Title: Big Hero 6
Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Major Players: Voices – Scott Adsit, James Cromwell
Out Of Five: Four – and an extra half for Feast!
Remember when going to the cinema meant seeing two films – the main movie and the support feature? Yes, I know it’s a long time ago, but it looks like Disney is tinkering with a return to those days, with the release with its first animation of 2015 – Big Hero 6. It comes with a companion piece, the short animation Feast. And both are Oscar nominated this year.
Big Hero 6 is set in the mythical mash-up of San Fransokyo, where gifted science nerd Hiro (voice of Ryan Potter) earns a place at the technology institute, after some pushing from his big brother Tadashi (voice of Daniel Henney). Hiro is devastated when Tadashi dies in a fire, but is comforted by his brother’s friends and one of his experiments, a healthcare robot called Baymax. And when Hiro discovers that his one of his own inventions is being used to threaten the city, they all – Baymax included – come together to stop the forces of evil.
It’s another Marvel story, but an especially little known one and, according to producer Roy Conli, Disney was given carte blanche to do exactly what they wanted with the story. So the creation of San Franksokyo is very much a Mouse House concept, and Baymax is unlike any other robot you’ve ever seen – soft, squidgy, cuddly and very much XXL. While young Hiro is the central character in the film, it’s Baymax who’s the real star and it’s remarkable that what is essentially an inanimate object can show such caring and command such affection from the audience.
He’s also delightfully funny, the laugh-out-loud sequences coming when he needs re-charging. The effect on him of a low battery is hilarious: as he slowly deflates, he becomes floppy and behaves as if he were drunk, swaying all over the place, slurring his words and blinking very slowly. I did worry that, as the climax approached, his battery might run out again, but clearly Hiro had been making sure he was re-charged regularly.
Curiously, when Hiro and his friends turn into superheroes, Baymax loses something. Despite trying his best, he doesn’t really understand the world around him and his resulting awkwardness is one of the things that we love about him. But in his superhero suit, that’s gone and, as the team fight to save the city, some of the heart goes out of our favourite robot and the film as a whole.
With all its glamour science and intricately created setting, Disney is clearly targeting a teenage audience with the film, despite its PG certificate. And it has its eye on the lucrative Far East market as well, but that doesn’t mean it’s forgotten its core audience. The Disney values are all there – supportive families, fighting against the odds for a good cause etc – and the animation is as good as you’d expect. The 3-D comes into its own in the action sequences, although yet again there’s the almost mandatory spectacular flying scene – as per How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Maleficent. They’re in danger of becoming rather samey.
The film finishes in such a way that it looks like there’s a sequel on the cards – Big Hero 6 is essentially the back-story for how the group came together. I’m not convinced that there’s enough for a second film, but that takes nothing away from what is a hugely entertaining and, despite its high-tech setting, a traditional warm-hearted family movie.
Big Hero 6’s companion piece, Feast, is the story of Winston, a stray Boston terrier who’s rescued from the streets. His new owner’s life is viewed through the dog’s eyes – and through the copious quantities of food he consumes. This is a mutt with quite an appetite!
It’s just six minutes long and a delight from start to finish. There’s next to no dialogue – Winston barks more than the people speak – but the story is transparent. Its four legged hero is irresistible and, although Disney is being very coy about the possibility of him getting his own feature film, he’s got more than enough character.
If you like animals of any description – it doesn’t have to be dogs – you won’t fail to be captivated. And feel a lump in your throat.
Big Hero 6 and Feast are released together around the UK on Friday, 30 January.