directors Don Hall, Chris Williams
viewed: 11/23/2014 at the Presidio Theater, SF, CA
Big Hero 6 is Disney’s latest very good digitally animated feature. The run of success that the studio has been on since Tangled (2010) isn’t necessarily unprecedented, but given where the studio sat in relation to other animation studios, most namely Pixar, as the turn to digital animation became so dominant, it’s still very impressive and worth noting.
Disney and Pixar are of course at this time virtually the same animal. Pixar’s John Lasseter sat in as producer on this Disney film, Disney having absorbed Pixar a few years back has caused me to wonder about the branding and prioritization at the studios in recent years. Pixar has been stuck in a sequel-churn while Disney has had successes with digital princess films like Tangled and Frozen (2013) as well as more (dare I say it?) boy-oriented fare like Wreck-It Ralph (2012) and now Big Hero 6. It’s kind of like you can see where the talent and dollars have been spent over the last few years…and it’s paid off.
It really makes me wonder about Pixar’s future. They do have an original film due out next summer, Inside Out (2015), which at least “looks like” an original Pixar film, not just another knock-off sequel (of which I’ve also read they have a few due out (Finding Dory (2016), Toy Story 4 (2017), The Incredibles 2 (TBA), Cars 3 (TBA)).
Big Hero 6 is the best film of its kind since Pixar’s The Incredibles (2004). It’s a more action-adventure style of animated feature. Like The Incredibles, it’s also a superhero film, as well. Though in this case, it’s adapted from a Marvel comic, an established set of characters and storylines (perhaps thusfar the ultimate of the massive Disney enterprise of its multitude of pop cultural holdings, fusing together into commercial products for us and our families).
It’s slick and entertaining. Clara totally loved it. Felix thought it was pretty good. Me, at first I was really, really enjoying it, but by the end the magic had worn a little thin and clichéd.
The animation, particularly the character animation of Baymax, the big balloon-like robot, is terrific. It’s all set in San Fransokyo (a San Francisco/Tokyo mash-up world of the story), which is also wonderfully rendered (I was actually struck how cool it is to watch a movie with a set so beautifully imagined that is essentially the city in which we are watching the film. SF-local bias.)
It’s the story of robot-maker nerds and their passion for science and technological advancement. Hiro (the movie’s “hero”) is the younger brother to Tadashi, who inspired his younger sibling to go to college, meet his peers, turn his passion for invention into a professional career with positive goals. Only Tadashi gets killed early on (proof that this isn’t exactly the soft-and-fuzzy little kid-friendly Disney-type story but one with vaguely more adult themes and villains. Tadashi has left Baymax, his non-threatening medical professional balloon ‘bot behind. Eventually Jiro groups the college science nerds and Baymax into a superhero team to fight a Kabuki-masked villain.
The first part of the film is its best, especially the scenes with Baymax in various states of inflation, working his way around the 3D environment. It’s the scenes with Baymax that have the real flair of beautifully-rendered digital animation that we’ve come to expect from Pixar.
In the end, the adventure and thrills are still a lot of fun. At least there are no musical numbers that tweens will be singing for the next millennia to come til we all go insane and stab our ears out.