sing_illumination sing_illumination
Feature Film

Illumination Announces ‘Sing’ With 85 Songs and Matthew McConaughey As A Koala

2016 is shaping up to be the year of the animated animal. At least a half-dozen movies with predominantly animal casts are scheduled for release including Kung Fu Panda 3, Nut Job 2, Zootopia, Angry Birds, Finding Dory, and The Secret Life of Pets. Minions maker Illumination, which is already releasing the latter film on this list, has now announced details about a second animal-centric film that it’ll deliver into theaters on December 21, 2016: Sing.

Of all the animal kingdom films, Sing might be the quirkiest of the bunch. Illumination founder and CEO Chris Meledandri explained during an Annecy keynote earlier this year that conceptually “the starting point for the movie was, for me at least, looking at what the role of a producer is.”

The producer in Sing will be a koala named Buster Moon, voiced by Matthew McConaughey, who runs a vaudeville-style theater. “He creates wonderful entertainment out of nothing,” Meledandri said at Annecy. “It’s what a producer does: you start with nothing, and you imagine a story, a play, a musical, a short, and you try to figure out how you can will it into existence.”

If a paean to producers sounds like an unusual topic for an animated film, so does the fact that the movie will have over 85 songs in it. Here’s the set-up which allows that to happen: Buster’s theater has fallen on hard times, and he comes up with an idea to save it by staging a singing competition. Eventually, five lead contestants emerge, according to the newly released synopsis:

A mouse (Seth MacFarlane) who croons as smoothly as he cons, a timid teenage elephant (Tori Kelly) with an enormous case of stage fright, an overtaxed mother (Reese Witherspoon) run ragged tending a litter of 25 piglets, a young gangster gorilla (Taron Egerton) looking to break free of his family’s felonies, and a punk-rock porcupine (Scarlett Johansson) struggling to shed her arrogant boyfriend and go solo. Each animal arrives under Buster’s marquee believing that this is their shot to change the course of their life.

John C. Reilly will also lend a voice as Buster’s black sheep pal Eddie.

If producers are important, so are directors and writers, and Sing marks the first time that an Illumination film will be written and directed by a single individual. The studio is handing over the reins to first-time feature animation director Garth Jennings, whose earlier films include Son of Rambow and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

In its short existence, Illumination has enjoyed an unprecedented level of success, with two of its five releases ranking among the top 5 highest-grossing animated films of all-time. The studio’s true test will come in 2016 when Illumination attempts to achieve the same success with two Minions-less original films. The response to the trailer for Secret Life of Pets suggests that they’ve got at least one hit on their hands, and Sing, on paper at least, sounds like it has the potential to be yet another win for the studio.

Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) and the mouse Mike (Seth MacFarlane). Photo: Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures)
Buster Moon (Matthew McConaughey) and the mouse Mike (Seth MacFarlane). Photo: Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures)
Johnny (voiced by Taron Egerton) and Rosita (Reese Witherspoon). (Photo: Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures)
Johnny (voiced by Taron Egerton) and Rosita (Reese Witherspoon). (Photo: Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures)
Meena (voiced by Tori Kelly) and Ash (Scarlett Johansson). (Photo: Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures)
Meena (voiced by Tori Kelly) and Ash (Scarlett Johansson). (Photo: Illumination Entertainment/Universal Pictures)
  • otterhead

    Is that Morkubine Porcupine I see?

  • Slim Cognito

    Those designs look incredibly unappealing, yuck.

  • Chicken McPhee

    Character designs that DON’T make me want to puke my eyes out of my skull! WHAT?

    Seriously, though, these are very appealing designs.

    • Jessie


      • Chicken McPhee

        Not even! So many features come out with unappealing character designs, that some of this tried and true spice really works for me. It’s familiar yet somehow diverse. I really dig it.

    • Ronnie

      Agreed. I wouldn’t mind a decent action figure of the ape, heh.

      • Chicken McPhee

        I’d totally snap one up!

      • James STanley

        Being voiced by the “Kingsman” kid a bonus.

    • The_Purple_People_Eater

      These are the most generic, boring designs…what are you talking about?

      • Chicken McPhee

        They are fairly generic, yes, but they have appeal. With fugly characters like Olaf in Frozen assaulting us and character design generally taking a nosedive the past decade, it’s far from bad.

        • James STanley

          At least Olaf looks distinct from all the other fictitious Snowmen.

          • Chicken McPhee

            True, but Olaf is on par with the Minions. Really unappealing design combined with really annoying personality.

          • Guest

            I disagree that Olaf was annoying. Most people expected him to be, but ended up liking him (myself included).
            But his design really is godawful and totally clashes with the rest of the movie’s style.

            And there’s nothing wrong with Minions, their design is great.

  • James STanley

    I can probably imagine some sort of antro-rivaly coming out between this and “Zootropolis” AKA ” Zootopia” should both properties can sizable levels of fandom. Interesting cast they’ve got going. It’s not everyday you see the “Family Guy” master doing something that’s family -related for a change.

    • AnimatedMadness

      That’s probably the only reason I would go see this. I am not a fan at all of Matthew McConaughey. Honestly, I’d love to see Seth meet him in person just to see how the reaction would be considering Seth has ripped into Matt so much on “Family Guy.”

    • ea

      He used to work for Cartoon Network during the 90s.

    • Barrett

      This is the first I’d heard of this “Zootropolis” alternate title. Seemed bizarre to do that for certain overseas markets, and Disney’s explanation was vague and pointless. Looks like the *real* reason is some European zoo that’s yet to be built has a European trademark for “Zootopia” so Disney didn’t want to deal with any conflicts there. I would say it might have made more sense to change the title worldwide to “Zootropolis”, but maybe the dialogue had already been recorded, and I personally feel “Zootopia” sounds more pleasant and easier to roll off the tongue than “Zootropolis.”

  • Guest

    Why do all these animal cartoons have such unappealing designs?

  • jhalpernkitcat

    I actually kind of like the designs–the elephant and porcupine are especially adorable IMO.

    • Guest

      I quite like those two, but the rest are…ugh.

  • ThatGuy

    Cats don’t dance

    • Barrett

      Don’t insult Cats Don’t Dance.

  • Silvia

    The koala and mouse desings are so semplicistic that they seems like they were made by a no-pro studio! Then, umh.. where did I see other charachters? Perhaps they all came from Zootopia (ask it to momma Pig and son….). The Porcupine is like an evolution of the funny animals of “Over the Hedge”. The only brillant exception can be the Gorilla guy, but again……. They don’t suggest me any particular emotion: it’s a movie I would not spend my money for, but rather watch it when it comes on TV!

    Illumination, why didn’t you hired Carter Goodrich or Peter de Seve?

    • Guest

      The koala gave me flashbacks to that godawful Korean movie Koala Kid. I honestly couldn’t tell this was made by a big professional studio.

      • Silvia

        Same feeling here!

  • ea

    Just when I thought adult animation was making a comeback, so do talking-animal movies for kids.

  • Barrett

    The character designs aren’t bad, but kind of “meh” for a feature from a now-major studio. The Seth MacFarlane mouse looks like some kind of shady underworld cousin of Danger Mouse. I will say that I think ScarJo’s husky deadpan voice would be a great match for the attitude-exuding porcupine girl.

  • Hat

    That gorilla design is a straight lift from the one Rosie O’Donnell played in Disney’s Tarzan.

  • white vader

    Please God tell me Matthew McC isn’t going to attempt an Australian accent! Because attempt is as close as non-Aussies ever get with the exception of Live Schreiber who had help from his wife (he got pretty close).

    And put me in the camp that thinks these are boring generic designs. They’re like standard versions of these animals, not a specific character. The clues to their personalities come more from their costumes. And the proportions/silhouettes make them look like people with animal heads. That’s not anthropomorphism!

    Although I love Reilly and am hoping Jennings can nail it this time.

  • JodyMorgan

    Lots of varying opinions on the designs going on here. The five pictured at the head of the article (koala, mouse, gorilla, pigs) are all pretty dang generic, but at least they aren’t unappealing, which seems a common trend. The elephant and porcupine are less generic and show some genuine personality, which is nice. And once again the cast is the main thing being promoted for an animated film.

  • I’m not really feeling this one right now. 85 songs seem very overkill for an animated feature.

  • Elsi Pote

    This is what happens when you praised the plot less secret life of pets trailer. Have fun!

  • Alan_Gabriel

    McConaughey, and he used to be nothin’
    Now he’s a koala and he’s cute as a button

  • Why do I have a feeling that the designs here would’ve looked better 2D than 3D?

  • R. J. Whyte

    They made the black dude an ape.

    This is still okay behaviour?