Mockingly referring to itself as the severed nose of the industry, Middlesex, England’s Spite Your Face Productions definitely smells of roses lately. Building on a landmark 2001 cross-promotional deal with Lego to create stop-motion short films for the web using the toyco’s building blocks as its medium, the creative hotshop is basking in the success of its latest Lego short Spider-Man: The Peril of Doc Ock. Commissioned by Sony Pictures, Marvel Studios and The Lego Group, the four-minute web toon generated around 300,000 hits in four days after launching on Yahoo! this July, and it’s currently the number-one Internet film featured on iFilm.com.
Spite Your Face’s relationship with Lego started when former animation school classmates Tony Mines and Tim Drage used the building bricks and Lego men to create indie short One: A Space Odyssey. This one-minute take on the classic Kubrick film caught the eye of Lego execs, who were so impressed with the work that they commissioned Mines and Drage to create promotional films for Lego’s Steven Spielberg MovieMaker range of toys in early 2001.
The partnership spawned Star Wars: The Han Solo Affair, a Lucas Film and Lego Studio commission based on the Star Wars franchise. But things really started to pick up for the studio when its two-minute version of Monty Python and The Holy Grail was included as an animated bonus on the movie’s DVD, which launched in October 2001. ‘I don’t think straight-to-DVD has the same stigma as straight-to-video used to have,’ says Tony Mines, co-founder of SYF. ‘There seems to be a new kind of credibility to DVD, and people are falling all over themselves to put something out.’
Next up, the company will be using its Spider-Man and Python cachet to unleash some organically grown animated projects. ‘People tend to think we only work in Lego,’ Mines explains. ‘But the whole Lego thing plays off of our ability for mimicry, which is a foundation for us.’
SYF is open to working with other toycos on stop-motion films featuring their products, but building block companies need not apply as SYF is still under contract with Lego. The team is also focusing on creating story ideas that will take them into long-form TV projects featuring 2-D digital cel animation.
A demo reel showcasing the company’s expertise in CGI, 2-D and stop motion is available at www.spiteyourface.co.uk.