How do you follow up the phenomenon that was Frozen? Sticking to the time honoured traditions of catchy sing-a-long songs and princesses in peril, the film netted Disney over a billion dollars at the box office. You could be forgiven for thinking their next film would be more of the same. Surprisingly, the studio’s answer is to push out on the somewhat untested waters (for them anyway) of the animated superhero genre, adapting the largely unknown Marvel comic book, Big Hero 6.
Hiro is a young robotics genius wasting his life on Robot Wars style street fights when his well meaning brother takes him under his wing. When his nanobot technology is stolen by a kabuki mask wearing villain, he assembles a team of nerds who create a variety of devices to make them a super powered crew.
A refreshing change of pace then, and one that for the most part pays off. The animators have borrowed heavily from the source material in terms of it’s visuals, creating a unique aesthetic that is a hybrid of the traditional big-eyed Disney animation and anime. The futuristic setting of San Fransokyo provides the perfect backdrop to show off the fusion of styles. Equally welcome is a group of superheroes whose powers are based around their smarts, and all without Tony Stark’s pompous swaggering.
The real ace in the hole comes in the rather cuddily form of Baymax, Hiro’s personal health carer/bodyguard. Blessed with a hulking body and itty-bitty legs, the mere sight of him shuffling along a crowded street is undeniably hilarious. The unfaltering naivety of his voice while facing severe peril is equally funny, with a terrific reading from 30 Rock alumni Scott Adsit. As well as getting the majority of the laughs, the relationship he develops with Hiro as a surrogate big brother gives the film its heart.
So strong is our sidekick, that he almost eclipses everything else on display. The plot houses its biggest flaws, suffering from the origins dilemma as it tries to balance the introduction of new heroes and their powers, while establishing a villain who can pose a suitable threat. The rest of Hiro’s team also fail to make an impression, and while the visuals and voice talent are so strong that it would be unfair to call Big Hero 6 a one trick pony, it is a shame the rest of the film can’t live up to the charm of Baymax.