by REERA YOO | @reeraboo
Although Big Hero 6 hasn’t hit theaters in South Korea yet, the Disney animated film is already stirring online controversy for allegedly featuring images of the Japanese Rising Sun flag.
For those of you wondering why some South Koreans are upset over this specific detail, the Rising Sun is considered offensive in South Korea and is viewed as a symbol of Japanese imperialism during the early 20th century. While Japan has been using the flag for centuries and still incorporates it into their commercial products today, to many Koreans, the imagery is tantamount to the Swastika.
So, it’s not surprising that a few Korean netizens became angry after spotting alleged Rising Sun emblems in the Big Hero 6 trailer. Here are some of the screenshots that have been shared on Korean media sites:
Photos courtesy of Kotaku and Hitgall
In response to the controversy, Disney said, “There are no Rising Sun flags on display in the movie, nor was it the intention to suggest the Rising Sun flag.”
An early concept artwork, however, suggests that Disney did at some point include a flag that resembles the Rising Sun symbol in Hiro’s bedroom. To be fair, the original Big Hero 6 comic is more explicit in its Rising Sun imagery, and it’s likely that the concept artist was just drawing elements from the source material. Still, Disney made a good call scrapping the flag in its final cut.
Concept art of Hiro’s bedroom. Photo courtesy of Hitgall.
Big Hero 6 comic book covers. Image courtesy of WDWNTImage courtesy of bluehoung617/deviantart
Apparently, Disney took extra measures to dilute its Japanese aesthetics for the South Korean audience.
Hiro and Tadashi, for example, had their names altered in the Korean version of the film, erasing all indications that they are of Japanese descent. While Hiro’s name was tweaked to “Hero,” Tadashi was renamed “Teddy.” The brothers’ Japanese surname “Hamada” was also changed to “Armada,” which is a pretty cool last name. Hero Armada definitely fits the superhero bill.
According to Kotaku, Disney also removed Japanese-language signs that were featured in the U.S. edition of the film. Below, you can see that the Japanese letters on the cat’s stomach have been switched to English for the South Korean release.
Image courtesy of Extreme Movie
Another change Disney made for the Korean release was the title of the movie. The film was retitled Big Hero to avoid the impression of it being a sequel.
Interestingly enough, there’s a good number of Koreans who worked on Big Hero 6, including its character design supervisor, Sang-jin Kim; lead character designer, Shiyoon Kim; animator, Hyun-min Lee; and voice actors, Jamie Chung and Daniel Henney.
Big Hero 6 will premiere in South Korea on Jan. 21.