Ten time Grammy Award winner and Academy Award winner John Legend has joined forces with Baobob Studios to launch an innovative virtual reality cinematic experience with a collaborative project called Rainbow Crow.
Rainbow Crow is a tale about a bird with the most dazzling plumage and mellifluous voice who travels the world in order to bring light to a world who has become lost in darkness which is inspired by Native American folktale in which the tale originates from the Lenape tribe. The series is narrated by Kiowa-Caddo tribal elder, Randy Edmonds, an 82-year-old lifelong crusader for Native American rights and founder of the National Urban Indian Council.
“All Native American tales have a tradition of deep meaning and that’s why we tell the stories, sharing down the generations,” explains Tribal Elder, Randy Edmonds in a press release. Edmonds left Oklahoma in 1954 for Southern California as part of the Indian Relocation Act. “When I look at the impact these legends have, the insights they represent, taking that storytelling to a modern medium is extremely exciting. The beautiful VR work being created -inspired by our folklore- is like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my many years.”
“We are excited to see John Legend diving into the VR space along with Ty [Stiklorius], and Baobab Studios to debut this important project at Tribeca Film Festival,” says Jane Rosenthal, Co-Founder, Tribeca Film Festival about having the series premiere at this year’s film festival. “What better talents and story to highlight the festival’s theme this year of blurred screens.” Rosenthal added.
When Baobob studios CEO and founder Maureen Fan spoke to The Knockturnal at the series premiere she told us in regards to the idea behind the studio’s concept, “When we started our company Baobob about a year and a half ago I’ve always wanted to do animation … Animation in a way is a very mature industry now. But VR is a huge open field; so for us it was really exciting for us to take art and technology and put it together and come up with a completely new cinematic language. And ultimately VR can allow you to care about characters in ways you wouldn’t normally on just a 2D screen because now you’re actually in that world with that character. You are a character and you can interact with that character, how much more real does that feel, how much more do you care about that character. It’s just amazing.” Themes that resonated with Fan include bringing lightness to darkness, self-sacrifice for the greater good and self-acceptance. “The things that you think are flaws are what make you unique and when you accept yourself, you can accept others,” she continued.
Eric Darnell added, “it’s really exciting to me because I realized it’s not just an extension of cinema, VR is its own medium. It’s a completely different way to experience experiences. I got involved in computer animation back in the 80’s and it kind of reminds me of those days now because anyone who is in VR is in it because they are excited about it, not because they want to make a buck or anything else and that kind of enthusiasm and energy we just feed off of in the industry.”
At the premiere of the first episode of the series at the the Top Of The Standard, Legend told The Knockturnal he got involved with the project because of “The fact that it’s something new and Baobob is one the leaders of this new technology and a new medium for storytelling. And really what we try to do is tell great stories as a film company Get Lifted, whether it’s in 3D, or VR or 2D or whatever it is television, film and in theater here in New York. We’ve done all of that, but all of it’s about telling great stories and making the world a little more interesting.”
Legend also spoke on his character in which he voices the lead saying, “It was a fun character, he starts out really arrogant and feeling himself and then he gets kind of humbled but he makes a sacrifice for the group and I think that’s a cool story.”
Rainbow Crow also features voices from Diego Luna (Rogue One: A Star Wars Story) and Constance Wu (Fresh Off the Boat).
Elizabeth Taylor contributed reporting.