Retrospective: ‘Big Hero 6’ Turns Five, How Time (and Baymax) Flies

When a young boy volunteers his robot for a fight, the crowd of adults laughs at the simple machine the kid produces. As Hiro (Ryan Potter) puts in his wad of cash, the tables quickly turn. Turns out, this kid is a ringer, and way smarter than his competition. Of course, he might literally be smarter than these gangsters, but he’s not smart enough to avoid showboating. Luckily his brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) is looking out for him.

In the history of Disney Animated films, few felt like they were ahead of their time like Big Hero Six. The Disney film drew loosely on the Big Hero Six comic series but ultimately took some massive departures. Perhaps most important of all, Hiro was made the leader of the team from the word go, skipping over other Marvel characters like The Silver Samurai. It reworks a lot of other elements, especially Baymax (Scott Adsit), who becomes less of a gargoyle and more marshmallow. We get a lot of humor from both Fred (TJ Miller) and Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.). Meanwhile, the ladies Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and Go Go (Jamie Chung) are by far the most competent heroes from the word go. The team dynamics work wonders, and soon, the little team of scientists has become a functioning team.

Ultimately tragedy strikes and the team heads out to avenge Tadashi’s death, all while providing a level of emotional support for Hiro. No character does a better job of this than Baymax, who feels part Winnie the Pooh, part Goofy, and part Wall-E. He’s adorable and clueless, yet he does everything in his power to be the support Hiro needs. There are elements of emotion and care built into this guy, and you can tell it is not just his directive that powers him through the story.

Strangely, the film has taken on a far grander message in the wake of the Trump Presidency. While the villain of the film, who will remain nameless here for spoiler’s sake, approaches the events of the film with rage. There is no reason to the madness, and instead, they want to hurt as many as possible. Rather than use the position given to them to create a brighter future, they ignore the cost of their actions in favor of personal gain. It takes a group of young kids, determined to use their intelligence to benefit others, that ultimately stops the tragedy from spreading. The call to action from this film pushes audiences to approach the world with creativity, rather than simply getting dragged down by what is not possible. That resonates in ways that help Big Hero 6 stand out as a far more complicated film than the world it entered into.

The animation for the film looks just as gorgeous five years later as it did when it released. This was an amazing year for animated films, with How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The LEGO Movie both releasing the same year. Yet the reason why Big Hero 6 triumphed at Oscar must be due to the extremely complex animated sequences throughout. The actual cityscape of San Fransokyo glimmers with each look. The blending of Americana architecture with the beauty of Japanese traditionalism works wonders. The bright lights of technology shine through, and this future world feels like the cultural center of the galaxy.

Perhaps the most important elements of the animation lie in the physics of the world, as well as the movement of the microbot waves. To have thousands of little items moving in tandem is far from an easy element to create. In this case, the microbots move with purpose and with the ability to change the world around them in a moment’s notice. Yet just as integral was the destruction of those bots at the end of the film, and sucking them through a vortex. The level of difficulty cannot be understated, and this could be one of the elements that helped the film win the Oscar.

Big Hero 6‘s true legacy will be the inclusive story it tells. Keep in mind, this came a few years before Zootopia proved that Disney got woke, yet Big Hero 6 never makes a deal about it. In fact, the naturalism conveyed throughout the film fits the world they built. San Fransokyo should be the ideal city of the future, one of diverse people contributing to a bright future. Big Hero 6 may not have the heft of other commentaries on the superhero genre, but it has an emotional heart unlike any other. This one still soars and should be designated one of the high points of Disney’s second renaissance when all is said and done.

GRADE: (½)

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