Published: June 27, 2008
“Three Delivery” is a great-looking new prime-time cartoon on the Nicktoons network. Set in Chinatown in San Francisco, it features three young orphans who save the world nightly while delivering food for their adoptive Nana’s restaurant, Wu’s Garden. The action takes place after dark, and the animation is a riot of reds, greens and yellows: neon signs, rampaging dragons, rivers of hot-and-sour soup.
The show’s premise may prove limiting — the heroes must scurry around Chinatown gathering dangerous recipes once bound in a magical cookbook but set free years ago by the evil apprentice chef Kong Li — and the first two episodes already show some strain when it comes to keeping the narrative fresh. But the children the show is aimed at may not mind as long as the bicycle crashes and kung fu battles are sufficiently spectacular.
What struck this adult fan of Asian pop culture the most about “Three Delivery,” however, wasn’t the show’s quality. It was how little its Asian-ness, or Asian-American-ness, mattered. The loving, retro Chinatown backgrounds; the in-jokes (Shun Lee Park, playing off the New York restaurant; the villain’s name, pronounced Gong Li like the Chinese actress); the visual puns (during an earthquake, a restaurant worker juggles stacks of plates and bamboo steamers like a Peking acrobat) — they all say Asia, but nothing in the show feels like Asia. The overall effect is somewhere between “Flower Drum Song” and “Scooby-Doo.”
That’s an observation, not a criticism. (Another observation: The show’s nearly 30 producers, directors, writers and editors don’t include a single recognizably Asian name.) At the same time, though, there are any number of American cartoons, from “The Powerpuff Girls” to “SpongeBob SquarePants” to the one true American anime, “The Boondocks,” that show a love for the style and rhythms of Asian animation without being fanboy simulacrums of Asian culture.
Nicktoons, Friday nights at 7:30, Eastern time; 6:30, Central time; 4:30, Pacific time.
Produced by Animation Collective and Fatkat Animation for Nicktoons Network in the United States and for YTV in Canada. Created by Larry Schwarz; written by Adeline Colangelo and Kim Holmes; ; Alan Foreman, art director; Sean Lahey, story editor. For Fatkat Animation: Gene Fowler, Nikki Hilton, Andrew Dunnand François Trudel, executive producers; directed by Andy Coyle (episodes 1 & 2) and Tavis Silbernagle (episodes 3 through 26), Robbie Anderson and Doug Little, producers. For Animation Collective: Mr. Schwarz, Chris Fauci and Doug MacLennan, executive producers; Amy Feldman, producer.
WITH: Stephanie Sheh (Sue), Robby Duncan Sharpe (Tobey), Johnny Yong Bosch (Sid), Nan Wu (Nana), Michael Alston Baley (Mr. Wu), David Chen (Barney) and Lex Woutas (Kong Li).