Watch the Trailer for Pharrell Williams Animated Biopic 'Piece by Piece’ f/ Kendrick Lamar, Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, and More

Pharrell and filmmaker Morgan Neville spoke to Complex about the decision to utitlize LEGO animation to tell the story of the musician's life in 'Piece by Piece.'.

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Creative multi-hyphenate Pharrell Williams will be utilizing LEGO animation to tell the story of his extraordinary life in the upcoming animated biopic Piece by Piece.

Piece by Piece, which was directed by Morgan Neville sees Williams through career-defining moments and more. A LEGO version of the Virginia native jams to the 2002 N.E.R.D. classic “Rock Star” in a garage. He sings and struts along to the 2014 feel-good anthem “Happy,” Williams’ biggest hit of his solo career. He’s joined in the studio by frequent collaborators and guest voice actors Snoop Dogg, Justin Timberlake, Kendrick Lamar, Timbaland, and Gwen Stefani, to name a few.

The first trailer for the film is out now, watch it up top.

A person in a casual outfit of a plain white t-shirt and jeans stands in front of a photography backdrop in a studio setting

Complex caught up with Pharrell and Morgan Neville to chat about the film and how it all came to be. Read below to see what the pair said about the creative process behind the doc.

As for partnering with Neville, whom Williams calls “a very masterful storyteller,” the pairing was simple, and over the course of five years, the duo created a one-of-a-kind visual experience. Williams also entrusted Neville with capturing his boundless musical evolution, while utilizing LEGO as an objet d’art for imagination.

“I don't know what I'm more impressed by–how vulnerable and how open I was willing to be with him or what he did with the story,” Williams, who checks in from Paris over Zoom, tells Complex. “One, I was just honored that he said yes. And then I hit him with a crazy, crazy, crazy, crazy thing that would've probably made anybody else just go, ‘What? No, of course not.’ But he was like, ‘Yeah.’ And that was to tell the story in LEGO. He got it. He instantly got it. And this has been nothing but magical, this whole entire experience.”

As for Neville, the filmmaker behind Fifty Feet from Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, and Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain, he was up for the challenge of doing the unexpected. Originally, Williams approached him with the idea of making a documentary followed by a LEGO remake at the film’s conclusion.

“I just thought, ‘This is such a bold, brilliant, creative idea and it's a challenge for everybody involved. Nobody's ever made a movie like this before, and it fits with Pharrell and everything he stands for,’” Neville shares, calling in from Los Angeles. “So I was hooked from the beginning and then we had to figure out what we were doing, what this story was. Pharrell's lived such a big creative life that's gone in so many different directions, but you have to figure out then, ‘Well, what's the movie?”

But Williams’ purpose has been full of dynamism even before he was recognized as a household name; much of his story is through song. “I'm a musician, and I always think anything that I do needs to have music. My life pretty much is, in a weird way, it is a musical, if you think about it,” Williams says. “There's always songs that are written about things that I have seen or experienced, and they take various shapes and take on various sizes, but my life is the musical itself.”

He continues, “When I die, they say, your whole life flashes in front of you. It will be a musical. So that's why I felt like if my story is going to be told, I should just tell it how it is.”

Neville stresses that Piece by Piece is deeper than music, noting the film’s message of authenticity and perseverance, which Williams has sustained throughout his nearly 35-year career.

“I just started to see these really relatable things come out about trying to find your voice, trying to keep your voice, trying to share your voice, all those kinds of things,” says Neville. “And that's really what I started focusing on in the film, and I couldn't be prouder of this movie. I'm so excited for people to see it because, in a way, even though it's Pharrell's story, I think a lot of people are going to see their own stories in it too.”

He continues, “I think a lot of people are going to be scratching their heads about, ‘What is this film?’ And I would just say, don't worry about what it is; just enjoy it. You can label it as all these different types of films, but it's really its own thing.”

As mentioned, Piece by Piece will serve as a retrospective through Williams’ decades-spanning catalog–while offering a fresh perspective on its unparalleled influence.

“The people who are fans of Pharrell and his music, they're going to love it,” says Neville. “But what I also think is true, because I've shown it to people who don't know anything really about Pharrell, and they are so sucked in by it, so that gets me really excited too. You can come in with a lot of knowledge or little knowledge and still come away from the film with the same feeling.”

But don’t think that Williams isn’t offering new tunes–Piece by Piece will have a soundtrack with an energetic quality that he’s demonstrated in past compositions for the Despicable Me franchise, and the 2016 historical drama Hidden Figures. In Williams’ words, expect to spin some “repeatables” shortly after your first Piece by Piece screening.

“Obviously, I always like to up my game. And I hit Morgan, I'm like, ‘Hey, just so you know, I got another better song,’ and just sort of wrote to the same tempo, different chord progressions and a whole different song,” Williams teases about the Piece by Piece companion album. “But I just really wanted something that was infectious. I felt like the first one was good singer-songwriter vibes, which is what I've been on recently. But the second one is singer-songwriter vibes, but it's a bullet. It has that thing.”

With arguably the most iconic toy in history, Piece by Piece will center on Williams revisiting himself and his motivations from the ground up, and–taking a note from his 2006 cut “You Can Do It Too”–instilling self-belief in viewers worldwide when the film hits theaters this fall.

“LEGO is just such a democratic–I don't mean that politically–but it is just such a very democratic toy and imagination instrument. And the idea that you're building things brick by brick, piece by piece, it's just so synonymous with us as a species,” says Williams. “Every building gets built brick by brick, block by block, piece by piece. Every dream is built that way, and so we wanted it to be something that was something that would apply and resonate with others regardless of where you're from. I wanted you to look at this and say, ‘I can do that.’”

Piece by Piece will debut later this year on October 11, 2024.

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