*Just in time for the holidays, The Star is the first computer-animated faith-based comedy inspired by the Nativity story told from the perspective of the animals who witnessed the birth of Jesus.
Directed by Academy Award-nominated writer/director Timothy Reckart (“Head Over Heels”), with CG co-production between Sony Pictures Animation and the Jim Henson Studio, the film features the voices of Steven Yeun, Gina Rodriguez, Zachary Levi, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Clarkson, Patricia Heaton, Kristin Chenoweth, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, and Oprah Winfrey.
Based off an original idea by Tom Sheridan, Variety notes that “while having fun and taking artist license, its creators strived to maintain the spirit and values of the greatest story ever told.”
Executive-producer DeVon Franklin revealed to EUR/Electronic Urban Report that he’s been working on The Star since 2005 when he was an executive at Sony.
“It was one of the first projects that I was working on and at the time, we were going to do the whole movie in live action and we were going to do it kind of in the vain of that movie ‘Babe’. We could never quite crack the script and get it where we wanted it so we ended up putting it in turnaround,” explains the best-selling author, renowned preacher and motivational speaker, who is best known for the films Miracles from Heaven, Heaven Is for Real (film), and New York Times best-seller book “The Wait,” which he co-wrote with wife Meagan Good.
“When I started Franklin Entertainment, one of the things I wanted to do was move into animation because it’s such a big part of the family genre and when you look at faith-based movies, there really haven’t been any mainstream faith-based movies of animation since the ‘Prince of Egypt.’ So I thought this would be the perfect opportunity to do it and then going back and picking up ‘The Star’ just seemed like the likely thing to do. It was a blessing that we were able to get it and Jim Henson company partnered with myself to produce the film and I’m so grateful that finally, it’s coming to the mainstream and to theaters all over the world. It definitely has been a long time in the making.”
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In terms of the creative process, referencing scripture “was the first priority,” Franklin said, “to make sure that the main moments that are featured in the movie from scripture are accurate.”
Adding, “The second part of it is the landscape. This is taking place in Biblical times so we did a lot of research to find out what did things look like really, what did Israel look like, how do we make sure that it feels like an authentic representation. We wanted to make sure that overall, it was a great experience that when people see it they feel like, “Oh wow, that feels like the real story.” And because we’re doing it from the animals point of view, we had opportunities in between the story to fill in the gaps,” he explained.
“We really looked at the scriptures that everyone is familiar with, looked at all the gospels in order to pull the right information about the birth so that when we did the film, those moments would feel authentic. We have the angel visiting Mary telling her she’s going to give birth to the Son of God, she accepts. We really tried to honor scripture and that was the number one priority.”
When it comes to the diverse cast assembled for the project, “These are some of the most talented actors in the world and they all were inspired and motivated to want to be a part of ‘The Star,'” he said.
Franklin describes Oprah and Tyler Perry as “humble” and “open” and notes that “so much of what the film is-is because they were just so giving of their talent and that was such a blessing.”
Continuing, “With Oprah and Tyler, I’m blessed to know them personally and I reached out to them personally and asked them, “Would you be a part of this?” and both of them, without hesitance, they both said “yes,” and that means so much to me, and I think it speaks so much to who they really are.”
“When you see them in the movie, they’re fantastic. There’s one bit at the end where the animals come together to help defeat the villains in the film, and you hear this camel yell and we had Oprah do this epic yell. I wish we could get the clip of her recording it and release it ‘cause it was hilarious. She just did it. She was game and open. It was great to have the opportunity to work with them. There’s a reason why they are who they are in the world and so much of it has to do with their generosity.”
They say Americans are losing faith and that God is box office gold. So is Mr. Franklin hoping to restore faith through his projects?
“Now that’s a lofty goal,” he laughs. “My hope and my prayer is that ‘The Star’ becomes the holiday event of the season because it puts the real reason back in the season and it’s the movie that all families can go see, from the youngest to the oldest. And I guarantee that when they see it they will be entertained. They will be inspired and they will be reminded about the power of faith, and hopefully, over time, if we can do even more of these, maybe faith can be “restored.” But as it relates to ‘The Star,’ my hope is that families this holiday season would bring their children to see it and I do believe that they’ll be warmed by the message and the movie.”
The film’s Christian audience will appreciate that the story “emphasizes qualities as faith, friendship, and teamwork.” But most notably for Franklin, “There’s never been, in the history of Hollywood, a faith-based animated movie told in CGI from a major studio. So there is a sense of accomplishment and there is a sense of peace that we were able to get this done and my hope and prayer is that people go see it.”
The Star is now playing in theaters nationwide.