Disney’s dapper 3-D computer-animated cartoon, Big Hero 6, which looks more like a Pixar movie, but is a superhero film based on a Marvel comic book (thus look for the Stan Lee nod), has taken its portmanteau San Fransokyo (yes, a mixture of San Diego, Frankfurt and Tokyo) story location one step further. They further quasi-Tokyoed up the toon’s flubbery balloon-ish, untired Michellin, non chef pillsbury doughboy, marshmellow-esque hero by naming it after SONY’S betamax VCR line…Baymax.
Created to be doctor that also loves soccer, where was Baymax this past summer when Brazil’s Neymar was injured an unable to play in the World Cup semi-final? Developing a voice that’s a cross between the ever gentle, but possibly vicious robot Hal 9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey with the gentle twang of Pixar’s Wall-E. Add in that the human hero is named Hiro and his soon to be five best friends are hi-tech geeks all have superhero wannabe aspirations to fight a kabuki-masked villain with a samurai sword to grind, and you have the makings of a robcom revenge thriller filled with Disney’s usual feel-good fortune cookie (invented by the Japanese) pieces of life advice that arises due an intense sense of doom and the required death of a main character.
In a bolts and nutshell, 14-year-old prodigy, Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter), who graduated from high school at 13, has delinquently been avoiding his mum’s hope that he’ll one day reach his true potential. Instead he gallivants around the city gambling away his money in back-alley, robotic fight clubs, where he tests his microbot creation against the local champion robot operated by a Steven Seagal lookalike.
When his big brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), is killed in a fiery explosion, the grieving Hiro finds comfort in the companionship provided by Tadashi’s invention…Baymax.
Yet when he discovers that Tadashi’s death was not an accident but the result of evil plot for a villain to steal Hiro’s morphing pellet bots, he rallies Tadashi’s fellow geek troops to go after the culprit. After upgrading Baymax with crime-fighting specs, he inspires each of Tadashi’s friends to use their ingenuity to develop their own superhero alter-egos.
The film’s big-ticket action sequences, while unmistakably state of the art, ultimately fall short of matching the visual exuberance of those mind blowing San Fransokyo city backdrops, which present a seamless fusion of traditional Japanese and Victorian-influenced American architecture.
Maya Rudolph leads the A-one voice cast as the nurturing Aunt Cass, who raises Hiro and Tadashi after their parents tragically died…another successful Disney, heart tugging win over thematic device.
Side note end: Watch for the screening of the cutely animated short Feast, which features a dog’s-eye-view take on life, love and especially food.