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About The Production
Development of Sing

While Chris Meledandri has primarily worked with filmmakers who began their careers in short-form animation, Sing marks the first time he has partnered with a filmmaker from live action for an Illumination feature. Meledandri, who was certain that Garth Jennings' unique path would bring distinctive charm to the collaboration, states that their connection began long before Sing's writer/director even knew it: "I fell in love with Garth's independent film, Son of Rambow. I felt that he was such an authentic storyteller, and I loved that it was based on his own childhood as an amateur filmmaker." As well, Jennings' extensive experience directing music videos informed a curious perspective and grasp of the power of music in telling visual stories. "I had a hunch that Garth's sensibility would be a perfect fit for this idea that's preoccupied me."

During one of Meledandri's trips to England, he asked to meet with Jennings and shared with the filmmaker this seed of an idea he had. Meledandri showed him a picture of a group of four koalas and told him to imagine they were holding little microphones. He asked Jennings for his thoughts on telling a story about a singing set in a world populated entirely by animals. "I knew that Garth and I share a deep love of music and that he is a gifted storyteller," reflects Meledandri. "We both felt that this concept would provide us the opportunity to tap into the global appeal of music-based storytelling."

The writer/director agrees that this journey began with a kindred spirit: "About five years ago, I met Chris when he was passing through London. We talked about the kinds of movies we liked to make, and Chris' idea would allow us to combine just about everything we both loved in one story. We were only half way through a pot of tea, but I was already very stupidly excited because this was one of those ideas that you could instantly see the potential for in every direction."

Jennings worked with Meledandri as they crafted Sing, in which the characters give everything for a life-changing opportunity. Indeed, the performers struggle with everyday problems that we all experience at some point: feeling overlooked by family, worrying about bills, overcoming barriers that prevent happiness and growing comfortable in our own skin. The intersection and narrative would be built around a theater-owning koala named Buster Moon, who first became entranced by the theater as a young joey. It was back then when, alongside his doting father, he experienced a magical evening that bent his life's arc for good.

It is this most unlikely of heroes who proves pivotal to the rest of the characters in the story. "At the very beginning of the movie, you meet Buster Moon as a six-year-old koala," Jennings discusses. "He is taken to the theater for the first time by his father, and it completely blows his mind. This experience has a transformative effect, and he grows up desperate to be part of the theater world. We then meet present-day Buster, and he owns the theater that he fell in love with."

As Jennings and Meledandri developed and shaped the character of Buster Moon, each inevitably found himself inspired by this showman who-through sheer force of will-was attempting to accomplish the nearly impossible. Armed solely with a singular passion to imagine and execute an event that would truly connect with audiences, young and old, Buster is the ultimate creator.

For Meledandri, filmmaking has always been about this act of creation: how we start with nothing but an idea and-through a combination of willpower, chutzpah, blind faith, a little delusion and a lot of salesmanship-we persuade others to join our journey. "In the end," reflects Meledandri, "if we're lucky and gutsy and faithful enough, something magical happens: We bring dreams to life. Like Buster, we have the privilege of transporting people out of their daily lives into something better-sometimes for two hours, sometimes for much longer."

While Jennings and Meledandri began to flesh out this universe, they felt that it was crucial that the world the characters inhabit be based on our real one. It was vital for the audience's engagement to see the animal characters as keenly relatable, characters with hopes and fears that echo our own. In this town, the theater is at the heart of everyone's conflict, joy and repair. If Buster loses his home-he actually sleeps in the desk of theater's office-everyone loses their chance to transform into more than they ever imagined.

Producer Janet Healy reflects that Buster's situation at The Moon Theater is becoming direr as the days tick by. "Buster is a producer who has fallen on hard times," she says. "He's a showman who loves his theater and putting on productions; but, as of late, none of them have been doing very well. The pressure is on him to pay his crew, the bank and the electricity, so he's got quite a dilemma to deal with."

For Jennings, Meledandri and Healy, what also makes Sing stand out is the filmmakers' unapologetic obsession with music. From current pop to longtime favorites, the film is replete with sounds-including more than 65 hit songs, ranging from covers of classic Frank Sinatra and the soulful R&B of Drake to the infectious pop of Katy Perry and Lady Gaga. "To tell stories with music and have such a broad spectrum to draw from was a huge reason why we got excited about Sing in the first place," notes Jennings. "It is important that the audience care about every character's story, and sewing their stories together with music allows us to do it in a way that would be impossible otherwise."

In fact, music is seamlessly woven through almost every frame of Sing. "Because it's about a singing contest, you get these incredible sequences where we have a montage of different characters auditioning and practicing in rehearsals," explains Healy. "The movie is full of music, and we have so many interludes and songs that carry us from one scene to another."

For Jennings, the chance to see a project from its beginning stages of development into its release in theaters is a powerful one indeed. While he admits that writing is the most intriguing part of the process, he is humbled by the privilege of being able both to script and direct an animated film.

In addition, Jennings voices one of the supporting, and scene-stealing, players. When his character, Miss Crawly, Buster's longtime assistant, makes a typographical mistake that promises $100,000 to the lucky winner-not the $1,000 requested by Mr. Moon-she sets in motion the events of Sing. He laughs: "I play Miss Crawly, an elderly female lizard. Yes, I am a natural at playing elderly female lizards."

Meledandri embraces that this original property about joyful redemption is one that holds all-audience appeal, of paramount importance to any undertaking by Illumination. "Sing is relatable, funny, empathetic, uplifting, but most of all, even though it stars animals: human," he gives. "We wanted to make a movie that offered the audience multiple points of entry, and many possible elements to relate to. I predict that people are going to fall in love with these characters and care about their stories as they all seek to win a singing competition thrown by one very optimistic koala."


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