The first Biracial Disney character. And he’s played by a person of mixed race. That’s Hiro-ic.

Disney keeps on forwarding the conversation. This year the entertainment powerhouse is showing a commitment to diversity through its various arms: ABC now has three hit shows with African American leads as well as other new series focusing on diversity; Marvel has ushered in the Black Panther into the superhero fold and will place him in 5 upcoming movies including his own. And now Disney Animation Studios has the 6th Asian Pacific as the lead character—the others being Aladdin, Mulan, Lilo, Mowgli, and Up’s Russell. Hiro of Big Hero 6 joins that roster. And in 2016, Moana will have her own movie set in Polynesia.

What’s interesting about Hiro Hamada is that he is of mixed race—his aunt who is seen in the movie is Caucasian.

Besides all the forward thinking, the movie’s distinctive look and Marvel feel is more than enough reason to see the movie. The terrain is San Fransokyo, a hybrid of two cities. The filmmakers Chris Williams and Don Hall said that they wanted to separate this world from the real world as well as the Marvel one. The source material is a little known Marvel comic book. Blending the different brands of the vast Disney empire is what the movie also does. Character does not take a back seat to the action and adventure, something that may be backseated in a typical Marvel movie. The movie is an origin story of a superhero team though. “A story of revenge,” as one character puts it. And the trademark Disney cuddly comes in the form of Baymax, a wonderful counterpoint for Tars, the sarcastic robot of Interstellar which is the other big movie opening today.

Unlike Frozen’s Olaf the snowman, Baymax doesn’t have to do too much to make us love him. An inflatable vinyl hospital care robot, he’s like a balloon version of the Pillsbury Dough Boy. Fond of warming hugs for immediate cures, he’s the protector we all wish we had when growing up.

Appearing on opening night eve at an LA Times Screening series with the directors and other members of the cast, Ryan Potter who plays Hiro said that he didn’t have to contemplate too hard to play Hiro. He did articulate that he was proud that Hiro was the first biracial lead character of the Disney movies and applauded the directors for casting a biracial actor. Hiro’s older brother is also played by a person of mixed race, Daniel Henney. (Yes, you will fall in love with his Tadashi, too.) I also found it interesting that the Honey Lemon character pronounced Hiro correctly—she is fluent in Japanese and English.

As if Big Hero 6 wasn’t a hopping (hapa-ing too much?) good time, be sure not to miss Feast which should be on its way to an Academy Award. I thought Mickey Mouse’s Get a Horse was a sure thing though. Feast will grab you by the heartstrings and never let up.

I’m going to see the both again very, very soon.

(And not because this old hag used the back of my seat as a foot rest.)

 

–Ken Choy

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