Elton John Lends Hits to Tiny (Gnome) Dancers

If a meerkat and a warthog can duet on Sir Elton John's songs, why not garden gomes?

It’s the circle of life, Hollywood-style: the knighted hitmaker composed a new niche crafting songs for Disney’s “The Lion King” and nearly 20 years later his enduring back catalogue populates the soundtrack of “Gnomeo & Juliet," another animated film from the Mouse House.

“I thought it was maybe a good idea – I’d never done that before,” says John, who after years of developing the project as a producer, planning to pen all-new tunes, agreed to the studio’s idea of incorporating his long string of pop hits – subtly and not-so-subtly – into both the film’s song roster and score. “I enlisted the help of James Newton Howard, who a very famous arranger in this town and actually used to be in my band, so I had a great relationship with him.”

“Even though it’s all out of back-catalogue and a couple of new songs, it doesn’t feel as if it’s an overbearing Elton John movie,” he tells PopcornBiz. “It feels like ‘Gnomeo & Juliet’ with some good music in it, and I’m glad it’s turned out like that because I didn’t want it to be just bang-bang-bang old catalogue stuff.”

John also indulges in a brief, sly cameo as a gnome-ified version of his ‘70s-era self in a fantasy sequence that tweaks his mainstay “Your Song,” co-written with longtime collaborator Bernie Taupin. “It’s very important, if you’re British, to take the piss out of yourself,” says John. “You’re raised to do that in England, which is rather good. Suddenly there I am: Glam Gnome – the gnomeosexual in the film. I lost it when I saw that. That brings back very good memories of a song I sang practically every time I’ve done a show since 1970.”

Unlike some artists who bristle at dusting off their crowd-pleasing past material over and over again, John says he remains quite fond of his nostalgic hits, especially since gaining a greater clarity, literally and figuratively. He ended his long history of substance abuse years ago, found balance in his life with husband David Furnish – and got the eyes behind those famous spectacles fixed.

“Truly, the older I get, I think I’m singing better live,” he says. “I also had my eyes done about eight years ago – I had replacement lens surgery because I was so blind. Now, with 20/20 vision, I can see all the signs that the fans have, all the album sleeves, and it makes a difference. I really appreciate my performing so much better now as I get older than I did – I don’t take it for granted anymore.”

He also has his 20/20 eyes on yet another film project. “I’d just like to make a really great film about my life story,” says John. “We have a great script already by Lee Hall, who wrote ‘Billy Elliot.’ Obviously it’s not going to be your normal, run-of-the-mill film, because my life has been kind of crazy, and I think it’s important to do a kind of surrealistic take.”

"Gnomeo and Juliet" opens everywhere this Friday.

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