Representation matters, and historically, animation hasn’t always gotten it right. Here’s looking at you, Apu. Box office success of films like Crazy Rich Asians and the live action remake of Aladdin as well as Parasite’s huge Oscar wins send an important message of just how important representation is. However, according to a recent post from TIFF: only 3.2% of the directors who made the top 1,100 films of 2007-2017 were of Asian heritage, 8.2% of speaking roles in the top 100 films of 2018 were Asian characters and 54 of the top 100 films in 2018 did not include female Asian characters. There’s clearly still a lot of work to be done in terms of diversity. In honor of this, we thought we’d highlight some of our favorite South Asian voice over talent currently kicking ass in animation.
1. Kumail Nanjiana
It’s not just his newly formed abs that everyone loves. Kumail Nanjiani has been working in animation for quite some time. From Adventure Time, Trip Tank, Bob’s Burgers, Archer, Animals, freakin Jesus Christ in Bless the Harts. This guy can pretty much do it all.
2. Tiya Sircar
Best known for her roles in 17 Again, The Internship, and of course, the brilliant Vicky AKA “the real Eleanor” in The Good Place. Tiya Sircar is also the voice of Sabine Wren in Star Wars Rebels and Star Wars: Forces of Destiny. Hopefully there’s more animated content to come from Tiya.
3. Frieda Pinto
Known for her role in Slumdog Millionaire and most likely mistaken for every other South Asian actress that’s ever graced our screens, Freida Pinto obviously had to make the list. Queen Shanti, in Mira, Royal Detective and Geta in Yamasong: March of the Hollows.
4. Zehra Fazal
A staple in the animation world. Zehra Fazal has worked on everything from Pinky Malinky to Bojack Horseman to Voltron: Legendary Defender and even video games. Zehra definitely has range.
5. Reshma Shetty
Another Brit on our list. In the animation world, Reshma Shetty is best known for her portrayal of the graceful and ever so beautiful Queen of Bright Moon —AKA Angella AKA Glimmer’s — loving but overprotective mother on She-Ra and The Princesses of Power.
Representation is empowering and inspiring. A way to remind us that we’re not alone in our experiences. Thankfully, animated series such as Sanjay and Craig, Mira, Royal Detective, and the upcoming Ghee Happy, are slowly turning the tide. And hopefully one day we can live in a world where the people we hear and see on screen actually reflect reality – a place that’s beautifully diverse.
Who would be on your list? And more importantly, if they ever made an animated version of Kamala Khan which South Asian actress would you pick to voice her?
As a queer South Asian writer, director and producer, Sim has always had an affinity to create stories that are beautifully diverse. Constantly on the hunt to find the best tools to aid in her quest, she believes media can be used to tell a story.
Through her experience working in development and production at Super Deluxe, Cartoon Network and Netflix , she has discovered animation to be the definitive tool to accomplish this task. She hopes to make the world’s stories come alive through the world of animation.