“We will be Immortals: Big Hero 6 Proves that the Disney Revival Era is Just Beginning.”
By Luna Raynebow
**This review does contain minor plot spoilers.
Humor, music, a cohesive plotline, lovable and relatable characters, diversity, family bonding, no romantic interest, and a cute and huggable protagonist. These are the things that most people have come to want in a Disney movie since the Renaissance Era of the 90s that proved that the company could exceed their ever popular, but stereotypical, animated movie formula. And so far, Walt Disney Animation Studios has not disappointed. The past few years especially have seen the rise of spectacular and popular movies, most notably, Frozen, which was released last November and has since become the highest earning animated movie of all time. It left the bar set very high for any future movies that the company would produce—and most people would think that the next movie to come out would not live up to its successful precedentor. However, WDAS has proven, once again, that their company is nowhere near exhausting its well of creativity.
Big Hero 6, based on the popular Marvel comic series, was released in the United States on November 7, 2014. This movie follows the story of 14-year-old genius, Hiro Hamada and his robot companion, Baymax, in their quest to save the fictional city of San Fransokyo, an American and Japanese hybrid, from an evil villain named Yokai, who, through nano-technology, poses a threat to the town. The story kicks off with Hiro engaging in illegal robot street fighting. After which, his older brother, Tadashi, takes him to his school, The San Fransokyo Institute of Technology, where he introduces him to his friends, professor, technology, and convinces him to apply so he can do something with his life. Hiro develops a nanobot technology which he showcases, and predictably, gets accepted to this prestigious school. Not soon after that, a fire breaks out in the building, killing Tadashi and the beloved professor, Dr. Callahan. Hiro then finds, later on, that the fire was started so that someone could steal his nanobot technology for evil purposes. From that point on, Hiro, along with Baymax and his friends, Wasabi, Fred, Gogo and Honey, team up to bring an end to the villain’s evil schemes.
I’m not going to get too much into the plot line itself because I don’t want to give away too much to people who might consider seeing it. However, what I will say is that of all of the Disney movies that have been recently released, Big Hero 6 seems to have been the most developed and cohesive as far as plot and storytelling are concerned. In fact, there seem to be little to no plot holes. And while not every character gets an equal amount of screen time, as Hiro and Baymax are the primary focus, the story leaves very few questions or stories unaccounted for. The writing itself is brilliant, as expected; the perfect mix of comedy and drama. I laughed until I cried, and then I cried because my heartstrings were pulled at. And, I think something that works best of all in this movie, is that there are no canon couples or romances. While love is the focus of the movie, it has nothing to do with romance and everything to do with friendship and family. Another focus of this movie is science. While this is not new to the Disney universe (Meet the Robinsons, Treasure Planet), it was focused on in such a positive light that I have a strong feeling that it would move some young scientists out there to peruse whatever it is they want to. Disney manages to make a story about a boy and his robot and transform it into this larger than life epic that is vastly unforgettable.
Perhaps one of the biggest strengths of this movie is the racial diversity of the cast. The movie itself is set in a cross between San Francisco, California and Tokyo, Japan. This sets up a world where there is mass racial diversity, which reflects in the main cast of the movie, both major and minor. With the exception of Fred, who is white, and Baymax, who is a robot, the majority of the main cast are people of color; Wasabi is African-American, Gogo is Korean, Honey Lemon is Latina, and Hiro and Tadashi are Japanese-American. This diversity even extends to the background characters, who represent a large cross section of diversity. People have been riding Disney for years to be better about racial representation in their movies, and this movie shows that while they still have a ways to go, they are listening to the people and the fans who are pushing them for more. But it’s not the diversity itself that is the best part, but rather, how these characters are portrayed. We spend a good chunk of the movie getting to know them as people, learning about their very distinct personalities. For example, Wasabi is a compulsive neat freak who lives life with precision and planning, which is best shown in a scene where the group is being chased by the villain in their car, but Wasabi takes the time to put on the blinker and stop at red lights. Gogo Tomago is probably the most badass female character ever, her no-nonsense attitude and tough exterior come out in every single thing that she does. Honey Lemon is portrayed as both very intelligent and very feminine, her outfits always perfectly coordinated and phone always in hand, taking pictures, even with the villain around. This is a prime example of diversity being an expected thing but working SO well; it doesn’t feel forced because we get to know these characters as people first and their ethnicity second, proving that diversity is a positive because you don’t have to have an all-white cast to love and relate to them.
On the subject of diversity, one very interesting thing about this movie is how the main/supporting cast females are depicted. Of the main cast, there are three female characters – Honey Lemon, Gogo Tomago, and Hiro’s Aunt Cass Hamada. The design of these three characters in and of itself is outside of the ordinary for Disney, as the three women are designed to look like realistic women. Gogo is short and chubby, Honey is a tall and lanky girl (who wears heels, no less), and Aunt Cass actually has the body that a normal woman in her mid to late 30s would have. Considering the Disney archetype of the unrealistically thin and anatomically incorrect woman, this is remarkable progress. While most Disney female protagonists are strong, but cordial to a fault, Big Hero 6 also portrays these women with realistic personalities. Aunt Cass is rambunctious and hyper, Honey is shy but awkward, and Gogo has an insanely feisty temper. But what I hope people take away from this movie is that, again, while not perfect, is very powerful and even downright feminist. Honey and Gogo are both college aged women who are shown as not only competent but excelling in the scientific fields, such as physics and chemistry. Not only do they show that women can be scientists, but women don’t have to be a certain way to be scientists. You can be girly like Honey or athletic like Gogo and still excel in your field. This point is even driven home when Gogo tells Hiro to, “Woman up.” These characters, without a doubt, will be a wonderful example to the young female fans, and possibly even the older ones, to prove that girls can do anything and don’t need romance to do any of it.
Obviously, this being an animated movie, the quality of the animation itself is always a prime focus for anyone who sees the movie. And the animation in Big Hero 6 is nothing short of flawless. It’s very clear that the animators of this movie took the time to think out the scenery and the architecture down to ever little detail, because the city and skyline are practically flawless. The characters are all animated so brilliantly, and the movements themselves are so smooth—it proves that Disney is not only still an innovator in animation, but really good at what they do as well.
Big Hero 6 is not your typical Disney movie by a long shot, and a lot of people had their apprehensions with it, considering that Disney has just bought Marvel, the ever present success of Frozen, and the companies’ history with mistakes in their gender and racial representation. But overall, Big Hero 6 proves that Disney is not only improving, but is still at the top of the animation food chain. I can’t emphasize enough how excellent this movie is. And while there was no epic love story or sparkling snowflakes or grand musical finale (although Immortals, the Fall Out Boy song featured, was amazing), I still consider it to be the best movie of the Disney Revival Era, and definitely one of the best the company has put out in its 70+ years. It incorporates all of the great things about the movies Disney has released since 2009— has the diversity of Princess and the Frog, the cohesive story of Tangled, the family focus of Brave, the humor of Wreck It Ralph, and the lovable and unforgettable characters of Frozen—and incorporates them into one action packed film. I have no doubts that it will be successful, and grow to become a Disney classic, immortalized in the hearts of fans for many years to come.