Reviews

'Big Hero 6' Bursts at the Seams With Emotion

Big Hero 6 demonstrates how Disney does animated storytelling like no other.


Big Hero 6

Distributor: Disney
Cast: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Daman Wayans, Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph
Directors: Don Hall and Chris Williams
Rated: PG
Blu-ray: Big Hero 6 Collector's Edition
US DVD release date: 2015-02-24

There's some irony in the fact that John Lasseter was fired by Disney in the early '80s, only to return and breathe new life into an animation division that was floundering artistically compared to Pixar. Disney's animated efforts have entered a new golden age, and Big Hero 6 is one of several films that demonstrate the energy Lasseter brought with him when the company acquired Pixar.

I admit I was unsure about this film when I saw the early teaser trailers. Sure, they were funny, and my kids reacted well to them, but moviemaking -- and by extension, trailer assembly -- has gotten to the point where most filmmakers today understand how to entertain people at a basic level: throw in some physical jokes, put in the right number of beats for the funny and emotional moments, give us some broad emotions and big characters, and top it all off with a few great set pieces, and you're 75 percent of the way there.

Of course, it's that final 25 percent where many movies stumble, but that final piece is something that Lasseter and his crew at Pixar always understood. He brought that same philosophy to Disney, and it's why a movie like Big Hero 6 works, even if it uses a lot of well-worn tropes. The film is not afraid to take some chances, and as a result we can't help but be drawn into its world and want to root for its characters.

I was reminded of Up, which took a big chance early in the film when its elderly curmudgeon, Carl Fredricksen, hit someone on the head and ended up in court. That moment could have derailed the whole story, but the film had done such a great job of making me sympathize with the guy up to that point that I didn't mind a little dark turn adding some texture to the plot.

There's a similar event in Big Hero 6. I won't spoil it, but when the protagonist, 14-year-old robotics genius Hiro Hamada, runs smack dab into a life-shattering event, I knew this was a film that had learned some lessons from the Pixar philosophy. That event is the catalyst that leads to the formation of a superhero team (origin story, anyone?), each of whom brings a unique skill to their crimefighting.

The Big Hero 6 team is comprised of students from the university attended by Hiro's older brother. Each embodies a certain type: Wasabi is a neat freak; GoGo is athletic; Honey Lemon is quirky; and Fred is a laid-back doofus who comes from a rich family and has more going on below the surface. The four of them join Hiro and his older brother's childlike robot, Baymax, to investigate some shenanigans being perpetrated by Krei Tech, a major robotics company whose experiments with teleportation took an unfortunate turn. I'm probably not spoiling anything when I say that the Big Hero 6 team eventually saves the day.

This Collector's Edition includes the film on DVD and Blu-ray discs, along with a code for a digital download. The Blu-ray also includes a nice smattering of bonus features. These include Feast, the short film that played before Big Hero 6 in theaters. I was glad when Pixar resurrected that old tradition, and I appreciate it continuing with Disney.

There are also three deleted scenes, with an introduction by the directors. Two alternate opening scenes are included, along with an omitted heist scene, as well as a fun blooper reel. The explanation of why the original attempts at the first scene were abandoned should be of interest to anyone who likes to think about the basic blocks of storytelling. The more people who are exposed to those ideas, the better.

A 15-minute featurette digs into how the Marvel comic book was translated to the big screen and the changes that were made along the way. It's a bummer that this doesn't cover more territory. If that wasn't possible, a commentary track would have been nice, had there been one included. Another featurette running seven minutes long shines a spotlight on the animation supervisors who help breathe life into characters by making the decisions an actor would normally make. It is very nice to see the unheralded folks of moviemaking get their due.

Last, there is a brief piece that covers the movie's Easter eggs, such as the various Frozen references found in the backgrounds.

8

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