Yes, just what I love! Superheroes mixed with Disney animation! We might not get a sequel for The Incredibles (at least not yet) but we do have Big Hero 6!
In the futuristic city of San Fransokyo, Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) is a 14-year-old prodigy who would rather focus on robot-fights than putting his talents to good use. His older brother Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney) doesn’t want him to waste his great potential, so he very sneakily convinces him to apply to his university San Fransokyo Tech: he shows him his friends and his latest invention Baymax (voice by Scott Adsit), an inflatable robot created as a healthcare companion. At the school’s annual exhibition, Hiro needs to showcase a project to enter the school, and he presents his invention ‘microbots’: tiny robots linked together to create multiple shapes and contraptions which he controls with a neural-transmitter. That night, however, the exhibition is burned down in a fire, and Hiro loses all his work and unfortunately his brother. Some time later, he finds out that someone in a kabuki mask is using his invention for evil purposes. So he attempts to find the bad guy and take him down, with the help of Baymax and Tadashi’s friends: GoGo Tomago with her need-for-speed (voiced by Jaime Chung), Wasabi and his plasma blades (voiced by Damon Wayans, Jr.), Honey Lemon and her cute chemistry set bag (voiced by Génesis Rodríguez) and Fred in his kaiju-armour (voiced by T. J. Miller).
If it’s true that there’s a second Disney Renaissance starting with Tangled and moving on with Wreck-It-Ralph and Frozen, then Big Hero 6 is a welcome addition! I actually didn’t watch a single trailer for this movie because I didn’t want them to ruin my experience of the film, and suffice it to say that it didn’t disappoint. This is a funny, exciting and charming film!
The film is based on Marvel’s comic Big Hero 6, but I don’t even feel the need to make comparisons: the only thing left in common are the names, the title and the fact that these are superheroes. What I will say that this does feel like a Marvel property with elements of Spider-Man and Iron-Man (and even a bit of The Avengers, especially with the ending), and arguably DC Comics with the cartoon version of Teen Titans, but still making its own identity. Instead of keeping the original cast Japanese, the film decides to make the cast diverse, and for me it made for a powerful subtext about diversity and the whole theme of “East-Meets-West”, especially with San Fransokyo. The city looks BEAUTIFUL! And for a film like this, it’s very rare to find a white-Asian protagonists in film, much less animated, and I like how they made him a mixed-race character, which once again connects to “East-Meets-West”. It also hits me on a personal note, since I’m also white-Asian (I actually have a very mixed background). I just loved the subtext.
The thing I loved the most about the film were the characters: I LOVED the characters. Our main character Hiro Hamada is very admirable for his intelligence (the scene where he introduces his microbots felt like a TED talk from the future, and it was AWESOME), but he’s also relatable in many respects: he does have the insecurities any pre-teen would have, as he is in the stage of growing up. And he’s part-Japanese! LIKE ME!
His brother Tadashi I ALSO loved. He’s also very intelligent, but as an older person he’s already discovered what he wants to do in life, and wants his brother to do the same. Since they lost their parents, even if they have their Aunt Cass (played by Maya Rudolph) as their guardian, Tadashi really looks out for his brother. The film did a fantastic job in caring about this character and his relationship with Hiro, and it was extremely sad to see him die.
Baymax is my favourite character in the film. Created by Tadashi to help other people, he was created with a very huggable type of body, and he looks pretty cool in his armour as well. His relationship with Hiro is very reminiscent of The Iron Giant and he plays a huge role in Hiro’s development in the story and helping him emotionally. He’s really one of the most adorable robots since Wall-E and one of the most huggable Disney characters since Olaf.
Fred was AWESOME and hilarious. He’s more of a sci-fi aficionado than a science genius, but he does end up contributing to the team, primarily with the superhero identity. I loved how even though he was a slacker and such a fanboy, he also came from a rich family. And he loves superheroes! LIKE ME!
Honey Lemon I also loved. She makes a great role model for young women, because a lot of girls are discouraged from pursuing science as a career for the assumption that they have to look less feminine and more geeky (because they would assume that looking girly would make them look superficial and less smart than they really are), but here Honey is both super girly AND super smart with her passion for chemistry. A funny thing is that as I was watching the film, I had the impression that she was Latina, because she reminded me of a LOT of Latin American friends of mine (they tend to have a very tall and slim physique, and with really big eyes). And it turns out Génesis Rodríguez, who voices her in both English and Spanish, has confirmed that Honey Lemon is indeed Latina. YAY! LIKE ME! … Yeah, like I said, I’m a mix.
Wasabi had a lot of funny moments and it was pretty interesting that while he seemed to have an athletic physique, he went against that image by being a neat-organiser-freak and being a little more insecure than he really is. Though he got to look more like a jock as a superhero. Actually, I noticed that there’s this subtle theme about going against the appearance and playing with expectations: in the beginning of the film Hiro was a trickster in playing with people’s expectations during the robot fight, and as I mentioned we wouldn’t assume Fred as the type coming from a rich family, and Honey Lemon was allowed to look girly and geeky simultaneously.
As for GoGo, who really grew on me, she seemed like the distant cool girl at first (the kind who doesn’t seem very sociable), but she actually hangs around with the team a lot and she turns out to be the most caring of the team despite her toughness. And I just love her design! I’m surprised Disney doesn’t design more Asian characters, with such great designs like GoGo and Mulan (funny enough: Jamie Chung who voices GoGo also plays her own live-action depiction of Mulan in Once Upon a Time).
And of course, Stan Lee is an official Disney character!
The action scenes are a lot of fun. They dedicated a lot of time to explain the science of it all, and they play around with the way they use science. I wish there were a bit more action scenes, but for what we got they were great. They’re very creative with the use of science, and the animation is just outstanding, with San Fransokyo feeling like a real and amazing city.
Only one big flaw with the film is the villain twist. Basically, unlike Wreck-It-Ralph where no one saw the villain twist coming, and Frozen where some people did and some people didn’t see it coming, EVERYONE predicted who the masked villain was in Big Hero 6. It was so freaking predictable. But at least it serves the story, and his motivation kinda makes sense, though simplistic. I only have one other nitpick with the film. I wanted to learn more about the team. I mean, we did, but Hiro wasn’t the only one who lost their best friend. I know the focus is on Hiro, but THEY also lost their best friend, and I kinda wanted to see a bit more of their grief, or at least learn a bit more about their backstories, kinda like in Atlantis: the Lost Empire where we got to learn a bit of each supporting character in one scene. The only one we really got to learn about was Fred, whose background was brief, but actually intriguing. But then again, it could also be like the Furious Five from Kung Fu Panda who most work as a whole (with the exception of Tigress), so like that film I don’t entirely mind here.
So only a few flaws with the film, but overall it’s a great film which I keep loving more and more. This is one of the only times I wouldn’t mind a sequel to a Disney film, since I just want to see more of these characters in new adventures! With great films like Wreck-it-Ralph, Frozen, and even Big Hero 6, Disney is doing extremely well! I am SUPER excited for what Disney has to offer next, and I can’t WAIT for Moana!