The big Disney film Big Hero 6 is an imaginative action-comedy about a teenage boy, his group of misfit friends and an inflatable robot named Baymax who isn’t the big softie he looks to be. The movie, according to co-director Don Hall, is a mash-up of Disney’s humor and humanity and Marvel Comics’ superhero action adventures.
If you aren’t familiar with the comic Big Hero 6, you aren’t alone. It’s a little-known title that Hall came across while exploring the Marvel database. Hall’s co-director, Chris Williams, believes the comic’s obscurity worked to their advantage. “We were able to make it our own,” Williams says, “and make something wholly new.”
One new element is the film’s setting, the fictitious city of San Fransokyo. The directors wanted to combine the comic’s Japanese origins with San Francisco’s iconic cityscape, creating a setting Hall says has “heightened reality, but still feels lived in and fun.”
The robot Baymax also gets a big makeover. A fierce looking robot in the comic book, the Baymax in the film looks like a cute, oversized marshmallowy snowman. This film version is based on Hall’s research on soft-robotic technology being developed at Carnegie Mellon University. The directors aimed for the film to be set five to 10 years in the future, but found that the technology advanced faster than they had anticipated during the three years it took to make the movie.
While Big Hero 6, which comes out Nov. 7, marks the first time Williams (co-director of Bolt) and Hall (director of Winnie the Pooh) have teamed up to create a film. They have worked together over the years at Disney Animation. Disney Animation chief John Lasseter offered support and advice, stressing the importance of research as the foundation for creating the film’s world and urging Williams and Hall to find the best voice actor for each role, rather than just seeking out a well-known name.
Hall and Williams say they think audiences of all ages will connect with the unique tone of Big Hero 6, which blends a fun comedy that has a lot of heart with an action-filled mystery story.