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When a devastating turn of events catapults them into the midst of a dangerous plot unfolding in the streets of San Fransokyo, robotics prodigy Hiro turns to his companion robot Baymax and his diverse group of friends — adrenaline junkie Go Go Tomago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and fanboy Fred — who transform into a band of unlikely heroes. (From Disney’s official synopsis)

 Big Hero 6
Big Hero 6 isn’t merely the latest film in Disney’s animation line (which appears to have officially abandoned hand-drawn/2D animation, once again) – it’s the first time the studio has snagged something for themselves from their Marvel acquisition. Until now, all the Marvel titles under the Mouse House roof have been part of one big, ongoing, live-action movie continuity. Even the animated shows were restructured and rebooted to fit together. Big Hero 6 is a standalone endeavor and hopefully its financial success has broadened the possibilities of film/animated adaptations based on some of Marvel’s quirkier properties – the ones that won’t fit with the billion-dollar Marvel Movie Universe franchises (at least not for a very long time).

Not to imply that Big Hero 6 is particularly unconventional subject matter. It’s actually a more kid-friendly spin on some pretty common superhero tropes. Co-creators Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau are better known as one half (along with Joe Casey and Joe Kelly) of Man of Action Studios, a conglomerate of comic book writers and artists that grew into an action animation think tank. Man of Action created Cartoon Network’s popular Ben 10 and Generator Rex shows before Disney snagged them and stuck them on Ultimate Spider-Man and Avengers Assemble, two of the three current ongoing Marvel cartoons on Disney XD. More or less everything they’ve done has been a (usually acceptable) variation on a common theme and predisposed toward appealing to teenagers.

 Big Hero 6
Having never read the comic, I can’t speak as to how much Don Hall and Chris Williams’ movie has in common with Man of Action’s original work, but its characters, themes, and plotting are all par for the course in terms of superhero origin story and team-up fodder. Jordan Roberts, Dan Gerson, and Robert L. Baird’s script really only separates itself from other recent mainstream comic stuff by emphasizing science and tech over inherited super powers and psychical endowments – though a legion of Japanese animated shows have already extensively covered that subject. In relation to this, Big Hero 6 sometimes feels like it’s about a decade and a half too late to an era where mimicking anime traditions was still chic. Regardless of fidelity with the comic, it certainly checks a lot of boxes in the typical Disney animated formula, including dead family members, adopted family units, and unrequited destinies and shares commonalities with Brad Bird’s The Incredibles (which was a semi-adaptation of the Fantastic Four, anyway) and Shawn Levy’s robot street fighting movie, Real Steel, both of which Disney distributed. Habitual and predictable plotting aside, Big Hero 6 doesn’t dumb down its sci-fi aspects for the kiddie audience and has a lot of funny, charming dialogue; beneath the coming-of-age and superhero trappings are a number of good life lessons. The methodically placed second act crisis carries real emotional weight, too.

Mileage will obviously vary for adult viewers, but I imagine even the biggest detractors will have nice things to say about the animation. The character designs suffer the usual generic Disney humanisms – if it wasn’t for the (most welcome) cultural diversity, the majority of these guys could fit into the foregrounds of Tangled and Frozen – but the animation itself is top-notch stuff. Expressions and bodily movements walk a delicate line between wonderfully exaggerated/elastic and recognizably human. Except, of course, Baymax, whose shifty, wiggly robot motions are continuously adorable (I could watch his walk cycle for hours). The slapstick gags land with precision and the silly stuff doesn’t overwhelm the more rigid, physics-limited action sequences. The key word is ‘balance’ – balance between live-action conventions and the pure, unadulterated freedom that animation allows.

 Big Hero 6

Video


Big Hero 6 is yet another all-digital production that’s given plenty of love from Disney, not to mention space on a BD50. This 1080p, 2.40:1 2D Blu-ray (there has been no 3D release announced at this time) looks about as perfect and blemish-free as one would expect, given the movie’s price tag and the studio’s history with good-looking HD transfers. The standout bits are probably the heavily detailed, ‘ Blade Runner without the gloom’ cityscapes, which mix contrasting shadows/highlights with dramatic fog effects and neon hues. But the whole film is brimming with differentiated location types, each with their own fine textures, varying focal lengths, and dynamic colour schemes. I did notice some banding effects between softer, usually transitional shots, but no uptakes in digital noise or other compression effects, like edge haloes or cross-colouration. I imagine that the scenes of Hiro’s steely black microbots attacking our heroes en masse, in particular, would likely wreak havoc with clarity on a standard definition release.

 Big Hero 6

Audio


The perfect HD image is met with an aggressive and super-precise DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 soundtrack. There’s a sort of strange base reverb beneath the thinner dialogue-heavy sequences, but the basic depth and directional momentum is busy and relatively natural for such a stylized affair. Dialogue is consistent in terms of volume levels and moves around the front channels based on a character’s placement. Though the environmental ambience is loose and light during expositional sequences, the action scenes stand up with the best that Big Hero 6’s live-action counterparts have to offer. The science fiction slant gives the sound design staff the chance to play around with abstract noises and, though they tend to deliver during the big battles, they kind of drop the ball when it comes to the extra-dimensional rift environment, which is pretty quiet. Henry Jackman’s omnipresent rock/techno/symphonic score isn’t the composer’s best, but it certainly gets things done and does a fine job filling in during some of the quieter moments.

 Big Hero 6

Extras


  • Feast theatrical short cartoon (6:10, HD) – A man experiences love and loss, all from the point of view of a hungry dog.
  • The Origin Story of Big Hero 6: Hiro's Journey (15:10, HD) – A fluffy behind-the-scenes segment hosted by actress Jamie Chung, including interviews with the cast and crew. The key discussion surrounds the differences between the comic and the film.
  • Big Animator 6: The Characters Behind the Characters (6:40, HD) – A roundtable discussion where the film’s six lead animators further discuss their jobs and the characters they supervised.
  • 4 deleted/alternate scenes with intro by the directors (13:10, HD)
  • A look at the many Disney Easter eggs hidden throughout the backgrounds of Big Hero 6, which is, itself, an Easter egg (2:50, HD)
  • Teaser trailer and trailers for other Disney releases


 Big Hero 6

Overall


Big Hero 6 is charming, cute, entertaining, touching, and instantly forgettable. It fits snugly with Disney’s more recent pantheon of CG-animated movies, like Meet the Robinsons, Bolt, and Tangled ( Chicken Little is the only CG-era entry I’d consider an outright bad movie). It’s good enough for comfort food, but not quite good enough to stand out against 2014’s more imaginative and compelling major (US) studio animation offerings, namely How to Train Your Dragon 2, Boxtrolls, The Lego Movie, and The Book of Life. That said, I can’t pinpoint a lot of stuff that the filmmakers could have done better, outside of making a totally different movie. Disney’s Blu-ray looks and sounds expectedly spectacular and includes a fair number of extras, the best of which is the Feast short film.

 Big Hero 6
* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray release and resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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