Debbie Allen said she had no misgivings about traveling down the oft-precarious sequel road in making "Polly Comin' Home," a follow-up to last season's excellent family movie "Polly."
"We were in the middle of making 'Polly' when I said to Bill Blinn, 'This is just too good. We've got to do something else with this group," Allen said over the phone from Los Angeles. Blinn is the executive producer of both ot these Disney-made films.
"Bill came up with this new character of an Englishman to head the orphanage, and then we got Anthony Newley to play it and everything came together," Allen said.
The result can be seen on NBC, Channel 2 (WMAR), Sunday night at 7 o'clock in another two hours that follows these characters that were created by moving the classic Pollyanna story from Victorian England to a black community in Alabama in the mid-1950s.
"This new character was a way to get us inside that orphanage," Allen said. "I really wanted to get in there." You understand why when you see that it's the stage for the movie's most impressive dance number, Newley leading his young charges through the richly paneled cafeteria.
Allen, who directed her sister, Phylicia Rashad, and her fellow "Cosby Show" cast member Keshia Knight Pulliam in this, first brought her choreography to a large prime-time audience in "Fame," the series about a school for performing arts in New York in which she also starred as a dance teacher.
Allen used to brag that that show "brought real dancing back to television." That was in the disco days when strutting around adjusting your collar -- the original vogueing? -- often passed for dancing.
Now, she sees that bringing "real dancing" to these "Polly" movies means something else.
"I told every one of these dancers, 'Honey, forget that hip-hop stuff. I want to see those legs lifted and toes pointed," she said. "My background is in ballet and that's the foundation for all the dancing I do."