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Hiro and Baymax in Big Hero 6 THE ACTION PIXEL @theactionpixel

Big Hero 6: Whitewashing World War Whoas?

Disney: “Gerrymandering is my business, and business is good”
Dulani Wilson 10th November, 2014 Animation
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Hiro and Baymax in Big Hero 6 THE ACTION PIXEL @theactionpixel

Hiro and Baymax in Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 seemed like a very unlikely title for Disney to push to the forefront for such a large scale promotion, considering the more successful Marvel titles that would more potentially be guaranteed to draw in the fans and the bucks. Nevertheless, the timelines of kids and adults alike are flooded with pictures and hashtags celebrating the genius of Big Hero 6.

The Marvel comic series was a tribute to Japanese culture, launched in 1998, and despite featuring established Marvel’s X-Men characters like Sunfire and Silver Samurai, it pretty much fizzled out within the year of it’s launch. But low-and-behold, Disney managed to propel the series to stardom, despite obscurity amongst even some avid comic readers. So why, you might ask, how could a series obscured in history, which didn’t take to popularity, could later down the line become a godzilla-giant success under the Marvel /Disney banner? The key is in the alliance: Disney. And if it is one thing Disney is good at, is gerrymandering Anglo-American and, by extension, western guilt to make a narrative palatable to a majority of viewers. And right on the heels of Remembrance Day too.

And Disney knows how to make hits from source materials, whether history or fiction, but not without controversy. Pocahontas, Mulan and Aladdin is proof of this. These films’ blissful omissions, insensitive tropes and anachronistic additions landed Disney in the hot seat in the past, but we don’t expect the same ridicule with Big Hero 6, because it is based on a fictional narrative rather than a historical story. Nothing much in the way of representation either. It seems Big Hero 6‘s original premise would have drudged up some uncomfortable GI memories that would not sit well with the viewing public.

big hero 6 comic

© Marvel

In Marvel’s short-lived comic series title, the superhero team was comprised of Hiro, a young science-genius who could give Tony Stark a run for his money, a robot that can morph called Baymax, Honey Lemon (a dimension-hopping super agent) and the bad-ass fiery Go Go Tomago. Truly a host of pretty eccentric characters. So why were they assembled? Alien invasion like the Avengers? No. Well, not the ‘typical’ comic book alien threat. The team came together in response to the nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki, as such ordered by the Japanese Government and the Emperor.

In Big Hero 6, well, just for starters, the story takes place in ‘San Fransokyo’ (a neologism of San Francisco and Tokyo we so brilliantly deducted). One of a few narrative changes and omissions, Disney has effectively erased Anglo-American guilt; no Tokyo, no WW2 bombings, no Japan-assembled hero team to protect her interests. With that out of the way, Disney was left with their bare essentials to craft a cool, fun animation with loveable characters and enough ‘kill the bad guy’ action-packed moments to keep the Marvel-strand in the narrative entertained. So at least the big brothers of the world won’t be out-of-their-mind bored taking their little brother to the cinema to see Big Hero 6.

Hey we get it, can’t expose the kids to the evils of history. Sure. But we don’t see anyone making an effort to neutralise the American jingoist-political paradigm in say the Captain America movies. Neither would we demand it. But the main reason Disney has gotten away with whitewashing World War 2 is mainly because Big Hero 6 is based not only of a fictional narrative, but also Big Hero 6 is not a well-known narrative. The original comic narrative of Big Hero 6, being so under-the-radar, gave Disney the freedom and opportunity to strip it of its history and christen it in the purifying waters of Disney-infused magic.

It is apparent no one wants a villain Everwraith, who, in the Big Hero 6 comic series, was comprised of the angered lost souls killed by America’s nuclear strikes on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Instead, director Don Hall was looking for characters that were unique and was also “appealing and huggable”. He certainly achieved that.

Fine. I agree. No one wants to watch an entire film staring into the embodiment of vengeful damned souls that crawled out of the western-led genocide crater. No one was expecting the team to animate a mushroom toxic cloud spreading across the horizon, people suffering from cancer, acute radiation poisoning vomiting and puking up their own blood. All we are saying is they could at least have kept it in Japan. Maybe keep a Hiroshima-like event, the epitome of human evil and the overcoming of it. But instead what we got was a lovely, fun family movie. A family movie that sees a Hiro who’s at ease asking Baymax to kill, but anything on a grander, historical stage is better left out of family time.

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