BALTIMORE (WJZ) — One of the best parts of the holiday season are the movies, and one of this year’s must-see hits, “Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey,” has a number of Baltimore ties. In fact, the film’s director said without the time he spent in the city, he may not be where he is today.

The film’s all-star cast, including familiar names like Keegan-Michael Key, Phylicia Rashad and Forest Whitaker, tells the story of a once-legendary toymaker who loses his magic, but a visit from his granddaughter years later provides the inspiration he needs to return to glory.

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“It’s really a love letter to my childhood, all the movies I loved growing up,” director David E. Talbert said.

Talbert has been working on the project for more than two decades.

David E. Talbert

“I started writing it in 1998 and I was going to do it as a Broadway production, and I couldn’t figure out how to get that together,” he recalled. “And then my son was born and I just started seeing life through his eye, and that was the spark I needed.”

The film features a person of color in almost every major role, an important aspect for Talbert, but one that doesn’t define the film.

“Every kid deserves a seat at the table of wonder, and even though it was intentional in its representation, the film really has to do with humanity and heart and love and family — things that are colorless,” he said.

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“Before Talbert was making Hollywood hits, he attended college at Morgan State University, a jumping-off point for his successful career.

“Morgan was everything because I came there on a basketball scholarship and then I blew out my ankle and I was like, ‘Okay, what’s next?’ And I found out they had a radio station there — WEAA — and I asked if I could be a talk show host,” he said.

Radio would eventually take him to California, where he began writing plays, only to return to Baltimore to bring them to life.

“I just want to say thank you to the beautiful people of Baltimore for wrapping their arms around me and the plays all these years and now with the film. It’s a blessing, it’s a full-circle moment for me,” he said.

Talbert hopes his recent magical creation helps children find the magic within.

“All children should feel that can bring to life the things they see on the screen, so now being able to invite people of color to this table, it just makes it even more special to me,” he said.

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The film is available to stream on Netflix.

Sean Streicher