By Erin Chew, AsAmNews Staff Writer
The film adaptation of the children’s classic Clifford the Big Red Dog is one which will make audiences young and old reminisce on their childhood memories. Published in 1963, the original idea of Clifford was a children’s book written by Norman Birdwell. Since then there have been many Clifford stories published, with the most recent one being in 2015.
In addition to the children’s books, there have been two television cartoon series produced in 2000 and in 2019. And now in 2021, it is a film adaptation and the running theme of all Clifford the Big Red Dog series is the idea that each and everyone of us is different, and it is these differences which creates strong friendship bonds and awareness that differences only matter if you make it so.
Being rooted in this theme, the film didn’t disappoint in terms of having the cultural diversity and representation in the characters in the film. Everywhere in the film, characters came from all different colors and cultures and that is an important statement to make in particularly educating the younger generations.
In addition, asides from it being a fun and easy to watch movie about the antics of a big red dog, its owners and friends, the film delves into other areas such as the bond of friendship and familial relationships. One of those familial relationships explored is father and son characters of Owen Yu (played by Izaac Wang) and Mr Yu (played by Russell Wong).
In a recent interview with Wang and Wong about their characters and the film, it was interesting to hear them talk about the significance of their characters and whom their characters represented.
Wang: I play Owen Yu, who is Emily’s ( Clifford’s owner) best friend. Owen is sort of like a balance between Emily, Clifford and Uncle Casey because he is like the caretaker of that friendship. He ensures everything moves along without issues and checks that everyone around him is okay. He is someone who is there for everyone, loyal and is trustworthy.
I feel playing Owen represents friendship and strong bonds despite being different. To be able to see through other people’s difference and treat others how you would like yourself treated is how you learn through making friendships.
Wong: I play Mr Yu who is the father of Owen Yu. As a father and son duo they go on this adventure together and at one point in the film bring Clifford back to their apartment to rescue him and help him on his journey to freedom.
My character represents a doting and loving father who is dedicated to his son and helping his friends. Mr Yu, also teaches Owen and his friends about the true meaning of being different and how that also makes everyone the same.
The father – son relationship between Mr Yu and Owen is one which has a lot of chemistry and mutual respect and understanding of one another. It is almost more of a best buddies type relationship than a familial one. Wang shares his experiences on how it was to play Wong’s son in the film.
Wang: The relationship between Owen and his dad is one which would make many parents and children jealous, because of how close they are and how they can understand each other’s needs. As a new actor, I have personally learned a lot from working with Russell, and I have done so by watching him act and taking his advice on how to do and act certain scenes.
We really connected as actors and as characters. As father and son, the chemistry between Owen and his dad was instant and they are almost like soul mates, as actors, it wasn’t instant but when we connected, it kept getting better and better.
Finally, the movie showed the beauty of diversity and inclusion with characters coming from different skin colors, shapes and sizes, and as stated at the start this is the focal point of the film and of the Clifford the Big Red Dog stories. Wong spoke about this and discussed how after being in the industry for a number of decades, it is refreshing to act in a film, where he is not the token Asian or colored person.
Wong: The experience of working in this film is validating in a big way. I have been acting for forty years, and I have seen the worst and best of diversity and representation. Films like this, which shows what day to day America looks like doesn’t come often and to be an educational tool on accepting and embracing differences is like a dream come true for me.
I feel this is also a reflection of how our society is going today as we see and hear of more films which are authentic and representative of who we are as Asian Americans. And it has really only been the last decade that these changes have been seen. Before that it was dismal, and that is when I decided to leave America and try my luck in China instead.
Clifford the Big Red Dog will be released in the theaters and on Paramount+ on November 10.
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