Producer, New York Times bestselling author, preacher/motivational speaker and spiritual success coach DeVon Franklin may have several callings, but is fully dedicated to spreading the word of God through engaging content suitable for all to enjoy. His latest film The Star takes on the Christmas story from a totally new perspective, and features vocal talent from stars such as Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Tracey Morgan, Keegan-Michael Key and more.
The multi-hyphenate film exec recently spoke with EBONY about the animated feature, controversy that has already surrounded the film and teaching our children to walk in their faith as early as possible.
EBONY: We know The Star is your first foray into animated movies. How was it working on this compared to producing live-action films?
DeVon Franklin: Oh, it’s totally different. An animated film is much more time consuming and there are a whole lot more people involved. What I like about the animation process is that it is very much a team effort. From the director to the story board artists to the writers to the studio, there are so many people involved in helping bring the story to life. In an animated film, every single thing you see has to be created from scratch, and so that process is really fascinating, to see it all come to life.
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How does The Star take on the story of Christmas differently than other holiday films?
It’s the first one from the animals’ point of view, which is a whole new way to tell this story. We all know the story of Jesus’ birth, but we’ve never seen it this way. Also, this is the first CGI animated movie from a major Hollywood studio based on a Bible story.
What was it like working with talent like Oprah Winfrey, Tyler Perry and Tracey Morgan, who all lent their voices to the film?
It was great! What I loved about them as talent was that they were so open to trying different things. They went in there and just had fun! There’s actually a moment towards the end of the movie when the three camels the wise men rode in on scream, and Oprah just let out this epic yell that was absolutely hilarious! That was the take we used in the movie.
There’s been some feedback from the trailer that the film is mocking the birth of Christ rather than celebrating it.
That’s fine. Of course, it’s easy for someone to have a point of view without seeing the movie, but see the movie. There’s no mocking of Jesus’ birth, we treat it with the utmost reverence, and when people see it, they cry. It’s very powerful, that moment when he’s born. From a two-minute clip, it’s easy to make an assessment, but I would encourage people to see the film and make up their own mind.
How important is it that we expose our children to faith at a young age, whether it be by more traditional means or through faith-based entertainment?
It’s definitely important. I know so much of who I am and who I’ve become is because I was exposed to faith at an early age. Hearing the bible stories and being in the nativity plays as a kid, it was a really good part of my upbringing. It’s important to give kids a since of what faith is, of what values are, and I think movies like The Star can and will do that.
The Star debuts in theaters today!
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Born and raised in Compton, California, Jessica Bennett began her career as an intern at The Oakland Post, and later, The Source Magazine. She went on to write for respected hip hop publications such as DJ Booth and Hip Hop DX before becoming the Urban Editor of pop culture website, Wetpaint.com. She joined Ebony as the Entertainment Editor August 2017. Bennett has interviewed such names as Vanessa Williams, Spike Lee, Tyra Banks, Forest Whitaker, Magic & Cookie Johnson and several others.