Voices of Ryan Potter, Dan Henney, Maya Rudolph, Scott Adsit, Jamie Chung, T.J. Miller, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk
Blammo! Disney Animation has finally tapped into its ownership of Marvel Entertainment. Big Hero 6 is a solid combined effort, a comic superhero origin story for kids and adults alike.
Sure, there are wobbles. This flick still smacks of Disney’s goal to sell merchandise – wait for all the plastic toys! Also, many of the lesser characters don’t get much backstory (maybe they will in later films). However, Big Hero 6 is funny and action packed. More to the point, this film leads with heart. It tells a story about misfits, geeks, and orphans trying to make right in the world, an emotional approach both Marvel and Disney have explored a lot.
Hiro (Potter) is a 14-year-old robotics wizard. He and his older, techy brother Tadashi (Heney) are also orphans living with their loving, scatterbrained aunt (Rudolph). When a mysterious tragedy befalls the family, Hiro takes his older brother’s technology and retrofits it to create a superhero to find the criminal and exact revenge.
The problem is that Tadashi’s robot is the sweet, kind Baymax (Adsit). Baymax is built as a medical droid, and he looks like the Stay-Puf Marshmallow Man. He’s cuddly, gentle and slow. Hiro has his programming work cut out for him.
On top of that, Hiro is angry and grief-stricken, feeling frustrated and betrayed. Thankfully, he has the help of a bunch of other geniuses who don’t know that their inventions can be used to make some other superheroes.
Though maybe not completely fresh, everything here is fast – a marriage of comic book and manga styles. The city, for example, is San Fransokyo, a conglomeration of the Bay City and Japanese traditional and high-tech architectures. The characters are typical manga, but they stylistically reference The Incredibles.
This is what Disney needed to do to marry aesthetics. Disney bought Marvel in 2009, producing and distributing many of the later films (including franchises in Avengers, Iron Man, Captain America, and Guardians of the Galaxy). They worked everything not already licensed to others. Since then Disney has been waiting for agreements to expire to take over the X-Men, Spiderman, and the other heroes. Big Hero 6 – a relatively small and less known branch – was up for grabs.
It may seem like an unlikely success (much like Guardians of the Galaxy was considered before it opened to become the biggest film of last summer). As comic book heroes go, the characters of Big Hero 6 are relatively new, pitched in 1998 to connect the American art form to a growing Japanese market. Disney reaches back into their catalog to create this soft, cuddly, family-friendly version of how it all got started.
Yes, it’s not groundbreaking, but this comic charmer is an excellent start. From here – like the heroes of the film – things can only get stronger and better.