netflix asian-american

Netflix is doubling down on celebrating Asian voices during AAPI month. The streaming giant has ordered three new animated projects from Asian-American creators, one of which includes an animated film based on China’s famous legend Journey to the West (AKA the inspiration for Dragon Ball) from executive producer Stephen Chow.

Jane Lee, the manager of Netflix Animation, announced the three new animated projects that will put “Asian American protagonists front and center for kids around the world to enjoy.” One is the animated film The Monkey King, and the next two are animated series — the CG action Mech Cadets, and 2D animated comedy adventure Boons and Curses.

“We’re owning our own characters and our own fantastical universes rooted in the beautiful cultures we hail from,” Lee said in her statement. Lee’s announcement came with the first key art from all three projects, which you can see below.

The Monkey King

Set to premiere on Netflix in 2023, The Monkey King is an animated action-comedy movie produced by Stephen Chow, the filmmaker and star behind such martial arts comedy classics as Kung Fu Hustle and Shaolin Soccer. Inspired by the enduring Chinese legend Journey to the West (which has served as inspiration for shows such as Dragon Ball), The Monkey King “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,” Chow said in a statement. “I’m so excited to be collaborating with Tony, Peilin, and everyone at Netflix to bring this joyful tale to audiences worldwide.”

The Monkey King is set to star 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. It’s produced by Peilin Chou (Over the Moon) and Kendra Haaland (co-producer of How to Train Your Dragon 2), and directed by Oscar-nominated filmmaker Anthony Stacchi (The Boxtrolls), the latter of which is curiously the only non-Asian face on this project.

Boons and Curses

Also set to premiere in 2023, Boons and Curses is a comedy-action animated series that hails from creator and executive producer Jaydeep Hasrajani and series co-executive producer Jake Goldman.

Hasrajani said in a statement that Boons and Curses is an ode to his Indian-American upbringing, saying, “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.”

Here’s the logline:

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… 3 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.

Mech Cadets

Lastly, there’s Mech Cadets, a CG-animated series based on the Boom! Studios comic series Mech Cadet Yu by Greg Pak and Takeshi Miyazawa. Set to premiere on Netflix in 2023, Mech Cadets is set 50 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.”

The series is executive produced by Boom! Studios and will be animated by Japanese 3DCG studio Polygon Pictures, which is behind such series as Star Wars: The Clone Wars and Netflix’s recent 3D Godzilla anime films. The latter of which don’t give me a lot of hope (those Godzilla anime movies are really ugly), but the concept art above at least looks decent.

Jack Liang, an executive of Polygon Pictures, said in a statement, “It is important for us to create stories that exemplify our teams’ diverse voices and art as a studio based in Tokyo, Japan. 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.”

Aaron Lam serves as writer and an executive producer of the series.

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