Though not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Big Hero 6 is nonetheless based on an obscure Marvel comic, and was picked for development by co-director Don Hall after Disney CEO Bob Iger encouraged the company’s divisions to explore Marvel’s properties for adaptation possibilities. It’s an animated superhero story but it does share one or two broad links with the live action blockbusters the company has been churning out in recent years: Stan Lee delivers a voice cameo in the obligatory post-credits sequence, there’s a big crash-bang-wallop finale, while somewhat inevitably it’s an origin story and given the box office takings ($650 million and counting) a sequel is being mooted. Of course it’s no surprise that a multinational should act this way, but once Disney has a hit on its hands it simply doesn’t let up.
The story – aimed primarily at children – will just about hold the attention of most adults, but it’s more likely that older viewers will be wowed by the visuals, the product of more than two years’ work by a huge team of artists and animators (I like to think Disney has them all locked away in a volcanic lair on some remote Pacific island). They have created a striking hero in Baymax, an inflatable ‘marshmallow man’ healthcare robot voiced by Scott Adsit, and the depiction of San Fransokyo – the film’s futuristic megalopolis setting – also impresses.
This mix of eastern and western cities (it’s supposed to be a cross between New York City and Seoul, I think) is home to Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), a 14-year-old robotics genius who is convinced by his older brother – the creator of said Baymax – to enroll in the local university. Hiro finds a bunch of kindred spirits in the robotics department but adventure lies off-campus and begins when a masked man steals Hiro’s shape-shifting ‘microbot’ invention for his own nefarious purposes.
It’s well-paced, slowing occasionally whenever writers Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson and Robert L. Baird tackle themes such as loss or the importance of friendship in that sickly-sweet Disney way, and most of the jokes hit the mark; much fun is made of Baymax’s robotic lack of understanding as he is weaponised and re-programmed to fight rather than care for people, for example, while the initial ineptitude of the superhero team formed by Hiro and his fellow robotics nerds is also milked for laughs. As animated features go this one seemed OK to me – no surprise given the involvement of John Lasseter as executive producer – and although it lacks the wit of Brad Bird’s The Incredibles I’m not surprised that it has been a hit with younger viewers: Baymax is a warm, sympathetic and welcoming character.
Directed by: Don Hall, Chris Williams.
Written by: Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson, Robert L. Baird. Based on Big Hero 6 by Man Of Action.
Starring: Ryan Potter, Scott Adsit, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans, Jr, Génesis Rodríguez.
Editing: Tim Mertens.
Music: Henry Jackman.
Running Time: 102 minutes.