As the media landscape continues to change, and an exponentially increasing amount of content competes for our dollars, it takes a lot to make a splash. Yet a cannonball-sized splash is what Disney is expected to make when it launches its own streaming service next year. The Netflix competitor will feature the studio's vast library, as well as new original series and movies made specifically for the platform. As 2019 approaches, one of the first of those original movies has begun casting. Disney has tapped Grace VanderWaal for the lead role in the movie Stargirl.
If you're unfamiliar with that name, that's because this will be Grace VanderWaal's acting debut. The 14-year-old first came onto the scene when she won America's Got Talent two years ago by singing her original songs while playing the ukulele. Since then, she has released an EP and debut album, and she is touring with Imagine Dragons this summer. Stargirl director Julia Hart, whose latest film Fast Color premiered at SXSW this year, was sold on Grace VanderWaal almost from the start. According to Deadline, the young singer beat out 700 other girls to land the lead role of Stargirl.
Stargirl is based on a young adult novel of the same name by author Jerry Spinelli. Told from the point of view of a boy named Leo, Stargirl tells the story of the titular character who, after years of home schooling, enters a public high school. She captures the imaginations of her peers with her eccentricities, kindness and individuality. The character of Stargirl also plays the ukulele, just like Grace VanderWaal. But as with all popular things, there is a backlash and her classmates turn on her, resulting in Leo compelling her to just be normal. The story stresses the importance of individuality and being yourself. Stargirl also spawned a sequel titled Love, Stargirl, so you can bet that may be coming down the line should Stargirl perform well for Disney's streaming service.
Judging by her performance on America's Got Talent, it is clear that Grace VanderWaal has talent, at least in the musical department. If that holds true for acting, and the huge casting process for Stargirl indicates that it does, then this film that holds such an important message for a young audience is off to a good start. The other thing about Stargirl is that it sounds like the right kind of title for this streaming service.
A story like this may not get a lot of traction in the blockbuster-heavy theatrical release slate, but it will have an opportunity to find its audience on Disney's streaming platform. Sweet stories with this kind of message actually remind me of Disney Channel's Original Movies that once were proving grounds for young stars. It is cool that among the Star Wars series and Marvel properties that will anchor the service, there is still room for these types of stories.
Stargirl will be shot in Arizona and New Mexico, with principal photography set to begin on September 24. For all the latest on Disney's upcoming streaming service and children reminding you how talentless you are, stay tuned to CinemaBlend.