Big Hero 6 means big business for Disney this season

by Mark Burger

With Big Hero 6, Disney plunges head-first into the spectrum of Japanese-style anime. This colorful and extravagant fantasy adventure is unmistakably in the anime style and spirit, and given the genre’s worldwide following (including the United States), it’s little wonder that the Mouse House would puts its wizards to work on one of its own.

The studio has distributed anime films in the past “” including Hayao Miyazaki’s Oscar-winning Spirited Away (2001) and Oscar-nominated Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) “” but this adaptation of a Marvel Comics series marks its first full-blown “in-house” attempt. Even if the film weren’t the box-office bonanza thar it is, Big Hero 6 would have undoubtedly found a cult following.

Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams remain true to the basic framework of anime, introducing a group of courageous, mostly youthful do-gooders called upon to battle the forces of evil. This group, this titular “Big Hero 6,” is more ethnically diverse than in most Japanese anime films, which is hardly unexpected in an American context.

Set in a hi-tech, futuristic metropolis known as “San Fransokyo,” the story’s hero is a teen wiz kid named, aptly enough, Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter). His fellow do-gooders include fellow young brains and an inflatable robot, which resembles the Michelin Man crossed with Ghostbusters’ Stay-Puft Marshallow Man, called Baymax (voiced by Scott Adsit).

Baymax, whose name frequently sounds like the outdated home-video machine Betamax, is unquestionably the film’s “collectible” character, as well as its most memorable by providing both gentle comic relief and unexpected heroism throughout.

The visuals, whether experienced in 2D and 3D, are yet another triumph for the Disney team. They’re consistently so good we often take them for granted. Big Hero 6 is eye-catching and even eye-popping at times, a satisfying excursion for anime aficionados and, indeed, those audiences (young or old) not familiar with the format. This will give them all the experience they need, and it’s giving nothing away that the ending portends very heavily toward a potential Big Hero 7, and 8, and 9.

In addition to a post-credit gag at the end, the feature is preceded by an animated short film called Feast that runs for six minutes. A more delightful six minutes at the movies you’ll not have all year.