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Tribeca Review: Butterfly in the Sky

LeVar Burton in the new documentary, BUTTERFLY IN THE SKY.
Photo Courtesy of Tribeca Film Festival

Reading Rainbow, much like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street, played an impactful role in educating while entertaining kids that’s still talked about to this day. Now, the show’s legacy and impact is captured excellently in a new documentary, fittingly titled Butterfly in the Sky, that’s equally nostalgic and heartwarming.

Butterfly in the Sky is the exact kind of inside look into Reading Rainbow fans have always wanted. It dives deep into the show’s creation, the impact it had on getting kids to read, and, of course, its prolific host LeVar Burton. Right from the start, the film has you absolutely hooked into the pleasant trip down memory lane it offers from crew and Burton talking about the show’s creations and their desire to create an authentic and unique experience for kids. Although Reading Rainbow was a part of public broadcasting and constantly struggled with funding, their dedication to bringing kids places all around the world and connecting them to books allowed them to engage with children so effectively.

When you look back at where the series was able to go, including an active volcano and even the set of Star Trek: The Next Generation when Burton was on the series, it’s really amazing what they were able to accomplish. What Reading Rainbow added culturally is impressively shown here and adds even deeper value to the impact it made. Butterfly in the Sky is one of those experiences that reminds you of something you once loved and then makes you love it even more as you see it in a totally different light. It’s even more remarkable to hear the impact it had on those involved in the making of the series, from kids to crew.

The segments looking at the iconic “children’s book reviews” section of Reading Rainbow are some of the most surprisingly heartfelt. It’s not only fulfilling to see where these kid ended up after the series, but also fondly look back at their time on Reading Rainbow with genuine emotion. Just from hearing them talk and seeing their reviews on-screen, you can tell that Reading Rainbow means something to them and shows that the series truly went above and beyond to connect with children. That sense of care is only heightened when hearing from key crew members about creating the show and finding a great balance of entertaining fantasy and impactful education. Shows like Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood and Reading Rainbow are what make this era of public television so fascinating to explore and a big part of that is the kind of lasting connection they were able to make.

Even years after the series ended, you can feel how pivotal Reading Rainbow was for the people that worked on it and hearing them talk about the connections they made and the legitimate impact they had on getting kids to read is truly inspiring. It’s immensely moving and brings out a lot of emotion in you to the point where you’re holding back tears because of how deep their care is and fondly they talk about Reading Rainbow. Fans will even get a taste of how the iconic theme song came to be from composer Steve Horelick and it is legitimately one of most nostalgic and satisfying moments of the film.

Nothing compares to how Butterfly in the Sky pays respect to LeVar Burton’s impact on this series though and the film really acts as a great profile of his career. If you were wondering why so many people were advocating for Burton to step in as the host of Jeopardy, Reading Rainbow was why. His journey in hosting this series and really as an actor is amazing to watch and provides some of the biggest emotional moments of the film. It’s absolutely heartwarming to hear people talk about why Burton’s presence was so fitting and impactful for Reading Rainbow, from the way he felt like a kid at heart to the impact he made in terms of representation as a black man hosting major show like this, and hearing Burton look back on it all is just priceless. Even as he gained more fame and larger roles in his acting career, Reading Rainbow always remained a staple for him, and he constantly fought to keep it around. If anything, Butterfly in the Sky solidifies Burton’s legacy and will makes viewers fall in love with him again if they already aren’t.

Butterfly in the Sky wears its heart on its sleeve in the best way imaginable. It authentically captures the magic, heart, and impact that Reading Rainbow had for kids and gives fans exactly what they would want with a Reading Rainbow documentary, an inside look that acts as a love letter to the series and LeVar Burton that fans of all ages that thoroughly adore.

Butterfly in the Sky is currently on the festival circuit.

Tom Moore
Tom Moorehttps://mooreviews.com/
Tom is always ready to see and review everything horrifying and hilarious that hits theaters, television, and video games...sometimes. You can check out his other reviews and articles on his blog, Mooreviews.

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