Writer-director David E. Talbert wanted to pack Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey with as much magic as possible, from talking toys to gravity-defying musical numbers. But while filming, one scene amazed even him: when Forest Whitaker‘s toy maker begins magically zooming through the air. After the sequence wrapped and Whitaker landed on the ground, the actor noticed Talbert had tears in his eyes.
“He said, ‘You all right, Dave?'” Talbert recalls. “And I said, ‘Brother, I had never thought in my lifetime I’d see you fly.'”
It’s that same sense of whimsy and wonder that Talbert wanted to weave throughout all of Jingle Jangle, Netflix’s candy-colored holiday musical about the eccentric inventor Jeronicus Jangle (Whitaker) and his granddaughter Journey (newcomer Madalen Mills).
Talbert first considered writing a Christmas-themed Broadway musical more than 20 years ago, but he revisited the idea — this time as a film — after his son was born. The director vowed to make the kind of family musical extravaganza he loved as a kid, but with a diverse cast, so kids like his son, now 7, could see themselves on screen.
“For me as a father of a little Black boy and an uncle of a little Black girl, it’s important for me to put images of wonder and magic that are universal out in the universe,” Talbert says. “Because if we never see it, then how do we know we can be it?”
The starry cast also includes Keegan-Michael Key, Anika Noni Rose, and Ricky Martin, with music written by John Legend and producer Philip Lawrence. The result is a joyful spectacle that Talbert hopes will become a new Christmas classic.
“It’s something we’ve never seen,” he adds. “And when you watch it, you realize it’s something we should have seen.”
Jingle Jangle will debut Nov. 13 on Netflix.