As the global village continues to expand, so do our cultural boundaries, which has triggered a bigger appetite for kids properties that explore foreign ways of life. Enter Christy Hui, CEO and founder of L.A.-based animation house ActionFliks. Hui has the unique distinction of being from two very different worlds, and she applies that dual sensibility to her creative development work.
Born and raised in China, Hui moved to the U.S. 20 years ago. But her global perspective doesn’t stop there. Prior to launching ActionFliks four years ago, she traveled extensively doing international marketing and global branding for companies including Sony Pictures and DIRECTV.
‘I think it adds an edge to what I bring to the table. I grew up in China where we have a lot of legends, myths and fantasy worlds. And having lived in the U.S., it’s like I’ve become a melting pot – when I see things, they blend together for me.’
In the wake of the anime wave, Hui says the market is very receptive to the East-meets-West perspective that ActionFliks offers. While anime has certainly influenced American animation, Hui tried to create an original look for the company’s first series Xiaolin Showdown (23 x 22 minutes), which airs on Kids’ WB! and has been greenlit for another 24 episodes. For its debut week in November 2003, the series scored a 3.7% rating with kids six to 11.
Xiaolin stars a monk-in-training who travels the world with a rich Japanese technophile, a Brazilian circus star and Texan kung-fu fighter. The show borrows heavily from Chinese mythology and Eastern philosophy, given that the group is charged with finding and protecting mystical objects.
But the toon is also very Western in its comedy style and adventure quotient. In one episode, Kimiko has to rope a cow, so she whips out her Wi-Fi handheld device and logs onto www.ropingacow.com to find out how to go about it. ‘It’s about throwing different characters and backgrounds together to see how they thrive,’ says Hui.
Hui is stirring up another cultural mix in The Hula Girls, a 13-book series with kids author Wendy Wilkinson (Parents at Last) that will be introduced next year. Geared to girls six to 11, the series stars three princesses and an island boy who are transported from their home to Tikiopia, a land that’s overrun by Tiki rebels serving vengeful volcano siren Melani.