“The Star,” an animated film released in November and now in local theaters, first premiered before an audience of a group of ecumenical faith leaders at Christ Cathedral’s Freed Theater in October, thanks to the Orange Catholic Foundation.
The computer-animated film produced by Sony Pictures Animation features the voices of actors Patricia Heaton, Addy Bryant, Steven Yuen, Keegan-Michael Key, Kelly Clarkson, Gina Rodriguez, Tracy Morgan, Tyler Perry, Oprah Winfrey, Kristin Chenowith, Zachary Levi and many others.
The actors voice the characters of the animals that witness the Nativity story as it unfolds from the time the angel Gabriel appears to Mary until the Holy Family’s flight to Egypt after the birth of Jesus.
Directed by Timothy Reckart, the screenplay was written by Carlos Kotkin and Simon Moore. On November 20, John Mulderig of the Catholic News Service gave the film an A-I rating for general patronage and noted that it is rated PG, but said it was appropriate viewing for all but the smallest children.
“The inclusion of lighthearted humor… does nothing to detract from the appropriately reverent treatment of the movie’s sacred subject matter,” Mulderig writes. “Though a couple of silly guano-themed lines designed to make little ones giggle might have been dispensed with, overall this is a very solid choice for family viewing. All the more so, as it may serve as the starting point for a discussion of faith in general and of the Incarnation in particular.”
A short preview of “The Star” was shown at the Conference for Business & Ethics hosted by the Orange Catholic Foundation in May. Patricia Heaton, who plays Edith the cow in the film, was the keynote conference speaker. Heaton, a three-time Emmy winner, now appears as Frankie Heck in the ABC hit sitcom “The Middle” and earned fame as Debra Barone in “Everybody Loves Raymond,” which aired from 1996 to 2005.
“‘The Star’ gives an ‘animals’-eye view’ of the first Christmas in a way that is funny, engaging and inspiring,” Heaton told the conference attendees. “Moms, dads, grandparents and kids will be swept up in the adventure of a new look at a timeless story.”
Hank Evers, the foundation’s director of development and communications, was able to attract the Christ Cathedral advance screening of “The Star” thanks to his close relationship with Sony and the Catholic consulting agency it employs, Carmel Communications.
For Sony, Evers says, “Their objective is to secure an early interest and buzz that can be spread throughout the community and to ensure a heightened turnout during opening week.”
Evers first worked with CNN in 2015 to bring its documentary “The True Cross” to the cathedral campus in February 2015. The screening was followed by a panel discussion of the film by faith leaders from the Catholic, Coptic Christian, Evangelical and Assyrian Church communities.
After “The True Cross,” Sony invited Evers to a screening of the 2015 film “The Risen,” which led to two Christ Cathedral screenings. “It gave a real presence to the film and gave it legs,” Evers says.
“They set up cameras in the Atrium and interviewed people after they saw the film,” he recalls, “and those interviews were used to promote the film. It was remarkable, a real win-win for us and for the producers. It brought people to our campus to experience how rich it is as the intersection of faith and reason.”