The Hardest Challenge The Emoji Movie Ran Into During Development

The Emoji Movie Jailbreak Meh Hi-5

In The Emoji Movie, digital characters travel from app to app as they travel on their adventure, and most will recognize the names of these various locations (from Instagram to Spotify). One specific brand that isn't used, however, is the actual brand of phone that the movie takes place within -- and according to director Tony Leondis, it caused a fair number of headaches as the project was moving through development. Discussing his work on the film, Leondis recently said,

We don't base it on the iPhone. We don't base it on any phone. We had to make up our own phone. In fact, the hardest part is not making it look like any phone. So we have to make all of our emojis original, and our legal team is like, 'Wait, that one may be the same color as the Android! That one might be the same...' 'Alright, take it back. Redo it.' So it's a process of being original.

Back in January, I drove out to the headquarters of Sony Pictures Animation for a presentation of their upcoming slate of films, and had the opportunity to take part in an Emoji Movie press roundtable with Tony Leondis and star T.J. Miller (who plays Gene, a 'Meh' emoji, in the film). During the broad discussion of the animated feature the world building that went into its creation, the director was asked about the model of phone that the human character, Alex (Jake T. Austin), uses in the film. Rather than confirming that the device is either an Apple or Android, Leondis instead explained the legal complications involved in making sure it appeared to be specifically neither.

You can take a look at the phone's final design in The Emoji Movie below:

The Emoji Movie phone

As Tony Leondis confirmed, the legal complications went beyond just the design of the phone. Because there are so many different emoji apps/keyboards available nowadays, the filmmakers had to find a way to make sure that all of the characters in The Emoji Movie look legitimately unique. As you can see from the top image, a big part of this is just general shape and features, but they even had to identify their own specific hue of yellow. I followed up with the director asking if there was a special shade they wound up using, and even to T.J. Miller's amazement, Leondis responded in the affirmative:

Yes, there actually is! Our Gene is his own special shade. He's his own shade of golden yellow. That's absolutely right.

Based on a script co-written by Tony Leondis and Eric Siegel, The Emoji Movie is primarily set within the world of your average smartphone and tells the story of the various emojis that thousands use on a daily basis. The story centers on Gene, who is raised to be a 'Meh' emjoi, but unlike most of his kind is able to feel many different emotions. When this winds up causing serious issues for him within his community, he sets out on an adventure with his friend Hi-5 (James Corden) and a hacker named Jailbreak (Anna Faris) to try and become normal. The large ensemble cast alson incudes Sofia Vergara, Patrick Stewart, Jennifer Coolidge, Christina Aguilera, and Maya Rudolph.

The Emoji Movie will be in theaters on July 28th -- and stay tuned for more updates!

Eric Eisenberg
Assistant Managing Editor

Eric Eisenberg is the Assistant Managing Editor at CinemaBlend. After graduating Boston University and earning a bachelor’s degree in journalism, he took a part-time job as a staff writer for CinemaBlend, and after six months was offered the opportunity to move to Los Angeles and take on a newly created West Coast Editor position. Over a decade later, he's continuing to advance his interests and expertise. In addition to conducting filmmaker interviews and contributing to the news and feature content of the site, Eric also oversees the Movie Reviews section, writes the the weekend box office report (published Sundays), and is the site's resident Stephen King expert. He has two King-related columns.