‘Big Hero 6’ a relationship animation about loving brothers

By Wendell Gaa

Watching the Oscar ceremony telecast, I was euphoric to see that the Disney film “Big Hero 6” won the Best Animated Feature Award.

Seeing co-director Don Hall express gratitude to the Academy on behalf of the film’s entire production staff was all the more meaningful considering that I personally got to meet and congratulate him, together with his co-director Chris Williams, at the 2014 New York Comic Con premiere of the film.

Now I happened to come upon this online complaint about how the film winning the award was just yet another unfair example of how Disney has been “monopolizing” the Best Animated Film category with its fantastic Oscar winning streak for the past few years, at the expense of other deserving animated movies. I’d have to say the opposite holds true, since there is a good reason why the Disney brand by name itself merits the entertainment company’s legendary reputation for animated artistic excellence. And “Big Hero 6” is a fine example of this.

Loosely based on the Marvel Comics series of the same name, this film tells the story of a young robotic science student prodigy named Hiro Hamada who lives in the fictional futuristic metropolis of San Fransokyo (an obvious acronym to a cross city between San Francisco and Tokyo), who spends his leisurely time taking part in amusing underground toy robot fight matches. His older brother Tadashi, seeing how Hiro has a knack for robotic genius, decides to take him under his wing to enroll at his university with a prestigious technology program. Tadashi first introduces him to his friends at the university’s robotic center, a quirky yet endearing youth group made up of GoGo, Fred, Honey Lemon, Wasabi, and the loveable Baymax, a huge inflatable robot created by Tadashi to serve as a loyal and unswerving companion.

The author with Oscar winning co-director Don Hall…

The author with Oscar winning co-director Don Hall…

Tadashi also introduces Hiro to his mentor Professor Callaghan, dean of the university’s robotics program, who gives Hiro a chance to prove his abilities and enroll in the school by participating in a science fair and exhibiting his creations, specialized microbots which can link together in any shape or form by mere thought alone. Soon however, tragedy erupts, and Hiro loses his brother and the professor in a mysterious fire which disrupts the fair.

Depressed and despondent, Hiro refuses to accept academic offers from any university, and alienates himself from his newfound friends and even his supportive guardian aunt Cass. But he soon finds solace in the company of Baymax, in whom he sees as the last remaining part of his brother’s presence in his life. Baymax provides comfort (and comic relief) acting as a surrogate brother to Hiro, then using his robotic sensory instinctively leads the two to an abandoned warehouse where they discover that someone has been mass-producing Hiro’s microbots for some wicked purpose.

The culprit is a mysterious masked man named Yokai, whom Hiro also suspects is responsible for his brother’s death. Yokai uses his mental powers to control the microbots to do his evil bidding, going so far as to try to eliminate Hiro and Baymax.

…and actor Ryan Potter, who voiced the protagonist Hiro Hamada

…and actor Ryan Potter, who voiced the protagonist Hiro Hamada

Realizing they are outmatched, the two are able to escape with the help of their friends from Tadashi’s university lab. As they regroup to face the threat which Yokai poses to all of San Fransokyo, they decide to form a superhero team to protect the city, hence the movie’s very name “Big Hero 6.” Hiro, GoGo, Honey Lemon, Wasabi and Fred then create their own specialized superhero suits and weapons, while Baymax is equipped with hi-tech armor and a combat program to ward off the bad guys.

This film is just an outright delight, and reinforces the strong themes of friendship which Disney has time and again been renowned for. The power of family is particularly a recurring message in “Big Hero 6” as it was in Disney’s other Marvel hit from last year, “Guardians of the Galaxy.”

If the spirit behind “Guardians” was the mother-son relationship between that film’s main hero Peter Quill/Starlord and his mom, then the heart and soul of “Big Hero 6” is no doubt the loving brother relationship between Hiro and Tadashi, which later in turn so beautifully manifests itself in the strong bond formed between Hiro and Baymax.

The CGI animation here is top-notch, and a strong follow-up to last year’s Disney mega-hit “Frozen.” The voice casting here is also packed with star power, including past Oscar nominee James Cromwell (Professor Callaghan), “Saturday Night Live” alumna Maya Rudolph (Aunt Cass), and teenage newcomer Ryan Potter (Hiro), who I also got to meet at the New York Comic Con film premiere. Of course no Marvel film would be complete without a cameo by Marvel Comics legend Stan Lee, and this movie is definitely no exception!

Now that “Big Hero 6” is out on DVD and Blu Ray, there is just no excuse for anyone to miss out on it. Check it out for yourself and see how it truly deserves this year’s Oscar for Best Animated Feature.

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