This past weekend, Disney released its newest action-comedy, Big Hero 6. The movie chronicles the special bond that develops between plus-sized inflatable robot Baymax and prodigy Hiro Hamada, who team up with a group of friends to form a band of high-tech heroes.
Big Hero 6 has been getting tons of great reviews, and earned an impressive 88% fresh rating from Rotten Tomatoes. Perhaps most impressively, it beat out Christopher Nolan’s highly buzzed-about sci-fi epic Interstellar at the box office, taking an an estimated $56.2M in its first weekend. That makes it the second best cartoon opening of the year, trailing only The Lego Movie.
This isn’t just a win for Disney and Big Hero 6—it’s a win for diversity, and those who make the argument that diversity sells. Big Hero 6 takes place in a future “San Fransokyo” and features an extremely diverse cast of characters: Go Go Tomago, Tadashi, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred. And, unlike some cartoons, it doesn’t whitewash its casting: the voices behind the characters are just as diverse as the characters themselves. Hiro, Tadashi, and Go Go are all voiced by Asian American Actors (Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, and Jamie Chung, respectively) and the diverse cast is rounded out by Damon Wayans Jr. (Wasabi), Genesis Rodriguez (Honey Lemon), and Maya Rudolph (Cass).
That means, of the 10 top billed characters in the movie, 6 are voiced by people of color. That’s significantly higher than Hollywood’s standard dreary stats of underrepresentation. It also means that a movie featuring people of color in the top roles earned more money than a major blockbuster film starring several Oscar-winning actors and directed by one of the most famous directors in Hollywood. And not a very diverse one, I would add.
How’s that for proof that diversity sells?
Not everyone loves Big Hero 6. Some fans of the original comics were disappointed to see that while the characters in the original comic were all Japanese, Disney chose to recast some of the characters in the movie as other races. You can see more about the changes they made here. Was Disney afraid that a cast of all-Japanese characters might scare off the American moviegoing audience? We’ll never know.
Diversity done well can be hard, but it’s worth celebrating the wins even when they’re complicated. You may have noticed the Diversity 102 logo at the top of this blog post. From here on in, we’re going beyond the Diversity 101 story that everyone tells: there’s not enough diversity, there’s nothing out there, diversity doesn’t make money, people don’t care. It’s important to acknowledge that there’s work to be done, but the story goes deeper than that. There are many exciting things happening, and we want to spotlight them.
So, are you going to see Big Hero 6 this weekend? Did you see it already? What did you think?