Matthew A. Cherry’s viral short film “Hair Love” is getting plenty of love these days.
The 2020 Academy Award winner for Best Animated Short Film is being developed for HBO Max into a 12-episode animated series titled “Young Love.” The cute original Sony Pictures Animation short, released in August 2019, has minimal dialogue voiced by “Insecure” creator Issa Rae as mom Angela Young. It tells the story of little Zuri Young, who attempts to tame her thick, curly hair with the help of her determined dad, Stephen. Cherry worked with producer Karen Rupert Toliver, executive vice president of creative for Sony Pictures Animation, on the project.
“Young Love” is the first to come out of Cherry’s development deal for HBO Max, which is part of WarnerMedia. “Young Love will be a 12-episode animated series based on the characters from Cherry’s “Hair Love.” Through a first-look development deal with Warner Bros. Television Group, the former football player turned writer and director will develop new television programming to include comedies, dramas, longform/event series and more. This includes on-demand/streaming services such as for WarnerMedia’s HBO Max as well as premium/pay and basic cable channels, and the broadcast networks.
The “Young Love” series will delve into the story of Zuri and her millennial parents, according to an HBO Max press release. The series will take an “honest look” into the family as they “juggle their careers, marriage, parenthood, social issues, and multi-generational dynamics all while striving to make a better life for themselves.”
“I am beyond excited to continue telling the story of Stephen, Angela and Zuri and further explore the family dynamics of a young Black millennial family we established in our short film Hair Love as an animated series,” said Cherry in a statement. “Couldn’t ask for better partners in Sony Pictures Animation and HBO Max in helping us get ‘Young Love’ out to the world.”
Cherry was inspired to create the Kickstarter-funded short — on which actress Gabrielle Union and her husband, retired NBA star Dwyane Wade, served as associate producers — in an effort to show a positive representation of a Black family with the father front and center. He got the idea from a slew of viral videos he saw in which Black fathers attempted to do their daughters’ hair.
“I really believe in just normalizing us, and for whatever reason, every time I would post a video of moms interacting with their kids or doing their hair, it would do okay,” he told Deadline. “But every time there was a Black father interacting with their daughter, it would always go so much more viral. We’re talking 100,000 likes, retweets, just beyond anything showing mothers interacting with their kids.”
He went on to explain that while the videos and subsequent reactions were “cute,” the general public was largely unaware that Black fathers took such an active role in the lives of their children.
“Obviously the videos were cute, but we came to find out that people didn’t really see Black men doing stuff like this,” he explained. “It felt like an anomaly to a lot of people. For me, I’m not a father yet, but I have a lot of friends that are fathers that would literally do whatever for their kids — paint the nails, do a tea party, do their hair, whatever needs to be done. We just really wanted to represent for that modern-day father who is more involved, and really will do whatever for their kid.”
Cherry will serve as co-showrunner of the series along with Carl Jones, who worked on animated shows such as “The Boondocks” and “Black Dynamite.”
Executive producers include Monica A. Young from Blue Key Entertainment and David Steward II and Carl Reed of Lion Forge Animation.