand Washing,” doesn’t spend too much on the mechanics of that chore but rather sets up the series and continues the snarky tone of the Lego film franchise.
Viewers first see Lego Batman as he’s finishing 1,000 push-ups, for instance, so he’s “camera ready” and “swole.” As Fiennes explains the Covid-19 crisis, the character drops in his observations and asides. The virus is called corona because it looks, under a microscope, “kind of like a crown,” Fiennes says. “Not really,” replies Lego Batman.
If the current situation makes kids anxious and frightened, they should speak to an adult like mom or dad, according to the narration. Lego Batman replies with the comeback: “I’m an orphan, so…”
And even though he usually works alone, Lego Batman is encouraging collaboration right now. “Remember the things that we can all do to help get us through this time safely: wash your hands, maintain good social distancing and watch Lego Batman on repeat,” he says, never resisting a chance to self-promote.
Pure Imagination, which has worked with Lego for about 15 years, used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s website and its dedicated page for children as a resource for the videos.
Lego was looking for “relatable and memorable” spots, says Jill Wilfert, the brand’s vp of inbound licensing and entertainment. “We hope that they can help children and families around the world just a little during these difficult times.”
Wexler says his team misses in-person brainstorming but has flipped quickly into virtual mode, realizing “creativity isn’t bound by location. We’ve found ways to make our current situation efficient” and uncovered “new ways to do some of our work remotely that we hadn’t even thought of before.”
Pure Imagination, with clients including DreamWorks, Fox, Universal, Warner Bros. and Marvel Entertainment, has projects in the works like The Amazing Stan, an action adventure series created with comics icon Stan Lee before his passing, an animated special called Monster Hunter with Capcom and the location-based Alien Descent VR experience.