In honor of the ongoing Native American Heritage month, Baobab Studios today released Crow: The Legend, a CGI short and an experiential virtual reality (VR) film that is the first VR movie to incorporate an indigenous world view. Directed, written and produced by veteran animator Eric Darnell (Antz, Madagascar franchise) and executive produced by John Legend, Crow is based on the moving Native American story about the bird’s cultural genesis and its place in Native American mythology.
The short film, available today in VR on YouTube and Oculus, boasts a talented multicultural and multi-talented voice cast led by Legend. Crow: The Legend also stars Oprah Winfrey, who makes her virtual animation film debut as The One who Creates Everything by Thinking; Kiowa-Caddo Tribal Elder Randy Edmonds as the Narrator; Native Americans in Philanthropy CEO Sarah Eagle Heart as Luna, aptly named after Legend’s daughter; Liza Koshy as Owl; Diego Luna as Moth; Tye Sheridan as Turtle; and Constance Wu as Skunk.
You can watch the full Crow: The Legend short for yourself below, followed by my review:
Crow: The Legend is a exciting new animated movie starring John Legend as Crow, the most popular and admired animal in the forest with his magnificent colors and beautiful voice. But when the very first winter arrives, can Crow make the ultimate sacrifice to save his friends?
For starters, Crow: The Legend has some serious pedigree working for it behind the scenes. Headed up by Darnell, an animation veteran of more than 30 years in the industry, Crow occupies a groundbreaking and meaningful place in his career, one spent helming some of the biggest feature films and franchises in animation. Now, this short represents the first VR film to tell a tale from the point of view of indigenous people. Not only does Crow tell the tale of the formative Native American legend, it also tells it in cutting-edge, immersive animation. And with Darnell at the helm, the talented cast and the passionate animators of co-founder Maureen Fan‘s Baobab Studios have created something truly special; I just wish there were more stories like it.
In Crow: The Legend, the title bird is not what you might expect at first blush. John Legend’s Crow is a crooner and a beautiful, rainbow-feathered flyer, a far cry from the black-feathered croakers we know today. This is the tale of how the crow of legend became the crow of the modern world, and it’s told through the underrepresented lens of Native American mythology. Similar to Aesop’s Fables or other famous animal-focused morality tales, Crow sees the proud and self-centered songbird with a beautiful voice and colorful coat brought back down to Earth, literally. It’ll take a true sacrifice on the part of Crow if he’s to save his friends and fellow animals from a sudden and seemingly endless winter, but it will also come with a heavy price.
Crow: The Legend feels like the first installment in what could be a fantastic collection of VR animations adapting Native American legends. As a standalone, it’s a solid addition to the growing VR catalog and a good showing for Baobab, owing to the timeless tale it draws from the and the impressive cast who brings the story to life. But it could benefit greatly, as could audience members around the world, by being just one short tale in an anthology of similar stories. I’d love to see this 18-minute short blossom into a 90-minute collection of animated VR tales, but viewers will have to spread the word about Crow: The Legend in the meantime. So take a few minutes out of your day, give it a watch, learn a thing or two, and then share the magic of Crow: The Legend!