When "The Lego Movie" was announced, people reacted with a decent amount of skepticism. And, given recent toy-based movies like "Battleship" or "Ouija," that skepticism feels pretty valid.
But "The Lego Movie" went on to receive universal acclaim, and while it didn't receive an Oscar nomination for Best Animated Feature, its theme song "Everything is Awesome" is competing against musicians like Common, John Legend and Diane Warren.
Shawn Patterson is the songwriter behind "Everything is Awesome," and he said it was so surreal to have been nominated for an Oscar that he thought it was a mistake. But the song's success speaks for itself.
When Patterson stopped by The Frame studios recently, we asked him about the song's complicated irony, picking the "awesome things" that made the final cut, and what it feels like to have written one of the most obnoxiously catchy songs in recent memory.
At our morning meeting today, somebody said, "Don't start singing 'Everything is Awesome,' because I won't be able to get it out of my head. When you hear things like that, are you proud or sorry?
Both, and I say, "You're the first person today that's said that to me. Thank you." [laughs] I'm a little bit of both, but it depends on the tone. I've had parents at movie theaters come up to me and go, "No, not a fan," but then their kids run up and shout, "Yay!"
How did you get this gig? Did you pitch something?
I had worked with the animation director, Chris McKay, on a full season of "Robot Chicken" and we had worked together on another stop-motion show prior to that. Towards the end of Chris' time at "Robot Chicken," he said, "I'm leaving to go do 'The Lego Movie.'" And everybody was like, "Wait, what?"
I think everybody thought it was just going to be a gigantic toy commercial, but from working with Chris I knew he was going to bring something pretty incredible to it. And I had already known Chris Miller and Phil Lord's work from "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs," and I loved their writing style and their timing.
Chris was cutting their film, just doing a ton of stuff for the film, and he called me and said that the guys had written in the script a song called "Everything is Awesome." They had a title in, but that was all, and they wanted something to fit the narrative and the tone of the world that Emmet resided in: something incredibly optimistic and catchy. Chris and I talked a lot about things like losing your identity, communism, and being a bee in a hive, all while still being a central character that wants to be loved and admired by everyone.
Which makes "Everything is Awesome" a very ironic song, because it's directed at the brainless masses. And so by loving it we're accepting that we're part of a brainless mass, which means we should be insulted because it's brainless. The math of the song is incredibly complicated.
I think you're the first person to point that out in detail like that, and that's exactly what it became when it was put into that world with somebody who wants to be loved yet is being told to be a robot with no identity. There are a lot of contrasting psychological elements to it.
And so what was the songwriting process like? How did you approach writing a song titled "Everything is Awesome?"
One of the things that Chris said to me specifically was that we shouldn't talk down to kids, so I was writing it from the perspective of a very vanilla world. Like, what would the most vanilla human being love? You know, someone who rides scooters, plays kazoo, and wears capri pants and a sweater vest. Phil and Chris got involved in the first few drafts and they were throwing really funny things around, like "drinking skim milk" or "eating white bread," things like that, and it just became more and more goofy.