Johnstown had a place at the 2020 Academy Awards.

Andrew Hawkins, a Bishop McCort Catholic High School graduate, and Mike Owens, a Greater Johnstown High School graduate, were part of the team that produced the Oscar-winning animated short film “Hair Love.”

Owens was an animator on the project, while Hawkins – who played in the NFL with Cleveland and Cincinnati – was an executive producer.

“When you start out on something like this, you think about what the best possible scenario could be – and it’s so rare to see it come together exactly how you hope it would,” Hawkins told reporter David Hurst in a telephone interview Sunday. “It’s just awesome.”

Owens experienced the moment through television from his home in Minnesota.

“Suddenly, I’m watching all of my friends up there on stage ...,” he said, “and then my parents call, basically shouting over the phone how proud they are of me.”

We’re proud of these Johnstown guys, too.

Owens, 46, is the son of David and Kathy Owens, of Lower Yoder Township.

“It’s kind of epic to be part of something that reached this many people,” Owens told Hurst.

Hawkins, 33, is the son of Artrell Hawkins Sr. and Aletha Jones, both of Johnstown. 

The Oscar win was announced during Sunday night’s Academy Awards ceremony in Los Angeles – ironically a day after the Johnstown Symphony Orchestra paid tribute to movies made in Johnstown.

“Hair Love” is a seven-minute film that features an African-American father and a daughter whose hair “has a mind of its own,” according to Amazon. The film was an adaptation of a children’s book that made The New York Times bestseller list before becoming a YouTube hit.

The book was written by former NFL player Matthew Cherry, who then adapted the narrative for film.

“It was Matt’s brainchild from the beginning,” Hawkins said, “and, for me, as the father of twin 4-year-old daughters, I knew right away he was telling a story that needs told.”

Owens said he could feel momentum building for “Hair Love” in the weeks leading up to the Oscars – where the film beat out several strong contenders, including Disney/Pixar’s “Kitbull.”

“To top them ... that’s always a good feeling,” Owens said.

“It’s a nice reminder that you don’t have to be a gigantic studio to tell a good story.”

These two gentlemen are giants in our book.

We thank them for helping bring a great story to life – and uplifting their hometown in the process.

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