So we were at Kennywood last week with our kids, and one of the attractions was a 12 minute short, The Lego Movie in 4D.
4D does not mean what we thought it did, children of the eighties and even older SF that we are. Not time. Silly us. It means the theater mists water at you, the seat occasionally kicks you in the back (the third time, you finally figure out it’s not an excited kid behind you), and emits odors. That’s the 4D–an experiential component.
And–and I’m certain you’re shocked I noticed–part of that experiential component is AUDIENCE ADDRESS.
Now, Lego movies, games, and books are known to have their own sub-genre. They’re irreverent, metatheatrically aware they’re a performance, child-friendly in terms of fatalities, metatheatrically aware they’re made of Legos, and generally written as if by a team of class clowns on their third RedBull.
(Everything is awesome when you’re part of a team! Even a team of overcaffeinated snark masters.)
Oh, and Lego characters are aware of and talk to the audience.
So the direct address in the LEGO 4D wasn’t a shock. What was interesting was that they took it a step farther. When the bad guys capture them, the good guys ask the audience to not just sit there, call the cops. Then the good guys assemble a weapon, with help from the audience (shouted and widespread) to ‘find’ the right pieces on the screen.
Then animated cops show up on screen.
Good Guys: “How did you get here?”
Shadow figure, as if a member of the audience has stood up to talk back to the characters: “I called them. You asked us to.”
Good Guys: “Thanks for your help.”
Shadow figure: “No problem!”
I eavesdrop shamelessly when there is something to be learned about people’s reaction to direct address, so I listened carefully as we left the theater. People like this and thought it was really innovative. Not just the kids. It was mostly kids shouting at the screen, but the parents thought the ‘audience member’ bit was nifty too.
(But, by all means, let’s keep telling people that early drama is didactic and boring.)
(You knew that rant was coming.)