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Netflix animates Asian American stories

Mech Cadets is based on a comic series from Boom! Studios

Netflix has commissioned a host of projects for children with Asian American protagonists, including two animated series and a feature.

Jane Lee, manager of animation at the US-based global streamer, said the new projects would give Asian Americans unfamiliar with seeing themselves represented on screen an opportunity to do so.

Lee said: “Never underestimate the power of seeing yourself on the screen. Watching my favourite 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 projects, which are due to arrive on the streamer in 2023, include Boons & Curses, an action-comedy series from creator and executive producer Jaydeep Hasrajani and series co-executive producer Jake Goldman.

Heavily inspired by ancient South Asia, the show highlights myths and legends from the region that have enraptured generations over the centuries.

Hasrajani said: “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.

“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.”

Netflix is also working on Mech Cadets, a 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 and Aaron Lam, who serves as the writer and an executive producer of the series. Tohru Patrick Awa serves as supervising director.

Set 50 years in the future, the series follows a teenager working as a janitor who gets to pilot a giant robot from space as he and his classmates put aside personal differences and work together as a team to defend humanity against an alien invasion.

Finally, The Monkey King is an animated action-comedy film executive produced by filmmaker Stephen Chow (Mermaid), produced by Peilin Chou (Over the Moon) and Kendra Haaland (coproducer of How to Train Your Dragon 2), and directed by Anthony Stacchi (The Boxtrolls).

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, the monkey’s own hubris.

It will feature an all-Asian voice cast including 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.

Lee added: “We’re owning our own characters and our own fantastical universes rooted in the beautiful cultures we hail from. I love the power of animation because it unlocks imagination and potential, empowering us to build new realities and see ourselves as the heroes.

“With each colourful 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.”

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