Thoughts on Hollywood Inclusion… and, You Know, a Review on ‘KUBO’!

So I have to be honest, I did not want to like this movie. I mean, Laika movies have always been hit & miss with me. Don’t get me wrong, ALL of them are incredibly BEAUTIFUL pieces of animation. But add the story, and looking at the films as a whole, they’ve always been a little hit & miss.

But with KUBO? Yea, I really did go into it with a bias. Being an Asian-American, of course I am going to mention white-washing in Hollywood. Don’t worry, I am not going to be all militant about it, if posts I’ve read myself on the subject are any indication. Just want to talk a little about where I am coming from.

Does of you who don’t know, the Asian-American community, at least in my opinion, has gotten more and more irate in fighting for more inclusion in entertainment. The earliest I could remember was WAY back when when a live-action AKIRA was gaining steam again. And not only were things being reported that producers were looking to cast white actors in the lead roles, but were also planning on localizing the story for Western audiences. If you’re not familiar what I mean by that, basically changing the cultural elements in the story to be more familiar. Things like changing the setting from Neo-Tokyo to New Manhattan, and things of the like.

But most recently this outcry came with casting announcements for the live-action GHOST IN THE SHELL, as well as the just released DOCTOR STANGE movie.

The complaint being with the former in that a white actress, in this case Scarlett Johansson,  being cast in the lead role that many feel is an Asian character. And the latter, bring with Tilda Swinton’s casting as THE ANCIENT in MARVEL’S DOCTOR STRANGE.

Now while I can appreciate the outcry of the lack of inclusion, because I do consider myself in that camp. I can also appreciate the business end of things in feeling the need to cast named actors to draw in moviegoers for original material they might not be sure of. And unfortunately there’s not that many of us in Hollywood.

Now, I know some people will be all, “THAT’S WHY THEY SHOULD CAST MORE COLOR!”. I get it. It’s almost a chicken and the egg scenario.

But again, while I can appreciate both sides of it, with KUBO, I don’t understand why they couldn’t cast Asian actors for the main roles. With live-action, not only casting right, I can appreciate the desire to cast someone known and popular to star. Because, for a lack of a better way to put it, the star arguably carries the responsibility for the box-office.

But with a movie like KUBO, I would offer that the animation is the star, and offers the opportunity to build inclusion in entertainment, in the case, for the Asian community. Now Laika’s stance is that first and foremost their goal was to cast voice-actors that can convey the nounces of the characters. And while that makes sense, I do find it hard to believe that there aren’t enough actors or aspiring actors that couldn’t have filled those roles in casting calls.

And that, from a purely Asian Pride standpoint, I really didn’t want to like this movie.

But alas, I loved it.

It goes without saying the animation was beautiful. And the cast did a wonderful job in bringing the characters to life. I just loved it. The movie as a whole really did transport me to another world, and I was enraptured by every moment.

As I write this, KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS has dropped from theatres. But if you haven’t seen it yet, it’s definitely worth picking up when it hits the Home Entertainment market.