Ever since the Disney acquisition of Marvel in 2009, fans of both entities have been awaiting the first true collaborative effort between the companies, and that effort finally arrives in the form of Big Hero 6. Loosely based on a limited series of Marvel comic books, the film is the story of 14-year-old genius Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), whose considerable intellect is mostly being used to fleece other inventors in an underground robot fighting ring. This is a point of frustration for older brother Tadashi, whose own gifted mind is laser-focused on helping others thanks to his latest invention, a “personal healthcare companion” robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit).
After accompanying his brother on a college visit, Hiro is blown away by the talent and resources available at San Fransokyo Tech, and hurls himself into a new project that he hopes will gain him admission into the school’s prestigious robotics program. His demonstration is a hit, garnering him attention from a sleazy corporate businessman and praise from the legendary Professor Callaghan (James Cromwell), but the celebration is cut short when a catastrophe leads to the destruction of Hiro’s work and the loss of Tadashi, who perishes while trying to rescue others.
Months pass, and the disconsolate Hiro spends his days alone in his bedroom, until he stumbles upon Baymax, the gentle, inflatable robot that Tadashi hoped would change the world. Programmed to provide care, Baymax senses the boy’s trouble and makes it his personal mission to assist Hiro in moving past the tragedy – but that assistance also involves helping Hiro investigate the sudden re-emergence of the tech he invented, which should have been destroyed in the accident but is now being used by a mysterious masked criminal to wreak havoc and destruction on the city.
Co-directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, Disney’s Big Hero 6 is a refreshingly fun approach to the superhero origin story. There are no radioactive spiders or genetic mutations here – the “superpowers” wielded by each of the wildly diverse characters are derived solely from technology. The film is stuffed full of original and innovative action sequences, and the thrilling climax is an amazing display of colors, smoke, explosions and special effects that make up some of the most striking onscreen visuals of the year.
But at its heart, beneath the excitement and the humor, Big Hero 6 is the story of a boy and his best friend, and the relationship that develops between Hiro and Baymax is genuine and heartfelt. Disney fans should be accustomed to having their heartstrings tugged on, and Big Hero 6 continues the tradition of weaving an emotionally affecting tale inside a bright, colorful adventure. It’s another feather in the cap for the animation studio, and hopefully the beginning of a long and fruitful partnership as they continue to work alongside Marvel.