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Elijah Kelley on Music, Philanthropy and the Strange Magic of Love

We attended the interview as a guest of Disney

Photo courtesy of Disney

Photo courtesy of Disney

Elijah Kelley portrays the role of my favorite character, Sunny, in the upcoming film “Strange Magic.” I fell in love with heart and soul of the character and after sitting down to talk with Kelley, he played a huge part in bringing the character to life. It was the first time that Kelley had done a voiceover role, and it was a little bit of a challenge for him. “I thought it was going to be easy; I thought it was going to be a piece of cake. It was like doing P90X bringing to life and understanding the world that Sunny lives in,” said Kelley.

In the film, Sunny is in love with the character Dawn and has trouble expressing his love for her. All of us can relate to being in Sunny’s shoes at some point in our lives, and Kelley said, “we wanted the characters to be relatable to audiences of all kinds of ages. I think everybody goes through a lot of trouble to be able to grasp the love of their life, and I think that love is so complicated.” As a Mother to pre-teenagers, I have already experienced seeing my kids struggle with how to express their feelings towards a boy or girl who they have a crush on in school. Kelley said, “I think that was the most human characteristic of the movie. I know probably everybody in this room has been around somebody that you just look up to, and you find yourself attracted to but you don’t even know how to say it or what to say.”

Another great message that kids will get from Kelley’s character in the film is to never give up. “Sunny doesn’t quit. Throughout trial, adversity, you have to keep going, and I think that is something that Sunny carries,” said Kelley.

Photo courtesy of Disney

Photo courtesy of Disney

A huge part of the magic surrounding Sunny was the music sung by Kelley. After a screening of the film, we had a unique opportunity to have Kelley sing one of the songs from the film live for us in the theater. There’s a strong passion and emotion that is evoked when listening to Kelley’s music, and that is truly what makes his character special in the film. Kelley has a musical background that started through his church. “I grew-up in church all my life. My dad was in ministry, and we had a traveling singing group that would go all around the Southeast to different churches,” said Kelley. Now Kelley is doing even more amazing things with his talent like producing an album, playing the role Sunny in “Strange Magic,” and making a difference in the world with his non-profit.

Kelley has started the Elijah Kelley Foundation that helps unprivileged kids pursue their dreams in art and entertainment. “I’ve given out four scholarships over the last five years to students from low-income housing that are going to pursue careers in performing arts,” said Kelley.

Finally, we were curious to know what it was like for Kelley to work so closely with George Lucas on the film. “George has surpassed I think what we are on Earth. He’s become an idea. 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. When you have an idea, that you’re convicted about, and you can change the world from that idea, you don’t stray away from it, and you dedicate your life to that idea. 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, and that’s why I love working with him,” said Kelley.

Don’t miss falling in love Kelley’s character in the film “Strange Magic” in theaters this Friday! Learn more about the film on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram #StrangeMagic.

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