"From this experience, young people learn that their voice matters and that they matter," said Bill Thompson, executive director of nonprofit organization Young Storytellers.
On Thursday evening at the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, Disney hosted the premiere of four short films and two live performances created by Young Storytellers student writers and Tongal filmmakers.
Disney, Young Storytellers and Tongal partnered up to help middle-school children enhance their creative-writing skills through this project. Part of a series aptly named Warrior Stories, these films portrayed some of the children's real-life struggles, as well as more imaginative pieces.
In January, six students received a sneak preview of A Wrinkle in Time, after which they wrote their own three-page original scripts with the help of their mentors. Tongal, a video-production service, then selected directors to turn the scripts into short films. Disney’s A Wrinkle in Time, which will be released on March 9, tells the story of Meg Murry and her brother, who travel to a dangerous planet to search for their missing scientist father.
Before Thursday's presentation, representatives of the three companies — Andre Fonseca, head of digital marketing for Walt Disney Studios; Bill Thompson, executive director of Young Storytellers; and Erin Fredman, Tongal's vp branded entertainment — took the stage. Fonseca said the children’s scripts “embody the spirit of the film A Wrinkle in Time.”
With casts including actors such as Cassie Glow, Dave LaChance and Gracy Samuel, the films were brought to life. Furthermore, Tongal filmmakers did their best to bring the children’s ideas to fruition, even traveling to Pittsburgh to shoot a scene at the University of Pittsburgh's Cathedral of Learning to make a story's setting come to life.
The scripts also engaged the audience, inducing numerous rounds of applause. Joan Moreno’s animated short film, The Ultimate Yintegration, featured a world split into two halves of black and white, like a yin-yang symbol. LaChance said at the end, “Our world is no longer two halves, but one whole” — condensing a complex message of equality into a simple story.
“Joan’s like a faucet of creative storytelling and jokes and goofiness,” Moreno’s mentor, Brian Lynch, joked. “In fact, I’m surprised that he’s been quiet so far [onstage].”
Breanna Asondoh’s To Fix Time, directed by Andy Kelemen, was a live-action short film featuring sock puppets as the three main characters, who transform a perfectly uniform world into dissimilar imperfection. “You don’t have to be perfect, and, sometimes, weird can be perfect,” Asondoh said with a smile.
Andrew Espinoza’s Matron was an animated short film in the style of an action comic, while Patricia Garcia’s Strange Beverly was a live-action short film about being different from the crowd.
The event also included two live performances, which were just as engaging as the short films. Ever Huerta’s Watertopia featured sea creatures trying to melt an iceberg, while Xiomara Diaz’s A Journey to Self Love focused on the real-life struggles of being bullied.
Diaz said she was inspired by A Wrinkle in Time’s portrayal of uniqueness in every world. “There was darkness and there was light, and there was a little bit of both,” she said. Diaz had been bullied as a child, so she could relate to Meg’s character in the Disney film. “This story is about that you don’t have to fit in, you don’t have to be perfect because if you’re unique, you’re irreplaceable,” she said confidently, immediately evoking the audience’s applause.
To conclude, A Wrinkle in Time helmer Ava DuVernay appeared in a video message to express her admiration for the young storytellers' short films. She also invited the children and the Tongal filmmakers to the world premiere of A Wrinkle in Time on Feb. 26.
“I think the scripts are extraordinary efforts to capture the look, the feel, the imagination, the intention behind A Wrinkle in Time,” she said. “I’m so grateful [the kids] joined us on this journey, and I’m really proud of [them].”