Animation is a genre that director Don Hall has excelled in. After making his debut as director of animation film Winnie the Pooh, Hall’s next, Big Hero is an adaptation of Marvel comic book. The story is set in San Francisco, “mashed up with Tokyo,” says Hall, further adding that, “It felt more interesting as a setting-more playful and exotic. It was something we could create. And the visual possibilities of those two cities-which are pretty different aesthetically-mashed together felt like a really cool place to set the story.”
The narrative in this action-packed, comedy adventure drama revolves around the special bond that develops between Baymax, a plus-sized inflatable robot, and prodigy Hiro Hamada. When a devastating event befalls the city of ‘San Fransokyo’ and catapults Hiro into the midst of danger, he turns to Baymax and his close friends adrenaline junkie Go Go Tomago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and fanboy Fred. Determined to uncover the mystery, Hiro transforms his friends into a band of high-tech heroes called Big Hero 6. But, what is unusual about this robot is that instead of a metal and machine version, the makers have conceived of him as a soft, over-sized snowman type of figure in white.
Fascinated by Marvel’s comic book characters, Hall as a kid devoured all the stories released under the label. “I was encouraged to explore the Marvel universe and one of the projects I found was Big Hero 6. I’d never heard of it, but I liked the title and its Japanese influences-it just sounded cool.”
Part of the process involved researching the robotics world to find Baymax. Hall spent some time with researchers at Carnegie Mellon. “We had some really great conversations about robots in pop culture. I learned that they were actually researching soft robotics, including this vinyl arm that was inflatable and non-threatening. It could do simple things like brush somebody’s teeth, but the possibilities were endless,” explains Hall on the unusual portrayal of Baymax, as he liked the idea of a soft non-threatening robot and the possibility of what it could become. “A big part of this movie is that Hiro turns this compassionate nurse robot into a meched-out warrior with some dangerous consequences at stake,” reveals Hall.
Shot in 3 D printing, the film has been co-directed by Chris Williams (Bolt), and produced by Roy Conli (Tangled).
Big Hero 6 to the rescue at new-look Tokyo film festival
Hello Kitty and Doraemon anime characters strutted their stuff on the red carpet recently as Disney’s Big Hero 6 kicked off a new-look Tokyo film festival that taps into Japan’s love of animation. The 27th Tokyo International Film Festival, (October 23 to 31) held special events alongside the main festival, including a Japanese food fair aimed at promoting Japan’s cultural and content industries.
Big Hero 6, Disney Animation’s next big feature after last year’s hit, Frozen, centers on the bond between 14-year-old Hiro Hamada and the inflatable robot Baymax, as they and their friends battle a Kabuki-masked villain who has stolen Hiro’s microbot technology. The 3D comedy-adventure, which screened out of competition, takes place in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo, a mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo, and Japanese viewers will easily recognise the influence of Tokyo life and landmarks in the film. “The film has such a strong Japanese influence. It is a love letter to Japan,” Don Hall, co-director of Big Hero 6, said on the red carpet at Tokyo’s Roppongi Hills.
Big Hero 6 is only the second animated film to open the Tokyo festival, and is the first Walt Disney animation movie to do so. Other anime highlights are a section on the works of Evangelion animator Hideaki Anno, and Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto will premiere in 3D his PIKMIN Short Movies, based on Nintendo’s Pikmin game characters.
Japan is keen to boost its cultural exports and tourism by promoting its entertainment, fashion and other creative content under the government’s “Cool Japan Initiative.”
John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Disney Animation and Pixar, will hold a talk session on “Cool Japan”. 15 films will vie in the main competition section for the festival’s top Sakura prize. Five are world premieres, including the lone Japanese entry Pale Moon. Many others are making their Asian premieres after screening at Toronto and other festivals, including French-Belgian crime thriller The Connection and drama 1001 Grams, Norway’s Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film.
Guardians of the Galaxy director James Gunn heads the competition jury. Reflecting the greater emphasis on anime and superheroes, costumed characters mingled with movie stars on the red carpet.