Saturday 27 December 2014

Munir's Disney Retrospective - Animated Classic #54: Big Hero 6 (2014)

Big Hero 6 is the latest film from WDAS - and also their latest triumph! It would've been easy for the studio to rest on its laurels after Frozen's smashing success, (success that's still resonating today) but it's reassuring to see that the studio has no plans to slow down; Big Hero 6 is the latest proof of that.

Big Hero 6 tells the story of Hiro Hamada, a 14-year old robotics prodigy, who's wasting his life in illegal robot fights. His older brother Tadashi encourages him to join a university, where he meets other smart guys: Wasabi, Go Go Tomago, Honey Lemon and science enthusiast Fred. Tadashi shows Hiro his latest creation, a health care assistant robot named Baymax. Hiro is very enthusiastic to join the university. but when a personal tragedy strikes and a villain emerges, he and his new friends have to use their abilities to stop him instead.

Big Hero 6 is the first Disney film to be based on a Marvel property, but Marvel didn't have much input on the film. The film is pure Disney: adventurous, bold and exciting. The animation is simply beautiful; San Fransokyo is a masterful creation and one of the best settings ever created for a Disney film. The crew blend both of the cities it's based on in a wonderful way, and the influence of East and West is felt throughout the created world. Character designs are also a leap forward as they show more fluidity and diversity. Gone are the days where Disney was struggling with CG animation (see Chicken Little). Their animation is now in the same league as Pixar and DreamWorks.

The cast of characters is one of the most enduring in recent memory. All of the six main characters have distinct personalities and mannerisms that help them stand apart, and for a film that runs for less than two hours long, that's an impressive feat. Obviously though, the relationship between Hiro and Baymax is the heart of the film and the filmmakers execute it superbly. Hiro particularly is a very interesting lead; he's presented as a very smart young guy, but one that has to deal with the hurdles of adolescence and overcome many painful obstacles. He is impulsive and needs someone to support him, and that's exactly what Baymax does. Seeing their friendship develop throughout the film is a beautiful thing. Likewise, the rest of the cast may not be front and centre all the time, but they offer plenty of enjoyment as well.

As with most Disney films, this one deals with plenty of themes, but the most powerful ones are those of grief, loss and recovery. Many Disney films have dealt with death, (Bambi, The Lion King) but Big Hero 6 is the first one that really deals with the aftermath of it. Hiro's grief is essential to the story and it's the element that pushes him to do much of what he does in the movie, both for good and bad. That grief is the source of many inspiring things, but also very dangerous ones, and the film is not afraid to take dark turns to show this. Grief is a very subjective thing and, in Big Hero 6, it's the link that unifies Hiro and the antagonist. How they deal with it is what sets them apart. In a year where animated films have grown bolder and are seemed less afraid to show sensitive things, (like How To Train Your Dragon 2 and The Tale of The Princess Kaguya) it's refreshing to see that Disney is keeping up.

In a nice change of pace, it was delightful to see "nerds" being the main focus of the film and being a group that completely adapts to the challenge instead of being "fish out of water" or the usual misfits they are in most films. The film celebrates the power of the mind and imagination and tells people that it's good to be smart.  Of course, being a superhero film, Big Hero 6 offers plenty of action, too. They may not be as destructive as the ones showcased in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but there's plenty of thrilling sequences here to keep you engaged the whole time.

Big Hero 6 is a film that works on many levels and that's what makes it so good. The film is a tale of grief, love, brotherhood, loyalty and friendship, and it blends all these elements effortlessly. The fact that it's also a superhero film is just the icing on the cake. It would have been easy for Disney to try another fairy tale or to try and repeat Frozen's formula, but fortunately that's not who they are. If Wreck-It Ralph showed a different Disney, willing to try new things, Big Hero 6 is the confirmation of that statement; it's beautiful and resonant film. Bring on the sequel! Rating: 5/5.

Coming in 2016 - Animated Classics #55 and #56:


  1. I finally got to see this the other day which is probably the only bad thing about the film. I really wish Disney would release their WDAS films in a global release and not target markets for their holiday periods. I don't mind getting the film on Boxing Day but living in the internet age has made it really difficult for me to avoid spoilers (which thankfully I did). I also feel bad for people in the UK who will have to continue waiting for this film.

    As for the movie itself I was blown away. It not only met but exceeded all my expectations and I was completely in it the whole time. It was so refreshing to look at my ticket stub and see a movie (especially a blockbuster movie) with such a short runtime given the tendency for studios to release really bloated film these days. And to see all the emotion, humour, character development and action the filmmakers were able to produce in such a short amount of time is something that should make other directors think about how they're going about their own films.

    I really, really liked it. Disney can do no wrong and their last 8 releases (specifically their last 5) should have definitely convinced audiences that they are once again an animation power house. There is very little to fault about this film. I did notice a few parallels to the Iron Giant (which the person I saw it with pointed out too) but that isn't necessarily a bad thing. It totally works and the emotional arcs and the character motivations are enough to not call plagiarism but rather inspiration.

    Top marks for this. The Lego Movie was my favourite for this coming awards season but Big Hero 6 may knock it off its perch. I do want some really distinct honours for Phil Lord and Chris Miller but BH6 is just truly excellent and also deserves a lot of recognition for being so.

    I know I am really talking this film up but I am just so happy with WDAS offerings that I just can't contain my excitement. Even WDAS short films are killing it, Feast was truly excellent as well.

    Also is anyone else getting the sense that Disney might be moving into the sequel game? Frozen and Big Hero 6 almost demand sequels and Wreck-it Ralph would not be undermined if it saw one too. We know that Lasseter isn't against sequels so this really could be a different era for Disney.

  2. I'll love sequels for both Ralph and Big Hero 6 but I hope there's none for Frozen. As with all fairy tales, its story is pretty much over. I don't really see how can they expand that world. Hero and Ralph on the other hand, have endless possibilities.

  3. I think a Frozen sequel isn't needed but I would not be surprised if we got one. It will be really hard for Disney to ignore having the highest grossing animated film of all time sit there by itself as a single feature.

    I could even see them doing something like a Tangled/Frozen crossover seeing as we are living in the dawn of shared cinematic universes. I don't know how the story would work but I'm just expecting to see a really different WDAS who will be aiming to be different and bold.

  4. Well they had The Lion King, which was the highest grossing film for a long time and didn't do a sequel (not at official one at least) so Frozen may stay as one story. However, your theory can also be true and a Tangled/Frozen crossover is an intriguing prospect.

  5. I still don't get why everyone liked this movie so much. Aside from some spectacular visuals and a really cool setting, everything else was kind of cliche and forgettable.

  6. Well I had to take a survey at a theatre for a general thought and what I got is that they love the characters and their personalities and besides the action and comedy, all the raw emotions: from excitement to rage to depression; that made this film one of Disney's most emotional films that they have produced. One mother told me that its not a superhero movie, its a film about moving on, acceptance, revenge and loss with the cover of a superhero film