MEET THE UGLYDOLLS AND THEIR "PERFECT" COUNTERPARTS
There are countless UglyDoll residents in Uglyville, but the film focuses on
friends who embark on a colorful and transformative adventure where they - and
everyone else across two disparate worlds - will learn how to embrace what's
and different about each of us.
We meet Moxy, a vibrant, energetic and determined force of nature with a
but wonderful three-toothed smile and an odd flower-like thing on her head.
going to let anything deter her from pursuing her dreams. Her best pal is
blue canine with one yellow eye and a tough, streetwise niceness. Ox is the
unofficial "mayor," as well as its founder / father figure / protector; he
always wants the
UglyDolls to feel nurtured and safe. Lucky Bat is the wisest doll in town but
doesn't always work out as he planned, and Wage is a cynic and voice of reason
likes to play it safe. Babo is the "muscle" of the group, whose infectious
him the guy you want on any road trip.
Together, they're on the journey of a lifetime, which lands them in
There, they have unforgettable encounters with Lou, the town's suave, cool, and
"perfect" leader; Mandy, a pretty but lonely doll with a secret she fears will
her quest for perfection; and a trio of Lou's acolytes / henchwomen known as The
To inhabit these motley and lovable characters, the filmmakers envisioned
producer Oren Aviv calls an "Ocean's 11 with music stars," adding that all the
headliners immediately connected to the story's themes of inclusivity and the
importance of being true to oneself.
Moxy is voiced by singing sensation and songwriter Kelly Clarkson, whom
director Kelly Asbury says, "is unstoppable, just like Moxy. Kelly brought a lot
to the role and really embraced the idea of Moxy being an unconventional heroine
unlike any we've seen in an animated feature film."
The pairing of Clarkson with the role seemed to be destined. While Clarkson
admits that she once dreamed of playing Disney princesses, a determined doll
offbeat smile had other plans for her. Clarkson fell in love with Moxy, her
animated role, which she says "Moxy's personality is almost identical to my own.
100 percent all the time. Moxy is very optimistic, and hopeful. I really leaned
similarities during the recording sessions. I loved playing a character that is
role model and reminds us that we all come in different shapes, sizes and
and that uniqueness is to cherished."
"Also, Moxy is pink, which my daughter was very excited about because it is
Moxy's firecracker personality is heightened by her fearless determination
boundless hope. "Moxy is super-optimistic and like so many of us, she's looking
serve a purpose, which she knows is to be the beloved doll of a human child."
Aviv, a veteran studio production and marketing chief who has handled Disney
Animation, Pixar and Blue Sky animation titles, confirms that Clarkson is such a
remarkable match for the character that when the pop star read the script, she
the filmmakers, 'Are you sure you didn't actually write this for me? This sounds
Like Moxy, she's confident and proud of her confidence."
Producer Jane Hartwell agrees that "Kelly is indeed Moxy - always bubbly and
optimistic. And the first day she came into the studio to record a song, it felt
otherworldly creature had entered the room; her voice was awe-inspiring."
It's no coincidence that Moxy's closest pal, UglyDog, looks like the musician
Pitbull, who voices the role. Says Aviv: "We thought it was a fun idea to get
play a character known as UglyDog. He loved the idea and signed on early."
The musician-producer-entrepreneur was drawn to the film's theme of
acceptance, an especially timely message given the culture surrounding social
"The movie is perfect for what's going on in the world right now, especially for
explains. "We live in a society that's all about instant gratification and
don't exist. Kids are worried about followers and likes. This movie is not about
follower or being liked. It's about being a leader. It's about being unique.
It's about being
Pitbull also identified with his canine alter-ego. "UglyDog is basically me -
someone who likes to get loose and enjoy life. He doesn't care what anyone else
of him. UglyDog wants to help others and always sees solutions to any problem."
Asbury notes that Pitbull brings an essential niceness to the character - a
streetwise likability and eagerness to prove himself because of his small-dog
UglyDog will overstep his bounds and get himself in and out of trouble, but he's
confident and always by Moxy's side."
It was Clarkson who suggested that her friend and fellow music icon Blake
Shelton voice the role of Ox, Uglyville's leader, who joins her on the quest
doubts about anything existing outside of Uglyville. Unlike his onscreen
Shelton didn't need much convincing. "It was a fun experience bringing Ox to
life in his
colorful, misfit world," notes Shelton. "I can't wait to see y'all in Uglyville."
Ox wants to make sure everyone under his watch as the town's mayor and
protector is safe. But, as Asbury notes, "That's not always possible. Everyone
learn their own truth."
Wanda Sykes brings her unique comedic voice to the character of Wage, whose
insistence on playing it safe leads her to think that Moxy's dream of a land
Uglyville is just that - a dream. Still, she finds it impossible to resist
and spirit. "She might criticize Moxy for not acting in the safest way, but a
part of Wage
is all in with that," says Asbury.
Lucky Bat is voiced by singer, songwriter, music producer, actor and film
Wang Leehom, who is known as the "King of Chinese Pop" and is the best-selling
Mandarin-language musician of his generation. "Lucky Bat is Chinese, profound,
sensitive and sings! Doesn't that just scream 'Wang Leehom?'" the
talent says, with a laugh, while adding that the film's message is moving and
"In an environment of perfect photoshopped lives displayed on social media, it's
important to remember what's real. That we, as humans, are flawed, vulnerable,
emotional, and it's precisely these 'ugly' parts of us that make for the best
ultimately, the best in ourselves.
Babo's lovable, bigger-than-life personality is captured by actor-comedian
Gabriel Iglesias, who connected to the film's ideas about what it means to be
"It speaks very much to my own life and career and how I understood that I just
be myself to make my mark on the world," he says. "I accepted my differences
and created a successful career out of celebrating all the things in my life
that make me
different. So, I totally agree with the film's idea that letting our freak flags
fly is the way
to live our best life."
In addition to that sextet of friends, audiences will also meet a new
arrival, Wedgehead (voiced by Emma Roberts), so named because her dramatic
introduction to the community sees her plummeting from the sky above - and
safely on her noggin.
Every great journey needs a great villain, and our six UglyDolls find the
bad guy in Lou, the charming but menacing leader of Perfection. Handsome on the
outside but not so much on the inside, Lou will do anything to sabotage Moxy's
of succeeding in the world outside of Uglyville. He's equally determined to make
his illusion of perfection holds to his flock of believers, and that they follow
his edict that
they won't make it into the arms of a loving child without his guidance.
"Lou thinks he has created a power base that no one will get in the way of -
especially an UglyDoll," says Asbury. Nick Jonas, a multi-platinum, Grammy and
Golden Globe nominated recording artist, actor, and award-winning songwriter,
the role. "Lou obviously has a lot to learn, about pretty much everything,"
explains, "but I did enjoy the way he loses his cool out of frustration with the
perfection around him. It was a lot of fun to go to those extreme places with
Lou may be a frustrated villain but it's not that difficult to identify with
Jonas points out, we all have a "Lou" inside of us. "With me it comes out before
my morning coffee," he jokes. "But deep down, Lou really wants to be loved and
accepted for who he is, beyond his flawless hair and clothes."
The film's themes of friendship, community and loving what's special about
yourself also resonated with Jonas. "I've lived my whole life understanding that
is special and being weird is great," he explains. "We should always dare to
and dream. As a youngster I had a love of musical theater and performed in our
basement, putting on shows. It was kind of weird, but it was totally accepted by
Jonas' commitment to the character impressed the filmmakers. "Lou is charming
but also conniving and insidious, and Nick jumped right into the role," says
makes Lou a really juicy bad guy."
One of Lou's many followers in Perfection is Mandy, a pretty doll who's
secret - and it's a big one - that maybe she's not so perfect. At first, Mandy
trying to impress Lou but eventually sees through him. When Mandy meets Moxy and
friends, she learns a valuable lesson and becomes a close ally to the team.
Actress and musical artist Janelle Monae brings her signature talents in both
realms to Mandy, and clearly appreciates the character and what she represents.
"Mandy is a hero and empath," Monae explains. "She empathizes with the UglyDolls
and sees something special in them, even when they don't initially see it in
She is also a strong and confident nurturer, but at the same time reveals a side
that's insecure. During her time with the UglyDolls, she becomes even stronger."
There's an immediate connection between Mandy and the UglyDolls. "Mandy
sees herself in the UglyDolls because she never really fit into Perfection,
in fact, not perfect," Monae points out. "The UglyDolls awaken something in
sees them as her tribe that she can be herself with. Mandy doesn't have to be
and can let her wall down."
Like her co-stars, Monae immediately connected to the film's themes. "Its
message that weird is beautiful is one of the reasons I wanted to be a part of
UGLYDOLLS," she explains. "'Different' should be celebrated and we should always
champion that which makes us unique, even if it makes others uncomfortable. I
choose to take on projects like this that recognize marginalized voices."
While Mandy begins to distance herself from Lou's absolute beliefs of
three young women, Tuesday, Kitty and Lydia, collectively known as The Spy
remain loyal to their leader and always do his bidding - including, as their
suggests, spying on (and when necessary, kidnapping) unsuspecting UglyDolls.
are voiced by, respectively, Grammy-nominated singer-songwriter Bebe Rexha;
artist-producer-entrepreneur Charli XCX; and singer, Lizzo.
Taking on absolutely "perfect" cameo roles as Announcer Robots are Emmy-winner
Jane Lynch (Glee) and actor-comedian Rob Riggle (The Hangover). Rapper,
author and Law and Order: SVU star, Ice T, voices a lovable, diminutive unicorn
Peggy, who visits Moxy at her home in Uglyville.
THE BIRTH AND MUSICAL JOURNEY OF UGLYDOLLS
The UglyDolls' road to movie stardom began about 17 years ago, when David
Horvath, an illustrator, comics artist and toy designer, then based in Los
some letters to his girlfriend (now, wife) Sun-Min Kim, who was living in South
the time. The letters also included some endearing character drawings, which
Kim to hand-sew a gift for Horvath: an interpretation of one of his drawings, as
Delighted with Kim's creation, Horvath shared it with the curator of a
Los Angeles-based specialty store, Giant Robot, who mistook Horvath's enthusiasm
a pitch - and then promptly sold the doll and ordered 20 more. "Sun-Min
another 20, named it 'UglyDoll,' and those also sold out immediately," remembers
Horvath. Even Kim's purchase of a sewing machine was not enough to keep up with
increasing demand, which had now spread to other specialty stores across the
she found a factory that could ramp up production. "I think people were
surprised by the
softness - what we called 'ugly fur' - of the characters, were drawn to the name
UglyDolls, and enjoyed reading the tags that were attached to each UglyDoll,
offered a little personal info about the character," Horvath explains.
Cut to: Hollywood comes calling, and UglyDolls co-creators Horvath and Kim
watch the film's progress with eager anticipation, after providing some early
the film. "It was our baby for 17 years and it felt good to know it was in such
hands," says Horvath, of Aviv, Asbury, STXfilms and the rest of the filmmakers
brought their one-of-a-kind creations to life.
Aviv explains how UGLYDOLLS came together as a motion picture event.
"STXfilms knew that this was an opportunity to bring a very special and beloved
into the world, first as a theatrical animated feature and then as a television
which Hulu has committed, with strategic partnerships with McDonald's, Carl's
Hasbro and Walmart, among other global brands. Most importantly, it was STX's
animated feature and we were committed to doing right by the UglyDolls and
its themes of inclusivity and authenticity."
During this development stage, Aviv was also overseeing the work being
by Head of Story Paul McEvoy, who had previously worked on the blockbuster
animated films Kung Fu Panda, How to Train Your Dragon and The Croods.
Jane Hartwell (The Croods), who had come aboard as a producer, says this
material set the table for the magic to come. "My daughter had some of the
so I was already familiar with their look, but I was very impressed with and
drawn to the
designs and story concepts, which were really strong. The characters are
and adorable, without being 'cliche-cute.'"
The songs by Christopher Lennertz and Glenn Slater are a key part of
UGLYDOLLS - propelling the narrative, offering big laughs and powerful emotional
beats, defining the characters and their adventure, and providing a look into
environments. Lennertz composed the score, which provides the emotional
that ushers us through the film.
It was Asbury who had come up with the idea of making the film a big musical
adventure. The Shrek 2 and Gnomeo & Juliet director explains what that element
to UGLYDOLLS: "The songs anchor the story. I wanted to avoid long sequences of
dialogue and instead have the characters sing about their feelings. Music gives
opportunity to have a character express its inner dialogue in a way that's both
entertaining and believable."
As screenwriter Alison Peck and McEvoy continued to fine-tune the story, the
filmmakers worked closely with songwriters Lennertz and Slater, whose upbeat,
and contemporary work contributes to the narrative without interrupting it.
has meaning and pushes the story forward," Asbury points out. Adds Hartwell: "So
many times we presented Glenn and Chris with challenges, and they always came up
with elegant solutions. The best songwriters are also storytellers, and Glenn
have great instincts."
Even before Asbury joined the team and turned the film into a musical, Slater
Lennertz had written an opening number, "Couldn't Be Better," performed by
joined by the other cast members, which introduces us to Uglyville and its
unique denizens. Aviv and McEvoy had begun mapping out the scene in storyboards,
and Asbury went to work bringing the magical sequence to life. "That song and
about spending a day in Moxy's town, as seen largely through her eyes, and
experiencing how wonderful it is," he points out.
As Moxy is joined by her friends, the action and exuberance careen through
Uglyville, where "ugly" rules and everything is about having a good time.
"Couldn't Be Better" is framed by Moxy's inner voice, concurrently expressed
the song "Today's the Day," which conveys that while she still loves Uglyville,
friends, and their life of endless fun, she knows there's something more for her
Big World beyond their town. She's destined to serve a doll's true purpose - to
comfort and happiness to a loving child. There's a doll for every child, and a
every doll. "Moxy is holding on to a dream she knows has meaning," says Asbury,
"which she expresses through 'Today's the Day.'"
Perfection provides a stark contrast to Uglyville. The latter is defined by
unconventionality; everything is asymmetrical with no parallel lines, and is
and plush. It's a handcrafted world with fabric builds, button-based currency
food. Conversely, Perfection is defined by straight lines, geometric shapes,
and absolute neatness and order. "We wanted the UglyDolls to find themselves in
land that's strange to them, where they must figure out new rules to live by and
that the word 'ugly' does not mean the same to others as it does to them," says
"Perfection is not a mean place - though its leader, Lou, definitely has a mean
but it's a different kind of experience for Moxy and her friends.
"In the end, they learn that words like 'ugly,' 'pretty,' and 'beautiful'
don't have to
have the same meaning to everyone because beauty, of course, is in the eye of
But Lou does not subscribe to that kind of thinking. Instead, he preaches the
gospel of perfectionism. Lou rejects any doll that's too long, too small, too
big...well, you get the idea. His Institute of Perfection is an academy where
trained to be perfect. They must pass its rigorous standards and tests - and the
challenge, The Gauntlet - to proceed to the real world and experience a child's
Lou is a carefully-coiffed, sartorially-splendid rock star dripping with
whom everyone in Perfection seems to idolize. To ensure his views land with
impact, he conveys them through a glitzy, glittery, glamourous musical number
the song "The Ugly Truth," performed by Jonas. It's a powerful though untruthful
message that the residents totally buy, at least at first. But the UglyDolls
know it's not
right, and recognize Lou's self-serving and hidden agenda, which is woven into
As Moxy makes her way through this unfamiliar world, she faces challenges
like every heroine, has a few moments of weakness. She agrees to a makeover for
and her friends to facilitate an easier transition to the ways of Perfection.
help, the UglyDolls are plucked, tweezed, sculpted, molded and dollscaped. In
they're "All Dolled Up," in a number performed by Monae, with Clarkson, that
the scene's buoyancy and energy but whose lyrics, says Asbury, "tell us that
really doesn't need to do this."
Monae confirms, "It's a fun moment of watching the UglyDolls try and change
their look, but they ultimately realize the makeover is a bad idea - that this
is not them."
After Moxy learns about a troubling secret that Ox has long been hiding, she and
Mandy, who's dealing with her own challenges, face an emotionally-charged moment
truth that's conveyed through the song "Unbreakable." Asbury explains: "Moxy and
Mandy give each other a kind of pep talk, each looking to build up the
confidence of the
other. The song sums up a key theme - that we all have unique strengths that can
make each of us unbreakable."
The scene's visual motif of a mirrored staircase underlines that idea. "It's
about one's reflection and view of one's self, and that what you see in the
mirror is not
what everybody else sees," Asbury continues. "You should be proud of what you
According to Aviv, the writing of the song was a story unto itself. "There
some earlier versions of 'Unbreakable' that were not quite as soaring, emotional
powerful as the scene warranted - how the characters are helping each other to
give up," he remembers. "On a Friday evening I was bringing my daughter to
Boston, and then on Sunday there was a new demo of the song, and it was
The final version was locked in over a single weekend."
The film's end credits song, discovered by music supervisor Jason Markey and
Atlantic Records, is "Broken & Beautiful," an uplifting pop track performed by
co-written by Pink, Johnny McDaid, Marshmello and Steve Mac, and produced by Mac
and Marshmello. The powerful tune caps Moxy's journey of discovery - and her
realization that she doesn't need fixing or changing because she's both
beautiful. Says Clarkson: "Broken & Beautiful is one of my favorite songs I've
because Pink co-wrote it and I'm a huge Pink fan. And, honestly, there couldn't
more perfect song for the movie's themes. We all have challenges and things
working on. Everybody's under construction, right?
"It's the perfect wrap-up for the film because it speaks to how Moxy feels
we leave her," confirms Asbury. "And nobody does it better than Kelly Clarkson!"
The song's energy and themes reflect what drew the cast and filmmakers to
UGLYDOLLS. "Audiences will leave the cinemas tapping their toes but also, I
feeling empowered," says Asbury. Aviv adds that he's anticipating moviegoers
will be as
"moved and satisfied as we were making the picture" and credits the cast's
acting in providing key elements of intimacy and emotional purpose.
Hartwell notes that the film's universal ideas about individuality and
will resonate with audiences, and that "they'll also love the film for its sheer
The cast's hopes for the film mirror that of the filmmakers. "UGLYDOLLS is all
about loving yourself, loving life and realizing that we're all different, yet
all the same,"
notes Clarkson. Adds Jonas, "It's exciting to bring something joyful into the
world with a
positive message of hope and acceptance," and Monae says: "I think everyone -
and older - will have a great time and be inspired by the movie. It's so
because we're all trying to grow and decide what kind of person we want to be.
all, UGLYDOLLS takes us on a fun journey of what it means to celebrate what
And Pitbull sums up the film's strong and relatable ideas with the spot-on
acronym "U.G.L.Y." - U. Gotta. Love. Yourself."
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