Upcoming DreamWorks film “Home” to star an African-American girl

News has broken this week about an upcoming DreamWorks Animation film, “Home.” Scheduled to be released this fall (on Thanksgiving weekend) March 27, 2015, the film’s plot, according to Indiewire:

When Earth is taken over by the overly-confident Boov, an alien race in search of a new place to call home, all humans are promptly relocated, while the Boov get busy efficiently reorganizing the planet. But when one resourceful girl, Tip, (Rihanna) manages to avoid capture, she finds herself the accidental accomplice of a banished Boov by the name of Oh (Jim Parsons). Equally stubborn and set in their ways, these two fugitives realize there’s a lot more at stake than intergalactic relations as they embark on the road trip of a lifetime. Good thing they have a flying car.

As noted, the film’s human star, Tip, is an African-American girl voiced by singer Rihanna. While other CGI animated films have had African-American supporting characters, such as Frozone in “The Incredibles,” as well as other minorities as stars (such as Russell in Pixar’s “Up”), this marks the first time I can recall that a major theatrical CGI animated film’s had an African-American star.

Of course, there’s various detractors online (and the usual trolls, etc.) trying to dismiss this casting relevance, most of them claiming along the lines of: “there was already a Black character starring in an animated film, ‘The Princess and the Frog’!” While true that film featured an African-American cast, the comments:

  • Assume that there’s not room for more than one film starring African-Americans. Which basically sounds like: “you already had your race star in a cartoon film five years ago, so quit complaining!”
  • Ignore that “Princess” was a 2D animated film, not a CGI one, which is what dominates theatrical animation these days. As much as I want to see more 2D films return to theaters, if CGI’s going to be dominant, then seeing more diverse characters in such films as stars (not just supporting cast) is important, too.
  • Assume the “default” stars should be Caucasian characters.

Either way, seeing more diversity in casting for animated films is important and relevant.

As for the film’s chances at the box office, being released stateside at Thanksgiving should help since it’s been moved to late March (from Thanksgiving), it should have a bit of “breathing room” from any other films that might hurt its chances, a problem other DreamWorks films have had. “Mr. Peabody” had to compete with “Muppets Most Wanted” for a similar audience, and “Penguins of Madagascar” had to go up against “Big Hero 6.” The only competing films should be Disney’s live-action “Cinderella” (released two weeks earlier) and the still-lingering-in-a-few-theaters “SpongeBob” sequel. There’s also no family films opening anytime soon after “Home.” Given the problems DreamWorks films have had in recent years (“Peabody,” “Penguins,” and “Turbo” all underperformed, despite being fairly well reviewed), this might be their biggest chance to succeed in awhile.

In terms of quality, so far all we have to go on is the preview animated short released recently, “Almost Home,” starring the film’s aliens.

(Updated 3/2/15)

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