Watch: Trailer for animated sequel Sing 2
It has been five years since Sing became a massive global hit for Illumination Entertainment — the animation house built on the yellow masses of the Minions. Garth Jennings' music-driven comedy made more than £600m (£440m) at the worldwide box office, making a sequel something of an inevitability.
"It has been emotional and exhausting and all of the things one would expect from spending four years trying to get this thing made in the middle of a pandemic," Jennings tells Yahoo as we chat ahead of the release of the movie's new trailer.
This time around, the gang are hoping to put on a new show at an entertainment venue run by a gangster wolf. Their only hope is to secure the services of a retired rock star — who just happens to be a lion — and he's played by a household name in the music industry.
Here's everything we learned from Jennings about what fans can expect when the gang returns for Sing 2...
The idea came about before the first film's release
Jennings says he never took a potential sequel for granted when Sing was first released, but he certainly had some ideas for where he could take the characters if audiences took to them in the way that they ultimately did.
"A year before we finished the first movie, we already had an ambition for where it would go. Now, having done the first movie, they're a kind of creative family and you have that camaraderie," says Jennings.
"They're all on the same path. Although they have different experiences within the new story, they're a unit. So the basic building blocks of Sing 2 were already there before we had finished the first one. And as the first one seemed to be welcomed, we were like 'let's go'."
Sing has remained an enormous success, with Jennings revealing he receives messages on a weekly basis from parents whose kids love dressing up as the characters and dancing along to the music. He says: "It's a film that has been embraced beyond the theatrical release in a way that I never anticipated. So that's lovely. All of that is the nicest thing in the world."
Bono is in it
So that fading leonine rocker we talked about earlier? He's played by Bono. The U2 frontman is taking on his most substantial movie role to date. "He plays this big, old lion called Clay Calloway who was a legendary rock star but has been a recluse for 15 years ever since his wife died. He has just vanished off the face of the Earth," Jennings reveals.
The search for Calloway is a big part of Sing 2, with the gang only able to put on their show if they can track him down and persuade him to take the stage for a return performance. Jennings had no such problems with the man himself. "He's amazing. He's so extraordinary and I genuinely love him," says the filmmaker. "He has been so generous-spirited. I cannot describe how supportive and lovely he has been."
Unsurprisingly then, the music of U2 will play a part in the film, with the trailer set to the band's 1987 track I Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For. Jennings adds there are "some really interesting reworkings of the U2 catalogue" amid the film's soundtrack.
Adam Buxton plays a key role
Jennings and comedian Adam Buxton have been friends for many years, so there was a role for him in the new movie, after his appearance as a gorilla robber in the first film. This time around, he portrays a character who, in Jennings' words, is "a sadistic proboscis monkey choreographer" and a "nemesis" to gorilla singer Johnny — played by the returning Taron Egerton.
The director refers to the character as a "total nightmare", before playfully adding that "Adam somehow took to that role easily".
The rest of the cast isn't too shabby either
The returning cast of Sing is already an A-list who's-who, with Matthew McConaughey, Scarlett Johansson and Reese Witherspoon all among the ensemble alongside Egerton. But they haven't decided to bank those names and sit back, with a whole selection of new famous faces set to lend their voices to roles in Sing 2.
Jennings says: "Bobby Cannavale plays Jimmy Crystal. He's a billionaire who owns all of these hotels and theatres in a Vegas-type place. Hugely successful because of him being absolutely ruthless. He's terrifying. Bobby Cannavale was terrifying. As a man he couldn't be nicer but, as a wolf, run for the hills.
"His daughter Portia, he insists on giving her a part in the show. She's played by Halsey. She's amazing, and an unbelievable artist. Have you seen her paintings? She can sing, dance, paint, act. There's not anything she can't do."
Read more: Bobby Cannavale reveals his dream AI voice
Elsewhere in the new cast there's an ice cream vendor played by Pharrell Williams and a famous yak ("one of those big stars who just assumes everyone knows who he is and loves him") portrayed by comedian Eric André. Chelsea Peretti also shows up as Jimmy Crystal's talent scout.
"They're a lovely bunch, along with all of the main cast," says Jennings. "There's a whole strata of fun, quirky parts played by friends and curious people."
COVID-19 couldn't stop them
Along with many animation projects that were ticking along during the early part of 2020, Sing 2 had to undergo a major readjustment when COVID-19 made its presence felt. They were halfway through the animation process but, thanks to herculean work from the technical teams, only lost around three weeks of progress.
"What's amazing is that our IT team just became like an SAS commando unit. They were incredible," says Jennings. "Everyone was sent home, of course, and everything was locked down, and what they managed to do was find a way to very quickly enable hundreds of artists with the technology and connection necessary to make this work."
He describes the operation as "quite miraculous" and says there should be special awards handed out this year for the various IT teams across the industry "who had to put out these fires and create these solutions to these extraordinary problems which seemed impossible at the beginning".
There's original music again this time
Of course, the core of a Sing movie is the music. That's no different this time around and Jennings teases that there will be more of a dance flavour to the tunes in the sequel. He also says there will be more original songs, following up Stevie Wonder and Ariana Grande's Faith from the first film.
He says: "We've also had some original songs done, and one original song made by Sam Spiegel, who is Spike Jonze's brother. He has made us this incredible dance track. There's some really interesting, new songs that were written for the film."
Aside from the new stuff, Jennings says there are some "absolute whoppers" of songs in Sing 2, as well as a few deeper cuts audiences might not have heard before. "I suppose having spent a long time making music videos, I got used to taking a piece of music and marrying it with some visuals that would be exciting and fun and unlock your interest and love of the song. It's a bit like that."
But they couldn't get everything
Jennings is excited to say that he and his team managed to get every popular song they wanted for Sing 2, but missed out on one piece of music. "It was interesting because no one had heard of it. It was unknown," Jennings reveals. "It wasn't because it was too big and I was trying to get some Elvis Presley thing. It was an unknown piece of instrumental music, but it was too complicated."
These movies boast some of the biggest soundtracks in modern movies, and Jennings is clear that it takes a mammoth effort from those behind the scenes to make sure that this element of the film works.
Read more: The song that got away from Sing
He adds: "It's extraordinary what the music team at Universal did in terms of not just acquiring these things but making sure that the people we acquired them from were happy. There are a couple of songs in there that I get a lump in my throat.
"They mean so much to me, these songs. Not just in the context of the film, but a lot of them were a big part of my entire growing up. That's one of the great bonuses of doing this stuff is to be able to combine all of these desires and things you love and put them into one big pot."
Sing 2 is due to finally arrive in UK cinemas from 28 January 2022.
Watch: Bono, Pharrell Williams and Halsey set for Sing 2