the Lego Movie : how did they do the faces?


So being very curious about character modelling and rigging in general this is one thing im being puzzled about: how did they do the faces in Lego Movie.

My guess is that its geometry/nurbs deformed by blendshapres/jionts and not textures, or there may be a few more steps involved.

Take a look:


You can see in the video that they rigged and animated this in softimage and you can see a window with controllers for a facerig a some point (0:58) and just before that you have a plugin for premade expressions.

Now if theyre using geometry to drive the expressions how do they manage to make it prefectly hug the lego head? did they make a flat face and then using a bend deformer to wrap it on the cylinder head?

I also wonder how they managed to layer teeth and mouth if they used geo.

Open for discussion, and i will be trying to recreate it.

Also everything ive seen on the internet of people trying to do this is just texture swap and isn’t usable for any kind of acting animation like animal logic’s rig.


Textures i think. Here is a tutorials for maya.


That video makes me really really miss Softimage…


After some thinking it doesn’t appear to be mesh or maybe not directly… The moving facial features doesnt appear to affect the plastic textures, wich means the facial features are really albedo and not geo with a shader on. The facial features appear to affect the plastic shader in a way in a way that they pop out (maybe displacement/bump) and maybe arent geo.

How would they do this then? Have the animators animate with the NURBS/Geo face rig then render it on another pass and use it to color the beauty in comp?

Or they bake the animated faces from softimage for everyframe to use as textures on the plastic shader in maya?

Here it is in action:

Facial expressions have their own shader but textures dont seem to wrap on the grapchis but instead seems to have identical UV has the head mesh, wich suggest shader masking and layering maybe in comp or in shader

I’m trying to find a simple workflow for this without having to do comp or any textures to get his face.

Looking to do this in Maya’s arnold

Thanks for the links circusboy but the videos are just using a basic premade texture and isnt usable for animators/isnt a face rig


William Vaughan posted a Modo 10 tutorial at that addresses this very technique. It is entitled “MODO 10.2: 2D Faces on 3D Characters Workflow”. Here is a link to the tutorial. While it is in Modo, I am sure the technique could be adapted to your software of choice.


Amazing, This is really close to what i am looking to do. Thanks JabbaTheNut!

Now to figure out how do this in maya… never heards of curves being able to do this in Maya. They did it in Softimage so there must be a way…

to be continued.


I know I’m a bit late to the party… but I couldn’t figure it out… then, I spent 8 hours trying to, figured it out, then made a tutorial on how to do it in Maya…

Let me know what you think! (



While your method is pretty cool and would work, I don’t think that’s how they handled it. If you look closely to the final rendered image of the face, it does look like there’s a slight bevel on the edge, and it looks like the face was painted/decals on top of the head of the character. Also, the rig UI looks like it’s driving similar nurbs curves that are on the face which leads me to believe that’s what was actually done. It would also allow for more flexibility in the animation I would think vs. using premade textures for it. The plugin you mention looks similar to StudioLibrary in which you save poses that can be shared with the team. I could be completely off here, but those are my initial thoughts. Just found this, it’s not doing exactly what you’re looking for, but the methods could lead you to a solution to your question.


why not just use geometry that sticks out of the face slightly with a bend deformer to get the curvature of the face? If you look closely at lego faces, the paint is raised from the surface anyway. Then it would be a vector and can be tweaked there in the viewport with blendshapes if needed vs going back out to a paint program to make a tweak. Color for white teeth and red tongue could just be a color projection though.


of all the technical achievements in those movies… you wonder about that?!