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Joshua Leonard: The Animator Who's Turning Kids With Special Needs Into Superheroes

Joshua Leonard: The Animator Who's Turning Kids With Special Needs Into Superheroes

All photos via: Joshua Leonard

From the moment Joshua Leonard's brother taught him how to draw Garfield in kindergarten, his passion for drawing did nothing but grow. By the time he got to high school, Leonard came up with the idea to create an animated series about a group of kids with special needs and superpowers.

"Black people in the animation industry is less than 3%, so I was like I need to create something so dope and so different outside of the box that includes everybody," Leonard told Because of Them We Can. "Marvel has created Daredevil who was blind. Never was there a team of kids who had a special need and a superpower." 

The only problem for Leonard back then was that he didn't know how to animate the series. To learn how, Leonard later went on to attend the Art Institute of Atlanta. This year, while working full-time, he graduated as the school’s valedictorian, obtaining his degree in media arts and animation. 

"As a student, I began to develop my cartoon called 'Team Supreme,' which is about a group of kids who have special needs but have also been blessed with superpowers," Leonard said in his graduation speech. "My goal for this cartoon is to introduce more inclusion and diversity to the world. I am still working on my cartoon which will continue to empower all children especially special needs children as they have superpowers too." 

For his characters, Leonard observed his friend's children who have special needs, so that he would be able to properly represent them in the series.

The main character of "Team Supreme" is a young boy named Zeek, who has autism and splinter skills, or the ability to retain large amounts of information in a short period of time. The rest of the team includes Angel, a young girl born with albinism, Thumper, who was born with no hearing, Li, who was born blind, Mech, who's paralyzed from the waist down, and Shock, who was hit by a car and had to get his arm amputated as a result. Each character's special need turns into their superpower: Angel has the power to be invisible, Thumper has enhanced eyesight (he's also the strongest), Li has supersonic hearing, Mech is able to walk with his high tech robotic machine, and Shock has a robotic arm. 

On June 29, Leonard launched an Indiegogo campaign to raise $50,000 to create an animated short film. He expects to complete the project within the next two years. 

In the words of Leonard's father, "When somebody is motivated by excellence, success follows." We suggest you keep on the lookout for “Team Supreme,” because, as you know, there can never be enough representation.