"When we did this campaign two years ago, there wasn't a lot of representation in animated projects," Cherry says. "You know, oftentimes they would cast actors of color, but, you know, they'd be playing inanimate objects or animals. And, you know, it was rarely, like, actually seeing a family dynamic in animation."
He notes that there are films like Disney's The Princess and the Frog and Home, which features Rihanna, but Cherry says he wanted to give audiences an animated black family.
"I think it does also a lot for young people's confidence when they see themselves represented," Cherry says. "You know, media is so powerful. And when you grow up and see magazine covers and TV shows and movies and you don't see yourself represented, but you see every other type of hairstyle represented, that can really affect your self-confidence."
Cherry says he has heard from both young girls and boys, as well as fathers and mothers who aren't African American — all of whom have connected with the short.
Though he isn't a father himself, Cherry says it was important to him to show a black man in a loving, tender role.
"We really get a bad rap in mainstream media, particularly black fathers," he says. "There's always the stereotype that we're not present or deadbeats. ... And while obviously those situations do exist, it feels very much so that it's just like disproportionately represented in that way."
But that's not the kind of fathers his friends are, so Cherry channeled their experiences when creating Hair Love.
"I have a lot of friends that are young fathers, and they're all willing to do whatever it takes for their young girls," he says. "This was just kind of me put[ting] myself in their shoes and kind of representing and also really being inspired by all these viral videos of dads doing their daughter's hair and people just really being fascinated by that."
Prior to Hair Love, Cherry worked as an executive producer on Spike Lee's BlacKkKlansman. He also worked on commercials and music videos, and before that, he played in the NFL.
While creating the Hair Love book and short, Cherry kept in mind his own experience with natural hair during his time in the NFL.
"I had my hair long enough to where it could be braided," he says. "Every week I'd have to go and get it worked on and stuff. So, you know, I think for both men and women, it's definitely something that's a big part of our life."