Elijah Kelly is as fun, entertaining and positive as Sunny, the character he plays in Lucasfilm Ltd.’s new animated film “Strange Magic”, a madcap fairy tale musical inspired by “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” Sunny is an elf with a big heart and a serious crush on his best friend. Though full of spunk with energy to spare, Sunny doesn’t have the guts to share his true feelings for her.
While at Skywalker Ranch, I was blessed to interview him. Many of us know Mr. Kelly for his roles in “Hairspray,” “Red Tails,” and Lee Daniels’ “The Butler”. However, during our interview, I discovered some wonderful things about him that I thought I would highlight below.
1) Thoughts on love:
Are there any themes in the movie that you relate to or think people will connect with?
Elijah Kelly: I think that people will, connect to fighting for what you love, because as you can see that everybody goes through a lot of trouble to be able to grasp the love of their life. I think that love is so complicated. I think that it’s the wiring of love is just so weird, and the fact that people can go to the ends of the Earth to capture something like that is very inspirational. Whether we’re talking about a divide in America or we’re talking about what’s going on over in Paris, not to be so serious but, you know, love eradicates a lot of those issues.
2) Where his southern charm come from:
Where did you grow up?
Elijah Kelly: I grew up in a small town called LaGrange, Georgia. It’s about forty-five minutes south of Atlanta, right on the Georgia/Alabama line.
3) Plays the drums:
Can you tell us a little bit about your background as a singer?
Elijah Kelly: My musical background started in church. I grew up in church all my life. My mom and my dad was in ministry, so we had a traveling singing group. We go all around the southeast to different churches and sing to the congregate. That’s actually how I met the guitarist, when I first moved out to California. I found a church and I was like, I wanna keep playing drums. So, I played drums at this church for like, a year and a half. He was the music director, but now he’s, like, doing big things. He’s producing the album for Baby Face right now as we speak
4) Favorite song in “Strange Magic”:
What was your favorite song to perform in the Movie?
Elijah Kelly: Well actually, my favorite song in Strange Magic isn’t there anymore. It was a song called “Hold On, I’m Coming”. But my favorite song in the movie is not even a full song. It’s when the little birdies sing, “Gotcha Looking So Crazy Right Now”.
5) Determination to complete a task:
What characteristics do you have that are similar to your character?
Elijah Kelly: Sunny doesn’t quit. I’ll tell you a bit of personal information. Over the Christmas holidays, both my laptops and hard drives were stolen. I had to do these police reports and everything, and literally everything that I have worked on in 2014 had, you know, seemingly vanished. I had to sit down and be still myself and you know, this is a quality in Sunny. Once you understand that there’s a task at hand, you can’t stop until that task is finished. So throughout adversity, throughout trial, you have to keep going, and I think that’s something that Sunny carries.
6) He doesn’t look like me:
Was it weird seeing your facial expressions and such on a character that doesn’t look like you?
Elijah Kelly: The whole process is weird. I honestly, I’m not over it yet, being that this is only the second time I’ve seen the movie on film. You get used to yourself, you know. You can see yourself in a different character, but as far as, like, somebody bringing your voice to life, they literally bring your voice to life, you know? And so all you do is talk and sing, and they do everything else. It’s really amazing.
7) What he thinks about George Lucas:
What is it that you love working with George Lucas?
Elijah Kelly: I never really get to tell him, but George has surpassed, what we are on Earth. He’s become an idea. It’s like every time I come to Skywalker Ranch, I get so inspired because everything that we’re sitting on, everything that we drove up on was spawned from an idea. And when you have an idea that you’re convicted about, you can change the world from that idea. You don’t stray away from it, and you dedicate your life to that idea.
So every time I’m around him, it reinvigorates the passion for art in me that it only takes one thing. It only takes one idea. It only takes one thought to pretty much change your universe. That’s why I love working with him because I’m constantly reminded of that.
8) Exclusive performance for us at SkyWalker Ranch:
9) He’s a music producer too:
What are you doing next?
Elijah Kelly: I’m producing an album for a group- it’s a Somalian duo- their names are called Faarrow- F-A-A-R-R-O-W. They’re the first young ladies from their country to get a national record deal, or international record deal and they are signed to Warner Bros. I’m doing the producing, songwriting and pretty much the whole package of their record. And I’m working on my own album.
10) A Philanthropist:
Can you please tell us a bit about your philanthropy?
Elijah Kelly: I have a foundation, the Elijah Kelley Foundation, and basically what we do is I try to be a liaison between underprivileged kids back from where I’m from and their dreams in arts and entertainment. And so during the tenure we’ve had non-profit, I’ve given out, four scholarships to students from low-income housing, that are going on to pursue careers in performing arts at “The Savannah College of Art and Design” to a very small and great art school in Georgia called “Gordon College”.
And for my old high school, “Troup High School”, I plan to go back and to take the K through 12 for two weekends to go see the movie. We’re working that out right now, so every weekend, we’ll do Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. We try to fund it for the community and whoever wants to come out and see it. And right now, I’m trying to break ground on a performing arts school for them.
As part of the #StrangeMagicEvent Press Day on 1/13/2015 at Skywalker Ranch, I was blessed to interview Elijah Kelly with 24 other awesome bloggers. Thank you so much Disney/Pixar & Touchstone Pictures for giving us this amazing opportunity.
“STRANGE MAGIC” opens in theatres everywhere on January 23rd!
Strange Magic Kids Activities:
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