“I will scan you for injuries,” says Baymax to Hiro. Hiro responds, “Don’t scan me.” Baymax says, “Scan complete.” Hiro replies, “Unbelievable.” Baymax continues, “You have sustained no injuries. However, your hormone and neurotransmitter levels indicate that you are experiencing mood swings, common in adolescence. Diagnosis: puberty.” Hiro responds, “Whoa, what?”
There has been a resurgence of high-quality, theatrically-released, non-Pixar Disney animated films in the last few years (the Planes franchise isn’t included because it was originally intended for direct-to-DVD and the two Planes films that have been released so far have been awful). This isn’t to say that the theatrically-released Disney animated films that came before weren’t good; most of them were very good, but the last few (Tangled, Winnie the Pooh, Wreck-It Ralph, and Frozen) have been very strong in the story department (practically reaching Pixar levels). This continues with their latest animated pic Big Hero 6, which is also an adaptation of a Marvel Comics title. I wasn’t familiar with the source material, but the promos were good enough to get me hooked. It would eventually take me two months after its release to see it, but the wait was surely worth it. I finally saw Big Hero 6 recently, and I enjoyed it very much. It was certainly one of the best films (not just comic book films) of 2014.
2014’s Big Hero 6 follows a young robotics prodigy named Hiro who struggles to find his aim in life. Encouraged by his older brother Tadashi, Hiro enters a university science showcase with microbots of his own design. A tragic fire sets Hiro back, but with the help of his new university friends and Baymax (a robotic healthcare companion created by Tadashi), he discovers that his microbots have been stolen and are being mass-produced by an emerging masked villain who has a diabolical purpose in mind. To combat this new threat, Hiro and his friends use their scientific knowledge to become superheroes. An amazing voice cast was assembled for this film: Ryan Potter (as Hiro), Scott Adsit (as Baymax), Daniel Henney (as Tadashi), T.J. Miller (as Fred), Jamie Chung (as GoGo), Damon Wayans Jr. (as Wasabi), Genesis Rodriguez (as Honey Lemon), Maya Rudolph (as Aunt Cass), James Cromwell (as Professor Callaghan), Alan Tudyk (as Alistair Krei), and Stan Lee (as Fred’s father). Potter and Henney convincingly convey a brotherly bond, while Adsit is perfect as the voice of Baymax (who does much more than talk like a stereotypical robot, giving Baymax an almost-human quality and uses his expert comedic timing to create a lot of wonderful humor). Plus, the Stan Lee cameo is just hilarious.
The screenplay by Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson, and Robert L. Baird is very strong, offering a young protagonist who embarks on the hero’s journey, complicated characters, tragedy, and a good amount of thrilling comic book action (the film also contains echoes of the best elements of 1999’s The Iron Giant and 2004’s The Incredibles). The direction by Don Hall and Chris Williams is also strong, as is the computer animation (my favorite sequence is when Hiro and Baymax enter the portal and encounter what lies inside; the animation is so stunning that it is possibly the most beautiful animated sequence to grace an animated film in 2014). Paul A. Felix’s production design is incredible; the world that is San Fransokyo is a sight to behold, blending real life Tokyo and San Francisco together into a vibrant city (the comic was originally set in Tokyo). Henry Jackman’s terrific score balances superhero action (there are several exciting action-driven music pieces) with family drama. Big Hero 6 is a definite Best Animated Feature Oscar contender that continues Walt Disney Animation Studios’ efforts to blend strong storytelling without outstanding animation. It has also introduced a lovable new robot into pop culture (Baymax, who also kind of comes across as a robotic version of Studio Ghibli’s Totoro). I hope this film enthralls others as I have been enthralled by it, and I look forward to any future installments of a possible Big Hero 6 franchise.