Your Plastic Pal Who’s Fun to Be With

Big Hero 6 – I pretty much had to see this because I’ve seen all the other Disney animated features (the classic or canonical ones, that is, not every animated film made by Disney), but I really knew nothing about it. It turned out to be pretty good, but I don’t think it will go down as one of my favorites. It’s loosely based on an obscure Marvel comic series about a Japanese superhero team, but the fact that the comic isn’t that well-known allowed them to take liberties with it. I’d never heard of the comic before, but based on what Wikipedia says, they kept the names and some of their powers and personality traits of the main characters, but changed a lot of details.

For instance, the character Wasabi was originally a Japanese chef, while here he’s an African-American college student who got the nickname because he once spilled wasabi on his shirt. The setting is San Fransokyo, an alternate version of San Francisco with even more Japanese cultural influence than it has in our world. The plot centers around Hiro, a child prodigy who spends his time illegally gambling on robot fights. His brother Tadashi introduces Hiro to his college friends and his latest project, a medical robot called Baymax. While Baymax was part of the team in the comics, his design was totally different.

The movie posters made the robot look like a balloon, and the explanation is that Disney was inspired by actual work in vinyl robots, and they liked the idea of one that could be cuter and more huggable than the typical metal variety. His friendly but deadpan voice made him a likeable and amusing character.

Tadashi dies trying to save his professor from a fire, and their parents were apparently already dead (Hiro mentioned their dad dying when he was three), because what’s a Disney movie without deceased family? In order to catch a villain in a kabuki mask who stole Hiro’s microbots and is using them for nefarious purposes, he gives Baymax some fighting upgrades and armor that resembles Iron Man’s, and helps to create cybernetic suits for his friends.

There’s a bit of a red herring in the identity of the villain. Hiro temporarily lets his anger get the best of him and tries to have Baymax kill the bad guy, but he’s fortunately thwarted in that. I recently read an excerpt from a review about how, even though there are times in real life when taking a life is probably justified, the superhero world is one where the good guys never have to. Of course, robots being unable to harm humans was part of Isaac Asimov’s laws, and these might well have been paralleled by Callaghan’s Laws of Robotics as mentioned in the movie. The wealthy industrialist Krei has a name pronounced the same way as the real-life computer company, and he’s voiced by Alan Tudyk, who was also the voice of King Candy and the Duke of Weselton. The logo for his teleporter project reminds me of the ones for the Hunger Games series, but I don’t know that this was intentional. We never actually see what happens to Krei, which strikes me as a bit of an omission because, while he didn’t do anything illegal, he DID cut corners with an experiment involving a human life. Maybe the writers figured having his fancy new building destroyed was punishment enough. I appreciate Disney doing something different with this one. The beginning of the story, with a child genius inventing a piece of astounding technology and a bad guy stealing it, reminded me of Meet the Robinsons; but of course it played out quite differently. The character of Go Go Tomago made me think of Audrey from Atlantis, another skilled tough girl who chewed a lot of bubblegum. Oh, and be sure to stay for Stan Lee’s appearance near the end of the credits.

The short before the main feature was Fetch, about a dog who ate a lot of table food. It reminded me of Beth’s family, who give the dogs a lot of table scraps, and Beth said it made her cry. The dog character was very cute.

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