Kristen Bell and Jonathan Groff are set to star in Molly And The Moon, an original movie musical which Deadline is reporting is “one of the hot packages of the American Film Market,” the annual week long industry event that sees numerous production deals being made for fledgling projects. Former The Late Show with David Letterman writers and How I Met Your Mother creators Carter Bays and Craig Thomas have written the script and songs and are also set to direct.
The film will tell the story of a young couple – Frozen co-stars Bell and Groff – who discover that their newborn child has been diagnosed with a life-threatening condition. It is a subject matter rooted in in the real life of writer Thomas, who lived through a similar situation with his own wife after their first child, Elliot, was born. As he told Deadline –
We discovered after he was born that Elliot had Jacobsen Syndrome, a rare genetic deletion where a piece of one of the 11th chromosomes has broken off, resulting in the loss of certain genes that go into making a healthy, typical baby.
And what it meant for Elliot is that he had several heart defects and needed open-heart surgery at only two weeks old, and we did not see any of this coming. This was after almost a week in the neonatal intensive care unit in Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. And all of a sudden, we are living this completely different story line than we had imagined for ourselves, our son going through open heart surgery at 2 weeks old. He weighed only about three and a half pounds, which also was unforeseen. So what ended up happening was, we were in the hospital for six weeks going through two different journeys. One was hoping that our son survived this heart surgery, which had a significant chance of mortality, and also trying to accept that if he lived through this heart surgery, we were going to have a kid who was different, who might have lifelong health and developmental issues. Those two journeys are so intense for anyone to go through. Meanwhile, there’s this other journey that was going on, and Carter, as my best friend, had front-row seats. What Carter heard me saying a lot was, ‘My god, he’s such a brave little boy.’ Because Elliot, this little tiny baby, was going through this epic life or death battle, lying in this plastic box, this small incubator.
Thomas’s story does have a happy ending. Doctors were able to get Elliot to a place where he and his wife could finally bring the infant home. Elliot is now thirteen years old, and while he still has some lingering health issues, he reportedly has his father’s love of music and is an avid drummer.
While the story and their emotions over the whole time were a little too raw for Thomas and Bays to incorporate into the overall storyline of How I Met Your Mother, it was something that they knew wanted to come back to and explore. Ultimately, they came upon the idea of telling the story in part at least from the infant’s point of view. As Thomas says –
The meter of Molly Moon is sort of the same as Elliot. Musicals are always about the first moments that prove why they are musicals. Kate, our lead character, the mother, is singing a lullaby to her pregnant belly and the camera pushes in on her pregnant belly and that is our entrance into a whole other world where we see a mysterious little girl in a rowboat in the middle of the ocean, looking up at the moon and hearing that song, hearing that lullaby come through the moon. It’s the moment you realize there’s this little soul, this life that wants to exist and be in the world and wants to reach the sound of that voice. She doesn’t know what it means or who it is. It just sounds like love, and she wants to reach it, and that’s sort of the moment that we connect the two worlds of our movie, the world of Molly and the real world that her parents are living in.
Bays further elaborates on the allegorical fantasy elements of the film –
It’s all live action; we really wanted to make it feel like the classic live-action fantasy movies of our childhood, things like Labyrinth and The Dark Crystal. As we were building off of this metaphor, it became, how do we show this journey? How do we visualize a soul trying to make it into the world? For us, it felt like the journey of climbing a mountain. Molly is this little girl and the moon in the movie represents being alive and participating in the world. It’s her journey, trying to get to the moon. Around that we built this magical fantasy world that we cut back and forth from, that interacts with the real world in surprising ways. We see the fantasy journey and the friends she makes along the way. There’s a knight in shining armor. There’s a talking bunny that she meets in the forest. There’s a monster that she has to face. It’s a real hero’s journey for her.
There is no word as to when the production will get in front of cameras or a scheduled release date yet.
While I am indeed a fan of How I Met Your Mother, I am really interested in Molly And The Moon strictly on its own merits. We are in a time where movie musicals are a rareity, and when we do get them they are usually just screen adaptations of existing shows. Let’s face it, recent adaptations like Cats and Into The Woods were not that good. And original movie musicals are even scarcer with 2017’s The Greatest Showman being the only major one that comes to mind from the last decade.
What is exciting here is that not only is it a musical, but one that is not only unique to itself and not an adaptation of some pre-existing intellectual property, but it has a story rooted in some very real and primal emotions. It has the potential to really reach out and connect with audiences in a way that we haven’t seen before.