SUBSCRIBE NOW

Netflix's 'Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey' soars with diverse cast — and some flying

The holidays are extra special for David Talbert. 

The director of "Almost Christmas" and "El Camino Christmas" followed up with the festive film "Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey" (streaming on Netflix) in hopes of redefining a holiday classic that his son could see himself reflected in. 

"I think it’s time for a new story," Phylicia Rashad's character reads at the start of the film.

The need for a feel-good musical full of people of color became apparent to Talbert after his attempts to introduce his son to classics, like "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" and "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang," fell flat. 

"​​​​I got my popcorn… and put ("Chitty Chitty Bang Bang") on surround sound. I had my 4-year-old son there," Talbert tells USA TODAY. "I look over at him and he’s playing with his Legos."

He continued: "I look at the screen and it hit me that this is perhaps the whitest movie ever made in the history in mankind. I realized he couldn’t see himself in the screen."

'Jingle Jangle' and more: Christmas movies coming to Netflix this year

"Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey", starring Madalen Mills as Journey Jangle and Forest Whitaker as Jeronicus Jangle, is rich in holiday spirit and inclusion.

The musical starring Forest Whitaker, Phylicia Rashad, Keegan-Michael Key, Anika Noni Rose, Ricky Martin and newcomer Madalen Mills (whose performance Talbert compares to a "young July Garland in 'The Wizard of Oz'") is rich in holiday spirit and inclusion.

Even an impromptu snowball fight integrated Afro beats and dance.

But "Jingle Jangle" is not just a movie with a diverse cast. The film touches on "heart, humanity, wonder and hope," common ideas that families worldwide can relate to around the holidays. 

"It’s the universal themes of the movie that I hope everyone will take in because it speaks to everyone," Talbert says. "But we are normalizing people of color in places that you wouldn’t normally see them." 

The 20 best Christmas movies of all time, ranked (from 'It's a Wonderful Life' to 'Die Hard')

Netflix's "Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey" stars Keegan-Michael Key as Gustafson.

"Jingle Jangle" follows brilliant toymaker Jeronicus Jangle's (Whitaker) quest to create a new toy for children by Christmas.

Martin lends his velvety chops to the manipulative matador doll, Don Juan Diego, who convinces apprentice Gustafston (Key) to steal the toymaker’s book of inventions.

It's up to Jangle's estranged granddaughter Journey (Mills) to reawaken the magic within her grandfather. 

"The story involves second chances, believing in yourself, healing your family and forgiveness," Whitaker tells USA TODAY. "Everyone is struggling with COVID-19 issues: People are cooped up and not feeling like they are going to make it and reclaim their lives. And the theme of the movie talks about that."

What to stream this weekend: Netflix's 'Operation Christmas Drop,' 'Proxima,' 'Triggered'

Netflix's "Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey" stars
Phylicia Rashad as Grandmother.

"Jingle Jangle" has all the elements of a Christmas spectacle. There's a colorful Victorian town, citywide musical sequences, magical toys that come to life and even flying. 

Whitaker has "flight camp" to thank for that. 

"We had a lot of fun when we were flying around the room," he says. "They got these rigs up, like ropes and stuff. They start you off with just straight lines, pulling you up and you learning how to flip over and turn around. And then they start making it three-dimensional, where you can go in circles and stuff."

Witnessing Whitaker fly was a tearful experience for Talbert, "a big hot emotional mess."

"Seeing him fly… was like I was like seeing myself and seeing this story finally fly," Talbert says, adding that he had to reassure Whitaker several times that the "wires are not going to break."

Talbert added: "Just seeing him up there was magical. He was like a big kid again."