Ryan Dosier – Disney Animation’s latest release is Big Hero 6. The story and characters are (very) loosely based off of a short-lived Marvel Comics series of the same name, marking the first collaboration between Disney Animation and Marvel. I’m thrilled to say that the collaboration pays off in spades, marking yet another major win for Walt Disney Animation Studios, who seemingly can’t stop producing high quality, stunning animated work.
The film follows 14 year old Hiro Hamada (the exceptional Ryan Potter), a wunderkind who graduated high school at 13 but now spends his nights engaging in illegal “bot-fighting.” This makes for a hilarious and stunningly animated opening sequence for the film, which also immediately lets us know who Hiro is. We’re also introduced to Hiro’s brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), who is a lot more level headed than his brother (but still just as snarky and fun). Tadashi introduces Hiro to the science lab at his university, where Hiro meets Tadashi’s friends and fellow genius students G0 Go (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans, Jr.), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriquez), and Fred (T.J. Miller). With the help of his friends, and his major invention, Baymax (pitch-perfect Scott Adist), a robotic healthcare companion, Tadashi convinces Hiro to apply to the school.
Everything after this verges on spoiler territory, so I’ll just skip ahead a bit to Hiro turning himself, Baymax, Go Go, Wasabi, Honey Lemon, and Fred into super heroes. The team has to learn to work together to save their city of San Fransokyo, all thanks to Hiro’s big brain and even bigger ideas.
Big Hero 6 is loaded with heart, action, and comedy. The three elements may seem to contradict each other a bit, but they really don’t. Everything balances well, with the comedy keeping the action from getting too intense and the heart reminding viewers why the action is necessary. The many action set pieces never feel over the top. One of the film’s best scenes involves a car chase and the film’s villain. It’s exhilarating, funny, and unlike any car chase you’ve ever seen in a movie. Some of the big fight scenes in the film feel a little muted and cut short, especially one near the middle, but for the most part the film takes on action incredibly well–more so than any Disney animated feature before.
The heart of the film is the relationship between Hiro and Baymax, two characters who could not be more different. Hiro is stubborn and energetic, while Baymax is designed to be calm and heal any injury, physical or emotional. This causes quite a bit of comedy throughout the movie, and Baymax is easily Big Hero 6‘s greatest treasure. He is overflowing with funny moments that are only topped by heartwarming hugs, lines, or events. I was not expecting to love Baymax as much as I did, but once again Disney Animation Studios prove that they know how to reach the heart of a character and make him or her soar.
The voice cast is eclectic and brilliant throughout. There are no major stars attached to the voices for Big Hero 6, which makes the voice acting really crucial and impressive. Scott Adist does the finest work in the movie as Baymax. His pitch never changes, his tone stays the same, and he remains on that level for the entire film. He gives Baymax so much wonderful life. The rest of the cast is awesome as well, with Ryan Potter, Damon Wayans, Jr., and T.J. Miller standing out brilliantly. The cast also includes Maya Rudolph in a delightful role, Alan Tudyk returning for his third straight Disney animated feature (thank goodness), and the great James Cromwell.
What struck me most about Big Hero 6 is how positively stunning the layouts and animation are. The expertly designed San Fransokyo is beyond anything Disney Animation Studios has attempted before (except maybe in Wreck-It Ralph). Every inch of the intricately decorated city shines with innovative design work. Scenes where characters are running or driving through the city are truly feasts for the eyes, alight with vibrant colors and impressive detail. Looking at the designs of the sky, the rendering of the water, and the beauty of the scenery shows just how far Disney Animation Studios have come. Everything looks more photo-realistic than ever before and it’s incredibly impressive.
Although there are some pacing issues with the story, Big Hero 6 is still a major win for Disney Animation. The voice work, animation, layouts, character designs, character arcs, action set pieces, humor, and heart make Big Hero 6 a triumph on par with the films of this new renaissance age for Walt Disney’s animation studio. No, Big Hero 6 doesn’t pack quite the emotional punch as Frozen, and it lacks the unending comedy and perfectly done story of Wreck-It Ralph, but it still remains a wonderful piece of work that you won’t want to miss. This is another example of Disney animation at its finest, and it’s sure to be another winner for the studio.
By the way, as with any Marvel-associated film, you’ll want to stay through the credits for an hysterical post-credits scene. Seriously, you won’t want to miss it.
4/5 Healthcare Companions
Big Hero 6 is also preceded by Disney Animation Studio’s newest short film Feast, which is adorable, heartwarming, and incredibly well made. The look and feel of the short is unique and stunning and so much fun. Definitely another highlight of the movie-going experience and another win for Disney’s short film department.