Recently we attended an advanced screening and press junket for Disney’s newest animated movie (and I predict HUGE blockbuster), Big Hero 6, at the Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank which included meeting and chatting with cast and crew.
Big Hero 6 is a Marvel collaboration based on a comic book series of the same name with Disney’s spin and finesse. According to Roy Conli, producer of Tangled, “Marvel’s original source material gave us six interesting and brilliant kids that we could explore. And because we decided to take it into a heightened world, we were able to re-imagine the characters for the film.”
The story is of a 14 year old boy, Hiro, played by Ryan Potter (“Supah Ninjas” and “Senior Project”) and the relationship that forms with a robot, Baymax, played by Scott Adsit (“30 Rock” and “St. Vincent”). Baymax is a “personal health care companion”, with robotic emotion and his main purpose is to scan a human body and render aid as necessary. Developed by Hiro’s older brother, Tadashi, Baymax develops a brotherly role for Hiro and as the movie goes on, we see the transformation of Hiro from boy to young man. Director Don Hall (“Winnie the Pooh”) said “Baymax’s one programmed desire is “how can I help?” He’s filled with compassion. And Hiro is a teenager who has lost his way – their personalities play off each other in a way that is both funny and heartwarming.” Tadashi attends “Nerd School”, as Hiro calls it – San Fransoyko Tech – a school for gifted students in science and math. Hiro is only 14, but has already graduated High School and Tadashi really wants to help him find his way by applying to the University. Hiro visits the University under duress and finds that the experiments and other students (who end up very important in his life) really peak his interest. He agrees to apply and invents “microbots” to present at a large event to the Professor in charge of admissions. By the end of his presentation, he’s sold on school.
The design team had many struggles developing the story and characters and did a lot of research on robotics at Carnegie Mellon University to bring Baymax to life. Disney also created a new rendering tool named Hyperion to bring the fantastical new city of San Fransoyko (a meld of San Francisco and Toyko) to life in a rich, detailed way.
Scott Adsit was excited about being able to voice Baymax and when asked about the camaraderie and loving relationship between Hiro and Baymax he said “I tried to be true to how I know his brain works. He has a limited number of things he can say because Tadashi programmed him.” Scott was able to control the emotions that he voiced by keeping the character’s ability to function in mind. Baymax is able to “grow” as a robot throughout the film and we see an incredible relationship blossom with Hiro.
When Ryan Potter heard that Disney was doing a Marvel comic movie (both of which he was a huge fan of) he said “I grew up watching Disney films and I grew up reading Marvel comics. So when I heard that a Disney movie that was inspired by a Marvel comic actually featured an Asian American kid, I absolutely had to be a part of this film.”
Marvel’s Big Hero 6 comics were not widely known and when Don Hall (Director) asked John Lassetter (Executive Producer) during their work on Winnie the Pooh, if he could explore the Marvel vaults for inspiration for his next movie, he was given the green light. What developed was a Disney movie with a lot of Marvel DNA according to Producer Ray Conli.
Two of the characters in the Big Hero 6 group are strong females. Go Go Tomago is voiced by Jamie Chung (“Sin City 2: A Dame to Kill For” and TV’s Mulan on “Once Upon a Time”) and is the tough, athletic, adrenaline junkie of the group. Jamie says, “Go Go is a total badass, even before the hero transformation, she’s tough. She’s strong. She can totally hold her own.” Jamie says that she is a lot like Go Go – very loyal and tough. Honey Lemon is voiced by Genesis Rodriguez (“Tusk” “Run All Night”), and is the spunky chemical whiz. She is fashion forward (think heels, knee high socks and funky accessories) and is a wonderful mix of gorgeous and brilliant. Genesis said “She’s very optimistic and happy – and so like me. I used to be on a robotics team, so I love that she’s girly and into science. It was very easy to play this character.” Both ladies told us that putting on the hero suit (albiet virtually) in the film made both Go Go and Honey Lemon able to portray their strong personalities and get into the characters and this new “world.”
TJ Miller (“The Next Great Comic” Winner and “Transformers: Age of Extinction”) was working an impacted schedule when his Agent told him that Disney was casting a new movie called Big Hero 6. He turned down the ability to audition twice saying he was just too busy. The third time his Agent called and said “I think this is really going to be big”, he was asked to just record something on his iPhone and he finally relented. He recorded some dialogue and sent it to his Agent. He said that he actually forgot about it and months later he found out that he was going to be a part of “Disney’s big tent pole movie following FROZEN.” Damon Wayans (“New Girl” and “Happy Endings”) laughed at that point of the interview saying “Why didn’t he just LEAD with that?” which made us all laugh. TJ voiced Fred, who isn’t even a student at the University – as he says in the movie “I’m the mascot by day and I’m the mascot by night.” Fred also named each of the three other University characters – Go Go, Honey Lemon, and Wasabi.
Damon’s character, Wasabi, is the dreadlocked neatnik of the group who tries to keep everyone grounded. Chris Williams (Director) says “He’s actually the most conservative, cautious – he’s the most normal among the group of brazen characters. So he really grounds the movie in the second act and becomes, in a way, the voice of the audience and points out that what they’re doing is crazy.” Damon was drawn to Wasabi because he too has to have everything in it’s place. Damon says “I can relate to Wasabi, I have a place for everything. I need my books a certain way. I need to smell good all the time. I definitely have Wasabi in me.”
This movie will appeal to all genders and ages. There are strong male and female characters as well as the lovable robot. There is a focus on relationships between many characters and the development of a “team” who works together to save mankind. The relationships are intertwined and the visual effects are stunning.