Schoolhouse Rock: Disney Edition
From the creators of “Wreck-It Ralph” and “Frozen,” Disney’s newest animated feature “Big Hero 6” debuted on the big screen Nov. 7. Teaming up with the current cinema powerhouse Marvel Entertainment and Pixar mastermind John Lasseter, Disney ventures to fuse the fanatic superhero movement with vivid animation to build an Avengers-like franchise of original characters geared toward younger, up-and-coming heroes.
Fortunately for parents, Disney does not advertise the injection of super serums, exposure to radioactivity, or god-like arrogance. Set in the hybrid city of San Fransokyo, “Big Hero 6” emphasizes self-made heroes through science, knowledge and “nerd school.”
Our youngest hero, creatively named Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) is a 14-year-old prodigy, a high school graduate with a “big brain.” The story begins with Hiro dialed into the illegal practice of “bot fighting,” where he hustles his way into a jackpot and trouble with the police. Hiro’s older, brilliant brother Tadashi tries to rewire his destructive little brother by exposing Hiro to the university of robotics and encourages him to apply and expand his powers of genius.
Hiro viciously complains about the quick visit to Tadashi’s “nerd school,” but stands in awe of the highly sophisticated “nerd lab.” Hiro is introduced to Tadashi’s rag-tag group of friends — fiercely feminist Go Go Tomego, obsessively compulsive Wasabi, chemist wiz Honey Lemon and the science bro “enthusiast” Fred. These dynamic characters create electric dialogue and laugh out loud moments for the audience.
When Hiro decides to apply to the university, tragedy strikes, and he finds his newest invention being used by a “guy in a Kabuki mask” — thus the Big Hero 6 origin story begins to unfold.
While Tadashi’s “nerd” friends later become the spokes of the Big Hero 6 wheel, the hub of the group is Tadashi’s healthcare robot Baymax, the white, marshmallow-looking robot that has been plastered alongside the movie title. Baymax, voiced masterfully by Scott Adsit, is the catalyst for the rise and fall of emotional tension, laughter and heartbreak during the film.
Adsit’s warm voice rivals last year’s Olaf from the blockbuster “Frozen” for this year’s best new Disney character. Baymax’s smothering, motherly-like coding for aiding his “patients,” contrasts drastically with his innocence and inexperience in the highly-urbanized setting. While his programming is clueless to sarcasm and subtle jabs, at times echoing Drax from “Guardians of the Galaxy,” Baymax is quick to learn fist pumps and Hiro’s context of the word “sick!” and delivers lessons in a dry, deadpan, robotic tone that had the audience roaring with laughter.
Comedic timing was huge for “Big Hero 6,” and it was often found in the most detailed and subtle moments amid the rip-roaring action sequences of hero/Hiro-training and combat. Disney animation emphasizes the quirky characteristics of each character, especially in Hero and Tadashi’s stress-eating Aunt Cass.
The movie was visually appealing, colorful and bright. Based off a Japanese manga series, the animators seemed to emphasize audience immersion in the futuristic city. The minute background Japanese culture is highly integrated with San Francisco’s eccentric characteristics. Aunt Cass’ corner coffee shop and bakery, located next to a steep, haphazardly paved road, is inadequately concealed by a web of streetcar and trolley wires suspended tautly above, while Japanese advertisements plaster the billboards and sides of the streetcars.
As per Disney movies, “Big Hero 6” suffers through a few haywire moments and miscalculations, but after a reprogramming of intentions, the team becomes strong and unified. The movie’s end hints at a “Big Hero 7,” as the team has only just solidified their “college students by day, superheroes by night” dynamic.
As Baymax would ask, “Are you satisfied with your care?”
Yes, Baymax, I am very satisfied. Thank you for your contribution to a new Disney classic that earns the right to be shelved alongside the other Marvel films, adding to the current generation of big screen superhero epics geared for younger and young-at-heart audiences.
RECOMMENDED: “Big Hero 6” finds a new Marvel-esque group of superheroes with Disney quirks geared for the hard drives of all audiences.