‘Jingle Jangle’: The Lack of Diversity in ‘Chitty Chitty Bang Bang’ Inspired Netflix’s Christmas Classic
Writer and director David E. Talbert's new film, "Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey," is a Netflix musical set in the vibrant fictional city of Cobbleton and follows the popular toy maker Jeronicus Jangle (Forest Whitaker), whose bizarre inventions are wonderful. But if his apprentice (Keegan-Michael Key) steals his most prized creation, it is up to his precocious granddaughter (Madalen Mills) to bring back whatever has been lost. Twenty-two years later, it's an ambitious spectacle that Talbert has never seen before. His previous films include the dramas "First Sunday" (2008), "Baggage Claim" and "Almost Christmas".
“If you look at my catalog before 'Jingle Jangle,' it's hard to say that the same guy would do this expensive, epic, visual effects-heavy, contemporary musical, but those are the types of movies I've seen growing up . It's always been my job to do this, but I just never had a way to get here, ”Talbert said in a recent interview with IndieWire. “Netflix paved a way for me. I've been playing with music on stage for 25 years. It was like, "Man, can we hurry up and roll these cameras before someone says," I was just kidding. "
Talbert, who began his career as a playwright, grew up in popular musical fantasy films such as the original "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," which he named as one of his all-time favorite films. But he wasn't very lucky to pass on his appreciation to his young son Elias.
Talbert recalled with humor the first time he showed his four-year-old the Dick Van Dyke star in 2017. "I was sitting with him and singing the songs and everything and he just wasn't keen on all of them and asked if he could go play with his LEGOs," Talbert said. "When he left, I looked at him, I looked at the screen and I realized that he doesn't see himself in the film. However, this was my childhood because at that time there were no other options for different representation on the screen . He has Black Panther and Miles Morales on his wall. I thought it was time to do it because when my son experiences this, how many colored sons and daughters around the world want to see themselves represented? "
Talbert originally conceived "Jingle Jangle" as a Broadway show before approaching it as a film. Universal and Disney loved the idea, but ultimately passed it and left a trail open for Netflix. “Netflix is a global company so they understand that all over the world there are people with color. You want to reach out to these people, so you've made a big bet on me, ”said Talbert. "Well, the way to get it on stage is obvious, and I'm preparing for it: a multi-year Broadway production of" Jingle Jangle "."
Netflix released the film in 90 theaters on November 13, but the COVID-19 crisis made it impossible to premiere. "One kind of compromise is that people are at home, so more eyeballs will be on it than it would have been if we hadn't been in this pandemic," Talbert said. “My disappointment is probably the lack of a premiere because you have the chance to party with your co-workers at a major Hollywood red carpet event and all that. But I am spiritual in the sense that everything happens as it should when you are in tune with your goal. I grieved quickly and moved on. "
In addition to Whitaker, Key and Newcomer Mills, Anika Noni Rose, Phylicia Rashad, Ricky Martin and Hugh Bonneville are among the multicultural actors in the film. It is a strong group of actors with theater and film experience. "If you look at something groundbreaking, it was this ghost that I think captured everyone," he said. “I wanted to make sure I populated it with people who knew the stage, great storytellers, great actors, actresses. I was looking for them, I think they were looking for me too, and it was just a perfect storm. "
It took a four-month global search to find the film's young female lead. Madalen Mills makes her feature film debut as Journey Jangle, who shares Jeronicus' passion for invention. Already a Broadway veteran with credits to School of Rock: The Musical and to 2017 National Touring Company of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas: The Musical. "
"We saw her and it was clear to everyone that she didn't come to audition for the role, she came there to claim what was hers," said Talbert. "I think we're watching Shirley Temple, Judy Garland, and Stephanie Mills who are all with her."
The efforts of the director and his producer Lyn Sisson-Talbert are paying off. Early reviews hail the film as an instant classic that could entertain for generations. The rating for rotten tomatoes is currently 93 percent. With an all-black cast, it's a project that probably wouldn't have been lit in green a decade ago. Talbert calls Jordan Peele's "Get Out" and Ryan Coogler's "Black Panther" the films that "blew the roof" on the critical and commercial success of genre films with black casts.
“I joke all the time about doing blamblin 'like I did in Black Amblin because that's what I want to do - big action, adventure, wonder, elevated universes that Steven Spielberg started that spoke to me, child and still as an adult, ”he said. “There are only a handful of people like me in this business who can do that. So it's just a great opportunity to move the envelope to make it easier for the people who stand behind me and what I look like. "
Next he is preparing "a great romance" and "a great action adventure" for Talbert - projects he has been writing now and then for years. He thinks now is a good time to wipe them off, given the studios' seemingly newfound appreciation for Black content. "At the end of the day, success is being able to do what you love," he said. "If you can be well compensated, that's the cherry on top. When the zeros and commas come, I'll take that, but that doesn't define me. To do what comes from my heart, my soul, to do that, what I love and being able to share it with the world is a success for me. "
"Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey" is now streamed on Netflix.
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