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: