Marvel movies have made a 40-yard jaunt across the Disney lot with the release of Big Hero 6, the first Marvel superhero property to get the full-on Disney animated treatment. The film, scheduled for a November 7 release, is directed by Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh) and Chris Williams (Bolt), both Disney vets.
The story follows 14-year-old robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada as incredible events lead him to create a team of superheroes. Laser-handed Wasabi No-Ginger, chemical-compounding Honey Lemon, high-speed GoGo Tomago and Fred (who becomes a high-jumping, fire-breathing lizard guy) are the other human members of the team, but the heart of the squad is Baymax, an inflatable robot designed to provide health care.
Hall and Williams took time to sit down and discuss the film.
Newsarama: What was the entry point for each of you on this film, and why, of all things, Big Hero 6? Don, I guess you found this in the archive?
Don Hall: For me, it was the title. I had never read the comic, but I saw the title in the archive. “Big Hero 6? What’s that? Oh, Japanese-flavored superheroes,” and that really sparked me. I wanted to know more, just based on the title. So I got the comics, read them, and fell in love with it, but it was just the title that led me down the path! I became very passionate about it, and you never pitch anything that you’re not passionate about, so I was very gratified when John [Executive Producer John Lasseter] picked this. It was a bit of a dark horse.
Chris Williams: And my situation was similar to what it was on Bolt. The production just became too much for one person, and Don couldn’t be in more than one place at a time, so he asked me to come in and co-direct. I was very excited, because I was already working as a storyboard artist on the film, and I loved these characters. I love the dynamic between Baymax and Hiro. It was a thrill.
Nrama: In terms of the audience, I know the "correct" answer is "it's for everyone!" But what's at the center of that Bulls-eye? Who did you really make this flick for?
Hall: It’s for everyone! [both laugh] Every…single…person…on…the…planet! Total world domination! See it two times!
But seriously, going back to the origin of it, when I first talked to John about it, my goal was to go through the Marvel archives and bringing something back here that could be a great animated Disney film. The target is both those audiences.
I always felt, growing up both a Marvel fan and a Disney fan, that there was overlap there. Having gone to [San Diego] Comic-Con many times and working in this [Disney Animation] building here, I see the overlap. It’s a hybrid audience. I hope that we have done our due diligence and the comic fans will love it. I hope the Disney fans will love it, and in that, we can honor both of those lineages.
Williams: And along with that, it does have to be an emotionally universal story. The audience has to be able to connect emotionally with all these characters. So we’re very mindful of that. But when you ask “who’s it for?,” I don’t ask myself how much an audience will react, but how I will react. Around here, we’re not asked to second-guess our own reactions. So in a way, we’re making it for us, certainly for adults, and for their kids as well. The exercise of trying to guess the marketplace is a very dangerous one, and we really don’t do it around here.
Nrama: Across the street, there's the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which is more serious. This is a tad more whimsical. Is there another Marvel property you'd like to take a swing at in this vein?
Hall: Boy. Boy. That’s an interesting question. There were other properties I pitched as well which I really can’t talk about. And that’s because when you pitch to John, you don’t pitch just one thing, but three. But I think this was a big undertaking in putting everything into cracking the story, building the world, and so on that I really haven’t put any thought into anything else, or even a potential sequel.
Williams: As a Canadian, I’m aghast that no one has made a Puck movie!
Hall: Yeah! Put it out there! But not the whole Alpha Flight? Just go right to Puck?
Williams: He’s the star! He’s the Wolverine of the team! But even shorter and hairier. We’ll see. [Both laugh]
Nrama: Again, over on the other side of the street on Guardians of the Galaxy, Rocket Raccoon and Groot became overnight cultural phenomena. Is there a character here with that breakout potential, and is this where you say, "Baymax"?
Hall: I think we have to say Baymax. I think it’s already started. I think it started with the first trailer. People just seemed to like this squooshy-mushy healthcare robot. We’ve heard that people area already asking stores for Baymax Halloween costumes. And the movie won’t be out until after!
Williams: There’s something about this robot that is so sweet and so good and so guileless. I like that it’s not about how badass or how tough this character is, but just how cool he is and how sweet he is. That’s nice.
Hall: Y’know, speaking of costumes and whatnot, when we went to Comic-Con over the summer, I was surprised—pleasantly!— to see two Honey Lemons and…it was one, two, three Go-Gos. It was nice to see that people were already starting to cosplay those characters. It was gratifying.
Williams: Yeah, people have sent us pictures of their kids’ Halloween costumes that they’re making, and I’ve seen a few Honey Lemons as well. That character seems to be catching on.
Nrama: I know it may sound a bit high-fallutin' but what does this flick tell us about ourselves and our society? What's it "about"?
Hall: Well, emotionally and thematically, the story is about loss and how we deal with loss. And ultimately, acceptance comes from realizing that those who are gone are never really gone. They’re always going to live on through us. So that was the big stake we put in the ground emotionally.
And there are some sub-themes in there about responsibility, and how talented people have to use that talent for the good of the whole world. And I guess there’s some cautionary tale about the irresponsible use of technology
Williams: And as we’re working on these stories…it can take years! These stories can change through the hours and hours of conversation we have about it, but it really boils down to this one thing—When you lose somebody, they’re not really gone. They live on through you. Now if you’ve ever lost somebody, I’m sure you’ve heard this, perhaps a lot. So we asked ourselves, “Is this too trite? Is that enough for the story?” But I think we concluded that even if it might feel trite to someone, there’s truth in it. And that’s one thing that movies can do—They can take these things that you hear time and time again, and remind you that there is truth and power in these things.
—Big Hero 6 hits theaters November 7.