John Debney interview: ‘Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey’ composer
“I wanted to create my best work that I have ever done,” admits composer John Debney about composing the original score for Netflix’s popular festive fantasy “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey.” “He wanted me to dream big and go for the most amazing score that I could,” the veteran composer says of his director David E. Talbert. “When you’re given that kind of opportunity and that kind of palette, it opens the floodgates to creativity. I honestly felt it my duty, my job, to create something that would be really special, like I always do, but especially for ‘Jingle Jangle.'” Watch our exclusive video interview with Debney above.
In “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” an imaginary world comes to life in a holiday tale of eccentric toymaker Jeronicus Jangle, his adventurous granddaughter and a magical invention that could change their lives forever. The film was written and directed by Talbert and stars Oscar winner Forest Whitaker, Emmy winner Keegan-Michael Key, Tony winner Anika Noni Rose and Emmy nominees Hugh Bonneville, Phylicia Rashad and Ricky Martin.
Originally planned as a stage production by Talbert, “Jangle” eventually premiered on Netflix late last year to glowing reviews. It’s certified “fresh” at Rotten Tomatoes with an impressive 89% score, where consensus for the Christmas fantasy film is that it “celebrates the yuletide season with a holiday adventure whose exuberant spirit is matched by its uplifting message.” Debney’s rich and stirring score for the film matches its unbridled and joyous festive spirit, featuring a range of distinct musical elements that come together to bring the visually and aurally sumptuous film to life. The score is now one of 15 that the motion picture academy’s music branch recently included on its shortlist for Best Original Score out of a staggering 136 eligible scores.
Apart from some of the more recognizable Christmas motifs like bells and flute that show up throughout the film, Debney’s score aims to be as timeless and diverse as possible, brimming with a variety of elements. It features an evocative mix of emotional string elements, soulful choral tracks, action-adventure melodies and even tango-inspired brass and percussive instruments that underscore the joy and wonder experienced by Jeronicus’s granddaughter Journey, played by Madalen Mills.
Debney was inspired not only by the film’s uplifting message but also because of how it celebrates cultural and social inclusivity in a meaningful, rather than superficial way. “We want to honor all of the culture of these characters. It wasn’t just Victorian England. It was Victorian England with African-inspired costuming and hairstyling,” he explains. “Just like ‘Black Panther’ was an incredibly important film for many reasons, culturally, this to me is also that. And I honored that and that opened the floodgates for me to write the adventure theme,” he says. “It’s for humanity, it’s for everyone.”