Big Hero 6 (2014) was Disney’s way of showing off what they can do with the Marvel label. An animated film with the central themes involving loss, friendship and being a nerd/having scientific knowledge. After Disney’s recent success with Frozen (2013) the bar had been set high, and after Big Hero 6, it has been raised once again.
The story and characters are based off an old comic book (first released in 1998). It follows Hiro Hamada, a 14 year old technical wiz kid, who is only interested in backstreet robot fights. This quickly changes when his brother, Tadashi, shows him around the workshop at his robotics masterclass (affectionately named “nerd school” by all involved). To gain a place on the course Hiro sets about creating his own impressive project. On the night of the reveal, the evening ends in disaster as a fire erupts in the building, killing Tadashi. Hiro is left alone with his loss until he rediscovers his brothers robotics project – Baymax – and together, with help from Tadashi’s workshop friends, they discover the truth about the fire and bring about justice for Tadashi.
The film is set in San Fransokyo, mixing the Japanese and American setting and cultures. The world is visually stunning, and is particularly appreciated whenever Hiro is flying about the city. The characters themselves all have unique models while sticking to recognizable stereotypes including: Go Go (an alternative badass girl who longs for speed), and Fred (the nerd who just wants to live the superhero dream). Despite the stereotypes the audience still understands the complexity of each character, sharing with their emotions through-out – we feel Fred’s joy as he jumps around spitting fire, calling out the name of each move before doing it.
Not to be forgotten is Baymax the inflatable robot who steals the hearts of everyone, both within the film and it’s audience. Tadashi made Baymax in order to help people with their health care and all Baymax ever wants is to do his job well and have his patience satisfied with their level of care. It is through the relationship between Hiro and Baymax that the film really shines both through it’s emotional value and it’s humor. Despite Baymax’s face only being two dark circles for eyes with a line between them the audience never questions the emotion that surrounds this huggable robot.
Disney has learnt that it does not need to put all of its child-friendly aspects into one character. We no longer have the one character who always has to either say a funny line or spell out exactly what is happening for the kids (Olaf from Frozen). Instead Disney creates a universally understandable plot with both deep emotion and humour coming from all of the characters and the situations. Disney shows that it is unafraid to revert to visual slapstick style comedy and take its time with jokes, for example Baymax – having to deflate to enter through a window while Hiro stares in disbelief, both at the action itself and the noise of deflation, while the two are sneaking around.
This humour and storytelling is shown off further from the short at the start of the film, Feast, where the relationship between dog and master is shown through the food they eat together, It is refreshing to see pure cinema and storytelling as the audience becomes so attached to characters despite the lack of words.
It is true that younger children may struggle to understand the technical references and, indeed could find scenes involving raw emotion difficult. However Big Hero 6 never swamps it’s audience in difficult language, quickly explaining how things work with colourful visuals and combining this with a dose of humour, thus making the themes accessible for all ages. The film never felt like it was pandering to its audience however, when Tadashi dies the audience really feels the loss of a brother and the film shows real life difficulties and feelings.
Admittedly, certain twists and actions come across as predictable, and sometimes feel like they’re being ticked off a list from Scooby-Doo. Yet I never felt bothered by this. The concentration was on Hiro’s journey and how he could possibly deal with the extreme loss of his brother. Baymax learns that not all health problems can be solved through health-care and (in a time where many suffer from depression) the film reminds us that often the most painful things to suffer from are the things that effect us mentally. We should never forget the power that lies in being there for each other, and giving hugs.
Big Hero 6
Directed By: Don Hall and Chris Williams
Screenplay By: Jordan Roberts, Daniel Gerson and Robert L. Baird
Starring: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T. J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr. and Genesis Rodriguez.
Directed By:Patrick Osborne
Screenplay By: Nicole Mitchell, Raymond S. Persi and Patrick Osborne