In 2012, Prapas Cholsaranont directed a 3D animation movie called Yak the Giant King based on the Thai animation film Ramayana about two robots on opposite sides of a conflict which lacks any purpose that they can remember. Now, American audiences can enjoy the film’s lush animation with English dialogue thanks to Lionsgate ‘repurposing’ the film with English-speaking actors like Bella Thorne and Russell Peters. While the introduction (and opening montage) may be confusing to younger audiences, the purpose remains the same: how will these two enemies work together to stop utter annihilation?
Pinky (Thorne) is a small but belligerent robot intent on following through with RAM’s command that all broken robots should be destroyed. She fixates on Zork (Peters), a giant Hulk-like robot whose sole aspiration is to…be an elementary school teacher. While the two of them clash, they ultimately decide to seek RAM a la the crew from The Wizard of Oz; what follows is ultimately an existential exploration that would make Philip K. Dick and his questions (“Do robots dream of electric sheep?”) proud.
While special features here include a look at the English speakers who make this work (Thorne, Peters, Meg DeAngelis, and Gregg Sulkin) as well as some mini bonus episodes, it would’ve been most interesting to find out from Lionsgate about more of the original Sahamogkol Film production. These animation graphics are stellar – and quite honestly make Robots look like a dorky film that some middle schooler drew in class one day. The tones and textures of the robots are much more humanistic, and the feelings elicited in both kids and adults is strong.
As always, I default to the story though – and here, it’s a question of whether or not the ‘divine’ creator RAM is trustworthy and gracious. He’s not. That begs the question then, more than nocturnal habits, about what drives the souls of the robots – and whether they have the capability of metaphysically dreaming of a world better than their own. While this is played out on screen in battle, with body humor and adult level jokes at times, it’s much deeper than the average animated film hitting theaters (here’s looking at you, Minions, Chipwrecked, etc.)
While you may not have heard of this one, I encourage you to give it a spin, and then discuss with your kids what makes us human, what connects us to the divine, and who (government or otherwise) we let tell us what to believe and who we should be.