Sunday, November 9, 2014

"Big Hero 6" is Disney's Latest Success

Let’s face it. After the end of the “Disney Renaissance”, and before Disney’s acquisition of Pixar, the iconic Feature Animation studio was lacking decent movie-going fare, with a few exceptions. If you didn’t believe it, even after Frozen, it’s safe to say that the studio is back in a modern-day renaissance with the release of Big Hero 6.

As is tradition since the purchase of Pixar, all Disney animated features are preceded by a short, so I’ll take a look at Feast. Similarly to Paperman (the short for Wreck-it-Ralph), it is a mix of 2D and 3D animation – a preview of what’s to come in future full-length features. It tells the story of a man through his best friend, his dog Winston. Equally fun and adorable, Feast provides a bit of fluff before the action and comedy of the movie.  

Onto the main feature now. If you’re wondering “How did I miss Big Hero 1-5?” don’t worry about it. They never existed – Big Hero 6 is a movie based off the Marvel Comics team of the same name. This film won’t be connected to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, mainly due to the logistics of having to connect two worlds together. Although… after watching it, a sequel is definitely plausible – there’s plenty of room for world and character development, and the characters are lovable. I’m wondering if the crew slacked on these two components as a plan to leave it open-ended enough for a few more films. 

Again, the animation is stellar – perhaps even more so than Frozen. The concept and setting of San Fransokyo (a port-manteau of San Francisco and Tokyo) is absolutely stunning and beautiful, although I’d wish that the team spent a bit more time developing the citizens and the feel of the city. A few new software suites allow for beautiful lighting and unique crowd characters – not just people based off the same model.  

The story follows with similar Disney movies. In recent years, the studio has proven it can make more than just princess movies well – as in the case of Wreck-it-Ralph. While the plot is unique, it does take pointers from “the Disney formula” – mainly dead parents (seriously guys, problems can occur in families with living parents too). Of course, this is meant with no offense to anyone.

They’ve also diversified their characters – partly in thanks to the setting (Japanese/American), which is great. Unfortunately, not much time is spent developing each of the team’s members, aside from Hiro and Baymax, as the movie fits into a relatively short run time. However, their personalities are distinct and everyone can find at least one character that they can connect with. GoGo is a great role model for young girls – an outspoken, confident woman who takes care of the situation when the going gets tough – similarly to Colette from Ratatouille. The other three – Fred, Honey Lemon, and Wasabi, provide unique personalities to the group as well, but are underdeveloped.

Baymax is definitely the film’s breakout character (perhaps the year’s breakout character) and Disney knows it. He was put in virtually every marketing piece the studio showed, for good reason too. Unfortunately, Disney still can’t really get their trailer-game together and they still spoil certain elements.

What’s great about the film is that it places science and technology front and centre. Exposing these to younger audiences will definitely inspire and interest them in this field – exposure that’s sorely lacking in films of this genre. While not exactly accurate (can you blame them? It’s a movie for crying out loud), some of this tech portrayed in the film is similar to modern-day elements, but of course, better.

The action scenes play out as per most superhero movies, but with fewer explosions, and I suppose I’m thankful for that. A small training montage is all they need, similarly to Mulan, played for laughs in its entirety.

Big Hero 6 focuses more on fun and laughter than is the usual for Disney films, possibly due to its Marvel origins, but it’s for the better. The first and second act of the film are hilarious to watch and running gags always succeed. Kids and adults alike will love the movie’s jokes. Baymax is the source of the majority of the laughter (and “aww”s) of the film, and his character is an essential part of the film’s success and resonance.

The soundtrack for Big Hero 6 is composed by Henry Jackman (Wreck-it-Ralph, Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Unfortunately, this one doesn’t project feelings as well as the other two. The inclusion of “Immortals”, by Fall Out Boy was awkwardly placed, but “Eye of the Tiger” fit in well. Either way, not a major game changer, but still, a bit disappointing.

The film definitely extends Disney’s winning streak at the box office now, starting with their release of The Princess and the Frog back in 2009, although that’s debatable – some will say it started earlier. This superhero team proves that Wreck-it-Ralph wasn’t simply a fluke, and I look forwards to any future action films from the studio. Some components were lacking – character development, a touch of story, and the soundtrack. It succeeds despite these minor wounds, all thanks to Baymax.

Big Hero 6 plays out as a superhero origin film that has basically everything you’d expect from a mashup of Disney Animation and Marvel characters – laughter, fun, and feels.

Oh – one last thing. You should probably wait till the end of the movie for a post-credits scene, as is common with Marvel films (or a Marvel-based one in this case).

Big Hero 6:  B+

Opening Date: 7 November 2014
Distributor: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures
Production: Walt Disney Animation Studios
Voices: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Genney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr. Genesis Rodriguez
Directors: Don Hall, Chris Williams
Writers: Robert L. Baird, Daniel Gerson, Jordan Roberts
Story: Paul Briggs, Don Hall, Joseph Mateo, Chris Williams
Producer: Roy Conli
Executive Producer: John Lasseter
Production Designer: Paul A. Felix
Editor: Tim Mertens
Music: Henry Jackman
Adapted From: Big Hero 6, Duncan Rouleau, Steven T. Seagle
Rated PG, 108 minutes.