Santa Barbara Film Fest: Everything Is Awesome for Nearly 5,000 Kids at 'Lego Movie' Screenings

The fest hosted the 4th, 5th and 6th grade students — many from underprivileged communities — at screenings of the film followed by Q&As with its codirectors.
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It's easy to become cynical and jaded over the course of the long and combative Oscar season, but not even the biggest grouch could have done anything but smile on Wednesday as the Santa Barbara International Film Festival hosted nearly 5,000 local elementary school students — many from underprivileged communities — at two screenings of The Lego Movie, both of which were followed by Q&As with the popular animated film's directors Chris Miller and Phil Lord.

The program that made this all possible has taken place for each of the last 11 years, but has been known as "Mike's Field Trip to the Movies" for the last three years, ever since Mike deGruy, a Santa Barbara resident and good friend of the festival — and its director Roger Durling — who had always championed outreach and educational initiatives at SBIFF, died in a helicopter crash while shooting a film in Australia.

Ever since, in tribute to deGruy, Durling has organized these special days for kids — who, along with their teachers, are bussed in to the Arlington Theatre — in partnership with kind-hearted filmmakers James Cameron (Avatar), Lee Unkrich (Toy Story 3), Gore Verbinski (Rango), Peter Ramsey (Rise of the Guardians), Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee (Frozen) and now Miller and Lord.

Miller and Lord — whose Lego Movie was famously robbed of a best animated feature Oscar nom that many assumed was a sure thing, but will be represented at the Oscars in the best original song category for "Everything Is Awesome" — are both 39, but look much younger and conduct themselves in a youthful manner that endeared them to the 4th, 5th and 6th grade kids (many of whom audibly enjoyed the film).

At the Durling-moderated Q&A with Miller and Lord that followed the first screening, questions from kids included: "Does 'Everything Is Awesome' always get stuck in your head?" ("Yes," Miller said, "and I recommend playing another song that is really annoying, like 'Frosty the Snowman,' to get it out of your head.") "Was there a day when everyone just played with Legos instead of making the movie?" ("Yes," said Lord, "there were several of those days.") And, "What editing software did you use for the movie?" ("Wow, that's a very sophisticated question," Lord remarked. "It's an industry crowd!" Miller deadpanned.)

Twitter: @ScottFeinberg