The animated tale is 'rooted in the past' but 'told in a very modern way'

By Oliver Gettell
April 11, 2017 at 10:00 AM EDT
Credit: Eliot Lee Hazel

Rainbow Crow

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John Legend is spreading his wings and entering the realm of virtual reality.

The multitalented musician and actor is set to star in Rainbow Crow, an animated VR series based on Native American folklore that will unveil its first chapter at the Tribeca Film Festival this month.

Produced by Baobab Studios and directed by Eric Darnell (Antz, the Madagascar movies), Rainbow Crow is inspired by a Lenape myth about the origin of fire. Legend voices the titular character, a brilliantly plumed bird who is nominated by his fellow animals to bring warmth back to the world during a period of darkness and cold. The journey, however, is not without sacrifice.

Speaking to EW about Rainbow Crow, which he’s also executive producing, Legend said the story “is really about community. It’s about love, it’s about inclusion, it’s about sacrifice and doing something for the greater good.”

Such themes are inherent in much of Legend’s work, from songs and music videos like “Glory” and “Love Me Now” to screen projects like WGN’s Underground.

“I’ve always thought of art as a powerful way of speaking to the idea of love and human connection and seeing each other’s humanity,” Legend said. “So I feel like it’s part of my job as an artist to make music that communicates some of those things and participate in art that communicates some of those things as well.”

For Legend, Rainbow Crow also represented an opportunity to explore new creative territory while paying homage to tradition. (One notable link to the past is Randy Edmonds, a Kiowa-Caddo tribal elder and longtime advocate for Native American rights who is narrating the series.)

“We have to be creative, we have to be innovative, we have to be forward-thinking,” Legend said. “But that doesn’t mean we don’t have reverence for the past, and that doesn’t mean we don’t reference the past.”

He added, “This story is one rooted in the past, one rooted in ancient Native American mythology, that is told in a very modern way. I think most great art figures out a way to blend the past and the now, and hopefully we’ll continue to do projects that do that.”

Credit: Baobab Studio

The Tribeca Film Festival runs April 19-29. Watch a teaser for Rainbow Crow above.

Rainbow Crow

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