Carren's Pitch

Life by Design

 This was such a fun story to write. I really appreciated being able to speak with Elizabeth, whose view of animation and working in the industry is so refreshing. 


Growing up, fourth-generation Japanese American Elizabeth Ito didn't quite fit in. She went to a mostly white and Latinx school in Santa Monica, with a meager Asian population. The only friends she had that had similar backgrounds were a half-Chinese best friend as well as another Filipino friend.

She talks further about her experience at school with a post on her website, "I remember getting teased for my lunches, and the standard racist kids jokes about Asian people. The eyes, the questions of origin, condensing us all into 'Chinese,' the funny mimicking-language-esque slurs. At the time when it was happening, it was painful and confusing, but I buried it. I tried not to draw attention to what the structure of my face couldn't hide. I figured out that it was easier when someone asks, 'What's your favorite food?' for you to say pizza because that's what all kids say, and that's what all white kids like. I don't want to have to explain to my class what soba is. Cold noodles with dry seaweed on top, dipped into a cup of salty, slightly fishy sauce, to third-graders? FORGET IT."

She then went home to Crenshaw, a neighborhood where her bike-riding companions were all Black.

Ito lived in a Los Angeles not usually portrayed in mainstream media, a nexus of different cultures and realities. Rather than act out or speak up for herself as she experienced teasing or bullying in school, Ito processed her feelings and the world with lines drawn on paper. "It was the best way I knew to express my feelings, both good and bad," she told Fülle Circle Magazine. Even as a child, Ito didn't actively defend herself, preferring instead to let out her feelings through graphite.

With these early experiences of difficult relations in Los Angeles' complex cultural make-up, empathy for othered communities and lifelong inclination for telling stories through drawing, it's no surprise that Ito came up with a hybrid documentary-style animated series that rings true for those who have long made Los Angeles their home.


"City of Ghosts," a Netflix series premiering March 5, is a funny and heartfelt look at Los Angeles through the eyes of five children — the Ghost Team members — from different neighborhoods and backgrounds: Zelda of Boyle Heights, Thomas, Eva of Leimert Park, Peter of Koreatown and Jasper of the Tongva tribe, who really belongs in all of Los Angeles. Throughout the six 20-minute episodes, flashes of familiar Los Angeles scenes shot by street photographer — and KCET contributor Kwasi-Boyd Bouldin — and treated with an animated finish by boutique design studio Chromosphere, flicker onscreen. Mariachi Plaza Metro station's stained-glass canopy, Vision Theatre's Art Deco spire in Leimert Park, even the city's colorful, graffiti-laden back alleys are just some of the signposts for true Angelenos in the series. [read more]



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