Move over Marvel, because Disney has learned a thing or two about making Superhero films ever since acquiring your comic book creating prowess. Not since “The Incredibles” debuted a decade ago, has the Mickey Mouse Company crafted a superhero film of such magnitude as “Big Hero 6.” Starring Ryan Potter (Senior Project) and Scott Adsit (St. Vincent), “Big Hero 6” is a refreshing take on the standard origin story targeted for an age group that has no idea what that term even means.
When Disney bought the Marvel universe in 2009, it only seemed natural that Disney Animation would begin to turn out animated superhero films. In the time since the acquisition, however, that has definitely not been the case. Marvel has been laying siege on live action movies, and Disney has quietly continued to dominate the animation world. While this separation is still the case in “Big Hero 6,” it also signifies the closest thing fans can get to witnessing the two companies join forces.
The story revolves around a rambunctious teenager named Hiro (Ryan Potter) who is so smart he actually graduated high school at the age of 13. While the rest of his counterparts are stuck in school, the audience meets the boy as he prowls the seedy streets of San Fransokyo (apparently that’s what San Francisco will be renamed in the future) looking for robot fights. For anyone that has seen the Hugh Jackson action picture “Real Steel,” Hiro essentially combats in a small scale version of that.
The life of a Street Robot Fighter isn’t the best career path. Luckily Hiro’s older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) convinces him to apply to nerd school –aka College — alongside all of his inventor friends. This is where the real action begins. Soon after his acceptance, Hiro experiences a tragic event that forces him to team up with some unlikely heroes to take down a Kabuki mask-clad villain. Thus, the origin story is formed.
What about that giant marshmallow that’s been all over billboards, TV commercials, and taxi tops you ask? Don’t worry, I didn’t forget about him. That giant, white anthropomorphic blob is named Baymax (Scott Adist). He is a healthcare robot—essentially a nurse with a computer chip — that Tadashi invented. Baymax is programmed to help humans in need, and Hiro definitely finds himself in that situation after tragedy strikes. He is also in desperate need of a new friend, and over the course of the movie, Baymax goes beyond his line of duty and becomes Hiro’s best friend.
For anyone that has seen a Marvel movie, you will notice that “Big Hero 6” hits all of the familiar origin story beats as Hiro assembles his super-team in an attempt to save the city from this evil foe. Among these, the audience will witness vengeance as being a primary motivator for the central villain, training sessions for the fledgling heroes, a moment of discovery as the protagonists master their powers, and a few other things that I won’t spoil for you here.
Unlike the older kids in the crowd, this type of story will be utterly groundbreaking for the younger tikes in the audience. They should consider themselves lucky! If only I could have skipped out on all of the horrible superhero stories I’ve seen over the years and instead be treated to good ones like this all the time.
Despite being primarily focused around a child and his big, blow-up robot friend, “Big Hero 6” does have that whole human emotion thing covered. Over the course of the film, you will cry, laugh, cheer, and essentially run the gamut of every high and low emotional level a human can feel. It’s a whopper of an experience, and something Disney does better than any other animation house in the world.
On top of all that, there is no questioning the brilliance of the computer animation on display. It is both imaginative and gorgeous. In creating San Fransokyo, Disney creates a quasi-realistic vision of what a futuristic San Francisco could actually look like many years from now.
Complementing all of the on-screen spectacle is a script — written by Robert L. Baird (Cars), Daniel Gerson (Monsters University), and Jordan Roberts (You’re Not You) — that is witty, yet tender. It also offers plenty of hilarious one-liners for voice actors like T.J. Miller, Damon Wayans Jr. and Jamie Chung, among others, to show their stuff. Teen star Ryan Potter doesn’t deliver as many of these knee-slapping jokes, but he manages to keep Hiro’s character engaging throughout.
Underlying all of this, however, is the virtuoso direction of filmmakers Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh) and Chris Williams (Bolt). They wrap all of these movable parts into a film that will enthrall kids of all shapes and sizes.
Disney sure does know how to create a product that sells. Just like Olaf the Snowman from “Frozen” became the must-have kid’s gift of the 2013 Holiday Season, “Big Hero 6” and Baymax will undoubtedly fill the void this year. He’s so cute and lovable! Thankfully, “Big Hero 6” is much more than just a Holiday time marketing stunt. It’s a fantastic and creative take on the Superhero origin story and a must watch for fans both young and old.
By David Morris
Running Time: 105 minutes
Rated PG for action and peril, some rude humor, and thematic elements.