April 17, 2021

UNIKITTY!

 

UNIKITTY!
(Cartoon Network, October 27, 2017-August 27, 2020)

 

The LEGO Group, Warner Bros. Animation

 

            The LEGO Movie was first conceived of by Dan Lin in 2008 before he left Warner Bros. to form his own production company, Lin Pictures (now Rideback). In 2013, then-studio chairman Kevin Tsujihara saw the value of the LEGO franchise and engineered the studio’s purchase of TT Games, who had already been producing successful LEGO-based games up to that point, and championed the development of a film. Written and directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, The LEGO Movie followed unassuming ordinary minifigure Emmet Brickowski (Chris Pratt) who ended up becoming embroiled in the conflict between Lord Business (Will Ferrell), who wanted to bring his idea of order to the chaos of the LEGO multiverse, and the Master Builders, who believed creativity was the most important thing and could build anything, when an object Business needed became fused to Emmett’s back. The Master Builders included their leader Vitruvius (Morgan Freeman), tech-savvy fighter Wyldstyle (Elizabeth Banks), her boyfriend Batman (Will Arnett), steampunk pirate MetalBeard (Nick Offerman) who had to rebuild his own body when Business stole his pieces, 1980-something space guy Benny (Charlie Day) who loved building spaceships, and the malleable happy-go-lucky magic-using unicorn cat Princess Unikitty (Alison Brie). The film proved a hit when it released on February 7, 2014, earning a worldwide gross of $468.1 million.

Promo image of Unikitty, Richard, Hawkodile, Puppycorn and Dr. Fox.

            With resounding critical and commercial success, WB and LEGO were quick to turn the film into a franchise that included a sequel, spin-off films, and more video games. One aspect of that was a spin-off animated series centered around Unikitty (Tara Strong). Unikitty was the ruler of the Unikingdom (instead of Cloud Cuckoo Land) and had misadventures with her brother, Prince Puppycorn (Grey Griffin), resident scientist Dr. Fox (Kate Micucci), hawk/crocodile hybrid bodyguard Hawkodile (Roger Craig Smith) and sentient LEGO brick Richard (also Smith), who spoke in a monotone voice and the others often found boring. On the flipside of the flat planet the kingdom was located was Frowntown; a miserable and depressing place run by Master Frown (Eric Bauza) and his best friend/sidekick, anthropomorphic headstone Brock (H. Michael Croner). Frown was a Doom Lord whose only goal in life was to spread pain and misery throughout the world; however, Unikitty and her friends frequently foiled his schemes and had fun doing it.

Primary villains Brock and Master Frown.

            Unikitty! was developed by Ed Skudder and Lynn Wang. It debuted on Cartoon Network on October 27, 2017. Unlike the movie that spawned it, the series was rendered in traditional 2D animation by Snipple Animation. Also, while the characters maintained a blocky LEGO aesthetic, the settings bore no resemblance to the LEGO-built kind seen in other LEGO media. Further, Batman (Arnett) was the only other character from the film to appear on the show, rendered in the original 3D faux stop-motion style used there. After 3 seasons and 104 11-minute episodes, Cartoon Network decided to cancel the series; likely due to the dissolution of the partnership between LEGO and parent company Warner Bros after the films experienced diminishing returns at the box office. The network would continue airing Unikitty! reruns for a time--with a few showings on Saturday mornings--before it was eventually taken off the air. Episodes were still available to view on Cartoon Network’s website.

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