Sony Animation reveals the cast for Nativity film The Star

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The studio hasn’t released any pictures yet, to my knowledge, but today Sony Pictures Animation sent out a press release announcing the voice cast for its upcoming film The Star, which tells the story of the first Christmas from the animals’ point of view.

Here is the key paragraph from today’s press release:

The voice cast will be led by Steven Yeun (Bo the donkey), Kelly Clarkson (Leah the horse), Aidy Bryant (Ruth the sheep), Keegan-Michael Key (Dave the dove), Kristin Chenoweth (Mouse), Anthony Anderson (Zach the goat), Gabriel Iglesias (Rufus the dog), Ving Rhames (Thaddeus the dog), national radio personality Delilah Rene (Elizabeth), Kris Kristofferson (Old Donkey), Gina Rodriguez (Mary), Zachary Levi (Joseph), with Oprah Winfrey (Deborah), Tyler Perry (Cyrus) and Tracy Morgan (Felix) as the three camels, and Christopher Plummer (King Herod).

The plot synopsis is identical to the one that was revealed a month or two ago:

A small but brave donkey named Bo yearns for a life beyond his daily grind at the village mill. One day he finds the courage to break free, and finally goes on the adventure of his dreams. On his journey, he teams up with Ruth, a lovable sheep who has lost her flock and Dave, a dove with lofty aspirations. Along with three wisecracking camels and some eccentric stable animals, Bo and his new friends follow the Star and become accidental heroes in the greatest story ever told – the first Christmas.

So if Bo the donkey, Ruth the sheep and Dave the dove are the three main characters, then it seems the three main voice actors will be Steven Yeun, Aidy Bryant and Keegan-Michael Key (two of whom I don’t recognize, because I don’t watch TV).

A few extra points worth noting here:

First, it’s a little “cute” that Mary is being played by Gina Rodriguez, who may be best known for starring on Jane the Virgin as a “religious young Latina virgin, who becomes pregnant after being artificially inseminated by mistake.” This is a little like Pernilla August playing the Virgin Mary mere months after playing the mother of Anakin Skywalker, who was likewise conceived without a biological father.

Second, I am intrigued to see that Mary’s cousin Elizabeth will be incorporated into the movie. But what about Elizabeth’s husband Zechariah? (I guess he’s mute for most of the story, so maybe he’s in the film but a voice actor wasn’t needed.)

Third, it’s fitting that one of the camels is named Cyrus, as the Magi have often been explicitly identified with Persia, of which the historical Cyrus was king.

Fourth, at least two of these actors have prior experience with the biblical genre. Tyler Perry hosted the live TV musical The Passion last year, and Christopher Plummer played Herod Antipas (the son of this movie’s Herod!) in Franco Zeffirelli’s Jesus of Nazareth in addition to narrating The Visual Bible’s The Gospel of John.

Finally, I cannot help but wonder what kind of animation this film will have. We tend to assume animated films will be CGI these days, but check out this paragraph:

THE STAR is directed by Academy Award® nominated writer/director Timothy Reckart (HEAD OVER HEELS); executive-produced by DeVon Franklin (MIRACLES FROM HEAVEN), Lisa Henson and Brian Henson (The Jim Henson Company); produced by Jenni Magee Cook; with a story by Carlos Kotkin and Simon Moore; and screenplay by Carlos Kotkin. Digital animation by Cinesite Studios. AFFIRM Films also joins in the film’s production and marketing.

Reckart, of course, was Oscar-nominated for the stop-motion short Head over Heels. And why would The Jim Henson Company be involved if this were a purely digital film? Plus, note how digital animation is singled out as a separate element that is being handled by a different company. In the absence of any visuals from the film, I suspect this may be a stop-motion movie with some computerized elements.

We’ll find out soon enough, at any rate. The film comes out November 10.

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