How ‘Metropolis of Ghosts’ on Netflix combats ‘whitewashed’ L.A.

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“Metropolis of Ghosts” is Elizabeth Ito’s rebuttal to the folks that say they hate Los Angeles with out actually understanding something about her beloved hometown.

“There’s so much you’re saying that you simply hate once you’re saying you hate Los Angeles,” mentioned Ito, the Emmy Award-winning “Journey Time” alum whose new animated sequence is streaming on Netflix.

Mixing 2D and 3D animation over live-action settings, “Metropolis of Ghosts” follows a gaggle of children who’ve shaped a membership to search for ghosts across the metropolis to study their tales (usually serving to adults within the course of). Over the course of the six-episode season, their adventures take them from a brand new restaurant in Boyle Heights to a skate park in Venice to a vegan cafe in Leimert Park and past.

By means of their interviews with ghosts in addition to residing residents, members of the Ghost Membership study completely different L.A. neighborhoods and their histories. There may be even an episode the place they be taught concerning the Tongva, the Indigenous folks of L.A. The light love letter to the town and its numerous communities is introduced in a kid-friendly format, however it’s lots informative for adults too.

The sequence is partly impressed, mentioned Ito, by “studying plenty of articles about how our neighborhoods are simply altering and form of being whitewashed over and [wanting] to speak about what our communities are and what was right here.”

As L.A. continues to vary, she added, the episodes can dwell on as a reminder of “all the good cultures and issues that exist right here.”

A girl stands under a tree near a library sign

Zelda stands outdoors the library in “Metropolis of Ghosts.”


As for the sequence’ supernatural twist? It’s impressed by the showrunner and govt producer’s expertise with the paranormal.

“Once I was a little bit child, I noticed a ghost,” mentioned Ito. “I believe plenty of little youngsters see ghosts. They don’t all the time speak about it like that. [But] there’s plenty of actually humorous tales that little youngsters have about seeing ghosts.”

Offered as a selfmade documentary sequence anchored by Ghost Membership member Zelda, the present celebrates youngsters and their inquisitiveness, intelligence and quirky turns of phrase. Everybody within the Ghost Membership — which additionally contains Thomas, Eva and Peter — lives in a special neighborhood they usually typically meet up on the library to debate the circumstances they’re investigating.

“The toughest half is writing dialogue for teenagers that’s nearly as good because the humorous method that youngsters can discuss generally,” mentioned Ito. Happily, she discovered that recording classes with the younger actors had been a great barometer: If a child retains stumbling over a line, it’s in all probability as a result of it’s one thing they wouldn’t say.

The power to seize how folks truly communicate when telling their private tales is among the facets of the documentary method that appealed to Ito. The manufacturing course of concerned interviews with L.A. residents who voice animated variations of themselves to convey an authenticity that Ito mentioned could be misplaced in additional conventional scripts.

A girl waves from the sidewalk in front of a park

Eva waves from Leimert Plaza Park.


“The documentary method to stuff is de facto rewarding as a result of it allows you to let every particular person dictate the best way issues are mentioned,” mentioned Ito. “The best way that individuals discuss and the issues that they are saying … it’s so necessary to it feeling plausible.”

The present’s animation is layered over images of actual places and loads of acquainted native websites — Koreatown’s Soot Bull Jeep, Leimert Plaza Park, the Bob Baker Marionette Theater and the Central Library — make an look.

Ito admits that selecting which neighborhoods to highlight wasn’t straightforward however with the assistance of author Jenny Yang, who studied city coverage and planning at UCLA, she was capable of step again and contemplate what is going on within the metropolis earlier than figuring out which tales had been approachable for teenagers.

A number of the episodes had been formed by Ito’s curiosity in studying extra about neighborhoods and historical past she wasn’t as accustomed to, resembling Koreatown.

“I wished to do an episode about Koreatown, however I didn’t suppose any of [the episodes] had been going to be so on the nostril,” mentioned Ito. “Like, ‘It’s Koreatown, so we’re speaking about Korean tradition.’ As a result of nothing in L.A. is de facto like that.”

People outside the Bob Baker Marionette Theater

The Ghost Membership visits the Bob Baker Marionette Theater in “Metropolis of Ghosts.”


The finished episode presents a nuanced and correct take a look at the neighborhood’s numerous communities — it options an Oaxacan music instructor, the Zapotec language and a visit to a Korean BBQ restaurant.

There are additionally episodes that contain places which might be significant to Ito.

“I knew I wished to do one about Bob Baker [Marionette Theater] as a result of that was one thing from my childhood the place I used to be like ‘This can be a bizarre factor that individuals outdoors of L.A. don’t have,’” she mentioned.

Earlier than the children get there, they meet the ghost Atomic Nancy and study Little Tokyo and Japanese American historical past. It’s a quirky mashup that works as a result of it’s L.A.

Whereas Ito had all the time supposed for “Metropolis of Ghosts” to be CG animation over images, her want to raised mirror the range of L.A. is what led to the present’s hybrid 2D and 3D visible model.

Adults cheer for young skate boarders at a park

Skaters at a skate park in Venice in “Metropolis of Ghosts.”


Ito defined that one of many constraints with working in 3DCG animation is that budgets can restrict what number of fashions could be constructed, which might result in similar-looking characters populating the backgrounds. However by utilizing 2D animation for background characters, the present was capable of have extra selection.

“It was a alternative in order that we may make the backgrounds look as visually numerous as we wished them to be for someplace like L.A. the place you don’t have the identical sort of particular person everywhere in the metropolis,” mentioned Ito.

In the end, Ito hopes “Metropolis of Ghosts” may help folks notice there may be extra to L.A. than shallow generalizations and see how enjoyable it’s to be taught extra concerning the metropolis’s wealthy range.

“It’s actually a spot that has plenty of historical past and plenty of tales to be uncovered,” mentioned Ito. “It was actually rewarding to be linked to all of those folks and all of their cultures and all their households that I didn’t know earlier than so I really feel actually lucky.”

‘Metropolis of Ghosts’

The place: Netflix

When: Any time, beginning Friday

Rated: Not Rated

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