Welcome to Revisiting Disney! This week, we’re wrapping up the series by looking at a Disney movie that is something new and amazing, Big Hero Six! Thank you for joining me on this adventure; I had fun and learned a lot about what went into some of my favorite (and least favorite) Disney movies. I hope you did too!
Like always, I have labeled each category so if you want to skip to the parts that interest you most, feel free. And, of course, if you have any thoughts, burning or otherwise, please share in the comments!
BACKGROUND OF Big Hero 6
Released on November 7th, 2014, Big Hero 6 was directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams. Don Hall previously directed Winnie the Pooh and worked on the story for Tarzan, The Emperor’s New Groove, Brother Bear, Home on the Range, Winnie the Pooh, and worked on the screenplay for Meet the Robinsons. Chris Williams had previously directed Bolt, and worked on the story for Mulan, The Emperor’s New Groove, Brother Bear, and worked on the screenplay for Bolt.
The screenplay was written by Jordan Roberts, Robert L. Baird, and Daniel Gerson. This was Roberts’ first work for Disney, while Baird and Gerson had worked on the story for Chicken Little, Tangled Ever After, and the screenplay of Monsters University. Gerson also wrote the screenplay for Monsters, Inc.
In 2015, Big Hero 6 won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film of the Year, and it was nominated for the Golden Globe in the same category that same year. Also, I think Alan Tudyk (who you may remember from A Knight’s Tale and Firefly), may be the new David Ogden Stiers of Disney; like Stiers during the Renaissance, Tudyk has had a role in every movie in the official Disney canon since Wreck-It Ralph (he’s in Zootopia and Moana as well).
The music of Big Hero 6 is fun, because it’s a mix of popular songs like “Immortals” and “Eye of the Tiger,” while also having a wonderful score. The score was composed by Henry Jackman, who has also composed the score for Captain America: Civil War, Captain America: Winder Soldier, Captain Phillips, Wreck-It Ralph, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, X-Men: First Class, and Turbo, among other films.
The score is wonderful because it ties in the popular music with the rest of the soundtrack. Also, the music knows when to be epic, and when it’s time to be calmer. Although Big Hero 6 is an action movie about superheroes, it’s also a story about coming to grips with loss and tragedy, and the music reflects that.
The animation of Big Hero 6 is CGI or computer generated. It reminds me a lot of Dreamworks’ How To Train Your Dragon or The Rescuers Down Under, both movies that have incredible flying scenes (although How To Train Your Dragon is also a CGI film, and The Rescuers Down Under is not).
The characters look realistic, and Baymax himself is a fantastically created character. Originally, he was going to have five different facial expressions, but this was changed to give him the face he ended up with, one that was expressionless. Baymax’s movements were inspired by both the movements of human toddlers with full diapers. His inflatable, huggable design was based on soft robotics research being done at Carnegie Mellon University. His eyes were based on a traditional Japanese bell, called a Suzu. Altogether, he’s a unique character. The green suit he wears at first is a nod to the costume Baymax wears in the comic.
According to the commentaries, the inspiration for the movements of the Microbots came from watching fire ants. Additionally, the film used a new program called the “Denizen Factory,” which helped the team create all the background characters that would live in a thriving city and make sure everyone had a unique design. I also found it very interesting to learn that, while he was alive, Tadashi’s breathing was animated.
Big Hero 6 is the story of young genius Hiro Hamada. At the beginning of the film, we learn that Hiro is involved in illegal robot fighting, and when things start to go south at his match, he is saved by his brother, Tadashi. Tadashi and Hiro are orphans who live with their Aunt, Cass.
Tadashi attends the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology (SFIT), and is trying to convince his boy-genius brother to enroll; he thinks Hiro is wasting his talents by robot fighting. He convinces Hiro to visit his school and shows him the innovative projects that all the students are working on. Tadashi is also working on a healthcare robot, Baymax, who he is very excited about it because of all the people they can help. Baymax can only deactivate if he is told that his patient is satisfied with their care, which might be important later.
Meeting the other students, and the famous Professor Callahan, convinces Hiro to try to get into SFIT, and he creates a groundbreaking new piece of technology as his application, the Microbot. Microbots are controlled through a headband, and if the wearer can imagine it, the Microbots can make it happen. Everyone is very impressed, and Hiro is offered a deal to sell his technology to Krei Tech. However, he decides to attend SFIT instead.
When a fire breaks out, both Tadashi and Professor Callahan are killed; Tadashi while he is trying to save Callahan. Hiro spirals into a deep depression, shutting out the world around him. When he encounters Baymax a few weeks later, the robot is determined to take care of this young boy now in his charge and in obvious pain. Soon after, Hiro discovers that his Microbots survived the fire, and a mysterious man in a mask has control of them.
Outfitting Baymax with armor and new programming, Hiro goes to confront the Masked Man, only to be attacked by him. Hiro then enlists the help of his friends at SFIT- Honey Lemon, Gogo, Wasabi, and Fred- and they all use their inventions and skills to transform into superheroes in an attempt to stop the Masked Man from destroying their city. But a secret from the past and Hiro’s desire for revenge for his brother could destroy the team, and San Fransokyo itself.
What happened in the past? How are Krei and Krei Technologies involved? Who is the Masked Man, and what is his goal? Will Hiro let go of his rage and thirst for revenge? Can the team win this fight? Will Hiro be satisfied with his care? What will happen in the Vortex? These questions will be answered in Big Hero 6.
Big Hero 6 is the first Disney cartoon based on a story that is owned by Marvel and is also the first Disney cartoon to be based on a manga series. Although it’s a film that is also partially owned by Pixar and Marvel, Big Hero 6 is not part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
The story idea of Big Hero 6 was created by Man of Action, a creative studio and writer’s collective that was founded in 2000. The company is run by Joe Casey, Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau, and Steven Seagle, all of whom create and write comic books. They worked on comics ranging from “Superman” to “X-Men,” and then started working on original stories and comics. These include Big Hero 6 and “Generator Rex.”
Although Big Hero 6 is based on the comic “Big Hero 6,” there were quite a few changes, ranging from the setting, some names, some characters (because of a different studio owning the rights to them), some back stories, some characters’ ethnicities, and other plot points. For example, in the comics, Fred can change into a giant monster that can squash houses.
Originally, there were going to be more villains than Yokai, the Masked Man. As near as I can tell, these all came from the series and included a trio of deadly Geisha’s, a talk show host determined to take over the world, and some jet pack flying pilots (the Banzai Bombers).
Scott Watanabe, the Art Director for Big Hero 6, said that the story is set in an alternative future. Basically, after the 1906 earthquake, San Francisco was rebuilt using new technologies by Japanese immigrants. The new technologies and the blend of Japanese and American architecture, and the city was renamed San Fransokyo.
This setting was based on an idea that John Lasseter, Studio Head, had about creating a new and mythic location for the story. It was also inspired by the art of Tadahiro Uesugi, who was also the concept artist for Coraline.
2014 was another year that was full of conflict and sadness, but that sprinkled in some hope. This was the year that leaders and rebels in Syria met to discuss peace, as their conflict had killed over 100,000 people and forced around eight million out of their homes. The conflicts and a lack of stability in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Iraq, lead to the rise of the Islamic State, or ISIS. Over the year, they gained control of most of both countries, and the United States would lead an international group in airstrikes against ISIS.
The 2014 Winter Games were held in Russia, but when Russia became involved in the conflicts in nearby Ukraine (including mobilizing troops and annexing territory), the Western nations began to impose sanctions on Russia. West Africa experienced it’s largest Ebola outbreak, and there were also some cases in Nigeria, Spain, and the United States. Scotland voted to remain part of the United Kingdom, Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 vanished, and Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 was shot down. We learned what hackers were possible of, the US deployed our first laser weapon, and NATO and the US were scheduled to remove their troops from Afghanistan on the last day of the year.
This was also the year of the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, which lead to protests of the treatment of minorities by police. This, and other similar events, have opened conversations on race relations in America, and the use of excessive force by law enforcement. There were also police officers killed in the line of duty, which lead to discussions of protecting law enforcement professionals.
NASA started testing a new ship, which might be able to take humans to Mars or Deep Space. Also, the European Space Agency landed a craft on a comet near the Sun to run tests on the comet, and we learned about measures that could help with climate change. Gay marriage became legal in eighteen more States in the US, a 15-year-old Russian Figure Skater, Julia Lipnitskaia, won the gold medal, and the first woman was sworn in as chairperson of the US Federal Reserve.
Big Hero 6 looks at the changing world and the impact that grief and sadness can have on a person and reminds us that interpersonal relationships are important. They keep us together when we’re afraid we’ll fall apart. Also, revenge against your enemies might seem like a good idea, but like Hiro and the Masked Man learned, it can’t bring back the lost. An eye for an eye leaves everyone blind.
When you lose people that are close to you, vengeance for their death won’t make you feel better, not really. The best way that you can honor those you love is to live the way they would want you to live. Tadashi created Baymax for a purpose, and he believed that his brother was capable of more than bot-fighting. By going back to school (and becoming a hero), Hiro was able to honor his brother’s memory.
Also, it’s important to face your feelings. By dwelling on revenge and not facing his grief, Hiro wasn’t able to deal with it. By just channeling it all into anger, he wasn’t really facing it. With the help of Baymax, his Aunt, and his friends, he could.
And again, violence for the sake of violence doesn’t solve anything, which is an interesting moral for a superhero movie. The villain uses violence to solve his problems, but the main team of heroes is just trying to catch the bad guys, bring them to justice, and save the city. They aren’t trying to actually hurt anyone, just stop them from hurting others.
Another lesson from Big Hero 6 is that the people we love never really leave us, but it still hurts.
Additionally, life doesn’t always go the way we plan, but we need to be prepared and do our best regardless.
Finally, everyone deals with grief in a different way. While it’s probably not best to just close yourself off from the world for always, some people need to be on their own to process, at least a bit. And there’s nothing wrong with that; people are different, why would we all process the same way?
DOES IT HOLD UP?
Big Hero 6 is another in a long line of Disney movies that I can’t make it through without crying, and it’s one that I recommend to everyone. Disney has always made wonderfully thought-provoking movies, but this one deals with loss in a way that feels real. It’s similar to Brother Bear, but in a new and different way; the emphasis feels to be more on forgiveness and justice than love and justice. Big Hero 6 is a beautiful and funny movie with a ton of Disney, Pixar, and Marvel Easter Eggs. If you haven’t seen it yet, be sure to check it out. Just make sure you have a box of tissues nearby.
Thanks again for joining me for Revisiting Disney!
If you enjoyed this post and the others in the Revisiting Disney series, and have found yourself wishing that you could find them all in one convenient and bound book with eight extra essays, there is an option for you! Check out A Journey Through Disney: My Look Back Through Disney Canon, now available on Amazon as both a Kindle book ($4.99) and a paperback ($11.99).
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Johnston, Ollie and Frank Thomas. The Disney Villain. Hyperion. New York, New York. 1993.
Thomas, Bob. Disney’s Art of Animation From Mickey Mouse to Hercules. Hyperion. New York, New York. 1992.