In Big Hero 6, the animation wizards at Walt Disney Studio give the princesses and magical heroines a break and make one for the boys (and the boys at heart). Directed by the team of Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh) and Chis Williams (Bolt), the film was inspired by the Marvel Comics series of the same name, although its edges have been rounded and its violence toned down to kiddie-levels.
On a story level, the picture is just as derivative as any other superhero movie, with a band of good guys teaming up to bring down a powerful villain. But story is not the main attraction here. Set in a city called San Fransokyo (a wonderfully inventive cross between San Francisco and Tokyo), the movie focuses on Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter), a young orphan who lives with his aunt and older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney).
Hiro happens to be a science prodigy who hopes to enroll in a prestigious academy. Tadashi, himself no slouch in the brain department, has built a robotic nurse, Baymax (Scott Adsit), who looks like a smaller version of a Thanksgiving Day parade float – a white, puffy towering giant of kindness and care.
Then tragedy strikes, the way it often does in Disney films (gently but moving), and Hiro decides to reprogram Baymax from healer to fighter to avenge a death. He rounds up four of his equally smart friends, all of whom develop their own scientific gimmick – levitation discs, plasma roller blades – and relying on the versatile Baymax for muscle, who can suddenly do a lot more than he was originally intended to, the kids go after the bad guys.
What follows could pass as a light, comic spin on The Avengers, but you don’t watch Big Hero 6 for the plot. It’s the stunning animation, which continues to get better with every Disney release, that keeps you entranced. Baymax is an ingenious creation, soft as a marshmallow and fat like a balloon, but his personality is so likable and straightforward (he’s pure logic, like Spock) that you can’t help love him (prepare yourself for an onslaught of Big Hero 6 spin-off toys).
The kids, too, are great fun, each with a distinct personality and talent that adds something to their group. There are moments in Big Hero 6 as beautiful as anything Disney or Pixar have ever done: You bask in the gorgeous images and fantastic animation. Unlike most Disney fables, there aren’t any real morals or lessons to be learned here. This one is pure, sheer fun. And even though the movie couldn’t be more formulaic, predictability is never a problem. With a film this funny, exciting and visually stimulating, who cares if you know exactly what’s going to happen next, and when.