In a personal blog post today, Netflix Animation Manager Jane Lee revealed that the streamer is extending its commitment to uplift the voices and stories of underrepresented communities with three brand-new animated feature and series projects from Asian-American creators, which also put AAPI protagonists front and center. May is Asian/Pacific American Heritage Month in the U.S.
“Never underestimate the power of seeing yourself on the screen,” Lee wrote. “Watching my favorite cartoons growing up, I rarely saw a face or name like mine, and certainly never as the hero. But I always had a passion for animation, and now I get to reclaim the space for myself and others who deserve to see ourselves on screen.”
The Monkey King (2023) is an animated action-comedy film executive produced by legendary filmmaker Stephen Chow (Mermaid), produced by Academy Award-nominated Peilin Chou (Over the Moon) and Kendra Haaland (co-producer of How to Train Your Dragon 2), and directed by Academy Award-nominated Anthony Stacchi (The Boxtrolls). The all-Asian voice cast features Jimmy O. Yang, Bowen Yang, Jolie Hoang-Rappaport, Jo Koy, Ron Yuan, Hoon Lee, Stephanie Hsu, Andrew Pang, Andrew Kishino, Jodi Long, James Sie and BD Wong.
Inspired by China’s famous legend Journey to the West, the film tells the story of a very special Monkey, and his magical fighting Stick, who team up to fight against gods, demons, dragons, and the greatest enemy of all, Monkey’s own hubris!
“The Monkey King has endured for generations with his unique character and spirit,” noted Chow. “I’m so excited to be collaborating with Tony, Peilin, and everyone at Netflix to bring this joyful tale to audiences worldwide!”
Boons and Curses (2023) is a comedy-action animated series hailing from creator and executive producer Jaydeep Hasrajani and series co-executive producer Jake Goldman.
In the magical land of Maya, a cosmic war is on the horizon. The Raj and his monstrous army threaten to destroy any who stand against them! The universe itself hangs in the balance and our only hope is… three feet tall and made of butter. Claiming to be a cursed warrior from another time, Baan may have been transformed into solid ghee but he won’t let that stop him! Teaming up with Rani, a young thief with delusions of grandeur, Baan must use every arrow in his quiver if he wants to defeat the Raj. Heavily inspired by ancient South Asia, Boons and Curses is an adventure-comedy highlighting the myths and legends that have enraptured generations.
“Growing up, I used to think of the hyphen in ‘Indian-American’ as a separator between two parts of myself. With Boons and Curses I want to turn that hyphen from a wall into a bridge, not just for me, but for anybody who has ever felt that they were caught between two worlds,” said Hasrajani. “Using the beauty of South Asian mythology, folktales and culture, our talented and passionate crew is so eager to share an exciting and hilarious adventure that can resonate with everyone the world over.”
Mech Cadets (2023) is an animated series based on the Boom! Studios comic series Mech Cadet Yu by Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa. The series is executive produced by Boom! Studios, Japanese studio Polygon Pictures Inc. and Aaron Lam, who serves as the writer and an executive producer of the series.
Fifty years in the future, after a terrifying alien species attacked our planet, teenager Stanford Yu works as a janitor at the Sky Corps Military Academy. But he’s only dreamed of one thing his entire life — to pilot a Robo Mech, giant robots from outer-space who came to our aid. When he finally gets his shot, Stanford and his classmates must put aside all personal differences and work together as a team in order to defend humanity against a new invasion of aliens.
“It is important for us to create stories that exemplify our teams’ diverse voices and art as a studio based in Tokyo, Japan,” said Jack Liang, Executive Producer, VP of Business Development & Licensing and Board of Directors, Polygon Pictures. “As part of our mission ‘to do what no other has done, in unparalleled quality, for all the world to see and enjoy’ we are ecstatic to have alongside with us, our supervising director, Tohru Patrick Awa, writer and executive producer, Aaron Lam and our talented diverse team of writers, to visualize the wonderful story created by Greg Pak, Takeshi Miyazawa and Boom! Studios. We all are honored to work with Netflix, and to tell a story that we hope will inspire future storytellers around the world.”
As Lee noted in her post, the trio of newly announced projects join an already impressive slate of animation from Asian-American talents, representing a range of styles, stories and unique voices. These include the Oscar-nominated feature Over the Moon from Glen Keane, Gennie Rim and Peilin Chou; City of Ghosts from Elizabeth Ito; as well as upcoming series and movies Centaurworld from Megan Nicole Dong (Animation Magazine Rising Star of 2021), Oni from Daisuke “Dice” Tsutsumi; Ghee Happy from Sanjay Patel; Witch Boy from Minkyu Lee and Steps from Alyce Tzue.
“I love the power of animation because it unlocks imagination and potential, empowering us to build new realities and see ourselves as the heroes,” Lee continued. “With each colorful frame and character we get to create together, we are defining our own world for kids around the world who don’t have to wait to see someone like them in the end credits.”