How “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” inspired “Candy Cane Lane”

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"We called it Rankin Glass," says Hudlin of borrowing the animation style of the classic 1960s holiday special for the glass figurines in his new movie.

Candy Cane Lane has some new candidates for the Island of Misfit Toys.

The holiday film, which stars Eddie Murphy and Tracee Ellis Ross as Christmas-obsessed parents Chris and Carol Carver, is bursting with Christmas magic. When Chris (Murphy) makes a pact with scorned elf Pepper (Jillian Bell) to help win his neighborhood's Christmas light contest, he encounters a pack of enchanted glass figurines, including an entire caroling group voiced by acapella sensation Pentatonix.

Pip (Nick Offerman), Lamplighter Gary (Chris Redd), and Cordelia (Robin Thede) all seek to give Chris and his family advice to avoid falling subject to the curse Pepper will invoke if Chris fails to meet her terms.

<p>Prime Video </p> Glass villagers come to life in 'Candy Cane Lane'

Prime Video

Glass villagers come to life in 'Candy Cane Lane'

The characters themselves were always a part of Kelly Younger's script, inspired by his own love of a particular holiday decoration. "I love miniature Christmas villages," he tells EW. "There’s something inherently magical and timeless about them, from the old-timey ‘shoppes’ with snow-packed roofs to the Dickensian figurines in scarves and top hats. As a kid, I remember staring into a store window at a display with two ice skaters slowly spinning on a mirror as if on a frozen lake. I was mesmerized and I recall thinking, wouldn’t it be wonderful if that was real? So that’s how I came up with the Villagers."

But finding the right look for the figures was a more protracted process. "There was a debate over whether they should be wood," says director Reginald Hudlin. "I'm like, 'No. People today have glass or porcelain decorations. They should look like that.' My family has stuff from my childhood, my wife's childhood, and we collect stuff wherever we travel. Decorations are really personalized. I feel like we have a relationship with our ornaments and such, so if they could talk back, that would be even better."

From there, they crafted these glass figures, which are brought to life through computer animation. But Hudlin was intent that even with the use of new technology, their movements and design would evoke another Christmas classic — the Rankin-Bass 1964 Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer television special.

"Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is one of the greatest things ever made," gushes Hudlin. "And I love that Rankin Bass-style stop-motion animation. I said, 'Look, even though we're going to do this in CG, I want it to feel like that.' We called it Rankin Glass."

<p>Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images</p> Kevin Olusola, Kirstin Maldonado, Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, and Matt Sallee of Pentatonix

Chris Haston/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images

Kevin Olusola, Kirstin Maldonado, Scott Hoying, Mitch Grassi, and Matt Sallee of Pentatonix

The figurines also allowed Hudlin to bring a disparate group of voice talent together. "This is as good as it gets," he says. "These are people who may or may not be in the same room otherwise, but let's make the most of how eclectic they are and have fun with all of them."

A crucial part of that equation is Pentatonix, who bring their beloved holiday vocal stylings to the action, which was also at the behest of Hudlin. "The singing part was there," he notes. "I'm like, 'This is obviously Pentatonix, right? You got to get Pentatonix.' They're total pros. They love the spirit of the movie, and they nailed it."

Candy Cane Lane is now streaming on Prime Video.

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