The follow up to 2013’s Frozen was a Disney film that was decidedly different than its predecessors, but still retained a bit of that classic Disney charm, and that film was an adaptation of Marvel’s Big Hero 6 comic book. After their acquisition of Marvel in 2009, Disney began researching a number of Marvel storylines for an animated film.
The studio would eventually land on Big Hero 6, and this comic was purposely chosen because of its obscurity. Disney’s version of Big Hero 6 borrows a handful of ideas from the source material, but is largely its own film with its own unique characters and story beats.
As always with Disney films, the team dedicated a lot of man hours to realizing the look of the film. They created unique rendering systems to convincingly represent foliage, city skylines, cars and buildings. Most notably, Disney created the Hyperion system, which allowed them to create realistic lighting effects across the entire film.
With the character of Baymax, Disney wanted to avoid creating a typical robot. Director Don Hall was inspired by a burgeoning technology known as “soft robotics”, which aimed to give safer and more flexible components to machinery. This tech would serve as the inspiration for Baymax’s non-intimidating “marshmallow” body.
As far as superhero film narratives are concerned, Big Hero 6 is pretty standard. Protagonist Hiro’s character arc is a simple, “great power, great responsibility” story, with some personal maturity thrown in for good measure, while the villain is just flat out seeking revenge.
Hiro is a 14 year old prodigy who graduated high school at 13, and spends his time participating in illegal bot fights. After some sly coercing from his older brother, Tadashi, Hiro decides to enroll in the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology.
Hiro and Tadashi’s relationship is the emotional throughline that carries Big Hero 6. Tadashi meets a tragic end pretty early on in the film, and Hiro’s journey with coming to terms with this loss is the motivation for every single one of his actions.
Big Hero 6 did a great job of making me care about Tadashi before he was killed. He served as a responsible mentor figure for Hiro, and did his best to keep him on the right path. Even after his death, he still provides support to Hiro when he needs it the most.
Hiro starts out a bit rough around the edges, but he eventually matures into a young man reminiscent of the older brother that he looks up to. He went from being fully prepared to have Baymax kill the villain, to simply apprehending him like a model superhero, and I can really get behind character growth like this.
Aside from Hiro, Tadashi and Baymax, there are a few other characters that round out the film’s principal cast, namely, GoGo, Wasabi, Honey Lemon and Fred. These four characters, along with Hiro and Baymax, make up the titular Big Hero 6.
These characters are charming, but also a bit on the generic side. Taking a look at just about any still image of them will tell you most of what you need to know about their personality, Wasabi being the major exception. GoGo is the tough and edgy girl, Honey Lemon is the hyperactive and enthusiastic one, and Fred is the laid back, comic relief guy.
Although I found myself really liking these guys, they definitely needed more screentime. Hiro meets each of them when Tadashi shows him around the school’s lab, and this scene was a great introduction for them.
But one of the more jarring plot elements of the film is how quickly Hiro and the group become best friends. Aside from their introduction, the group doesn’t have a proper scene with Hiro for some time after Tadashi’s death.
In that time gap, there is one really bad montage that shows snippets of the group helping Hiro with his entrance exam project. Fast forward, and the gang behave as if they have been friends for years.
We also don’t really get to see the team as actual superheroes for very much of the film. I don’t have any real issue with this narratively speaking, as I felt it showed just how inexperienced they are when they take on their first mission, and it was nice getting to know them just a bit before they suit up.
The one plot element that I actively dislike is the villain’s daughter. Up until the reveal that she is alive, Big Hero 6 did an excellent job of subtly highlighting a parallel between Hiro and the villain, and I felt that bringing her back really cheapened the arc of an already simple villain story.
Big Hero 6 has some truly beautiful scenery. The film doesn’t do very much with the setting of San Fransokyo with it comes to narrative, but it does provide a backdrop for a few really well done scenes, the best of which is Hiro and Baymax’s flight through the city (though special mention goes to the trip through the portal).
Seeing the pair soar through the sky is reminiscent of many classic Disney films, and I really appreciate that the team let this scene breathe and just be visually impressive. It was also really cool how this scene fed into the story, as the whole purpose of them flying was to gain a higher vantage point for Baymax’s scanner.
Though a bit generic at times, Big Hero 6 still displays that Disney magic. The brotherly bond between Hiro and Tadashi, and by extension, Hiro and Baymax, is genuinely touching. The film has a lot of heart, with gorgeous visuals and cool action scenes to boot, and has a very unique spot in Disney’s line of animated classics.