Garth Jennings journeyed from Essex to Hollywood for his latest project, Sing. Buster Moon (A koala voiced by Matthew McConaughey) has been in the world of showbiz his whole life, and now his theater is failing. To save his business, Buster decides he’s going to put on the greatest singing contest the world has ever seen. Think The Voice or American Idol, except no humans (always an improvement).
Jennings takes us into a world filled with pop hits galore, performed by a cast that includes Reese Witherspoon as Rosita, “I based her on my wife,” he says. Gunter (Nick Kroll), Ash (Scarlett Johansson) and Meena (Tori Kelly). Jennings himself even takes on a character. Sing is sheer toe-tapping entertainment, and all-round family fun. At the end of the day, it’s a joy to watch, with or without kids.
I caught up with Jennings, who hails from London, to talk about his first step into the world of animation. When Chris Melandri was passing through London, Jennings met with him and pitched the idea, “Wouldn’t it be fun to make a film with a singing competition where the contestants are animals?” Without any hesitation, Jennings was on board, initially as the writer, and he moved forward as a director. He moved to Paris with his family to fully immerse himself in the experience.
One of the many charms of Sing is how relatable it is, even though we’re watching animals. Rosita is a hardworking mom of 25. She lives to get her children off to school in the morning, making sure her husband has his lunch. Jennings says his own wife quit her job to bring up the kids, and when she decided to get back to work it was a huge roller-coaster of emotions. Then there’s the reliable dad who’s always there standing on the sidelines as his kids play football, cheering them on. It’s fathers like that who Jennings had in mind as he wrote Johnny’s story. “It’s just an exaggerated version of the alpha-male, overpowering dad who knows what’s right for his dad.”
Jennings talked to me about the casting of the voice talent, and yes, they do sing. How did he get the likes of Johansson, Witherspoon and McConaughey on board? Because he knew he had to. Who else can be as energetic, enthusiastic, optimist as McConaughey? That warm and charming?
Sing features hit after hit after hit. “They had to be songs we liked, and songs that told the story,” Jennings explains. Songs like “Under Pressure,” “I Don’t Wanna,” “Venus,” and “Shake It Off” are some of the popular tunes the characters sing.
Now that he’s had his taste of working in animation, Jennings tells us he’d love to do more work animation. He’s proud of the film and says, “It’s the hardest thing I’ve ever done.”
Listen to the podcast below:
Sing is out on December 21