Atlanta Blackstar recently spoke to animator, educator, and entrepreneur David Heredia about his new project Heroes of Color, that aims at teaching young people about the rich history of Black, Native American and Asian people throughout history. The series will feature 52 episodes for TV or Web.
What drove you to start this project and what is your intended goal?
The idea for this series came out of a game that I played at my in-laws house. The house was jam packed with adults and kids and we were all asking random questions. Who ever got the question right, would get to ask the next question. Well I asked, “Who can name three Black Superheroes.” You could hear a pin drop. My three-year-old son broke the silence with Black Panther, Storm and John Stewart the Black Green Lantern. As an avid comic book collector, I was always upset with the lack of heroes of color represented. From this, my title and logline of the show were born— “Our heroes don’t need capes – Heroes of Color.” My first goal is to pitch the series to networks focused on family entertainment and education either [on TV] or as a web series.
My second goal, is to package and sell the series to schools nationwide (Grades 7-12) and college institutions focused on diversity inclusion in the classroom. My brother, Carlos, recently introduced me to Arthur McFarlane II, the great grandson of W.E.B. Du Bois. When I told him about my Heroes of Color project, he loved the concept and offered to introduce me to other descendants of America’s important Black historical figures that he is connected to as well as influential people on the board of prestigious colleges and non-profit organizations who would love to see this project get in front of the right people. Arthur’s involvement in the project is such a blessing and I’m truly grateful for the opportunity to work with him as I develop the series.
What kind of education does it take to be an animator?
I’m from the Dominican Republic, I graduated from the High School of Art & Design in ‘95, obtained an Associates Degree in Advertising from the New York City Technical College in ‘97, Bachelors of Fine Arts in Animation from The School of Visual Arts in 2002.
I’m a faculty member of the Art Center College of Design and also Studio Arts. I teach a course that I created focused on the business of freelancing. I run a freelancing company where I provide custom animation design services ranging from whiteboard, 2D & motion graphics. With animation, you have to really, really love what you do because of all of the meticulous work involved.
Are you influenced by western animation or anime in your art style?
I’m influenced by all genres of art. I began by tracing characters in comic books. I then jumped to drawing cartoon characters from the Saturday morning cartoons in the early 80s. But I credit my art style to graffiti. While my actual graffiti career only lasted two years, it’s influence has shaped my character design aesthetic in every way.
Who are some of the historical figures you will showcase?
I currently have 76 people on my list, which needs to be cut down to 13, in order to complete series one of the project. I want to avoid focusing on famous historical figures such as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X or Gandhi, and showcase individuals who are not as famous but have equally compelling stories to tell such as the Navajo code talkers, Bessie Coleman, Dr. Jose Rizal, Shirley Chisholm, founders of Black Wall Street (Tulsa, Oklahoma) and Toussaint L’ouverture to name a few.
Are you focusing on just African-American historical figures?
No, I’m looking at multiple ethnic backgrounds, men and women, including Native American, Latino, and Asian to name a few.
What are some other projects you have worked on in the past?
I have always loved to use art as a medium to educate. In 2008, I created a multicultural series called Colores De Nuestras Culturas (the colors of our cultures), a unique cartoon collection of over 45 nations represented in my series that I desperately tried to have showcased in the gallery of the United Nations in Manhattan. Unfortunately, when I finally got in touch with the right department, they expressed no interest in featuring the series. I sold over 500 posters both online and at San Diego Comic-Con which I attended for three straight years. Each poster features the nations flag, a unique cartoon character playing an instrument typical to that country and a short blurb describing some of the music that comes out of the region.
In 2011, I focused on the Latin countries in the series and pitched an idea to the Latin MTV Tres station, which they loved. They would finance me to create 13, one minute animated shorts with each cartoon ambassador talking about the food, music and geographical location of the country. Unfortunately, the network was in the process of major layoffs and let go almost the entire department in charge of the project. At about the same time, my artwork from this series started appearing all over the Internet. I successfully sued a calling card company, who put one of my characters on their calling cards, but due to legal fees I had to drop eight other copyright infringement cases that stretched as far as Puerto Rico and China.
I took the series off my main website herediadesigns.com and am now educating myself on how to take this amazing series and market it as artwork that I can license. In 2012, my company was commissioned for a two-year contract by the global education leader, Pearson, to develop over 200 kindergarten through 6th grade e-learning videos.
For more information on the project, visit heroesofcolor.com and watch the trailer below: