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Elizabeth Ito’s Netflix animated series "City of Ghosts"
Elizabeth Ito’s Netflix animated series “City of Ghosts”

Completely virtual for the first time, the 24th edition of New York International Children’s Film Festival (NYICFF) will open on March 5th with a premiere event for Elizabeth Ito’s new Netflix animated series City of Ghosts. The animated feature Nahuel and the Magic Book, directed by Germán Acuña, will make its North American premiere on March 6th as the 2021 Opening Spotlight program, and the Festival will conclude with a Closing Spotlight screening of Disney’s Raya and the Last Dragon with an exclusive, live conversation with the film’s directors Don Hall and Carlos López-Estrada and appearances by lead voice cast member Kelly Marie Tran.

The 2021 New York International Children’s Film Festival runs March 5-14.

City of Ghosts comes from Emmy®-winning writer/director Elizabeth Ito and is inspired by her own experiences as a fourth-generation Japanese-American—or yonsei—growing up in the multicultural neighborhoods of Los Angeles. Featuring a charming blend of animated characters and live-action settings, City of Ghosts is a documentary-style series about a group of ghost-loving kids in LA who learn about the rich history of their city through encounters with friendly local ghosts. Each episode is based on the stories of characters voiced by real residents from different neighborhoods. Members of The Ghost Club help others explore their city by communicating with ghosts of the past. Ito serves as executive producer and showrunner of the 6-episode series.

Ito won a 2017 Primetime Emmy® for her work on Cartoon Network’s animated series Adventure Time and created the Cartoon Network short Welcome to My Life, which won the NYICFF Audience Award and which she discussed at the inaugural Animators All Around panel at the festival that same year. In 2020, Ito served on the NYICFF jury alongside fellow filmmakers, actors, and academic and industry leaders committed to recognizing and supporting the best new works for young audiences around the world.

NYICFF’s 2021 Opening Spotlight program, taking place on March 6th, features the North American premiere of Nahuel and the Magic Book, a new animated feature from Chile and Brazil, followed by a special Q&A with director Germán Acuña. Acuña has crafted a richly detailed and expressive 2D animated feature, utterly distinctive yet with shades of stylistic influence from Studio Ghibli set within a universe of magic and ancient indigenous mythology. The son of a fisherman, Nahuel wrestles with his deep fear of the sea. An ancient magical book seems to offer a solution but leads to more challenges in this epic tale of finding strength and connection.

NYICFF will offer audiences an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at Disney’s latest animated feature and the research and artistry that went into it. The stellar creative team of directors Don Hall (director, Big Hero 6, along with Chris Williams) and Carlos López-Estrada (Blindspotting), together with screenwriters Adele Lim (Crazy Rich Asians) and Qui Nguyen (Vietgone) take as inspiration the rich cultures of Southeast Asia to craft the captivating mythological world of Kumandra, where humans and dragons once lived together in harmony. But when an evil force threatened the land, the dragons sacrificed themselves to save humanity. Now, 500 years later, that same evil has returned and it’s up to a lone warrior, Raya, to track down the legendary last dragon to restore the fractured land and its divided people.

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