Director Garth Jennings easily recalls the first animated movie that left a lasting impression on him.
“It was Pinocchio,” he says with a laugh. “I had to be younger than five years old at the time, but I remember my grandfather took me to a little cinema in London near a great big train station and while we watched the movie I remember seeing that bloody great big whale and just thinking, 'Christ almighty, look at that whale!' It just freaked me out. Actually, lots of things in that movie did, but I just love how absolutely off the rails Pinocchio is. That movie was a great big bump for my imagination as a youngster.”
Jennings hopes his new animated feature Sing leaves a similar lasting impression on a new generation of moviegoers. Check out the trailer below.
The film tells the tale of Buster Moon (voiced by Matthew McConaughey) a kind koala who lives in a world of anthropomorphic animals and sets out to save his financially struggling theater by hosting a singing competition that attracts a wide range of hopefuls.
Sing’s premise allowed Jennings (who also wrote the film’s screenplay) to craft a movie that not only tells a heartwarming story, but one that uses a variety of both original and popular songs to do it. He believes the film’s unique soundtrack is one of the key reasons Sing will be a movie that fosters memorable moments for families like the one he shared with his grandfather.
“It’s wonderful to watch the film with families especially because I see adults my age and older enjoying songs that they know with their children who’ve never heard those song before, but enjoying them together,” he says. “I love the fact that, youngsters especially who won’t know most of these songs simply because they haven’t been on the planet for very long, will suddenly hear a great Stevie Wonder song for the first time, or it might open them up to what the Beatles are like. I love that. I think good music can transcend time and age.”
Check out the original song "Faith" from the film's soundtrack, which was recently nominated for a Golden Globe, in the video below.
The Sound Of Star Power
In addition to iconic songs, Sing features a plethora of powerful voices among its cast, including Scarlett Johansson as the porcupine punk rocker Ash, Reese Witherspoon as Rosita — a mother with a big family and even bigger dreams — and Grammy-winner Jennifer Hudson as the singing voice of songstress Ms. Nana Noodleman in her glory days.
British native Jennings says the caliber of the cast and crew made working on Sing one of the most memorable moments of his career.
“There were these moments where we’d have someone like Jennifer Hudson come in and we’d just have a chat, a quick cup of tea, and then she’d go in the studio and stand in front of me and sing this golden number that just left me thinking, 'My God, that just came out of a person!'” he says. “It was a bit like seeing Superman take off. “
He adds, “It must be what it’s like when you’re watching the Olympics and you see an athlete perform an incredible athletic feat. I found it very humbling.”
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Hitting A High Note
Though he’s a veteran filmmaker, Jennings admits he was nervous to work with one Sing cast member in particular — Family Guy creator and modern voice-acting legend Seth MacFarlane.
“He is just a freakishly talented man. I was so flattered when he agreed to do it,” Jennings says of the moment he learned MacFarlane would be voicing the film’s Sinatra-like crooner Mike the mouse. “However, because of his pedigree, background and dedication to animation I remember being most nervous when I finally showed him the work in progress. It was a bit like handing in your homework to a teacher who is a professor in the subject.
“But when he watched it, he was really engaged and as thrilled by it as we all were and that was a fabulous moment for me — not only to have him agree to be in the film, but to know that when he saw it, he liked it. That meant the world to me.”
A Labor Of Love
Despite his initial jitters, Jennings describes the process of making the film as a labor of love and says the opportunity to tell imaginative stories like Sing is one of the biggest joys of working in animation. He’s confident the love and joy that were a part of making the movie can clearly be seen in the finished film and he hopes audience members will leave the theater on December 21 with a feeling like the one he shared watching Pinocchio with his grandfather all those years ago.
“As a writer and director you’re trying to give people as many things as possible. You’re trying to give them as many wonderful experiences as you possibly can before they leave the theater, but if there’s one thing it all adds up to, I think that would be joy,” he says. “I just hope that when people sit down to watch the film that it delivers them on the other side of that 90 minutes to a place where they feel satisfied and joyful.”
Sing hits cinemas on December 21. Which character are you most looking forward to seeing in Sing? Let us know in the comments below.