Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, songwriters of La La Land and The Greatest Showman, create new tracks to help a singing crocodile express himself, in Columbia Pictures’ Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile.
Based on the best-selling book series by Bernard Waber, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile, starring Academy Award® winner Javier Bardem, Constance Wu, and Shawn Mendes, is a live-action/CGI musical comedy that brings this beloved character to a new, global audience.
“All of these characters collide on their paths and change each other,” says Paul. “This crocodile brings their lives so much joy, and color, and vibrancy, and they also change him in unexpected ways – ways he’s needing. And it’s all done through music – it’s music that Lyle brings to their lives, literally and figuratively. It’s how they connect, how they open up to feel vulnerable, to feel celebratory, to feel understood by someone. For us as songwriters, it’s a total joy to write songs where you’re unlocking a character’s true, human heart.”
But when that character is a singing crocodile? That’s perfect too, says Pasek. “Any time you hear a person bursting out into song in a musical, you’re leaving the world of reality behind,” says Pasek. “When you’re watching a crocodile with a voice and a heart of gold – a crocodile who can literally only express himself through song – you suddenly have permission to untether from reality.”
In pitching the project to the songwriting duo, the directors Speck and Gordon were able to offer Pasek and Paul a chance to become involved much earlier in the process than they usually are – and to help shape the story of the musical comedy around the songs that they would write.
With Pasek and Paul involved very early in the script stage, they got a sense of what the directors were aiming for with the story. “A song should not be an arbitrary choice. A song shouldn’t appear out of nowhere, with nothing leading up to it,” says Speck. “What Benj and Justin were able to do, as storytellers, was seamlessly thread into the narrative why somebody has to sing at that moment. What is it about this song that’s going to influence and change the characters?”
For Paul, having an unabashedly earnest movie that he could share with his young children was an extra pleasure. “As cheesy as it sounds, we believe in corny things like hope and optimism,” Paul says. “There’s a lot of joy running through our music and the pieces we gravitate toward. There’s a lot of cynicism in the world right now, so it’s exciting to have songs out in the world that are infused with Lyle’s joy and his desire to live life vulnerable and honest and open – and does it via a singing crocodile on screen.”
To ensure that the songs would weave together a wide range of experiences and emotional threads, Pasek and Paul recruited top songwriters Joriah Kwamé, Emily Gardner Xu Hall, Mark Sonnenblick, and Arianna Asfar to collaborate with them on each of the songs. “Getting the opportunity to work with other songwriters is one of the best parts of our job. We learn so much from these new experiences and relationships. Plus, we’re just huge fans of each of them. It was a thrill to work together, to bang ideas back and forth, and to come out with songs that feel truly unique and truly Lyle,” say Pasek and Paul.
In cinemas starting October 12, Lyle, Lyle, Crocodile is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. Connect with the hashtag #LyleLyleCrocodile