A Charlottesville native is raising funds to create an animated short film about a father, a son and a song.
Darnell Lamont Walker is bringing years of experience as a writer and children’s media content creator to make sure “Our Song” gets the high-quality production values that he believes the heartfelt search for representation deserves. He wants to be sure children with disabilities get to see more depictions of kids who look like them — and who aren’t afraid to dream big.
“So many kids aren’t being represented, and I wanted kids to be able to see themselves,” Walker said. “This film is about doing things that others thought you weren’t able to do.”
He’s in it for the long haul. Walker writes for several children’s television shows, including “Blue’s Clues and You” on Nickelodeon, “Karma’s World” on Netflix and “Two Whats?! and a Wow!” for Sony Music and NPR, and he knows that creating children’s programming is a time-consuming task for good reason.
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“We’re getting the word out so we can do this at the quality level we want it to be,” Walker said.
As a veteran of children’s programming, he’s well aware that a project can take years to come to fruition; he knows what it’s like to join a television show’s creative team in the show’s third season and realize that the first season hasn’t even aired yet. When children will be watching and absorbing life lessons, Walker said, it’s important to invest the extra time to make sure stories don’t cut corners and production values will stand the test of repeated viewings over the years.
“It’s all about the quality and making sure it is amazing,” he said.
Walker also is the author of “The Most Beautiful Thing in the World,” a children’s book about a little boy who dreamed of becoming a pilot but discovered that he was losing his eyesight.
“Our Song” tells the story of a young boy who longs to play the piano with the skill and verve his beloved father brings to the keyboard. That longing strikes fear in his father’s heart, because his son has a congenital condition that changed the shape and range of motion of his hands. The father wants to protect his son from disappointment and potential ridicule, so he tries distracting his son with offers to help him learn to play drums instead.
“The son wants to play the piano like his dad,” Walker said. “But the dad gets sad, because he doesn’t want the son to attempt it and be sad.”
But, every night, when he’s supposed to be safely tucked into bed, the son is sitting on the stairs, just out of sight, soaking in inspiration and family pride while his father pours his musical passion into his piano practice. He looks forward in particular to hearing his dad play a song that has a deep sentimental meaning to their family. At a time when it matters most, the son gets to show his father that he has internalized the lessons of love and pride that the family’s devotion to music instills and reinforces.
Walker said he values the ways in which people in his hometown show up when children need enriching experiences. Although the pandemic interrupted his plans last year, Walker has raised funds over the past six years to make 200 pool passes available each summer to Charlottesville children for warm-weather fun.
Everyone may not be able to get a fundraiser off the ground, but each of us can make a difference by being “better representatives for children,” he said, adding that he finds inspiration is a friend’s 6-year-old son with a congenital condition that created hand deformities.
“We want him to grow up without limits,” Walker said. “What can we do to make that happen?
“They can all be beautiful, and they can all be amazing.”
The link to Walker’s Indiegogo fundraiser is https://www.indiegogo.com/projects/our-song-an-animated-short/x/15902437#/.