Monday, March 2, 2015

Disney's Big Hero 6

Tired of Frozen yet? It's been over a year and Frozen is still at the forefront of many children's thoughts, much to the chagrin of their parents. Big Hero 6 has been out since the fall, and though it has made quite a bit of money, it's nothing compared to the juggernaut that is Frozen. I don't really hear too much about kids really loving Big Hero 6, just people that are a bit older. It is arguably a movie for an older audience, and it may skew towards the male persuasion just because of the whole superhero thing, but honestly anyone should enjoy this movie, just like anyone should be able to enjoy a princess movie. I also think it's easier for kids to latch onto movies when they have songs. Almost every movie from my childhood was a musical, and I remember those ones way more than the ones without. The best example I can give is Rescuers Down Under. A great film and I remember enjoying it fine when I was a kid, but it wasn't nearly as memorable as Aladdin or The Lion King. Maybe it was the story, or maybe it was the songs. Anyway, Big Hero 6 seems to be a part of Disney's new trend of having a princess movie followed by a non-musical movie aimed more towards a wider audience. Big Hero 6 is also Disney's first use of a Marvel property for their animated films. It was a pretty big gamble to take a non-mainstream comic and adapt it into a kid's film. Luckily for Disney, the gamble paid off.

Disney acquired Marvel in 2009, and it took them very little time to start looking for a Marvel property to adapt. CEO Bob Iger encouraged the Walt Disney company's divisions to look into a more obscure title, so they'd be able to come up with their own story. Don Hall, who at the time was co-directing Winnie the Pooh, looked through a bunch of Marvel titles and came upon Big Hero 6. He liked the name and had never heard of it before, so he pitched it to John Lasseter, who in turn loved the idea. Big Hero 6 started production in 2012 and it was decided that it would be produced solely by Disney. Disney did get some consultation from Marvel, but didn't let them butt in too much. Disney also made it a point that Big Hero 6 would not be part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but in a universe of its own. Sorry, you won't see Baymax showing up in the next Avengers film. Baymax would differ greatly from his character in the comics, with a much more friendlier exterior than a standard robot. Disney wanted a robot that was unlike anything anyone had seen, so they decided to visit Carnegie Mellon University's Robotics Institute. There they met a group working on a soft robot, one that would use inflatable vinyl. These robots would be used in the healthcare field, which further inspired the Disney team. Baymax would become a huggable robot that was meant to be a nurse more than anything. Baymax's face design was inspired by a copper suzu bell that Don Hall noticed while at a Shinto shrine. The design worked in giving Baymax a more minimalist look.

Big Hero 6 takes place in the fictional mash-up city of San Fransokyo. The design team wanted to give the city an equal parts Eastern world and Western world feel. Parts are unmistakably San Francisco, but with a Japanese touch to it. Some areas of downtown look more Eastern than Western, with a very heavy Blade Runner feel to it all. The explanation of the city was that after the earthquake of 1906, San Francisco was rebuilt by largely Japanese immigrants, who made the city in a way to better withstand earthquakes in the future. With the obvious blending of cultures, the city decided to rename itself in honor of its inhabitants that helped rebuild it. Disney created a whole new program for animating this film. The system, called Hyperion, rendered all the details of the animation and made new illumination possible, such as light shining through translucent objects. Hyperion was a complex program to run, and needed its own super computing cluster just to handle the processing demands.

The voice cast has a nice blend of new voice actors and veterans. Some lesser known actors like Ryan Potter (Hiro Hamada), Genesis Rodriguez (Honey Lemon), and Daniel Henney (Tadashi Hamada), join big names like Scott Adsit (Baymax), T.J. Miller (Fred), Damon Wayans, Jr.(Wasabi), Maya Rudolph (Aunt Cass), James Cromwell (Professor Robert Callahan), and Alan Tudyk (Alistair Krei). Disney must like Alan Tudyk, because he's been in the last three Disney films, including Wreck-it Ralph as King Candy, and Frozen as the Duke of Weselton. The voice cast is perfect, though my favorite by far is Scott Adsit as Baymax. I really liked Adsit in 30 Rock, and you can tell he enjoyed doing this film.

Big Hero 6 premiered on October 23rd, 2014 at the Tokyo International Film Festival, with its theatrical release in the U.S. on November 7th. The version of the movie we have seen is just a bit different from the version released in South Korea. Since South Korea and Japan aren't exactly friendly right now, all Japanese has been removed from signs in the movie and replaced with English, while names where changed to make them Korean instead of Japanese. Big Hero 6, at the time of this article, has made over $220 million in the U.S., and over $350 million in other territories. Big Hero 6 is the third highest Disney animated film behind Frozen, and The Lion King. Big Hero 6 has been critically lauded, with an 89% on Rotten Tomatoes, with many focusing on the beautiful animation and depth of characters. Big Hero 6 has also won Best Animated Picture at The Academy Awards this year, and was nominated for the same honor for the Annie's, Golden Globes, and BAFTA's.

Big Hero 6, along with Guardians of the Galaxy is a welcome anomaly for comic book movies. Disney gambled on both films and it worked out for them. Both are Marvel properties that were pretty obscure, which opened up the films for a different interpretation. If Disney made a Iron Man animated movie, then they'd have to follow a certain formula, because people know Iron Man and expect certain things. Big Hero 6 is quite different from its source material, and you can see why they changed a few things. Created in 1998 by Steven Seagle and Duncan Rouleu, it started out in what amounted as a cameo. They had their own series starting in 2008, and they featured all the same characters from the film. Fred, AKA Fredzilla, can turn into a Godzilla-like creature. Wasabi-No-Ginger is, in the comics, and Asian chef who is skilled with swords. Honey Lemon has her Power Purse that contains a series of miniature wormholes that allow her to pull anything she prepares out of it. GoGo Tomago is able to transform her body into an explosive ball of energy which can be projected at vast speeds. Perhaps the most different is Baymax, who in the comics is a hydro-powered robotic sythnformer that has been invented by Hiro Takachiho. Baymax was meant to be his chauffeur and bodyguard until Hiro's father dies. Hiro programs Baymax with is father's brain and therfore Baymax becomes more of a father figure to him. Baymax is able to transform into a large humanoid creature, a battle dragon, and a action mecha. So yeah, a huggable robot nurse versus a transforming robot with the mind of a deceased father. The latter would have been a little weird. There are other members in Big Hero 6, but Disney was not able to use them, since they are tied into the X-Men, and therefore are not fully owned by Marvel.

While it may not be as popular as Frozen, Big Hero 6 is, in my opinion, a better film, and just plain fun. Even if you don't like superhero movies, you're sure to enjoy this movie, which deals much more with real themes of life than typical superhero fare.


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  2. Looking like a walking marshmallow and moving with a dainty waddle, loveable robot Baymax... gives the film its heart and humour.

  3. Looking like a walking marshmallow and moving with a dainty waddle, loveable robot Baymax... gives the film its heart and humour.