LINKEDINCOMMENTMORE

(CBSNews.com) - "The Lego Movie" clicked with moviegoers, assembling an exceptional $69.1 million debut at the weekend box office, according to studio estimates.

The better-than-expected result made the Warner Bros. collaboration with the Danish toy company easily the biggest hit of the year so far. A sequel is already in development for the 3D animated film, digitally drawn to mimic a world composed entirely of Lego bricks.

The film has drawn raves from critics, earning a 95 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes. Co-directors and co-writers Phil Lord and Chris Miller ("21 Jump Street," ''Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs") gave the film a playful tone to capture the whimsy of a child playing in a box of Legos. Characters are largely voiced by comic actors like Will Ferrell and Chris Pratt.

The film marks the biggest animation hit for Warner Bros., a studio that despite popular live-action franchises has struggled to develop animated hits on par with other studios.

"I can't imagine this not turning into a long-term franchise," said Paul Dergarabedian, senior media analyst for box-office tracker Rentrak. "This is such a runaway success that Warner Bros is now a major player in the animated genre."

Dan Fellman, head of distribution for Warner Bros., said the film, made with a production budget of $60 million, resounded because of the popularity of the Lego brand. This is the first feature film for the toy company. Fellow toy-maker Hasbro has seen mixed results since the launch of the "Transformers" franchise, which was followed by "G.I. Joe: Rise of the Cobra" and the notorious flop "Battleship."

George Clooney's World War II caper"The Monuments Men"opened in second place with $22.7 million. Reviews have been weak for the based-on-a-true-story tale about the mission to retrieve artwork stolen by the Nazis.

© 2014 CBS Interactive Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Read or Share this story: http://on.wtsp.com/N8MCHc