After the break-out success of its daring Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, Sony Pictures Animation feels emboldened to try new things, and it’s just done something that few other major animation studios have ever done: acquired an independent animated short that was developed outside of its studio.

Sony Pictures Animation (SPA) is partnering with former NFL player-turned-director Matthew A. Cherry to bring his animated short film Hair Love to the big screen. The news was first reported by Deadline.

“In the past year, it has been very clear that audiences have been yearning to see fresh stories that are universal and culturally authentic,” SPA president Kristine Belson said in a statement on Cherry’s Kickstarter page. “Hair Love is a wonderful father-daughter story and we are proud to nurture talented young filmmakers like Matthew who are breaking new ground.”

Since its inception, Hair Love has proven to have an eager fan base. Back in 2017, Cherry and co-director Everett Downing launched a Kickstarter campaign to finance the short film, which eventually raised a record-breaking $300,000, the largest amount a short film, animated or live action, has ever earned on the crowdfunding platform.

The short centers on an African-American father taking care of his young daughter’s hair for the first time and using this seemingly mundane act to boost her self-esteem and strengthen their bond. The story taps into the zeitgeist as the need for representation and diverse storytelling become increasingly prominent across the entertainment industry, animation not being the exception.

Hair Love will be produced Karen Toliver, senior vice president of creative development for Sony Pictures Animation, Cherry, Stacey Newton, and Monica A. Young, and will have Frank Abney and Peter Ramsey as executive producers. Ramsey was one of the three directors behind Sony’s Oscar-winning Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Following his football days, Cherry has served as director on multiple television projects such as The Red Line and Whiskey Cavalier. In 2016 he directed his first feature titled 9 Rides and last year he was an executive producers on Spike Lee’s BlacKkKlansman,

Sony intends to release Hair Love theatrically later this year, which will likely set the film up for an awards season run at the end of 2019.

Hair Love is also set to be released as a children’s book by Kokila Books/Penguin Random House on May 14 featuring illustrations by Vashti Harrison.

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