Highly-rated Disney Plus show American Born Chinese canceled after one season

Michelle Yeoh's Guanyin looks directly into the camera as she displays her abilities in American Born Chinese
American Born Chinese has been axed after a single season. (Image credit: Disney)

Despite a star-studded cast and a host of rave reviews, Disney has decided against making a second season of its excellent American Born Chinese Disney Plus show. 

Last Friday (January 5), Variety reported that, according to "an individual with knowledge of the decision", Disney executives loved the action-fantasy comedy series, but weren't enthused by its viewing numbers. Indeed, American Born Chinese, which debuted on one of the world's best streaming services in May 2023, didn't bring in a big enough audience for it to be worth a second outing.

There is some potentially good news for fans hoping it gets another life elsewhere, however. Variety also suggested its producers plan to shop American Born Chinese to other streamers and broadcasters in the hope of continuing the series executively produced by Destin Daniel Cretton, who Marvel fans will know as the director of MCU Phase 4 movie Shang-Chi

American Born Chinese is a critical hit, if not a commercial one

Jin Wang stands on a cafeteria table surrounded by his fellow students in American Born Chinese

American Born Chinese is the latest in a long line of cancelled Disney Plus projects. (Image credit: 20th Century Studios/Disney Branded Television)

Based on the coming-of-age graphic novel by Gene Luen Yang, American Born Chinese was a critical hit that – perhaps inevitably – drew comparisons with 2023 Best Picture Oscar winner Everything Everywhere All At Once due to its incredible action sequences, sense of humor, and the presence of beloved actor Michelle Yeoh. 

At the time, The New York Sun said "while not nearly as cohesive or bold as Everything Everywhere, American Born Chinese does offer unique depictions and insight". Elsewhere, The Age added "the vibrant fight scenes update wuxia martial arts movies – imagine Stephen Chow circa Kung Fu Hustle – and as is often the case, here the welcome ambition mostly outweighs flaws in the execution."

ScreenHub reached back to the 1990s and the 1970s for its comparison, saying: "American Born Chinese is more Buffy the Vampire Slayer than Monkey, predominantly focused on the very mortal concerns of teenagers to whom the everyday ups and downs of life can seem like a cavalcade of catastrophe to rival any war in heaven".

The Wrap told readers it "delivers a fun and imaginative take on how it feels to exist with a foot in two different worlds, whether that’s as the child of immigrants or as the immortal heir to a celestial dynasty", while The San Jose Mercury News opined that "the snappy screenplay, acute observations on what it is like to be an Asian American teen in a mostly white school, and martial arts action contribute in making this a fast-paced, addictive show with wonderful cameos and supporting appearances."

With little in the way of commercial success, American Born Chinese is just the latest in a long line of Disney Plus failures to be axed. The Muppets Mayhem was the most recent Disney Plus show to be canned, while Disney removed dozens of TV series on Disney Plus and Hulu in May 2023 – ironically just one day before American Born Chinese debuted on the service. 

The entertainment behemoth also deleted Disney Plus original movie Crater from its primary platform less than two months after its own streaming-exclusive debut. Seems like Netflix has got serious competition for who can cancel and/or remove the most in-house projects from their streaming services, doesn't it?

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Carrie Marshall

Writer, broadcaster, musician and kitchen gadget obsessive Carrie Marshall (Twitter) has been writing about tech since 1998, contributing sage advice and odd opinions to all kinds of magazines and websites as well as writing more than a dozen books. Her memoir, Carrie Kills A Man, is on sale now. She is the singer in Glaswegian rock band HAVR.

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