I was invited on an expenses paid trip to CA by Disney to cover the #StrangeMagicEvent and #PixarInsideOut in exchange for my posts of the trip experiences. All opinions are my own.
I am very excited about the new Strange Magic movie. I really enjoyed it! I will be posting my review of the movie tomorrow so keep an eye out for that. While we were at Skywalker Ranch for the #StrangeMagicEvent we had the pleasure of meeting Elijah Kelley who voices Sunny the Elf in the Strange Magic Movie.
Elijah was such a delight to meet. He is so happy and took the time to hug each and every one of us 25 bloggers! He even let us all take selfies with him.
Since Elijah’s character Sunny sings in the movie he performed live just for us! It was a mash up of 3 Little Birds & Say Hey songs which are in the movie. Here is a small part of the performance he did for us.
The video I took doesn’t do it justice. He sounded amazing live, and the sound didn’t quite record as well using my phone. But he is so very talented. Not to mention what a fun entertainer he is while he sings. It was such a fun time!
Then we were able to sit down and hear from Elijah about his work and experience on the Strange Magic movie and more! THE BELOW INTERVIEW CONTAINS A FEW MOVIE SPOILERS!
Can you tell us a little bit about what it was like to voice Sunny?
Elijah: I’ve never done a voiceover before in my life, so it was a little bit of a challenge because he’s hyper and super into everything that he always does. So I thought that it was gonna be so easy; I thought it was gonna be a piece of cake. But I would go in there and guarantee you, I would leave lightheaded and sweaty from all the running and everything. It was like P90X. But bringing it to life and understanding the world that Sunny lives in, and understanding that he’s sort of the nucleus of trying to get everything together, and pulling everybody together. And trying to save the day, and messing up the day, it’s a lot like me.
Yeah, he was the driving force of the movie in a lot of ways because he loved Dawn, and he was willing to, to go for it.
Elijah: Yeah, love is the proper thing.
Are there any themes in the movie that you relate to or think people will connect with?
Elijah: I think that people will connect for fighting for what you love. Everybody goes through a lot of trouble to be able to grasp the love of their life, and I think that love is so complicated. The wiring of love is just so weird and the fact that people can go to the ends of the Earth to capture something like that is very inspirational. It’s an animation, but the subject matter is universal and it’s timeless. Whether we’re talking about a divide in America or we’re talking about what’s going on over in Paris, not to be so serious but, love eradicates a lot of those issues.
I think that’s a great point. I think what we see happening in the movie is that love is a really powerful force of change.
Because we have these two kingdoms that have this division and this kind of beef between them, so to speak, and because two of the characters are able to fall in love, everyone’s able to come together.
Elijah: Understanding and conversation. It’s like when the Bog King finally had a conversation with his mom, and she set up the whole place, and they (Marianne & Bog King) went in and they were like, we hate all the same things. So now we can love all the same things so, you know, so our common interest in what we don’t like. You know, love can be spawned from so many different things.
Right, in that scene they really let their guards down, and then they’re able to connect and heal, essentially, after what they’ve both been through which is heartbreak. And then bring everybody else together. It’s also just so great seeing what Sunny and Dawn go through.
Elijah: Yeah, I think that was the most human characteristic of the movie. I know probably everybody in this room has been around somebody that you just look up and you find yourself attracted to; you don’t even know how to say it or what to say.
And you’re a little out, out of your league.
Elijah: Right, so it’s like, I don’t even know how to function in this relationship, but you know, give it time. Sunny got his little kiss at the end, his little groove on at the end.
Yeah, because he- Sunny was the one she really loved.
So you’re a quadruple threat, Elijah. You’re not only a great actor, dancer, and philanthropist, but today we experienced your amazing singing. Can you tell us a little bit about your background as a singer, and what was your favorite song to perform in Strange Magic?
Elijah: Well, actually my favorite song in Strange Magic isn’t there anymore. It was a song called Hold On, I’m Coming. But my favorite song in the movie is not even a full song. It’s when the the little birdies, they sing, Gotcha Looking So Crazy Right Now. That’s seriously my favorite part.
My musical background started in church. I grew up in church all my life. My mom was in ministry; my dad was in ministry. We had a traveling singing group that we go all around the southeast to different churches and we would just sing and congregate.
And where did you grow up?
Elijah: I grew up in a small town called LaGrange, Georgia. It’s about forty-five minutes south of Atlanta, right on the Georgia/Alabama line.
How much did you improvise in the roll?
Elijah: It was a lot. They were so gracious in allowing you bring the character to life in your way. The funny thing was, the first time I came up here, all the elves in the forest, everybody looked the same. They were little white elves. And I was like, okay, somebody’s gonna have to get some tanning lotion, put in a super soaker and just spray everybody. You wanna put a little flavor in there, put a little swag in there; I think Sunny has that.
I would like to know what characteristics you have yourself that are similar to your character?
Elijah: Sunny doesn’t quit. I’ll tell you a, a bit of personal information. Uh, like, over the Christmas holidays, both my laptops were stolen; hard drives were stolen, all of this stuff, and I had to do these police reports and everything. And literally everything that I have worked on in 2014 had seemingly vanished. I had to sit down; still myself and this is a quality about him. Once you understand that there’s a task at hand, you can’t stop until that task is finished. So throughout adversity, throughout trial, you have to keep going, and I think that’s something that Sunny carries.
What’s the difference between doing a voice for an animated feature versus like what you did in Hairspray or even singing?
Elijah: The difference between doing a voiceover in a movie and a real movie is you can literally look horrible. You can look like crap. You can just go in the studio and just be the most disgusting looking person ever, but nobody will ever see you. But Hairspray, you’ve gotta do hair and makeup. I wore a big, thick mustache for Red Tails. That’s pretty much the difference. The aesthetic of the work that goes into it, I really feel like voiceover is a bit more difficult because you’re creating a universe, and you’re reacting to a universe that you don’t get to see. And that’s really, really difficult.
How did you get involved in the project?
Elijah: The first time I heard about it, what was it, like, four years ago? Maybe five? I heard through the grape vine that Mr. Lucas was doing this movie and he sent me to an audition. I think I auditioned maybe two or three times and I made the cut.
Since you worked with George on Red Tails, what is it that you love working about working with George Lucas?
Elijah: I’m glad you asked that question because I never really get to tell him. George has surpassed, he surpassed, I think what we are on Earth. He’s become an idea. It’s like every time I come here, I get so inspired because everything that we’re sitting on, everything that we drove up on was spawned from an idea. And when you have an idea that you’re convicted about, and you can change the world from that idea, you don’t stray away from it, and you dedicate your life to that idea.
So every time I’m around him, it reinvigorates the passion for art in me that it only takes one thing. It only takes one idea. It only takes one thought to pretty much change your universe, and that’s why I love working with him because I’m constantly reminded of that. Thanks, George.
I know that in films like this, a lot of times they’ll film the actors while you’re recording your voices and incorporate your gestures and facial expressions and performance into the animated character. Did you see a lot of yourself showing up in facial expressions and gestures and personality?
Elijah: There were these two small cameras that we had while we were filming, and so they- it did capture a lot of our facial expressions and motions and all of that stuff. So yeah, you’re exactly right.
Was it weird seeing your facial expressions and such on a character that doesn’t look like you?
Elijah: The whole process is weird. Honestly, I’m not over it yet. Being that this is only the second time I’ve seen the movie. On film you get used to yourself. You can see yourself in a different character. They literally bring your voice to life. And so all you do is talk and sing, and they do everything else. It’s really amazing.
What are you doing next?
Elijah: I’m producing an album right now for a group- it’s a Somalian duo- their names are called Faarrow. They’re the first young ladies from their country to get an international record deal and they’re signed to Warner Bros. I’m producing, songwriting and I’m working on my own album.
I know that you’re a philanthropist, but I don’t know much about what your philanthropy work is, can you explain?
Elijah: I have a foundation; the Elijah Kelley Foundation. And basically what we do is I try to be a liaison between underprivileged kids back from where I’m from and their dreams in arts and entertainment. And so during the tenure that we’ve had the non-profit, I’ve given out, four scholarships over the last five years, with students from low-income housing that are going on to pursue careers in performing arts. From the Savannah College of Art and Design to, there’s a very small, great art school in Georgia called Gordon College.
What a charismatic and fun guy he is! It was great hearing all about his role in Strange Magic as well as the work he is doing to give back. Here is the selfie we got with Elijah.
And the group photo with Elijah Kelley, George Lucas, & Gary Rydstrom.
Here is a clip from the Strange Magic movie of Sunny (Elijah) singing!
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