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By Tom Glasson
December 23, 2014
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By Tom Glasson
December 23, 2014
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Disney and Marvel. When the union was forged, many wondered whether it would be death of both or the start of something special. Then The Avengers made about a trillion dollars and it looked like things might be okay. Key to the acquisition was Disney’s hands-off approach, guaranteeing the gritty Marvel world would not suddenly be required to include musical numbers like: “I’m a Wolverine and I’m the best you’ve ever seen”.

The latest offering — Big Hero 6 — is a Disney movie based on a Marvel comic that perhaps 11 people in the world have ever heard of. That meant the Disney team could largely ignore the source material and simply ‘Frankengrab’ the parts they liked, which in this case was little more than the film’s title.

The action takes place in the city of San Fransokyo, a portmanteau blending not just names but also architecture, with the iconic San Francisco Bay playing backdrop to a very aesthetically Asian metropolis. Living in it are the bothers Hamada: technology prodigies who direct their talents in wildly different arenas. Hiro builds robots for underground gambling, while his older brother, Tadashi, tries repeatedly to entice him to the prestigious Institute of Technology. When tragedy strikes, Hiro finds himself inadvertently partnered up with Tadashi's prototype robot ‘Baymax', and it’s here that Big Hero 6 hits its stride.

Baymax is, quite simply, a revelation. Tender, naive and scene-stealingly funny, he’s a bulbous inflatable carer-bot, a sort of Stay Puft Marshmallow Man with a med degree. Voiced by Scott Adsit (30 Rock), Baymax is singular in purpose: he wants to help people. But with several kinks yet to be ironed out, his efforts often prove more troublesome than beneficial. Add to the mix a mysterious, murderous villain who compels Hiro to train Baymax in martial arts and you get a Kung Fu Panda adventure mixed with the traditional Disney themes of loss, love and learning.

There is, of course, a video game undercurrent to the action, because tied into the release of Big Hero 6 is a video game; however, the blend of characters, comedy and carnage is in the right ratio. The animation is also spectacular. Speaking at the screening, producer Roy Conli showed us some of the new technology developed specifically for this film to be made, and none was more impressive than the world-building engine responsible for San Fransokyo. The city is enormous and unbelievably detailed. It feels real, which keeps the story grounded when it might otherwise stray too far into silliness.

The star, though, is Baymax. Adsit’s ability to emote through an expressionless blob is a giant accomplishment, responsible for more than few tears and sniffles throughout. Big Hero 6 may not be quite up to the level of Pixar in terms of story, but it’s still a great addition to the Disney family of films and one that all members of the family will enjoy.

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