When you see names like Kelly Clarkson, Janelle Monae, Nick Jonas, Lizzo, Pitbull, Blake Shelton, Bebe Rexha, Charli XCX, in the same lineup, you’d be forgiven for thinking that it’s for a big festival or awards show. But in this case, it was “Uglydolls,” an animated film out nationwide Friday based on the popular toys that brought these diverse musicians together under the same banner.
The draw for many was the message. The film imagines a doll class system where the “ugly” ones, with defects and flaws, are filtered out to their own island, while the pretty ones get the chance to match up with a kid. But a tenacious ugly doll called Moxy rejects this idea and decides to train alongside the perfect dolls for the same chance.
Moxy is voiced by Clarkson, who found herself amused when she was pitched the role. Although she grew up with “all the princess ones,” she found that she related to this Uglydoll.
“My husband and I were laughing like, huh, super determined, stubborn, can’t be swayed from what she knows her truth is,” Clarkson said. “I was like, oh so basically it’s just like a doll form of me. OK.”
So even though she doesn’t necessarily love acting (“I don’t have like some big dream of like winning an Oscar,” Clarkson said) she signed on. Animation is different, she figured, and more like musical theater, which she does enjoy.
Monae, who does actually enjoy acting in front of the camera and has found successes with roles in “Moonlight” and “Hidden Figures,” was similarly intrigued by the ideas behind “Uglydolls.” Her character Mandy is one of the pretty ones, but she has some hidden depth too and an imperfection she’s been taught to be embarrassed about — her glasses.
“I love my character Mandy. I love the Uglydolls and what they represent. We’re the weirdos. We’re the outcasts. We’re the cool ones because of that, but we see it and we discover it because of each other,” Monae said. “The story itself is something I have preached since the beginning of my career.”
The two pop stars have a duet in the movie on the inspirational anthem “Unbreakable,” which Monae found particularly poignant.
“People are always going to say you’re not good enough, you don’t look good enough, you’ll never be good enough because of maybe who you love or where you come from, but you have to remember your power and your worth and understand that the feeling of being bullied won’t last forever,” she said. “You will have allies. You will have your community of folks. And things will get better.”
It’s a message that they hope resonate with both children and adults, and Clarkson got the best endorsement of all too: From her youngest kids.
“The fact that a 3 and 4-year-old sat in a chair and watched the entire thing is an amazing feat in itself,” Clarkson said.
And they’re already requesting a second viewing.