Justin Hochberg had just five minutes to convince Mariah Carey she should do his Christmas Special for YouTube Red.
“I was on the phone with her and Stella [Bulochnikov], her manager, as they were backstage on Mariah’s European tour and Mariah was literally about to step on the stage,” the CEO of Just Entertainment Studios told Mashable in an interview. “My elevator pitch was basically ‘Mariah, you’re the queen of Christmas, you’ve done specials in the past, what about doing It’s a Wonderful Life but told through music.”
Carey and Bulochnikov’s reaction: “Love it, let’s do it, gotta go.”
On Monday, about nine months later, The Keys of Christmas co-starring Carey, YouTuber Rudy Mancuso and DJ Khaled made its debut on YouTube Red as part of the streaming service’s first slate of holiday programming.
Dave Meyers who is behind music videos such as Katy Perrys Firework” directed the special, which also features musical performances by a mix of digital and traditional stars including Lele Pons, Alex Aiono, Boyce Avenue, Nicky Jam, Bebe Rexha and Gregory Brothers. Boxing legend Mike Tyson, Ciara and Fifth Harmony are also featured in the special.
“Obviously once we had Mariah people love her that attracted everyone else,” Hochberg said. “Everyone wants to celebrate the holidays, but we were trying to figure out how to do a special in a fresh new way that would work. Mixing traditional and digital stars was perfect. Talent drives viewership, which is why YouTube Red was such a great partner for this.”
“Mariah is a truly Christmas icon, so having her involved in the special added a little Christmas magic like only she could bring”
The show executive produced by Carey, Magic Carpet Productions,Endemol Shine Beyond USA, Just Entertainment Studios andAdam Paul focuses on Mancuso as he goes on a magical adventure about the true meaning of Christmas.
“Mariah is a truly Christmas icon, so having her involved in the special added a little Christmas magic like only she could bring,” added Bonnie Pan, president of Endemol Shine Beyond USA. “As we started packaging the show, it was apparent that genre weaving would be a big part of this project. Bringing together the digital and traditional icons of our times is what really brought the magic.”
Carey, her publicist said, was too swamped to comment for this story. However, the music icon posted a few tweets on Monday to promote the special’s release.
Khaled also promoted the film on social media.
Mariah Carey (@MariahCarey) December 20, 2016
“This is bridging the gap between digital and traditional personalities and talent,” he told Mashable of the experience. “The special isn’t a YouTube movie, and its not a blockbuster hit. Its somewhere in the middle. Youve got Mariah Carey, who grew professionally on stage. And youve got me, who was born professionally online making videos. DJ Khaled started on stage but his brand blew up digitally. Hes a perfect blend of that as well.”
Meyers said there were both perks and challenges when it came to the digital special. But he found similarities between the digital and traditional talent that made it a fun experience overall.
“Well, its not really been done before, at least not successfully,” Meyers said in an email interview with Mashable. “Its something new and challenging. What I found most curious is that digital talent and musicians are very similar. They all are full-blown brands. It wasnt that different in how each cast member needed to be handled. Musicians care about the way in which their music and image are being depicted, and the digital talent are just the same: full-blown brands that have a sense of what and who they are and how they would like to be perceived.”
Meyers praised Mancuso and also expressed awe of Carey.
“Ive filmed her before, but there is something about her singing Christmas music that brought the joy of Christmas back to my life,” he said. “Needless to say, Ive been a little disenchanted with the explosion of materialism in the holidays. Shes truly the queen of Christmas.”