The series "promises to be a vibrant call to action for everyone to rethink civics as a living and breathing thing, and to reframe their understanding of what government and citizenship mean in a modern world."
Former President Barack Obama and former first lady Michelle Obama recently announced their new Netflix series aimed at educating children on United States civics lessons. Titled We the People, the 10-episode series combines animation styles with original songs from an impressive line-up of artists so as to present the lessons to a young audience in not-so-basic ways. According to Variety, each three-minute-long episode of the series "promises to be a vibrant call to action for everyone to rethink civics as a living and breathing thing, and to reframe their understanding of what government and citizenship mean in a modern world."
Like anyone else my age who loved Schoolhouse Rock and Free to Be You and Me, I always wondered what it would be like to try to capture big social change content in song. We created 10 music videos covering the basics of civics. #WeThePeopleNetflix pic.twitter.com/CWhyFsVhJs— Chris Nee (She/Her)🏳️🌈 (@chrisdocnee) June 2, 2021
The dazzling array of artists enlisted by the Obamas include H.E.R., Adam Lambert, Cordae, Lin-Manuel Miranda, Adam Lambert, Cordae, Bebe Rexha, Frozen's Robert and Kristen Anderson-Lopez, Hamilton's Daveed Diggs, Brittany Howard, In the Heights helmer Lin-Manuel Miranda, Brandi Carlile, Kyle Harvey, Bebe Rexha, Andra Day, Janelle Monáe, and inaugural National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman. The show is created by Doc McStuffins writer Chris Nee who will also executive produce alongside the former first couple, Kenya Barris (the creator of Black-ish), Tonia Davis (The Greatest Showman), and Priya Swaminathan via Higher Ground.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, other producers include Ada Chiaghana, Erynn Sampson, and PeeDee Shindell. The 10 episodes in We the People are helmed by a slate of directors including Oscar winner Peter Ramsey (Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse), Jorge R. Gutierrez (Netflix's upcoming Maya and the Three), Trisha Gum, Victoria Vincent, Benjy Brooke, Mabel Ye, Tim Rauch, Daron Nefcy, Everett Downing, and Kendra Ryan. Although the series will officially premiere on the streamer on July 4, AFI DOCS is set to host the world premiere of We the People with a free screening event in the DOCS Talks section of the film festival on June 24.
One of the greatest joys of #WeThePeopleNetflix— Chris Nee (She/Her)🏳️🌈 (@chrisdocnee) June 2, 2021
was working with the best of the best in animation. I came in one day with the idea that we should do ten directors and ten bespoke animation styles. We should represent "We the People" in everything we did. #WeThePeopleNetflix pic.twitter.com/9c44vft84L
"Michelle and I are excited to share our latest show from Higher Ground: 'We The People.' Some of our favorite artists got together with amazing animators to remix civics—and the result is a lot better than what we had in school," former President Obama wrote on Instagram, sharing a trailer for the upcoming series. Michelle also expressed her excitement for the show's release on social media, writing: "I can’t wait for you all to see 'We The People'! This Higher Ground project is filled with the songs and the heart of so many of our favorite artists—but even more, it’s a rallying cry for a rising generation that’s ready to take on the world."
The team behind the show gave us a taste of what to expect last week by releasing one of the original songs featured in it. Directed by Ramsay, "Change" by H.E.R. follows a young woman as she finds her voice through building community and making change. "This topic was Active Citizenship, one suggested by Barack Obama," Nee tweeted about the song. "Some of our topics are more content-based and packed with facts, but this one was intended as an anthem to encourage us all to remember we can change this country."
"When I first conceived the project, like everyone else, the images in my head of what civics was are the same images and stories that have been fed to us for so long — they revolved around White men, most of whom have been dead for a very long time," she continued. "We wanted to change the face of who we were hearing the stories of our country from. The silenced masses. We also believe that civics is not a dead thing in a textbook, but is actually alive. When you go out in the streets to protest, and when you feel that energy of a people roiling with either pain or joy, that's civics. It also talks about how our government and our sense of country are living and breathing things, and the more people get into the process of being engaged in this, the more things can change. This incredible song is the embodiment of that idea. Enjoy!"