From 'The Lego Movie' to 'Big Hero 6,' Directors of This Year's Top Animated Movies Reveal Their Favorite Scenes

The directors of 'How to Train Your Dragon 2,' 'The Boxtrolls,' 'Book of Life' and 'Song of the Sea' also share beloved moments
'The LEGO Movie'

Animated films take years to make, but after all the work is done, there are a few scenes that are particularly memorable for the films' directors. As the holidays got underway, The Hollywood Reporter asked the directors of animated feature Oscar contenders Big Hero 6, The Boxtrolls, The Book of Life, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The Lego Movie and Song of the Sea to share their favorite scenes from their movies.

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Big Hero 6 (Walt Disney Animation Studios)

A scene dubbed "First Flight" goes "deep into the wish fulfillment of why I wanted to make this movie in the first place," said director Don Hall. "It's a critical scene for Hiro and Baymax's relationship. They are starting to really bond emotionally. Hiro, for a moment, isn't thinking about the loss of his brother, he's on a thrilling ride thanks to Baymax — but the scene is layered with meaning. There is a scene early in the movie where you see Hiro on the back of his brother's scooter, seeing himself and his brother in a reflection as the bike flies over a hurdle in the street. In "First Flight," you see Hiro seeing himself in a skyscraper reflection flying on Baymax's back. The scooter's color is the same red as Baymax's suit in the flying sequence. That brief second with Hiro and Baymax is pure exhilaration. Added director Chris Williams: "The scene resolves once the kinetic thrill ride is finished and Hiro and Baymax are sitting on top of a wind turbine. It's a quiet, sweet, intimate scene. that's the moment where the audience really invests in them as a duo on an emotional level. You realize how much they love each other." (pictured below)

The Boxtrolls (Laika/Focus Features)

"My favorite moment in the film is when Eggs and Winnie are sitting on the edge of the Boxtroll Cavern, and Winnie is trying to explain what a father is," said Anthony Stacchi, who directed with Graham Annable. "When I began this project my son had just been born. Like a lot of fathers, especially fathers who work the long hours that come with animation, I was an absentee father. Quite a few of the characters in the film have father issues — Eggs' father is missing and Winnie's father is one of the most emotionally absent fathers imaginable. Despite all these characters having father issues, we still had to fight for this scene to stay in the film — the film was too long, the moment slowed the action down when it should be starting to build, etc. Luckily for me the tone of Alan Snow's book Here Be Monsters was full of lost boys and missing fathers so we were never in doubt the moment belonged. Also my co-director Graham Annable was a new father and our producer Travis Knight was a father." (pictured below)

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The Book of Life (Fox/Reel FX)

"My favorite scene is when Manolo courageously sings and tenderly apologizes to the giant skeleton bull on fire," said director Jorge R. Gutierrez of his CG story inspired by Mexican holiday the Day of the Dead. "Not only is he apologizing to all bulls for everything mankind has done to them, but he's apologizing to his own father for not being like him. He loves his family, but he's finally admitting he's just not like them. The most honest and rebellious act for Manolo is to not kill. And he had to die to learn."

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How to Train Your Dragon 2 (DreamWorks Animation/Fox)

"One of my favorite scenes has to be the Viking Funeral in which Stoick the Vast, Hiccup's father and chief of the clan, is laid to rest on a ship at sea, following a great battle on the shores of the Arctic dragon sanctuary," said writer-director Dean DeBlois. "It's a subtle scene that takes its time, which is rarely seen in the often frenetic pace of animated feature films. The whole look of the scene has a misty, atmospheric feel and a poetic simplicity. It features some of the film's finest voice work from Jay Baruchel, Cate Blanchett and Craig Ferguson, accompanied by some of the most subtle and refined animation in the film ... and showcases some of the best human animation our studio has ever done. Pierre Olivier Vincent's production design is at once ethereal and somber, with glittering firelight played against icebergs drifting listlessly in the lagoon. The graceful cinematography by Gil Zimmerman and the gorgeous lighting provided by Dave Walvord's talented team, working closely with famed cinematographer Roger Deakins, create a mood of honest grief that gives way to Hiccup's inspiring revelation that he must take up the mantle of chief from his fallen father. (pictured below)

The Lego Movie (Warner Bros.)

"A favorite scene is when Emmet touches the Piece of Resistance for the first time," shared directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller. "For a few seconds when he has a 'vision,' the film becomes a psychedelic freak-out movie. Melting faces. Weird cats. A few live-action bits. Together with our animation co-director Chris McKay, we approached the scene by holding a contest and inviting anyone on the crew to design what they thought the sequence might look like. Some shot stop-motion pieces on their phones, others manipulated finished footage from the movie, or animated shots (in CG). We liked so many of them we asked the editors to use our favorite pieces from several, and combine them with some live-action footage we shot. Then when we went into final color, production designer Grant Freckelton added all kinds of digital tricks to make it even more surreal. We just love that the scene had so many of our crewmembers' hands on it." (main image, above)

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Song of the Sea (GKIDS/Cartoon Saloon)

"I'm really proud of the 'Holy well' sequence; it's a quieter moment inspired by the bus shelter scene in Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro," said director Tomm Moore of his hand-drawn animated film. "It's a character-based moment where older brother Ben reconciles with his sister, and a poignant part of the story, filled with childhood memories I have of encountering those strange public, yet private, places of prayer that were overtly Catholic yet built atop ancient pagan sacred wells." (pictured below)

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