A feature-length documentary about the legacy of “Reading Rainbow,” the beloved children’s show featuring LeVar Burton, is in production now from non-fiction studio XTR called “Butterfly in the Sky.”
The “Reading Rainbow” film is named for the iconic theme song for the series, which ran for 26 years beginning in 1983 and picked up 26 Emmys and a Peabody Award throughout its run.
LeVar Burton himself, who hosted the program during its run and helped make it a classroom staple, sat down for new interviews with the filmmakers to discuss the show’s legacy. And in the vein of recent nostalgia-driven documentaries such as “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” and “I Am Big Bird: The Caroll Spinney Story,” “Butterfly in the Sky” will also cobble together archival footage and new interviews with broadcasters, educators and filmmakers who have all been involved with “Reading Rainbow” over the past 30 years.
“Reading Rainbow” has carried its cultural cachet into the 21st century on the backs of countless remixes of the theme song, a LeVar Burton cameo on “Community” and of course the love for Burton surrounding his “Jeopardy!” guest-hosting gig.
Directing the film are Bradford Thomason and Brett Whitcomb (“GLOW: The Story of the Gorgeous Ladies of Wrestling,” “Jasper Mall”). “Butterfly in the Sky” is a Sidestilt Films production and is produced by Bryan Storkel (“Alabama Snake,” “The Legend of Cocaine Island”) and executive produced by XTR’s Bryn Mooser, Justin Lacob and Kathryn Everett.
“Reading Rainbow was my window into the big city and into diverse cultures,” Whitcomb said. “With segments like those in ‘Hill of Fire,’ ‘Liang and the Magic Paintbrush’ and countless other episodes, ‘Reading Rainbow’ was arguably the first time I encountered ‘documentary-style’ television as a young person, planting a seed that would inspire me for the rest of my life and lead me to where I am in my career to this day.”
“As a Mexican-American growing up in Houston, I was always surrounded by diversity,” Thomason said. “More than any show on television, ‘Reading Rainbow’ reflected the cultures that surrounded me. When the book fair came to my school, I went straight for the ‘Reading Rainbow’ titles. I didn’t know it at the time, but the show’s mission statement was manifesting itself in me. I devour books to this day and I know ‘Reading Rainbow’ had a hand in that.”
“We are honored to tell the ‘Reading Rainbow’ story and document the show’s incredible work to increase literacy for children around the world,” Lacob, head of development at XTR, said in a statement. “Decades later, the impact of ‘Reading Rainbow’ still lives on through my lifelong love of reading which I share with my own kids.”
XTR has been behind a slate of other buzzy documentary titles of late, including films such as “Ailey,” “Homeroom,” “Rebel Hearts, “Ascension” and the upcoming untitled documentary series about Magic Johnson.