EXCLUSIVE: Netflix will make a CG-animated feature film inspired by the childhood of Haitian singer and The Fugees co-founder Wyclef Jean. Greg Silverman’s upstart production company Stampede is partnering with the three-time Grammy Award-winning musician to produce the film. Script will be written by Justin Marks, whose credits include The Jungle Book, its sequel, and Top Gun: Maverick. It will be informed by Jean’s childhood in Haiti, where he lived until his family emigrated to Brooklyn at age 9, and then to New Jersey where he began his musical path.
“I grew up in extreme poverty but I was rich with imagination,” Jean said. “Now to see that imagination turn into reality with Netflix and my producing partners makes me want to tell the kids from the slums around the world to never stop dreaming.”
Silverman and Jean will serve as producers for the film. Madeline Nelson and Nick Lewin will co-produce, and Lisa Zambri and Cara Fano will oversee the project for Stampede.
“When Wyclef first came to us with the rich story idea for an animated film about his personal journey and the evolution of his music from when he was a young boy in Haiti to finding his voice in New York City — we were hooked,” said Melissa Cobb, VP Kids and Family at Netflix. “Animation is a medium that travels the globe exceptionally well and we cannot wait to share Wyclef’s unique perspective and voice with family audiences around the world.”
Marks was particularly passionate about the singer and his work in Haiti.
“When I was 17 years old, two things had a huge impact on my life: the music of Wyclef Jean and the spirit of his home country, Haiti,” Marks said. “I’ve been lucky enough to have visited Haiti and worked alongside its people several times over the years, and I’ve long wanted to tell a story about its vibrant and resilient culture. If you’d have told Teenage Me that one day I’d get to work with Wyclef on a movie like this, I’d have never believed you. This movie is an honor and a thrill, and I’m grateful to Greg, Stampede, and Netflix for making it a reality.”
Said Silverman: “Haiti holds a special place in my heart, and Wyclef and Justin’s film will showcase this magical country in their unique and signature style. We’ve been delighted to partner with them and Netflix on this astounding film.”
The former Warner Bros president formed Stampede, with co-chairman and lead investor Gideon Yu, the former CFO of Facebook and YouTube and co-owner of the San Francisco 49ers. Silverman’s got a lot percolating on the movie front, recently acquiring the Kevin Wignall survivor thriller When We Were Lost, James Riley’s Revenge of Magic and Sam Marsden’s dystopian Under Glass.
Stampede also has Seth Rogen attached to play iconic CBS newsman Walter Cronkite in Newsflash, a Ben Jacoby-scripted drama that Halloween director David Gordon Green is attached to direct. The film takes place on November 22, 1963, the day President John F Kennedy was assassinated in Texas, and illustrates how television network news came of age in the aftermath, and Cronkite became the most trusted TV newsman voice of America.