Real superheroes don’t need capes. They don’t need superhuman strength or the power of invisibility.
They don’t even need to be grown-ups.
On the contrary: They’re kids like Adonis Watt, a 15-year-old high school student who plays on his school football team...despite being blind.
“I can’t see anything and that includes limits for myself,” Watt says on a recent episode of Marvel’s Hero Project, a show currently streaming on Disney+ that spotlights kids who are doing extraordinary things. “I can’t see something that’s going to block me from where I’m destined to be.”
Hermosa Beach filmmaker Ryan Scott Warren worked as a producer on the 30-minute episode featuring Adonis—as well as on two other episodes set to air Dec. 27 and in 2020. He was so inspired by his experience working on the show that he reached out to his community via social media to spread the word.
"Working on Marvel’s Hero Project has had a tremendous impact on me personally and professionally,” Warren said in an e-mail. “Personally, it has inspired me to give more to help those who are helping others. Professionally, it has inspired me to put my focus on pursuing projects that have a meaningful and positive impact on the world."
The 20-episode Hero Project sets out to highlight “everyday kids who have accomplished the amazing.”
Each episode follows a different 11 to 16-year old and ends with that child opening up his or her own personalized Marvel comic book—a gift that officially memorializes each one of them as superheroes in the Marvel Universe (the comic books are available free after each episode at Marvel’s Hero Project page on Marvel.com).
“We wanted to highlight the real superheroes that are out there in the world,” said executive producer Maura Mandt, “and what they’re doing with their own god-given, real powers.”
Mandt said the Hero Project crew scoured news articles and social media sites to find their 20 young heroes. They found Adonis after a video of him scoring two touchdowns as a running back went viral.
“When I see him in that uniform, for those three hours, his jersey is his cape,” his mother, Veronica Watt, says on the show. “He’s like my hero.”
Warren is a film and television veteran who has, according to his company website, worked on a plethora of film and television projects including the Showtime series Dexter, as well as the documentary, Matthews, about the British soccer player Stanley Matthews.
But Marvel’s Hero Project wasn’t just any job.
"Without a doubt, the most inspiring part of working on Marvel’s Hero Project has been experiencing firsthand the selflessness and courage of these kids as they set out in making our world a better place for all of us," Warren said.
Executive producer John Hirsch called it an “emotional” project for everyone involved.
“This is the most emotional production I’ve been on, for sure,” said Hirsch, an Emmy-winning producer and director who has worked for FOX and ABC Sports. “Pretty much all of us who worked on the show cried during the making of it—but they’re such good tears. The kids are so phenomenal and inspirational.
“Kids often times are told that, ‘Oh, just wait ‘til you’re older and then you can do that,” Hirsch continued. “What these kids are showing us is that they can do it now.”
Along with Adonis—whose comic book character was named “The Unstoppable Adonis”—the real-life superheroes include:
Elijah Lee - An 11-year-old from North Carolina who was so upset upon learning a classmate had been abused he vowed to help end child abuse. An activist who’s not afraid to speak in front of a crowd, the 'tween hosts sermons, leads marches and organizes fundraisers to raise awareness about child abuse.
Rebeka Bruesehoff - A 12-year-old transgender youth activist who acts as a voice for kids and teens in the transgender and LBGTQ community.
Hailey Richmond - A 12-year-old New York City resident who was inspired to action after seeing her grandmother battle Alzheimer’s disease. She created “Puzzle Time,” a volunteer group that brings kids and dementia patients together via puzzles. She also launched Kid Caregivers, a resource that offers support to kids taking care of family members with Alzheimers and which connects young volunteers with dementia patients.
Jordan Reeves- A 13-year-old Missouri inventor who was born missing the lower part of her left arm. She's become an advocate for kids with limb differences. Before Hero Project, she garnered national attention when she appeared on ABC’s Shark Tank with her “Project Unicorn” invention: a 3D-printed prosthetic unicorn-horn arm that shoots glitter.
WHERE TO WATCH:
Marvel’s Hero Project is available on Disney+, with new episodes dropping every Friday. (Recommended for ages 8 and up.)