Take a Peek at the Vaguely Racist First Collaboration Between Disney Animation and Marvel Studios


Back in July of last year it was reported that, following the big acquisition of Marvel Comics by the Disney Corporation, the first collaboration between Disney Animation and Marvel Studios on any sort of superhero cartoon was going to come in the form of an adaptation of Marvel’s semi-obscure team of Japanese heroes, Big Hero 6. At the time it seemed like kind of a strange choice. Wouldn’t you want to kick off a partnership this important with something a little bit bigger, something with a little more name recognition?

Well, it looks like the guys in the suits must have had their reasons for wanting to go forward with Big Hero 6, because today Disney Animation officially announced [via the LA Times] that the film is in production—and they even gave us a glimpse of what their animators have come up with. Hit the jump to see what they’ve created, but be prepared, because it’s a little weird.

The official plot synopsis provided for this animated adventure reads, “From Walt Disney Animation Studios comes Big Hero 6, an action comedy adventure about brilliant robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who finds himself in the grips of a criminal plot that threatens to destroy the fast-paced, high-tech city of San Fransokyo. With the help of his closest companion — a robot named Baymax — Hiro joins forces with a reluctant team of first-time crime fighters on a mission to save their city. Inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name, and featuring comic-book style action and all the heart and humor audiences expect from Walt Disney Animation Studios, the CG-animated Big Hero 6 hits theaters in 3D on November 7, 2014.”

Okay—woah—wait. Hiro and his robot Baymax are definitely important parts of Marvel’s ‘Big Hero 6’ comics, so their mention makes sense, but what the heck is a San Fansokyo? As you can see from the first-look animation footage from Disney below, it seems to be the results of Tokyo being dropped on top of Chinatown in San Francisco, which then get’s expanded to create a city of its own? Strange choice. They can’t just set the adventures of a team of Japanese superheroes in Japan? Strange, slightly racist choice.

In order to explain away the strategy, the film’s director, Don Hall, was quoted as saying, “Marvel properties take place in the real world. We were looking for something to do where we could make our own world—bring in the Japanese influences, have recognizable landmarks mashed up with a Japanese aesthetic.” There you go Japanese people, you’ve now been relegated to being an aesthetic.

Geographical creative licenses aside, Disney’s description of their new cartoon still leaves us with quite a bit of questions as to their cartoon’s content. We can probably assume (or can we?) that X-Men characters who were involved in the comic book adventures like Sunfire and The Silver Samurai will be left out of this movie do to complicated licensing deals with Fox, but who are the other non-name dropped characters who are going to be making up the members of this six person team? Will we be getting Honey Lemon and her magic purse? Go-Go Tomago and her energy spheres?

It looks like we’ll have to wait and see. But we can take some comfort in the fact that Marvel’s Chief Creative Officer, Joe Quesada, seems to be on board with what Hall has created. He said of the director, “Don was a huge fan of Marvel. He understood what we did. I didn’t have to explain our world to him. The relationship between Hiro and his robot has a very Disney flavor to it—but it’s combined with these Marvel heroic arcs.”

What do you say, folks? Are you going to give this one a chance in hopes that Disney and Marvel will do more stuff together? Or did this story just give you a hankering to rent The Iron Giant? Maybe you can gaze at this concept art of a slightly Asiany Golden Gate Bridge and decide.


Weaned on the genre films of the 80s. Reared by the independent movement of the 90s. Earned a BA for writing stuff in the 00s. Reviews current releases at

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