Netflix’s magical festive musical Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey includes an Easter egg to Black Panther that means more than you may think.
Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey is a surprisingly strong addition to the great Christmas movie tradition and stands apart from the rest of Netflix’s original Christmas movies. And the musical, which stars Forest Whitaker as an eccentric inventor and toy-maker, has an affectionate homage to the MCU’s Black Panther movie. Given not only Whitaker’s involvement, but also the movie’s commitment to Black culture, it’s a great little nod.
The musical, which was directed by David E. Talbert and stars Whitaker alongside newcomer Madalen Mills, Keegan-Michael Key, Ricky Martin and Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville has quickly jumped into the top ten on Netflix. Part of that success is down to the grand musical numbers, as written in-part by John Legend that combine festive whimsy with Broadway choreography and great singing performances (including by Whitaker). Like Christmas Chronicles before it, Jingle Jangle has a real chance of becoming a holiday favorite.
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The production design is so impressive and imaginative that there’s a veritable feast of detail in the musical, which can go unnoticed thanks to the lavish set-pieces in the foreground. But one detail that sticks out is the touching tribute to Whitaker’s part in Black Panther, which comes in the form of a luggage label on a case belonging to his character Jeronicus Jangle. And there’s a double, deeper meaning to the Easter egg that goes beyond Whitaker’s casting in both projects.
The Easter egg appears when Jeronicus is shown opening a trunk. On the side, marking the inventor’s assumed past habit of traveling the world are labels including one that reads “Wakanda The Grand Country.” It’s fitting on the surface level because Forest Whitaker very much has been to Wakanda thanks to his role as elder statesman Zuri, who fittingly protects the magic of Wakanda’s heart-shaped herb. And then there’s the link between the projects in terms of inventiveness and Black excellence: in both cases, the central locations are hubs for world-beating inventions (albeit on different scales) so it’s doubly important.
But even more crucially, the shout-out to Wakanda fits with David Talbert’s creative drive to get Jingle Jangle made. As star Phylicia Rashad (who plays Grandmother Journey) told Vibe in an interview, Talbert had been working on the musical for twenty-two years and the finished product is an expression of the best of him. She says that even though the cast were not aware of the Easter egg, it fits that the director would put it in there as an expression of “the magic that we as people are” even after filming was wrapped. For Rashad, Talbert’s Black Panther Easter egg is another part of Jingle Jangle‘s commitment to celebrating Black identities in a way lots of movies simply do not, particularly in the world of musicals, and fits with how important Black culture and music are to the experience of the movie.
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