Big Hero 6 (Don Hall and Chris Williams, 2014)

As the first Disney-animated motion picture based on Marvel IP, Big Hero 6 was always going to be carefully scrutinised by both extremes of the target audience. At one end you have the die-hard Marvel comics fans, keen to see their beloved heroes done justice on the big screen. At the other end you’ve got fans of Walt Disney Studios, worried that hot on the heels of Frozen, Tangled and Princess and the Frog, Big Hero 6 might not be for them [1].

For the uninitiated (you mean you never read the comics!?), the story focuses on 12-year-old parentless robotics genius Hiro, who is being looked after by his aunt, along with his older brother and sort-of-guardian Tadashi, who also studies robotics at the local university. When further tragedy strikes through the death of his brother, he is left to pick up the pieces with the help of his brother’s greatest work – healthcare-robot Baymax. Banding together with Tadashi’s fellow student friends, Hiro goes on an adventure of vengeance and self-development as he finds taking matters into your own hands can lead to some shocking revelations.

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So the first thing to clarify is that the Big Hero 6 comics were never very popular. Very few people had heard of them before the film was announced, sparking a huge clamber across the internet to find the comics, read them, then form an opinion on why Disney was going to ruin them. They weren’t completely unknown, but they were nowhere near as popular as, say, Spider-man or X-Men. It was interesting to see the negative reaction the series got when it was announced. It’s amazing how many experts on everything we see now that people can form their arguments in one window whilst Google is open in another. I was one of the people who bought post-announcement – I managed to pick up all five of the 2008 comics and I read straight away (the original three-part series was by then already prohibitively expensive, much like the five-parter is now). They were obviously aimed at children, but were reasonably fun and easy to read. I thought they were a good choice for Disney to tackle, with plenty of characters and merchandising opportunities.

Secondly, I don’t know if you’ve seen any of the recent Marvel Animation films, but they are by-and-large terrible. I picked up the Ultimate Avengers steelbook about a year ago and watched one of the films, but couldn’t get through the second. The animation is really poor and the voice acting is clumsy and difficult to listen to. So if you’re a Marvel fanboy and want to square on an animated film that doesn’t do your source material justice, you should start there.

Finally, the recent films have been very successful, and I’m sure Frozen’s enduring popularity caused a delay to the release of Big Hero 6. I mean, it’s now on the West End in sing-along form! They just play the film on loop there all day. It has been out for 18 months! Princess and the Frog and Tangled were very successful too. But so was Wreck It Ralph, and that definitely wasn’t aimed at the female market. Neither was Bolt (directed by Chris Williams, by the way). Nor were half of the Pixar releases. Or, say, How to Train Your Dragon or Despicable Me. What I’m saying is – who knows what is going to capture the imagination of the children. Probably the main thing to go for is a great storyline, great characters and some top-drawer visuals. You get all three in abundance here.

I think the animation is the really mind-blowing element of a film that scores highly across the board. It’s fast-paced without ever feeling like it’s trying to lose you in action. The detail given to the plethora of uniquely designed characters is notable, too, and this serves to make each character feel worthy of your investment. If they’re going to spend that long making Hiro’s hair look so awesome, he must deserve a bit of attention on an emotional level too.

The storyline, to be fair, isn’t particularly original. I didn’t feel it was too detrimental overall. Its target audience is definitely under 12 years of age, and it was pitched perfectly.

There was, of course, a post-credits sequence that gave us some juicy details and opened the door to a sequel. I really hope this becomes a reality. I’m sure there are plenty more storylines to be told about these characters yet.

Big Hero 6 is out in cinemas in the UK now, and it has also just this week been released on Blu-ray and DVD in USA. If you’re quick and keen, you could buy the 3D Blu-ray steelbook from Zavvi.

[1] Anatomy of an unprofessional reviewer – I’ve deliberately put in several sweeping and largely incorrect statements in the first paragraph to allow me to argue against them later in the review. Oh how clever I am.

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