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George Takei Explains How Paws Of Fury Can Entertain And Teach Audiences - Exclusive

"Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank" may seem on the surface like just another animated movie starring anthropomorphic animals (dogs and cats, in this case), but one of its stars, George Takei, thinks it goes much deeper than that.

In "Paws of Fury," Michael Cera voices Hank, a dog who's fallen on hard times and possibly finds redemption when he's appointed as the samurai in charge of protecting the small Japanese village of Kakamucho. There's just one problem: Kakamucho is populated by cats, who, not surprisingly, have a longstanding distrust of dogs. Complicating matters further is that Hank doesn't know how to be a samurai and seeks advice from a retired, disillusioned warrior named Jimbo (Samuel L. Jackson).

To make matters even worse, Hank's installation in the job is all part of a plan by local bad guy Ika Chu (Ricky Gervais) to turn Kakamucho upside down so he can drive out its residents and level it — because the town blocks the view from Ika Chu's palatial home in the hills above.

George Takei, best known as Mr. Sulu on the original "Star Trek" — and for his signature expression of "Oh my!" — says that the scenario of "Paws of Fury" is perfect for a timeless moral lesson. "It's the opposites coming together," he told Looper in an exclusive interview, "where there's a lot of suffering, and the opposites learning from each other."

Paws of Fury delivers its message in family-friendly fashion

A rather unexpected cross between an Akira Kurosawa samurai movie and the raunchy Mel Brooks comedy "Blazing Saddles" (from which this film derives a good chunk of its screenplay), "Paws of Fury" is a movie that touches on themes of bigotry, the rich vs. the poor, and acceptance of others — much as Brooks and Kurosawa did all those years ago in their own very different ways.

That's not to say that "Paws" is a heavy "message" movie. But George Takei, who plays Ika Chu's henchman Ohga, says that audiences can still take away something from the movie besides just some laughs, thrills, and 90 minutes in air-conditioning.

"The lessons to be learned from history are ways to deal with the problems of today and how much more entertaining a way can you resurrect history than with anime, via entertainment?" he says. "Engage and entertain, not just people, but families coming together ... this brings us together as a community of moviegoers."

If anyone knows anything about learning from the past, it's George Takei: His family was imprisoned by our own government during World War II simply because they were of Japanese descent, and he has spent much of his later years — after coming out as a gay man in 2005 — promoting and supporting the long-marginalized rights of the LGTBQ+ community. "We live in a turbulent society," he says. "There are lessons to be learned from history."

"Paws of Fury: The Legend of Hank" is in theaters now.