Disney’s THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, an adaptation of the award-winning book about one very special gorilla, is an unforgettable tale about the beauty of friendship, the power of visualization, and the significance of the place one calls home.

Ivan is a 400-pound silverback gorilla who shares a communal habitat in a suburban shopping mall with Stella the elephant, Bob the dog, and various other animals. He has few memories of the jungle where he was captured, but when a baby elephant named Ruby arrives, it touches something deep within him. Ruby is recently separated from her family in the wild, which causes him to question his life, where he comes from, and where he ultimately wants to be. The heartwarming adventure, which comes to the screen in an impressive hybrid of live-action and CGI, is based on Katherine Applegate‘s bestselling book of the same name, which has won numerous awards upon its publication in 2013, including the Newbery Medal.

Recently, I attended a virtual press junket ahead of the release of THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, and as moderator Grae Drake put it, it was a little like “going to the circus”. As a whole, the conference was fun, lively, full of great personalities, and incredibly entertaining. In fact, I think it’s safe to say this was the most entertaining junket I’ve gotten to be a part of! That was, of course, because of the amazing cast that was on hand. When you put that much talent together in one short Zoom meeting, you know it’s going to be a great time! Joining us that day were Bryan Cranston (“Mack”), Angelina Jolie (“Stella”), Sam Rockwell (“Ivan”), Danny DeVito (“Bob the Dog”, Helen Mirren (“Snickers the Poodle”), Chaka Khan (“Henrietta the Chicken”), Phillipa Soo (“Thelma the Parrot”), Brooklynn Prince (“Ruby”), Ariana Greenblatt (“Julia”), Ramon Rodriguez (“George”), Ron Funches (“Murphy the Rabbit”), Mike White (“Frankie the Seal”/Screenwriter), and Director Thea Sharrock.

Ivan (voiced by Sam Rockwell) in Disney’s THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN, based on the award-winning book by Katherine Applegate and directed by Thea Sharrock | Photo courtesy of Disney.

One of my favorite things about the film, and the story, is how art plays such an important role. I love that the movie shows that no matter what type of art is created, or who is creating it, it can have a huge impact. During the conference, Grae brought up the fact that “Bob the Dog” is rather prophetic. He’s quoted as saying, “we’re all a little artsy” and obviously, in a room full of amazing actors you’re surrounded by artists. Grae asked the question, “How are you a little bit artsy outside of your acting?” and because of the pandemic, and the fact that we, for the most part, have to stay inside and keep ourselves entertained, it was a really great way to start the conversation.

Bryan Cranston informed us that he has started making sourdough bread and is quite proud of it. Chaka Khan didn’t talk about anything artsy she’s doing right now, but she did talk about how when she was 16 she joined the circus and was a rope girl who rode the elephant. Danny DeVito has gotten creative with nature. He had a red oak tree planted in his yard and he’s added an array of birdhouses and feeders. Helen Mirren is also using nature as her creative outlet and entertainment. She’s also put up bird feeders and houses, but hers ended up being stolen by bears! Angelina Jolie has been spending her time studying foreign policy but is tapping into her creative side with her kids and making up stories and games. We also found out that the drawings used in the movie were done by Ariana Greenblatt who was incredibly excited to get to use her own art in the film.

The great thing about art is that it comes in so many mediums from baking to painting to acting to making movies. There are so many ways that art can affect us. During the interview, Angelina said: “When art gets it right, when creativity gets it right, it reaches that deep place in us on a personal level” and this film absolutely does that. It’s a great story with a ton of heart that truly resonates with everything going on in the world right now. THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN may feature some heavy themes but overall it’s a film that’s charming, fun, and full of life.

THE ONE AND ONLY IVAN debuts exclusively on Disney+ August 21, 2020.

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