If you haven’t heard about LEGO Ninjago yet then you most certainly will sometime within the next two years. Nobody knows more about this fantastical LEGO theme than Dan and Kevin Hageman, otherwise known as the Hageman brothers, who together have written every episode of the LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu TV series since it was first introduced back in 2011.
No writers room. No committee. Just Dan and Kevin burning the midnight oil.
If you’ve watched LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu before then you’ll know the brothers strive to create entertainment that reaches and entertains adults and kids alike. My daughter singing ’99 Bottles of Tea on the Wall’ for days on end is evidence of their success, though she isn’t old enough to choose Team Jay or Cole. Yet.
Now in its fourth year and stronger than ever, LEGO Ninjago: Masters of Spinjitzu has aired five seasons on the Cartoon Network with a sixth coming for the first half of 2016. Before then, Ninjago will have a strong presence in the upcoming LEGO Dimensions video game in the form of a Level pack and numerous character/vehicle packs. This follows three separate video game releases exclusively launched on Nintendo handheld gaming consoles over the past several years. LEGO Dimensions marks the ninjas first foray into the home gaming console realm.
LEGO Ninjago will officially step into the big leagues in September 2017 when Warner Bros. releases the LEGO Ninjago Movie (temporary title) in theaters around the globe. Both Dan Hageman and Kevin Hageman are credited as co-writers on the film after having developed The LEGO Movie story with directors Christopher Miller and Phil Lord. The franchise is most certainly in good hands.
I recently had the opportunity to ask Dan and Kevin a series of questions about Ninjago and they were happy to step away from their hectic schedule for a few moments to oblige. Keep reading for their answers as well as a little more exclusive information about that cool skeleton pirate flag your eyes have fixated on above.
Q/A with Dan and Kevin Hageman
Is it easier to write for the core Ninjago characters now that you have had several years of getting to see how they look and sound on the small screen? I would think you can hear them in your head while writing and developing their dialogue flows much easier now than it might have in the first couple seasons.
Very much so. When we wrote the pilot, we had entirely different voices in our head. Now, the characters practically write themselves.
The series seems to have shifted from longer villain arcs i.e. the Serpentine and Overlord, to shorter single-season arcs i.e. Master Chen, Morro, and whoever Season 6 cooks up. How has moving from one longer season per year to two shorter seasons per year affected your approach to writing and planning ahead?
We always want to tell one story per season, so the length of the arc and the depth of the villain depended on how many episodes we knew were getting into.
Would you consider bringing back any of the fan-favorite characters that seemingly met their demise such as Garmadon, Master Chen, and the Overlord?
Well Pythor came back, didn’t he? 🙂
Is there one character from the TV show not immortalized as a LEGO figure yet that you wish were?
We were very excited to see the Mailman have his turn as a Minifig in the Temple of Airjitzu set.
Building upon that thought and who my answer would be, I was a fan of the Elemental Masters in Season 4 and sad to see they rode off on their dragons to return to their homes. Skylar popped up for a brief cameo in Season 5 and you’ve already hinted she will appear in Season 6. Are all the Elemental Masters still on the table to return at some point?
In Ninjago, everything is on the table. But since there are so many characters in this world, it’s hard to give them all screen time. It’s good to know if the Ninja need help, we know they are there.
Was the introduction of the 16 different realms a deliberate plot device to open up the world of Ninjago in the future?
We don’t want to give away our secrets. But maybe…
Are there now 15 realms with the assumption that the Cursed Realm has been destroyed? Or has it?
One would think there might be consequences to destroying a realm.
Do you have to approach each season with the toys in mind, or are the toy ideas provided by the LEGO Group beforehand and you have to work them into the narrative?
Before we start a each season, we always have strong collaboration with our friends at LEGO to do our best to synchronize a great story with great toys. Some seasons work out better than others.
Nya has become the Water Ninja and my daughter is thrilled with that revelation. Given the success of the LEGO Friends line, is Nya’s ascension and the introduction of Skylar the beginning of reaching out to — and trying to build — the female fan base?
We’re happy to see a growing female fanbase! We always wanted to include great female characters. Girls need adventure shows, too.
Season 5 was tonally darker than any of the prior seasons. How would you describe the tone of Season 6 without revealing any spoilers?
The season is always influenced by the villain. Anything is possible in the next season. Yes, that is a clue.
How involved are you in the development process after the scripts are written. For example, would your script specify that there is a “wanted” poster on the door of the biker bar with four ninjas on it as seen in the Ninjago Season 6 Comic-Con clip, or are those visual cues and little touches something that comes from another group after you’ve written the scripts?
Some of that is in the script, but everyone involved in the process enhances the final product. Wil Film does an amazing job with the look of the show, as do the composers Jay Vincent and Mike Kramer.
You are both involved in writing the LEGO Ninjago movie, which was unfortunately — from a fan’s perspective — pushed back a full year from September 2016 to September 2017. I understand it’s too early to get into specifics about the film, but can you at least give us a hint about whether or not there is any connection between the film and the TV series?
We wish we could talk about it, but the movie stuff is very top secret. Everyone is working very hard to make it the best movie it can be.
I’m probably the only person who will draw a parallel between Ninjago and Game of Thrones, but I see both franchises as having compelling backstories with the prior generations that are ripe for narrative exploration. Have you ever toyed with the idea of a prequel, more time travel, or building on the flashbacks i.e. giving us a glimpse of Kai’s parents and the first Elemental Master?
We are absolutely flattered by the comparison. We are always mining the characters to see what else we can pull from. There’s plenty of unexplored adventures in the future of Ninjago, as well as the past.
As a special reward for reaching the end, you can download the Ninjago Season 6 pirate flag in high resolution and plaster it across your computer desktop. Trust me; it looks awesome there.
This wicked flag is known as the Skybound Flag. Does that mean ‘Skybound’ is the name for Season 6 as ‘Possession’ was for Season 5? Perhaps. We’ll find out soon enough as more information about Ninjago Season 6 is released in the coming months.
Special thanks to Dan Hageman, Kevin Hageman, and the LEGO Group for helping put this interview together and providing the exclusive Pirate Flag image. I highly recommend you follow the Hageman Brothers on Twitter, and be sure to follow us as well for more Ninjago news in the future.