Big E, Andreas Hale and Jonathan Davenport Aim To Educate, Entertain And Inspire With ‘Our Heroes Rock’

Our Heroes Rock started as a discussion about using ring gear to bring awareness, and now it’s turned into an ambitious animation project that has the potential to educate future generations to come.

Big E, Andreas Hale and Jonathan Davenport, the team behind Our Heroes Rock, recently spoke with WrestleZone Managing Editor Bill Pritchard about the project’s origins and what they hope to achieve. The concept started with Davenport, a graphic artist, making ring gear for Big E, but a discussion with Hale led to them to sit down and start developing it as an animated series that could be a fun and interesting way to bring attention to the lesser-known heroes of Black history.

Our Heroes Rock is a hip-hop and science-fiction animation hybrid, with the pilot episode telling the story of Ruby Bridges, the first African-American child that integrated into an elementary school on November 14, 1960, at the height of segregation in the South. The trio wants black children to not only learn about history, but they also aim to put a spotlight on the heroes that don’t often get discussed, like Bridges and John Lewis.

The Ruby Bridges episode serves as a pilot for the project, and Our Heroes Rock also hopes to “create an entire series on our unsung heroes” and eventually expand to tell the stories of more minority groups that make up hundreds of years of American history. When asked what the big picture goal is for the project, Big E, Hale and Davenport agreed that they want Our Heroes Rock to open the door to Black history and make it easier for people to learn about historical figures in the future.

Big E: “I think for us, we’ve talked about this being a series, mostly because there are so many stories beyond just Ruby Bridges. I think back to when I first had the conversation with Jonathan, and we were first talking about who we wanted to [include] because it started off as a ring gear concept, and it went from three, to six, to eleven, seventeen very quickly. It could have gone to fifty if we had room on the gear and there are so many of these stories, and that’s why we envision it being a series. I think there are so many ways to tell these stories and we don’t want this to feel pedantic and heavy-handed, we want this to be engaging and fun, and I think we can do that with letting each story breathe and finding ways to use elements of entertainment. Like I said, there are so many stories to tell and that’s why we want this to—it’s really a pilot to show what this can be and how we can breathe life into each one of these stories.”

Davenport: “We would love if this was the sort of project that lives beyond us where people in future, generations and generations down, if they can have a class and they’re sitting and talking about heroes from Black history, or from women’s history, because we want to expand the project into all kinds of corners [of history], where they remember, ‘This is just like that cartoon we saw growing up. Remember that?’ and ‘I still have that jingle in my head, I remember these facts from the song that I haven’t been able to get out of my head for thirty years and now my kids are singing it.’ And that’s the kind of effect we’d love for this project to have.”

Hale: “And furthermore, when we talk about living beyond our kids’ lives, we’re also thinking about it as ‘How do we bring people together?’ And the only way you can bring people together is by storytelling so people can understand each others’ past, history and cultural differences. I say it all of the time, but being ‘color blind’ is nonsense. You have got to understand the people that came before you in the past and paved the way—it can’t just be about Martin Luther King, it can’t just be about Malcolm X. There are so many people that are out there that our kids don’t know about. The three of us, growing up as black men in America, we didn’t know about these heroes until some of us were college educated. It shouldn’t be like that. So, big picture is, hopefully, that we’re inspiring the next group of storytellers to write in these history books so my third grade class isn’t just talking about the French-American War, they’re talking about the heroes of different cultures and various backgrounds, regardless of sexual orientation, gender, race, it doesn’t matter. We need to learn about American history.”

Big E agreed with the notion that this will be a layered storytelling device, noting that the target age range for this is 6-11 years old, but they want parents to feel encouraged to watch it with them. Comparing it to a movie like Shrek where there are adult jokes mixed into a kids’ movie, he hopes the project has the same effect.

Big E: “Even though it’s targeted to younger people, [we hope] parents will want to sit down and watch it, and it will be fun and engaging. That’s our hope and it’s such an easy way to teach. If I say, ‘Hey child, sit down and watch this educational piece…’ there isn’t the same desire, but when you jump in and see the robot with a big personality, a futuristic museum, this ‘Hall Of Heroes’ that Johnny has designed, and when you engage in this world—we have Rapsody, one of the best rappers on the planet and a two-time GRAMMY nominee—when you have all of these elements, great music, it’s fun and engaging. When I got to see the art alone and I put aside the historical context and the story of Ruby Bridges, when I just see the art, I’m engaged! Even though I’m part of this project and I know it’s mine, there’s just something that just sucks you in and that’s our hope [for viewers].”

Check out the full video interview at the top of this page and learn more about the project, the visual inspirations for the animation, how Big E compares it to taking medicine with applesauce, how George Floyd’s murder impact them personally and moved the project forward, using their platform for a good cause, their favorite matches in the last year and much more.

Our Heroes Rock has met the initial crowdfunding goal, but fans can still donate and help the project meet new stretch goals, including hiring more animators for the pilot. Learn more about the series and make a pledge on the Our Heroes Rock Kickstarter page.