Musicals centering Black characters are a rarity. Animated films that center Black characters are just as seldom. Therefore, it is a treat when we see the two genres combined with Black characters front and center. Chaz Bottoms does this with his musical short, Battu.

Battu chronicles the story of Otis and Jada, two kids who compete for a spot in the prestigious Hiplet dance troupe. Jada is a striving up and coming dancer, while Otis is the more laidback one of the duo who sees his gift of dancing as simply a way to make money. Set in the Midwestern city of Chicago, Battu combines three elements to formulate its story: animation, hip-hop and hiplet.

For those unfamiliar with the term, hiplet is a combination of hip-hop and ballet. With that said, Battu looks to fuse Chicago’s hip-hop music with classic melodies to compliment hiplet’s hip-hop origins. As hiplet originated in Chicago, it’s no surprise that the city was a breath of inspiration for Chaz Bottoms.

Chaz Bottoms/ Battu: An Animated Musical
Photo: Chaz Bottoms/ Battu: An Animated Musical

“Having living lived in Chicago for 4.5 years, I was so inspired by the art culture the city has to offer. It’s incredibly tight-knit and innovative. The city left a huge mark on me as an artist and the type of projects I want to produce,” Bottoms said on the film’s official Kickstarter page. “The short incorporates many of the things that make Chicago so dope: juking, bucket boys, street performers, the music, architecture and so much more! The short aims to present an animated Chicago, a city full of vibrancy and youth yearning to prove themselves.”

An animation director and writer based in Los Angeles, Chaz Bottoms has worked on animated music videos for a variety of artists, most notably Lil Nas X.

With a run time of 15 minutes, Battu was composed by Brandon Liew, executive produced by Kevin J. Hughes and produced by Charia Rose and Aaron Margolin. Among the animators who developed Battu include Joshua Roberts, Michelle Rincon, Brooklyn Lee, Malik Bolton, David Makadi Fwamba, Rotimi Olowu and David Wilkerson.

Animated films are sorely lacking Black faces both in front of and behind the camera. However, progress seems to be on the horizon, including Soul, Pixar’s first film with a Black lead, which had its trailer premiere earlier this week. With their Kickstarter up and running, the cast and crew of Battu: An Animated Musical are looking the change the tide when it comes to representation in the animation industry.


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