It is very easy to equate Disney animated features with princesses, fairy tales, and musicals. But there is much more to Disney than that, which is well demonstrated in the newest full-length cartoon from the studio, Big Hero 6.
Even though Big Hero 6 is inspired by a series of comic books and characters from Marvel, the story is very different than the one in the books. The title, character names, and skills/powers of several characters are the only elements which came from the source material, the plot is original.
Also, Big Hero 6 in not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so don’t expect these characters to visit the Avengers anywhere down the road. However, the association with Marvel is winked at in two places. First of all, keep your eyes open for a blink or you’ll miss it “cameo” from Stan Lee. And second, you’ll probably want to stay in your seat through the credits.
Big Hero 6 tells the story of Hiro (Ryan Potter), a 14-year-old genius who has already graduated from High School and spends his nights on the streets of San Fransokyo, hustling adults in illegal Bot Fights. His also brilliant older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) is a student at San Fransokyo Tech and Hiro’s best friend. Tadashi wants Hiro to stop wasting his talents and join him at what Hiro refers to as Nerd School. Hiro changes his tune when he joins Tadashi on a trip to the school lab and sees what his brother and friends are doing. Tadashi’s friends are neurotic rule-loving Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), cool speedster GoGo (Jaime Chung), optimistic girly-girl Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), and fanboy slacker Fred (T.J. Miller). Hiro is most impressed by Tadashi’s invention, an inflatable robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit) who is programed to provide medical care, and Professor Robert Callaghan (James Cromwell) who Hiro idolizes.
Hiro invents a new type of robotic technology to impress Professor Callaghan, but as soon as Hiro succeeds in getting himself accepted to college, disaster strikes, leaving him feeling lost and alone. Baymax tries to make Hiro feel better, and uncovers a mystery that will change Hiro’s life forever. Hiro soon realizes that the only way to bring himself back after the tragedy is to find out exactly what went wrong and do something about it. He adds fighting skills to Baymax’s programming and enlists the help of his brother’s friends, forming a team of super heroes to solve the mystery and save the day!
Like many of Disney’s most beloved movies, Big Hero 6 uses humor and heart in equal measure. Hiro is an interesting and layered character. He may be the most intelligent person in the room when it comes to robotics, but at his core he is still a young boy constantly dealing with problems he’s not emotionally equipped for. At his side is Baymax, otherwise known as Groot’s biggest competition for this year’s hot ticket Christmas toy. Baymax provides a lot of the film’s laughter and nearly all of its tears as well, no mean feat for a robot with no facial expressions. The main focus of the movie is the relationship between these two, and it is a joy to watch their unconventional friendship grow.
The other four members of Big Hero 6 are diverse and interesting; if the movie has one flaw, it is the fact that their stories and relationships could have used some more development. But when making a family friendly movie, it is important to keep to a family friendly running time, and while it would have been interesting to get to know these four better, the story does not suffer for not having it.
At the core Big Hero 6 is a sweet, fun, and exciting story about a group of people who use the skills they have to do something amazing, not out of any desire to be heroes. Instead, they do it out of their love for each other.