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East meets West to immensely satisfying effect in the vibrant mashup of an animated romp Big Hero 6.
Loosely adapted from an obscure Marvel Comics title and set in the slightly futuristic city of San Fransokyo (where cable cars and cherry blossoms co-exist in perfect harmony), the funny and heartwarming story about the bond between a teen tech geek and a gentle robot represents another can’t-miss proposition by Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Like Frozen, Big Hero 6, co-directed by Don Hall and Chris Williams, handily defies convention in regard to presumably skewing more to one gender demo over the other.
Sure, it’s got robotics and superheroes, but it also has plenty of emotional resonance and, of course, merchandising gold in the form of an oversized, huggable vinyl balloon of a Personal Healthcare Companion that bears more than a passing physical resemblance to the star of Hayao Miyazaki’s My Neighbor Totoro.
The appealing result should cast a very wide net for Disney, with a strong potential for future heroics.
A 14-year-old prodigy who graduated from high school at 13, Hiro Hamada (affectingly voiced by Ryan Potter) hasn’t exactly been living up to his potential, preferring to spend his time and money entering his microbot in back-alley battles.
When his big brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney), is killed in a fiery accident, grieving Hiro takes comfort in the companionship provided by Tadashi’s invention — a gentle nurse robot named Baymax (a pitch-perfect Scott Adsit).
Upon discovering that his brother’s death was, in fact, the result of a nefarious plot, Hiro goes after the culprit, but not before making a few upgrades to Baymax that bring him up to crime-fighting specs.
He also receives some heroic backup from Tadashi’s friends, including adrenaline junkie GoGo (Jamie Chung), neat freak Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), alchemy whiz Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and ultimate fanboy Fred (T.J. Miller).
Of the 17 main characters on display in this technically ambitious production, Baymax handily steals the show, with directors Hall (Winnie the Pooh) and Williams (Bolt), working from a script by Robert L. Baird & Daniel Gerson and Jordan Roberts, pitching the gentle giant’s various physical challenges to maximum comic effect.
The film’s big-ticket action sequences, while unmistakably state of the art, ultimately fall short of matching the visual exhilaration of those gorgeous San Fransokyo backdrops, which present a seamless fusion of traditional Japanese and Victorian-influenced American architecture.
That top-notch voice cast also includes the always reliable Maya Rudolph as nurturing Aunt Cass, who has cared for the boys ever since their parents died.
Of course, it wouldn’t be an animated Disney movie if both mom and dad were still in the picture.
Screenings of Big Hero 6 will be preceded by Feast, Patrick Osborne’s sweet, elegantly animated, dog’s-eye-view take on life, love and, especially, food, that contains all the ingredients of an Oscar front-runner.
Production company: Walt Disney Animation Studios
Voice cast: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter, Maya Rudolph, Damon Wayans Jr., Daniel Henney, T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung, Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk
Directors: Don Hall and Chris Williams
Screenwriters: Robert L. Baird & Daniel Gerson, Jordan Roberts
Producer: Ray Conli
Executive producer: John Lasseter
Production designer: Paul A. Felix
Composer: Henry Jackman
Casting: Jamie Sparer Roberts
Rated PG, 95 minutes
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