Vicky Jenson Brings ‘Spellbound’ to Annecy, Treats the Audience to Alan Menken’s Original Songs

In Vicky Jenson’s upcoming 3D animation “Spellbound,” the hills – of the magical kingdom of Lumbria – are alive with the sound of music.

Javier Bardem and Nicole Kidman, taking on royals-turned-monsters, John Lithgow, Jenifer Lewis, André De Shields and Nathan Lane are part of the voice cast as well.

“Why a musical? People always ask that. In theatre, they say that when emotions are too big to speak about, you sing about them. And when they are too big to sing about, you dance,” she told the Annecy audience on Tuesday.

“Emotions are big in this story. They are funny, exuberant, angry and heartbreaking.”

“Spellbound,” is a Skydance Animation and Apple Original Films production, and will be distributed by Apple+. 

It follows princess Ellian who tries to keep her family together after a mysterious spell transforms her parents, the king and queen, into monsters. She also needs to keep it a secret and deal with the fact that her parents, now busy destroying the castle, don’t even remember her name.

“Skydance is a pretty cool place to work at and one of the reasons [for it] is that they really want to make stories that resonate and mean something,” said Jenson, admitting she was drawn to this family that “goes through a difficult time.”

“It may seem like a lot of fun to have a couple of monsters as pets, but it’s also hard, because they don’t know who you are.”

Jenson, herself of “Shrek” and “Shark Tale” fame, treated the crowd to the very first listen of the new original songs by Oscar-winning composer Alan Menken and lyricist Glenn Slater, performed by “West Side Story” star Rachel Zegler.

“I like to think we discovered her, because we saw her videos on YouTube around the same time Steven Spielberg did. She is a delight, funny and such a pro,” said Jenson.

While head of story Brian Pimental walked the audience through his process of storyboarding the songs, one of them, with Ellian commemorating her family’s better days, nearly reduced the helmer – and half of the audience – to tears.

“There is something extraordinary about it, because we often portray that feeling of loss from the side of parents as kids grow up. It’s rare to experience loss from the side of the child, but we lose our parents too, at all stages in life. Even after six years on the movie, it still makes me want to cry,” she admitted.  

Introducing Lumbria’s fantasy world, with its architecture inspired by ancient Spain, Jenson – giving a shoutout to several “Spellbound” animators present in the room, including lead character designer Guillermo Ramírez – also showed multiple creatures from the film, including Ellian’s furry friend, Flake, whose unveiling was met with shrieks of delight from the room.

“I know,” she quipped. 

“He is this little pink hamster-weasel thing that everyone falls in love with.”

But there is much more to “Spellbound,” she said, calling it a “modern story” and promising the audience many twists and turns. 

“I can’t tell you everything,” she laughed. 

“The journey is difficult of course, but not without a lot of fun.”

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