This Christmas, Disney has released a brand new original film, “The Naughty Nine” on Disney+ around the world.  The film is a hilarious holiday adventure following eight kids and one grown-up who fly to the North Pole and break into Santa’s vault to take the presents that they didn’t get for Christmas, because they were on the naughty list. In this family-friendly heist film, audiences are treated to heartwarming moments and a positive message.

Recently, I got to speak with the film’s composer Kenny Wood and director Alberto Belli, where they shared stories on how they decided to stir up the holiday magic by paying homage to the golden era of film scoring. The music is reminiscent of 80’s and 90’s film scores, and features memorable themes told with a symphony orchestra and stellar vocalists. Of course, there’s also some fantastic jazzy heist scenes!

How did you get involved in working on “The Naughty Nine”:

Alberto – It was a really fun script, and I love Christmas movies and I love Disney. It was a perfect combination. And I do love those action adventure like the eighties and nineties, and this had that kind of vibe. So I was all over it after I read the script was like, “I want to make this movie right now.”

Kenny – Well, anything Alberto works on, I am just chomping at the bit to work on it with him. And sometimes that’s not always easy. Alberto’s just kind of at the launchpad of a stellar career right now and oftentimes the studios give a little pushback when he wants to have certain crew members. So we had to fight for it, but luckily they were willing to give me a chance and I just took a big swing at it and here we are. It’s been amazing.

What was your approach to creating the sound for the film?

Kenny – Oh yeah. Well, we had a lot of references in mind. So Home Alone is a big one, the Polar Express. So there’s a great history of wonderful Christmas music or Christmas movies with wonderful scores on them. In terms of the theme behind the Naughty Nine, which is a heist movie. So we got to incorporate those elements and find a middle ground between spy-sounding heist music with the Christmas elements that you would see in a Disney classic. So that’s what we went with and, yeah, I hope that’s what we achieved. So I guess we’ll leave it up to the viewer.

How much of the film used practical effects?

Alberto – I think it was a lot of practical with VFX enhancements. I would say probably 70% of what you watch was real. We had these humongous sets for all the set pieces, and it was mostly about, obviously, we built a huge village, an exterior lot, and we built the ice cave and we built so many sites I cannot even count. But everything was just more like enhancement than building everything from scratch, basically.

What was your biggest highlight working on the film?

Kenny – The biggest highlight had to have been… Well, I would say this is sort of a general highlight going across as we were working on it. The story of how the score came to be almost goes in parallel with the Naughty Nine story itself. There’s times where I had to feel like I was one of these kids hatching plans to get some of these cues out. And then at the very end it felt like a race to the finish line. And it was cool to be able to get there literally minutes before the doors shut and we had to push the thing out there.

The highlight overall for me was just being able to exercise these composer things that we always dream of being able to do. Movies these days are awesome, but if you’re not on one of these huge Marvel productions or something, you might be on something smaller, and you have to put out a score that fits that vibe. And it’s not always what your heart is thirsting for. But the Naughty Nine is exactly what we composers dream of doing. So it was a dream come true to be able to write big music and do these big scenes. And Alberto is amazing. He lets me be a character in the film alongside the other actors, and that’s awesome.

Alberto – I think it was just designing a whole North Pole. Growing up, I used to put a lot of, I don’t know, those little Christmas houses, villages or whatever. So it was like, “Wouldn’t it be cool to design one of this in real life?” So for me, that was the best from design everything. And then just hearing Kenny’s score, put it all together and wrap it up. I think for me, the score is, what they do is the glue. You make a movie and the score is what glues everything together and makes it go smooth. And I think I was very happy how amazing Kenny did for this movie.

What was the biggest challenge in working on “The Naughty Nine”?

Alberto – For sure. It was the cold. We were actually shooting outside with kids at night. Because it’s the North Pole, it’s supposed to be at night. So I think it was like -22F, which is -30C. It was insane. Winds and nine kids and stunts and everything. And you’re like, “Oh my God, is this ever going to happen?” And somehow a Christmas miracle happened every day and then even till now, I feel like it’s a Christmas miracle that the movie’s out and people are loving it. But for sure the quality was like, “Wow, I didn’t expect that to be that cold.”

How long did it take to make the film?

Alberto – It took not that long. I think it was… I want to say two months maybe? Yeah, shooting. And the process of post-production was a little longer. We took two years because we shot during the pandemic and there was a shortage of the FX houses ready to go. It was delayed. And then to get into Disney Plus, you have to deliver, I want to say like, three or four months ahead. It needs to be dubbed in every language. So even if we wanted to release that the same year was impossible for us to deliver it. But yeah, shooting was around two months and then pre was maybe three months before? Yeah, that’s fast.

Was the plan for “The Naughty Nine” to always be released on Disney+?

I think that was always the plan, yeah, since the beginning where it’s like, “Oh, this is for the Disney channel, but Disney+ too.

The film stars Danny Glover as Santa, what was it like working with him?

Alberto – Oh, it was a lot of fun. We wanted someone who had that presence and then Danny Glover, which probably now you can tell from the movie, but he’s really tall. So when I saw on set, I was like, “Oh my God.” And his voice is so imposing when we were shooting in this huge sta… It was a real bank, I think. And then his voice just vibrated. And I felt so lucky to be able to work with him. And he had that balance also that he was very likable. Because we wanted an imposing Santa rather than the usual jolly happy-go-lucky Santa, who needs to teach a lesson but while being liked. And I think Danny Glover, people just love him just as a person. So he felt like the right choice for sure

And the film ended on a cliffhanger, would you like to make a sequel?

Alberto – Oh, I would love to, yeah. We’ll see. We’re waiting for how the movie’s doing so far. From what I’ve seen, it’s doing really well. But no word yet if we’re going to get a sequel. But hopefully it will be

Check out the full video interview below:

“The Naughty Nine” is out now on Disney+.

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Roger Palmer

Roger has been a Disney fan since he was a kid and this interest has grown over the years. He has visited Disney Parks around the globe and has a vast collection of Disney movies and collectibles. He is the owner of What's On Disney Plus & DisKingdom. Email: Twitter: Facebook:

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