Big Hero 6” is the latest movie to be put out by Disney Animation Studios, inspired by a Marvel Comic superhero team of the same name. The story centers around the young Hiro Hamada, a robotics genius living in the fictional city of San Fransokyo. Nominally a kids movie, “Big Hero 6” brings enough to the table to keep older audiences interested, with the usual serving of veiled jokes that only the parents in the room will pick up on, as well as stellar CGI animation and a solid voice cast.
At the start of the film, Hiro is spending his ample free time after graduating high school at 14 by participating in illegal backstreet robot brawls for money. He hustles a big and boisterous challenger, using his youth and an innocent-looking robot to disguise his true skill in building. The big man, not so happy to be played for a fool by a little kid, is about to have Hiro beaten to a pulp when Tadashi, Hiro’s older brother, comes to the rescue. Seeing his younger brother squandering a great mind for robotics, Tadashi sneakily convinces Hiro to apply at his university by bringing Hiro along through the school’s robotics lab under dubious pretenses. It’s in this scene that the movie really begins to shine in the characterization department. As Hiro and Tadashi stroll through the lab, they meet the other main characters of the film one by one, each immediately establishing their quirks and personalities. Wasabi is clearly a neat-freak, GoGo a speed-obsessed tomboy, Honey Lemon an optimistic chemistry whiz, Fred fits into the archetype of characters like Shaggy from “Scooby Doo,” and finally there is Baymax.
Baymax stands out as one of the best characters in the film, with Scott Adsit bringing life to the big, cuddly machine. The character’s design is unique among robot-kind; instead of shiny metal and hard angles, Baymax is rounded, soft and friendly. This belies his purpose, as Baymax was designed by Tadashi as a healthcare assistant, able to diagnose and treat injuries and illnesses. Despite being a robot, Baymax has character. Even within the strictures of portraying a machine, Adsit brings emotion, humor and wit to the character. Whether Baymax is too frankly explaining the intricacies of puberty to Hiro or questioning the need for rocket boots as a healthcare provider, he always manages to deliver the jokes flawlessly.
While the characters all stand out visually and the voice cast all do wonderful jobs bringing life to their quirks and foibles, they all feel fairly archetypal without doing too much to break the mold. Similarly, the path of the film’s plot will feel immediately familiar to anyone with experience watching Disney films. Following a tragic accident that leads to Tadashi’s death, a depressed Hiro stumbles upon a mysterious villain who stole the innovative nanobots that Hiro had showed off to gain entry to the university’s robotics program. Determined to find the truth behind Tadashi’s death, Hiro first outfits Baymax with amor and a chip programmed with fighting moves. After a botched attempt to apprehend the villain, Hiro brings in help from Tadashi’s college friends, designing armor to fit each individual’s talents. The gang eventually pulls together to uncover the somewhat predictable secret behind the masked baddie.
While the film was designed for kids, its production value is absolutely phenomenal. Little details in the background bring the hybrid of San Francisco and Tokyo to life, and signs bearing kanji and katakana blend in naturally to familiar landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge. During one particular scene, the heroes are being pursued by the villain through cramped, steeply sloping streets during the night. Flashes of light reflect on puddles in the road. Piles of garbage are plowed over as Wasabi’s tiny car struggles to keep up with GoGo’s insane driving while the villain surges forth on a wave of nanobots.
Each detail is rendered beautifully and there is almost too much to take in during a single viewing. Another standout scene comes when Hiro and Baymax enter a stargate-esque portal that takes them to a surreal in-between dimension full of swirling clouds and debris. The film is no stranger to beautiful set pieces, and the characters are wonderfully expressive without dipping into the uncanny valley.
For adults and children alike, “Big Hero 6” is a well-rounded and fun, if somewhat formulaic, film that is well worth the price of a ticket.