If you have young children, nieces, or nephews or are just a fan of animated movies, chances are you plan on seeing or already have seen The Angry Birds Movie 2, the sequel to the 2016 film. If you haven’t gone to see it yet, pay close attention to the animated short called Hair Love that plays before it. Directed by former NFL player, writer, director, and producer Matthew Cherry, the film tells the story of an African American father named Stephen who is trying to learn how to do his young daughter Zuri’s beautiful and natural hair.
Zuri attempts to do her own hair because her blogger mom Angela (voiced by Insecure’s Issa Rae) isn’t around since she’s being hospitalized for cancer treatment. But after noticing Zuri struggle, her father steps in to help out. Initially, he’s overwhelmed by all the shelved hair products. It takes a number of attempts but through the guidance of his wife’s video, Stephen eventually gets it right.
This heart-warming short which touches on the importance of teaching young black girls how to care for and love their natural hair was a story Cherry felt was important to tell. It was initially inspired after he noticed the viral trend of daddy-daughter videos on Twitter. He was especially interested in the dynamic of black fathers doing their daughter’s hair and started off by writing a children’s book called Hair Love, which became a New York Times Best Seller. Then he went on to create a film adaptation of it. In fact, Cherry started a Kickstarter in 2017. The aim behind the campaign wasn’t just to help get the project funded but also allowed “people who may want to be involved or kind of see the project through to help out.”
The touching story deeply resonates with black families and provides the representation we don’t see in enough animated films. The initial Kickstarter goal was for 75K but Cherry managed to raise $284,058 for the project. It has become the number one funded short film campaign in Kickstarter history.
“This story was born out of seeing a lack of representation in mainstream animated projects, and also wanting to promote hair love amongst young men and women of color,” reads Cherry’s website.
“When we did this campaign two years ago, there wasn’t a lot of representation in animated projects,” Cherry told NPR. “You know, oftentimes they would cast actors of color, but, you know, they’d be playing inanimate objects or animals. And, you know, it was rarely, like actually seeing a family dynamic in animation.” It was important for him to give audiences a black family.
“I think it does also a lot for young people’s confidence when they see themselves represented,” Cherry said. “You know, media is so powerful. And when you grow up and see magazine covers and TV shows and movies and you don’t see yourself represented, but you see every other type of hairstyle represented, that can really affect your self-confidence.”
The short touches on so many important messages from the importance of young black girls seeing their beauty reflected to portraying a loving and tender black father. We need more projects like this. You can see Hair Love, which shows right before The Angry Birds 2, in theaters now. But in the meantime, check out the adorable clip below!