You'd think Disney's Big Hero 6 would steer clear of controversy. That it would be a fairly innocuous movie. You'd think!
Money Today reports that the movie, which isn't out yet, is already creating some controversy online in South Korea, because net users are upset that the movie features alleged Rising Sun imagery.
The sun is important to the Japanese — religiously and culturally. The first sunrise of the year is seen as an important event. While Rising Sun imagery has been used in Japan for centuries, it was carried by the Japanese military during World War II. It is still flown by the Japanese navy — something the US government made official after the war. The flag, however, is seen as offensive in South Korea because of what happened due to Japanese military aggression.
According to Money Today, here are the rising sun images in Big Hero 6 that are causing ire for some South Korean net users. These were spotted in the movie's trailer:
Disney said, "There are no Rising Sun flags on display in the movie, nor was it the intention to suggest the Rising Sun flag." (The original comic, however, was more explicit in its Rising Sun imagery.)
Then again, this is the movie's concept art (via Hitgall):
With some people online already upset before the movie comes out, you can maybe see why Disney even repackaged parts of the film for Korean audiences, diluting much of the Japanese-ness. Or maybe you can't.
In the Korean version, "Hiro", a Japanese boy's name, is "Hero". What's more, his last name is no longer the Japanese surname "Hamada" but "Armada". His brother, "Tadashi", is called "Teddy", because "Tadashi" is a Japanese name — even if, as noted by tipster Sang, the character's original English-language voice actor is a half-Korean actor. Basically, explicit indications that the characters were of Japanese heritage were nixed for Korean audiences.
The Korean version also seems to have removed Japanese words that were in the original US version. Below, you can see a comparison via Extreme Movie:
However, not everything Japanese appears to have been nixed. Take the Gate Bridge, which is designed to look like torii, the gates you find at the entrance of Shinto shrines. Shintoism is Japan's indigenous religion — and closely associated with sun imagery.
Disney also re-titled the movie Big Hero, apparently so South Korean parents won't think it's a sequel. So, Big Hero opens in the country on January 21.