I disagree with this assessment on several points, partially because the logic is weak in parts and partially because this critique posits that a homogenous PoC cast (in this case, an all Japanese cast), rather than a racially diverse cast, is the only appropriate and best type of racial representation in media, while also (rather confusingly) positing that PoC representation is important because PoC children need to see characters of their own particular race represented in media for their psychological health.
Let’s unpack this argument by first looking at the facts:
1) The cast of characters in the Big Hero 6 film is racially diverse while the cast in the comics is racially homogenous.
The characters in the comic were all Japanese (with one ethnic Ainu character, Fred). In the film, Both Honey Lemon and Fred have been changed from Japanese to white, GoGo Tamago has been changed from Japanese to Asian-American, and Wasabi has been changed from Japanese to African- American. More notably, Hiro has been changed from Japanese to mixed race, which is the first time a mixed race character, better yet a main character, has ever been represented in an American animated film.
If the author’s argument is that representation of PoC in media is important because PoC children benefit from seeing characters of their own particular race on the screen, then the film’s cast actually does a better job of representing children of different and diverse backgrounds in the United States than the comic’s cast does.
(Note that if I am mistaken and the author is lumping all PoC together as one giant racial minority - ie equating Asians to Africans to Hispanics - then I reject that assumption as false and illogical.)
2) The settings of the film and the comics are different (and that matters).
The author equates Disney changing the setting of the story (in order to change the racial and national backgrounds of the characters) to Hollywood’s continued practice of white washing characters in foreign or fantasy settings that are unchanged from the source material. I argue that these practices are not equivalent and that keeping the setting and plot the same while changing the race of the characters or actors is actually worse than changing the setting and plot along with the characters or actors.
Using white actors to play PoC characters in a foreign or fantasy setting is different and much worse than changing both the setting and the race of the characters ESPECIALLY when some of those characters (as in BH6) were changed not to white but to other types of PoC for a more diverse, representational cast.
Also, if the author goes so far as to dispute Disney’s decision to change the setting from Tokyo, Japan to a fictional (what we can assume is an American if heavily Influenced by Japan) city of San Fransokyo for the film, then this argument is also problematic. The comics featured Japanese characters in Japan, but the comics were created by Americans and as such, did not accurately portray Japan or the Japanese characters as truly Japanese. So, even in the comics, Big Hero 6 was Americanized. And let’s face it, Honey Lemon is supposed to be Japanese but she’s just as blonde (a hair color that does not occur naturally in Japan) in the comic as she is in the film.
I would also hazard to posit that had Disney kept the setting and characters in Japan, the studio would run the risk of being accused of cultural misappropriation. I other words, it’s fortunate that the studio released Mulan before the age of Tumblr.
3) and finally, this is a nitpick but: Dreamworks Home is not demonstrably better than Big Hero 6 in terms of racial representation (given what we know as of now) and so the author’s promotion of it as a superior alternative makes little sense. Home features a little African-American girl named Tip as the main protagonist (which is great and a first!), but Big Hero 6 features a mixed-race little boy as the main protagonist (which is great and a first!). Both films, from what we know as of now, are pretty similar when it comes to PoC representation and they both feature non-human (ie racially neutral) companions. The only difference we can see as of now is that Big Hero 6 has some white characters, and if that’s what the author of this critique doesn’t like then I would politely point out that that would be racist.