Already earning high praise from critics (Newsarama included, giving it a perfect 10), Walt Disney Animation Studios’Big Hero 6 is poised to be one of the biggest movies of the holiday season. At the center of it all is the loveable Baymax, who has been the mascot of sorts for the movie and the promotion.
For the past couple of weeks, Newsarama has talked to numerous creators who had a hand in the production from the co-directors of the film to the co-creators of the property itself. Recently, Newsarama sat down with the man behind the bot, actor Scott Adsit, to talk about how he approached Baymax, what he’s looking forward to fans to see, and whether or not he believes Baymax really is the “heart” of the movie.
Newsarama: Scott, the movie hasn’t even come out yet (this interview was conducted prior to release, today), aside from some special previews, and it seems that Baymax seems is this season’s Groot, being the standout character. Is that weird that Baymax has already penetrated pop culture?
Scott Adsit: It’s hard for me to gauge for what the impact culturally is because I’m too close to it. I see it, and I recognize the character so well when I see it on buses and things like that. I can’t tell if people are already sick of it or haven’t even noticed it or anything. I’ve been working on it for about a year and a half, so it’s been a part of my life for that long every day. Suddenly now, it’s like the seed has broken the earth and started to sprout up and I don’t know if it’ll be a bloom - I don’t want to get locked in my metaphor here - but it’s untested; it’s just an image. Kids are really grabbing on to Baymax as something to hug, which is his function. I’m really excited that without tried the product, the audience is really excited already.
Nrama: Who approached you to do the project? You’re an unapologetic comic book fan obviously, so who roped you in to coming aboard here?
Adsit: Strangely enough, it was not a comic book connection at all. I was doing a play in LA, which is usually a show I do in New York called “Celebrity Autobiography.” It’s a very funny show, I was doing it one night and the Disney casting people just happened to show. There were two of them and they thought of me for Baymax. They invited me and the next day I found myself at the Disney Animation Studio, which is like going to the chocolate factory, and I got a tour, and saw some things nobody was allowed to see yet. I got into a booth and they showed me the character. I think they had shown me some material the night before, but it wasn’t until I saw the character design that I knew what he needed to sound like. We worked for an hour. It was more of a work session than an audition and we just collaborated with director Don Hall. We just kinda honed what we eventually settled on. I got a call, I think, a day or two later about getting the job and I tell ya, I would have been happy just being able to have gone in and gotten the tour and been in the booth for an hour. That just felt like Heaven to me.
Nrama: You’re no stranger to voice acting, either. You’ve worked on Frankenhole and Moral Orel for Adult Swim, how did you approach Baymax as a character and a voice?
Adsit: I wasn’t sure what they would want. I knew he was used as a health care provider and I wasn’t sure if they wanted a robotic voice or something more modern, I guess you’d say. So I went with the one they liked in the session, which was a sort of benign bedside manner voice that lives in the Uncanny Valley. The way that works is, the state of the art right now for robotic interaction would be automated phone systems when you call your cable company or whatever. They have an easy-breezy voice and can construct sentences as it goes on what you’re telling them. So it’s a sort of fill-in-the-blank rhythm where the object of a sentence will be separate from everything else in it. So that’s how I approached Baymax because he’s filling in blanks because he has a finite number of things he’s programmed to say.
Then he’s got all these variables that he can slot in to each thing he’s saying about a diagnosis or assessing a situation. Then over the course of the movie, he’s capable of learning new things, so Hiro teaches him a few new words or a few new ways to look at things and he incorporates those. Now, he remains a robot the whole time, which is also something I wanted to make sure happens. I think everybody on the Disney team wanted that, too. They didn’t want some Pinocchio story.
Nrama: What was it like working with the rest of the team? Did you have ensemble reads or was it all solo?
Adsit: We’ve all been working on this for a year and a half-some more, some less-and the movie was just completed about a month ago. Two hours after they finalized the cut of the film, they had a dinner for the cast and screened it for us, and that is when we met for the first time.
Nrama: So with you seeing the final product, what are you most excited for fans to see?
Adsit: Oh my God...I’ll tell you this, I don’t know if it’s an exciting answer, but the effects in this film, the start of the art CG is just seamlessly fascinating and amazing. Just the way the light hugs a person’s face and reveals the translucent layers in the face and how an each individual hair on a head looks. They developed new rendering programs for this movie and then guided those programs towards what they needed to be. It’s an all-new step in lighting and cloth and hair simulation, which is astounding. [Laughs] I know that’s a really nerdy answer, but that’s what I’m really excited for, for people to see. I mean, yes, it also has an emotional story, too, which I don’t think people are expecting. I think it is an adventure comedy romp that might surprise a lot of people.
Nrama: Would you consider Baymax the heart of the movie, or does that come more from the team as a whole?
Adsit: Well, it’s definitely a team effort. The film was created to be an ensemble, and I think it is, but Baymax, as I’m told is the heart of the movie, but I think Hiro is. Baymax brings the cute and that’s vital, but Hiro, to me, is the center of the film.
Nrama: If there’s a sequel, and it looks there’s no reason not for there to be, would you come back?
Adsit: Oh I’ll be Baymax til the day I die, if they want me. I love the character, his relationship with the other characters and I really enjoy myself when I’m in character. He’s such a helpful lovely being. If they want me, they got me.