Ann Boonchuy is the Thai-American star of Disney’s latest cartoon, Amphibia, and Thailand’s mad about it. According to some corners of the local Twittersphere, Ann doesn’t look anywhere near white enough to be half Thai.
The cartoon's Thai-American creator, Matt Braly, who was also behind the hit Gravity Falls series, explained that he took inspiration from a childhood trip to Bangkok and that Ann's appearance was modeled on a picture of his grandmother in her youth. In addition, Ann is voiced by Brenda Song, a longstanding star of Disney Channel who is also Thai-Hmong-American.


Credit: Disney Channel

But, beyond the creative story and the embrace of Thai culture comes the inevitable drama, which raised its head in a controversial skin color debate.

New Disney cartoon #Amphibia has a leading Thai girl character Ann Boonchuay.

While many Thais rejoice, some have issues with Ann’s dark skin. Some fear foreigners would think all Thais look “like her.” This one thinks Disney should know “real” (white-skinned) luuk-kruengs.

Though the initial tweet that @Thai_Talk refers to has since been deleted, the screenshot reads:

"#Amphibia what kind of "luk krueng" (mixed-race) is she. This is definitely a 'pure' Thai look because in real life most of them [luk krueng] are more like Sririta Jensen [the Thai celeb pictured]

Disney needs to know this person called Sririta

The true half-caste
#Disney #Sririta"

The derogatory remarks have sparked debate on the topic of skin color-related prejudice. Commenters on @Thai_Talk's post support Disney's inclusive depiction: "I hope the show becomes super successful and makes Thai kids think it’s ok to be darker," says one, while another questions "What's the use of having another Mulan who is Thai?" "I've said this before and I'll say it again: (shouting): SKIN COLOR DOESN'T MATTER!!!" chimes another.

Could cartoons like Amphibia challenge whiteness as the universal standard of beauty? Let us know your thoughts in the comments.

Check out a preview of Amphibia from Disney Channel's YouTube:


Read more: Thailand's uphill battle to promote diversity