Oh, wow! My Talking Comics podcast co-host, Joey, is going to freak out! It’s been announced that Disney+ has given a straight-to-series order to American Born Chinese, an action-comedy series based on the 2006 graphic novel of the same name by Gene Luen Yang. Adding some more excitement to this news is the good word that Destin Daniel Cretton (Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings) will direct and produce the adaptation.
Per Amazon, American Born Chinese tells the story of three unrelated characters: Jin Wang, who moves to a new neighborhood with his family only to discover that he’s the only Chinese-American student at his new school; the powerful Monkey King, subject of one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables; and Chin-Kee, a personification of the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, who is ruining his cousin Danny’s life with his yearly visits. Their lives and stories come together with an unexpected twist in this action-packed modern fable.
American Born Chinese is the winner of the 2007 Michael L. Printz Award, a 2006 National Book Award Finalist for Young People’s Literature, the winner of the 2007 Eisner Award for Best Graphic Album: New, an Eisner Award nominee for Best Coloring, a 2007 Bank Street Best Children’s Book of the Year, and a New York Times bestseller.
In addition to being a powerful story about heritage, fitting in, and stereotypes that have left a negative and lasting impact on society, American Born Chinese has become a touchstone release for many of its fans. I’ve personally spoken to several people who say that Yang’s book is an outstanding and eye-opening read, and I could not agree more.
“We are delighted to continue our relationship with Melvin Mar and Jake Kasdan and thrilled that Destin Daniel Cretton is set to direct,” said Ayo Davis, president, Disney Branded Television. “The team are visionaries in bringing character-driven adventures to life, and we cannot wait for our audience to experience this fantastically memorable and imaginative adaptation of the graphic novel. This is a great universal story that moves between worlds and explores the impact of culture, identity, and acceptance through the lens of adolescence.”
Written and executive produced by Bob’s Burgers exec producer Kelvin Yu and his brother, Charles Yu (Westworld), the series is executive produced by Melvin Mar and Jake Kasdan (Doogie Kamealoha, M.D.). Asher Goldstein (Just Mercy) and Gene Luen Yang are also executive producers. Kelvin Yu serves as showrunner on the series, which is looking to cast its characters soon.
“This has been a labor of love for Melvin Mar, and like the force of nature he is, the team he has assembled in Kelvin, Destin, and Jake is as inspired and otherworldly as Gene’s beautiful graphic novel,” said 20th Television President Karey Burke. “We are so proud to be their studio and grateful to Ayo and everyone at Disney Branded Television and Disney+ for their belief in this series.”
“Reading Kelvin’s riveting adaptation of Gene’s incredible novel had me laughing and crying and jumping out of my chair on every page,” Cretton said. “I feel deeply connected to the characters in this story and the brilliant team bringing it to life. This show is going to be unlike anything we’ve experienced on TV, and I can’t wait for the world to see what we’re cooking up.”
American Born Chinese will be Cretton’s first TV series after co-writing and directing Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten RIngs for Marvel Studios. Coincidentally, Yang is currently writing Shang-Chi for Marvel Comics. In the comic, featuring art by Dike Ruan, colors by Triona Farrell, and letters by VC’s Travis Lanham, Shang-Chi continues to struggle with inheriting his father’s legacy in addition to coming to terms with how the Five Weapons Society has placed those he cares about in danger.
We’ll be sure to bring you more news about the development of American Born Chinese as it continues to come together.