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Preview: Disney experiments big time with “Big Hero 6,” enhancing the science of animation in familiar superhero world

in Disney, Entertainment, Events, Movies

Each of Disney’s latest crop of computer-animated feature films, from “Bolt” to “Tangled” to “Wreck-it Ralph” and culminating in “Frozen,” has been better than the last. The upcoming “Big Hero 6” might be the best yet, and that’s no accident.

These features are coming directly out of Walt Disney Animation Studios, where Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter and his “story trust,” made up of the company’s high-level creatives, mirror Pixar’s creative process by meeting multiple times throughout each film’s development to craft the strongest story they can. Judging by the “Big Hero 6” footage shown to journalists at a recent press event, the process is working.

“Big Hero 6” is set in the fictional near-future city of San Fransokyo, which geographically is San Francisco but may be culturally closer to Tokyo. Boy genius Hiro Hamada gets accepted into San Fransokyo Tech, the university his older brother and his brother’s friends attend, at the ripe age of 14 after showing off his latest miracle science project—mind-controlled “microbots” that can take on any shape. But tragedy strikes and he becomes despondent. That’s when he meets Baymax, a goofy inflatable healthcare robot invented by his brother, and the two encounter mysterious masked villain Yokai, who is producing his own microbots for presumably nefarious purposes.

Directors Chris Williams & Don Hall.

Disney’s animation studio is even decked out with San Fransokyo flair.

Some of the nearly 30 minutes of footage directors Don Hall and Chris Williams showed us was pretty rough. One portion was just bare-bones sketches with voice-over, while in other scenes characters’ hair stuck out through the tops of their hats. We started near the beginning of the film, when Hiro shows off his invention at a science fair, and saw selected clips up through the introduction of Yokai.

Pictured (L-R): Michael Franceschi (Animation Supervisor), Zach Parrish (Head of Animation), Nathan Engelhardt (Animation Supervisor).
Animation Supervisor Nathan Engelhardt.

Even in its less-than-finished state, this “Big Hero 6” footage hit all the right notes. The film’s character designers, artists, animators, and writers worked hard to give Baymax a unique identity, and he’s definitely unlike any other AI or robot I’ve ever seen onscreen.

When Baymax’s battery runs out, he effectively becomes drunk, stumbling around and mistaking a cat for a “hairy baby.” After their first encounter with Yokai, Hiro surfaces from his funk long enough to build himself and the pot-bellied robot battle armor, turning them into DIY superheroes. We got to see their first test flight, a tumultuous journey twisting around San Fransokyo’s hills and high-rises and up to its floating, blimp-like energy turbines. With Hiro’s instruction, Baymax eventually learns to fist-bump and use slang. They agree the flight was “sick.”


  1. Miyazaki

    “The film ultimately resembles its source material little, but Hall said the books’ creators don’t mind their work being reinterpreted, adding that not a single fan has yet to emerge from the woodwork to protest.”

    Uhm, Don Hall doesn’t read the Internet much, does he?

    1. Fred

      Nobody cares about the Internet, it is ALWAYS non-stop complaining. No matter what Disney does, people complain.

      1. Mr Observant

        ^ This

  2. EricJ

    “When Baymax’s battery runs out, he effectively becomes drunk, stumbling around and mistaking a cat for a ‘hairy baby’.”
    Ohhh, THAT’S what he says at the end of the trailer! Heard the audience chuckle, but could never decipher it.

  3. Chaz

    My own excitement for this movie scares me.

  4. Christy

    OMG, the concept art is so good! That character line-up is amazing! Such a diverse cast!! I am really looking forward to this movie.

  5. Just was at Tech Press Day. Movie will be excellent. I found the effort to keep attached to reality rewarding. Without magic, the movie just feels more real. You start asking yourself whether these things really will emerge from technology in the next ten years.

  6. swen

    Movie does not live to it’s hype.Disney played it safe, and story falls apart 2/3 down the movie.All the gags are in previews…Amazing visuals, for location and character design, amazing art direction lighting and animation.Story BIG(HERO 6)disappointment.Disney can not make good boy-teen movie with emotions…They should stick to girly movies like Frozen,Beauty and the Beast or take some writing directions from Pixar.


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