Chicago-bred film director Matthew A. Cherry is on a mission to increase the representation of Black characters in animated films. Two years ago he launched a crowdfunding campaign for a short movie called Hair Love, and it was recently announced that he has joined forces with Sony Pictures Animation to bring the film to fruition, Deadline reported.
The story is centered on a Black father named Stephen who attempts to do his daughter Zuri’s hair for the first time, the news outlet writes. Through their interaction Stephen gains a better understanding of how to do his daughter’s hair and encourages her to embrace her natural coils. The film was designed to promote hair positivity among Black youngsters and also defy stereotypes about Black fatherhood. Cherry wanted to change the negative narrative about Black fathers being absent from their children’s lives. He says he was inspired to create the film after seeing viral videos of Black fathers attempting to do their children’s hair.
Cherry co-directed the short animated film with Everett Downing. The project raised nearly $300,000 on Kickstarter. “It was important to get this story out there and we are so grateful to Sony Pictures Animation for their generous support in helping us make that happen,” said Cherry in a statement. “They have championed it from its early stages and we cannot wait to share the project with the world.”
Sony Pictures Animation executives are excited to be on board with the project and are aiming to bring more diverse stories to the forefront. “In the past year, it has been very clear that audiences have been yearning to see fresh stories that are universal and culturally authentic,” said SPA President Kristine Belson, in a statement. “Hair Love is a wonderful father-daughter story and we are proud to nurture talented young filmmakers like Matthew who are breaking new ground.”
Karen Toliver, SVP of Creative Development, SPA, Monica A. Young, Stacey Newton, Peter Ramsey, and Frank Abney will all work on the project. The film is slated to be released later this year and the Hair Love book will be published on May 14 by Kokila Books/Penguin Random House.
Projects like Hair Love are needed. Research shows that only 5.6 percent of characters on children’s animated television shows are Black.