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The heroes of Christmas

Christmas heroes poster and poster
Italian poster of The heroes of Christmas

Original title: The Star
Directed by:
Timothy Reckart
Characters: Bo, Dave, Ruth, Joseph, Mary, Herod, Thaddeus, Rufus, Leah, Zach, Edith, Donkey, Abby
Production: Affirm Films, Columbia Pictures, Franklin Entertainment, The Jim Henson Company, Sony Pictures Animation, Walden Media

Country: USA
Exit date: November 30, 2017 at the cinema
Gender: 3d animation, Christmas
Duration: 86 minutes
Recommended age: Children from 3 to 12 years old

A new tale for the oldest and most known history of all time. This time, the cute little animals protagonists of our nativity scenes will tell us about the events concerning the nativity of Jesus. A small but brave donkey and his friends will become the unexpected heroes of Christmas.

Christmas movies are very common, as are family Christmas movies, but with the animated movie "The heroes of Christmas"Director Timothy Reckart saw the opportunity, in fact it is an animated retelling of the story of nativity of Jesus told from the point of view of a donkey named Bo and his animal friends.

Timothy Reckart says "When I was a kid we had so many boxes of movies that we watched every Christmas, but none of them really talked about birth of Jesus. It seemed like a great opportunity to make a film that had never been done before, to really fill this gap.

From November 30, 2017, near the beginning of the days of Christmas Advent in cinemas will see its debut "The heroes of Christmas", produced by Disney veteran Jenni Magee-Cook and DeVon Franklin of Franklin Entertainment, Brian Henson and Lisa Henson of The Jim Henson Company. The film features the original voices of The Walking Dead star Steven Yeun in the role of Bo, a donkey aspiring to join the royal caravan; Keegan-Michael Key is Bo's best friend, Dave the where; Aidy Bryant in the role of Ruth, a sheep; Zaccaria Levi like Giuseppe; Gina Rodriguez like Maria; Christopher Plummer like King Herod; is Tracy Morgan, Oprah Winfrey and Tyler Perry like the wise camels, Felix, Deborah and Cyrus.

Bo, Ruth and Dave - The heroes of Christmas
Bo (donkey), Ruth (sheep) and Dave (dove) The heroes of Christmas

The heroes of Christmas is the first CG computer technique animation project for Reckart, while his previous work was in stop-motion, most notably his Oscar-nominated short film Head Over Heels and as the main animator of the independent film Anomalisa . While Reckart loves stop-motion, he says the CG technique was the right choice for this project. "Christmas and stop-motion have a very long history together, and I wondered if this would be an original choice."

The idea of ​​the film presents many challenges, starting with the search for a story for the animals that integrates and resonates with the tale of the Nativity. Reckart says it was important to be original. “We wanted to have a movie where you had to have comedy and adventure, but we didn't want to turn Mary and Joseph into comic characters or action heroes,” he says. "So I thought about doing it with the donkey Bo, but in a way that was true for Christmas, that was the goal."

The script was originally developed about 20 years ago at the Jim Henson Company, in part inspired by the success of Babe says Reckart. Getting it turned into animation and releasing it in 2017 was the first task on Reckart's to-do list. This meant adding more comedy and action, as well as giving the characters a clear emotional line. "It really seems like the key to getting something that can be aimed at both parents and children and that they can tune into on the same level."

The head of the story, Louie del Carmen, says the development process was focused on making each project possible before going into production on a tight budget and a busy schedule.

Reckart gravitated to the subject of the great things that came in humble packages, which defined the bow for Bo. "Bo has the desire to go and do great things and I think this is the desire of all of us, so he decides to stay with this couple (Mary and Joseph) who are important to him".

A touch of humor

Tackling the nativity scene in a way that is respectful of its importance to Christians, but also fun was very important in the development process, says Reckart. One thing I wanted to do was to give him a little humanity and a sense of openness to life, indicated by Mary's willingness to accept the message from heaven that she was to bring the son of God among men.

"I don't think I've really seen any image of Maria laughing," she says. "But I wanted to make a Maria who laughs a lot and has a sense of humor as a true love of life."

Giuseppe he is focused on planning and wants to make sure everything is okay for his family, learning to accept what he cannot change. "This gives Joseph space, space to learn something from Mary, who at some point has to let go and let God take the lead in their life, because not everything can be under their control," says Reckart.

Levi and Rodriguez brought a contemporary humanity to the characters through their vocal performances, which Reckart says hopes to make Mary and Joseph accessible to both Christian audiences and the film in general.

Maria and Giuseppe - The heroes of Christmas
Maria and Giuseppe - The heroes of Christmas

Put it all together

Reckart asked character designer David Colman and production designer Craig Elliott to give the animals a realistic anatomy. "We wanted them to really look like animals," he says. Among the more abstract notions the crew discovered is that most animals have horizontal profiles, while that of a human being is vertical.

Magee-Cook says executive producer DeVon Franklin, a star in the faith-based entertainment community, played a major role in getting the cast of all stars to sign. And once the actors started putting themselves in their place, they had a lot of fun.

"We had Oprah, Tyler, and Tracy Morgan, and all three of them were so excited when they knew this was going to be their trio," says Magee-Cook. "And then, when we got Steve Yeun, he and Keegan-Michael Key and Aidy Bryant did all of the Second City stuff in Chicago. It's like, without knowing it, we're throwing these little trio of people who already had a connection."

Elliot says they wanted the film not to resemble a stereotypical biblical epic, with ruins, rubble and desert. So he studied what Nazareth and Bethlehem looked like 2000 years ago and found elements to play with, such as discovering that there were very specific and distinct styles of architecture for the homes of the Romans and those of the natives.

"If we only do what was actually there, it will make a big difference," he says. "We're both historically accurate and we're making it look great."

Magee-Cook says previs worked with the storyboard artists to get some fully processed shots before they were converted to animation. "When we went into production ... we had already translated it into a world that was feasible, so we could take it to the cinema",.

The animation work started in January 2017 and the team peaked at around 70 or 80 animators. "They have a lot of animators who are starting out but have shown a lot of promise and we've seen individual animators grow a lot from the start of production to the end, too," says Reckart.

"I hope this will be the film that children grow up with and introduce them to the story of the nativity," he says. "And that it eventually finds a special place in the Christmas DVD box every family has."

The images of the characters of The heroes of Christmas
The birth of Jesus - The heroes of Christmas
The birth of Jesus - The heroes of Christmas

Bo and Dave - The heroes of Christmas
Bo and Dave - The heroes of Christmas

Dogs - The heroes of Christmas
dogs - The heroes of Christmas

King Herod - The heroes of Christmas
King Herod - The heroes of Christmas

The city of Bethlehem - The heroes of Christmas
The city of Bethlehem - The heroes of Christmas

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Other resources of Heroes of Christmas
Video of The heroes of Christmas

All names, images and trademarks are copyright Affirm Films, Columbia Pictures, Franklin Entertainment, The Jim Henson Company, Sony Pictures Animation, Walden Media and those entitled to it are used here exclusively for information and dissemination purposes.

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