It’s appropriate that right after Easter, I should be writing about the UglyDolls and their rather bizarre status. The same way folks have debated for eons over what came first — the chicken or the egg? — collectors have ruminated on whether UglyDolls are dolls or plush pals. For the peeps (there’s that Easter reference) that believe the UglyDolls are dolls, they point to the name. “They’re dolls, duh! They’re not Ugly Teddies.” For the plush proponents, they hug the Ugly Dolls close and comment on their softness. It’s a material argument, no matter how you weigh it. Soon, a whole new generation of discussions will be hatched! (Yes, I know, Easter.) The UglyDolls are about to debut in their first-ever big-screen movie. Their computer-animated antics will hit multiplexes on May 3, 2019.
Yes, the UglyDolls are going to prance down that red-carpeted walkway to (hopefully) find cinematic success. It shouldn’t be so odd for these New Jersey natives. After all, the motion-picture industry actually began in West Orange, New Jersey, courtesy of Thomas A. Edison and his Black Maria studios. So, ha!, take that, all you beautiful West Coast dwellers.
Action/adventure director Robert Rodriguez is the producer of their breakout film. (He’s known for his “Spy Kids” franchise, the “From Dusk to Dawn” franchise, and collaborations with Quentin Tarantino.) “Gnomeo & Juliet” director Kelly Asbury is the creative force behind the camera. Rodriguez devised the film’s plot, and Alison Peck wrote the screenplay. The umbrella divisions of STX Entertainment will handle all of its licensing possibilities. One of the big moves that STX is making on behalf of UglyDolls is tapping Hasbro to manufacture the UglyDoll memorabilia and collectible merchandise.
“Our roots are deeply intertwined with a profound love for the toy industry,” David Horvath, the UglyDolls co-creator, said in a recent press statement. “We’ve been fans of Hasbro’s toy lines for ages, and are great admirers of their creative and aesthetic sensibility. We are absolutely thrilled to be working with Hasbro and STX Entertainment on the UglyDolls franchise,” Horvath and his partner, Sun-min Kim, stated.
The stars of the UglyDolls movie read like a Who’s Who in current pop culture. Singing superstar, and winner of the first “American Idol” program, Kelly Clarkson was tapped to voice the film’s central protagonist. She spoke and sang for the character of Moxy. According to the creative team at STXfilms, the movie revolves around Moxy and her band of misfit pals: “It tells the story of free-spirited Moxy and her UglyDoll friends in their town of Uglyville. They will confront what it means to be different, struggle with their desire to be loved, and ultimately discover that you don’t have to be amazing because who you truly are is what matters most.”
This uplifting theme of self-confidence and self-empowerment are a welcome respite from much of the negative headlines that have dominated our recent news cycles. Amid so many TV shows and movies that are anything but family friendly, the UglyDolls debut flick seems to be on the right path for folks with young children. It is currently on track to be a breakout movie for folks that want to see a film that will tickle a generation of theatergoers.
Nick Jonas is another chart-topping singer and actor who signed on to the project. Having toured the world as part of the Jonas Brothers, and having carved out a niche in musical comedies on Broadway — plus dramatic work in independent films — Jonas brought his voice talents and musical chops to the movie. “Nick is not only a talented musician, he’s also an accomplished actor beloved by millions of passionate fans around the world,” Adam Fogelson, STXfilms chairman, stated. “Over the last several years, Nick has proven there is not much he can’t do, and we’re ecstatic to have him join all of the other talented performers, like Kelly Clarkson and Pitbull, in this charming and funny film.”
Jonas also weighed in on his commitment to the project: “UglyDolls remind audiences the importance of acceptance and loving yourself, and as someone who started in this business very young, I understand the significance of using my platform to tell stories that lift others up,” Nick Jonas shared. “I love that I got to work with Pitbull and Kelly Clarkson. I couldn’t wait to get started.”
In addition to her platinum-recording career, Clarkson is a TV favorite, earning kudos and applause for her coaching work on “The Voice.” One of her co-stars on that NBC program is country-western hitmaker Blake Shelton. Shelton is portraying OX, the unofficial mayor of Uglyville. The producers have announced that Shelton performs original songs for the movie’s soundtrack, which has been released on Atlantic Records. Shelton, Jonas, Pitbull, Clarkson, and Janelle Monae will all perform, as well as write music and lyrics, for the animated film.
Other top-tier names attached to the UglyDolls movie include Emma Roberts (she’s playing Wedgehead), Wanda Sykes and Gabriel Iglesias. STXfilms has proclaimed that their version of the “uglyverse” will be welcoming and accommodating to all who enter. Here’s how the filmmakers describe the storyline:
In the adorably different town of Uglyville, weird is celebrated, strange is special and beauty is embraced as more than simply meets the eye. Here, the free-spirited Moxy and her UglyDolls friends live every day in a whirlwind of bliss, letting their freak flags fly in a celebration of life and its endless possibilities, occasionally looking to the sky, where a new UglyDoll will appear and be embraced by the community.
Moxy (Kelly Clarkson) loves her square-peg life in this round-hole town, but her curiosity about all things leads her to wonder if there’s something on the other side of the mountain that nestles Uglyville. Moxy gathers a group of her closest friends and sets off to find what’s on the other side. They discover another world in a town called Perfection. In this burg, more conventional dolls are trained in protocols before they graduate and are sent to the “real” world to find the love of a child.
In Perfection, Moxy and her crew are subject to the manipulations of Lou (Nick Jonas), the perfect doll in charge of training recruits. Here, the UglyDolls will confront what it means to be different, struggle with their desire to be loved, and ultimately discover that you don’t have to be perfect to be amazing because who you truly are is what matters most.
With hopes high, and their imaginations unburdened by demanding divas and pretty-boy stars, the STX team has their fingers and toes crossed that this will be a successful and profitable venture. STX is the right company at the right time, since it is a rather new face (not an ugly one) among Hollywood’s large power-players. Begun in 2014, STX is a veritable babe in the West Coast woods. Over the past four years, it has produced “Bad Moms,” “The Gift,” and Amy Schumer’s comedy “I Feel Pretty.”
“In UglyDolls, we have a universally appealing brand with the potential to reach a massive audience on every screen and experience, and that means a meaningful way into animation,” Adam Fogelson, STXfilms chairman, stated. “It is incredibly exciting to take this next big step with a company that has Hasbro’s global reach, experience, and influence. We can’t wait to bring the ‘Uglyverse’ to longtime fans and a new audience!”
In addition to the toys, dolls and plush crossovers, UglyDolls will also be transformed into computer and video games, virtual reality apps, and even television spin-offs. The UglyDolls will be hard to escape, and that’s a pretty sweet proposition for their creators and their collectors as well!
Meanwhile, the stars of the “UglyDolls” movie are making the early-morning and late-night chat-show circuit. They’re popping up and speaking out about the movie’s positive messages, sweet screenplay, and call for acceptance and empathy for all. UglyDolls and the “UglyDolls” movie just might be the heroes we’ve been waiting for!
We’ll all see on May 3, 2019, when the UglyDolls start spreading their musical mantras to the movie-going audiences worldwide.