In front of a packed audience of Oscar and key guild voters earlier this month at our sixth annual awards-season event The Contenders Presented By Deadline, Illumination head Chris Meledandri explained the origins of his company’s latest animated offering Sing!, in which a group of animals gather together for a singing competition put on by a koala bear named Buster Moon who is trying to save his theater.

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Meledandri is coming off the worldwide success of another original ‘toon this summer, The Secret Life Of Pets, but also holds high awards hopes for Sing, which features 65 unique songs on its soundtrack including a highly touted new one called “Faith” performed by Stevie Wonder with Ariana Grande.

As he told the crowd during the Universal presentation at the DGA theater, this has been an idea floating in his head for some time but really ignited when he met with director Garth Jennings after sparking to one of the live-action helmer’s earlier films, Son Of Rambow. With unique character design and a cast including Matthew McConaughey, Reese Witherspoon and John C. Reilly among others, Meledandri says they created something he called “a three-legged stool of story and words, and acting and music, and visual expression.” It is certainly one where you can come out humming the tunes.

Watch our conversation above.