Big E launching new project with friends for Black History
WWE Intercontinental Champion Big E is partnering with friend & longtime ring gear designer Jonathan Davenport, plus journalist & author Andreas Hale, for a new animated series that will shine a light on some of the greatest black Americans from our country’s history.
“Our Heroes Rock” also features Grammy-nominated rapper Rapsody. The concept was described as a “hip-hop odyssey through black history.”
Big E spoke to Anthony Sulla-Heffinger of Yahoo Sports to discuss the new project.
“I wondered, what if we did something akin to ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ but for important Black figures, activists, politicians and artists,” Big E said. “One of the things that resonated with me is that ‘Schoolhouse Rock’ started in the 1970s, but there are so many people, regardless of age, who can still recite the jingles and know things about bills and laws because of that show.”
A Kickstarter campaign has been launched to fund the new project. As of this writing, 107 backers have pledged $7,734 of a $75,000 goal. There are 48 days left to fund the animated series.
The campaign page notes that this is, “A 3D animated family series that explores the Heroes of Black History through Hip-Hop and Science Fiction. (Pilot Episode).”
The goal for the campaign notes, “Making an animated short is expensive and a significant amount of work for a small, dedicated team. From the animation to the original song, it’s going to take a great deal of effort. We set our goal to $75,000 to make a pilot episode that is 4 minutes long and will cover everything from artist fees to Kickstarter reward expenses. However, we are hoping to raise $150,000 to make the highest quality project that will extend the length of the short and allow us to create a narrative that will truly honor Ruby Bridges.”
The first episode and focus of the Kickstarter campaign is about Ruby Bridges, who in the 1960s desegregated an all-white school in New Orleans. Big E, who will also voice one of the main characters on the show – E-TOUR, a robot that guides kids through the futuristic Hall of Heroes, commented on the name of the project.
“The reason why we decided to call it ‘Our Heroes Rock’ is because these shouldn’t just be the heroes for Black people, they should be the heroes for people of all ethnicities, races, sexual orientation,” Big E said. “Anyone can look to someone like Ruby Bridges and be inspired. We wanted to emphasize that this really is all of our history and that Black history shouldn’t just be segmented into one month and we just move on. This is a huge part of the fabric of our country.”
He continued, “I went to a really, really vigorous prep school and got a great education but wasn’t exposed to these things. It felt like something that would be great to have kids know these names, know these stories. I also think it makes you a more empathetic person, when you see people of color, when you see Black people who have done incredible things for so long. You realize how much we have been through, how much we have overcome as a people.”
While the Ruby Bridges episode will feature Rapsody, other artists have expressed interest in being associated with the project, including Wale, 9th Wonder, and Flatbush Zombies. Big E has also received support from people in his WWE family – Bianca Belair, Kofi Kingston, and Xavier Woods.
“In a lot of ways, this isn’t a pro wrestling project, this isn’t a work project,” Big E said. “That’s something that excites me too. Getting outside of that mode, as much as I love being a professional wrestler, this is something that I have found creatively fulfilling.”
If the Kickstarter is successful, the trio has talked about expanding the “Our Heroes Rock” brand to things like books for kids and an interactive component.
You can find full details and the Kickstarter campaign at this link. Below is a promo from Big E’s Twitter page, along with the official Story from the campaign page:
I couldn't be more excited for our Kickstarter, Our Heroes Rock, featuring Grammy-nominated rapper @rapsody. https://t.co/PBJWiecBDq #KickstartHistory pic.twitter.com/Ubo8RuP5S2
— Ettore “Big E” Ewen (@WWEBigE) February 22, 2021
A concept that originally began as wrestling gear designed by Jonathan Davenport for WWE Superstar Ettore “Big E” Ewen became much more ambitious when a conversation with Andreas Hale led to the idea to create an animated series that brings attention to some of the lesser-known stories in our history that will be empowering to young men and women of color.
Electrified by the concept of fusing animated storytelling with Hip Hop from some of the most prominent voices of the culture, we joined forces with the animation studio Something’s Awry and Grammy-nominated Hip Hop artist Rapsody to bring this vision to life in a way that we believe audiences young and old will enjoy.
Our aim is to crowdfund the pilot episode, which will focus on the story of Ruby Bridges, the first African-American child to integrate into an elementary school in the South on November 14, 1960, with Rapsody narrating Bridges’ phenomenal story through rhythm and rhyme.
More importantly, we are friends who share the same vision. As Black men who grew up having to actively seek out information on our historical figures, we understand the significance of sharing these stories with the youth in a way that is both fun and entertaining.
Black children need to know that they were more than slaves and contributed heavily to creating what America is today. These aren’t just Black heroes, these are OUR heroes.
And we are hoping that you see the value in telling these stories through animation, science fiction and Hip Hop. By creating this pilot episode, we hope to create an entire series on our unsung heroes.
Our Heroes Rock also has plans to expand and tell the stories of unsung heroes for all minority groups.
It’s not about making money, it’s about making something that deserves to exist.
What is Our Heroes Rock?
Conceived as a hip-hop odyssey through Black History, “Our Heroes Rock!” is an animated series that shines a spotlight on history’s unsung Heroes of color through infectious music, stunning 3D animation and a family-friendly, sci-fi-flavored narrative designed to appeal to both parents and kids alike.
Created by Ettore Ewen (WWE Superstar “Big E”), award-winning artist and narrative designer Jonathan Davenport and award-winning sports and cultural historian Andreas Hale, “Our Heroes Rock!” has one simple goal, to create an educational vehicle that’s so visually and musically appealing that audiences would watch it regardless of the content.
Our aim is to place American Heroes such as Medgar Evers, Ida B. Wells and Nina Simone in the same historical echelon reserved for George Washington, Thomas Edison and Neil Armstrong.
“Our Heroes Rock!” takes place in a futuristic, hologram-heavy museum known as the HALL OF HEROES (imagine the Smithsonian if it was designed by Tony Stark), where students from all over the world are able to tour the exhibits virtually via robotic avatars called K.I.D.D.O.s.
Leading them on this “electronic tour” is E-TOUR, a wisecracking, larger-than-life robotic tour guide voiced by wisecracking, larger-than-life personality Ettore Ewen! As E-TOUR leads the KIDDOs through the Hall of Heroes, each stop spotlights a single exhibit featuring an American Hero from Black History. When activated by E-TOUR, music starts pumping and the exhibit explodes around the KIDDOs into an immersive music video-style narrative performed by a curated stable of hip-hop artists who tell that Hero’s story through rhythm and rhyme.
The lesson we learn from each Hero’s experience will tie directly into an emotional obstacle, fear or insecurity that one of the kids is feeling at the beginning of the episode, summarizing the theme of the episode and illustrating how empowering history and representation can be.
As creators, we know from our experiences growing up that educational content for its own sake is just not that attractive. As a kid, you can smell it from a mile away. That’s why our goal is to make “Our Heroes Rock!” feel like a show that would’ve been produced on the merits of its visual and narrative trappings alone.
Elements like VR drones, futuristic settings and living robots are all there to make this series feel more like a theme park experience than a classroom one. Our dream is that this series lives year-round, not just during Black History Month. When “Our Heroes Rock!” is shown in classrooms, we want kids to feel transported rather than talked to. We want parents to NOT have to roll their eyes and cover their ears when their kids want to watch this show in a nonstop streaming loop at home.
We believe we have all the necessary pieces in place and hopefully, with support from our backers, we can make these dreams a reality and bring “Our Heroes Rock!” into the homes, schools and mobile devices of families everywhere.