Bonus Week: Big Hero 6

A Big Fist Bump (Badaladala) To Baymax and Co.

 flying

Originally Released: 2014

I’ve seen Big Hero 6 twice now, and will probably watch it again before too long. I have a feeling this is one film that is only going to get better with repeated viewings.

I wasn’t really planning on seeing Big Hero 6 a second time in the theaters, but when I started writing this blog entry yesterday, I realized that my memory and impressions from the first time I watched Big Hero 6 almost a month ago were a little fuzzy. I think this is mainly because that weekend I partook in a big-time movie triple-header, viewing Big Hero 6 along with Interstellar (a stellar film in its own right, and probably the most though-provoking movie I’ve seen in years) and The Tale of Princess Kaguya, another masterpiece from Studio Ghibli. Seeing three extremely good movies for the first time in a two-day span is a lot of fun, but it also makes it hard to remember finer details of each one, despite them being three radically different films.

Poor butler. Only Baymax is kind enough to give the man a proper fist bump (badaladala).

Poor butler. Only Baymax is kind enough to give the man a proper fist bump (badaladala).

So in a bit of a spur-of-the-moment decision, I decided to head out and watch the movie again last night. In this second viewing, the things I liked the first time became more enjoyable, and the few minor gripes I had the first time mostly went away. I thoroughly enjoyed my time with Hiro, Go Go, Baymax, and the rest of Big Hero 6.

Story-wise, Disney does a serviceable job of the “superhero origin story” genre. There is nothing done here that we haven’t seen before, given the popularity of Spider-Man/Batman/Avengers these days.  But let’s face it – this is an animated Disney film (my first and forever true love/passion) about science and engineering (my undergraduate major and next-in-line passion), with a little sprinkling of Japanese culture, a good dose of superhero fantasy, and an emotional arc about the importance of family and friends. So even if the plot was weak (which it is not), the various elements included in Big Hero 6 would more than make up for any plot deficiencies for me. And I want to give Disney some serious props for making science and technology look just as cool as the arts.

gogo action

Thank you Disney for creating this sweet moving pic. I will happily post stuff like this on my blog and promote your film!

If I wasn’t amazed by the plot itself, there is something I was amazed by in Big Hero 6, and that is the animation and art. Disney really knocked this one out of the park both artistically and technically.

Let me begin with the artistic design. Whoever had the idea of merging San Fransico and Tokyo was a genius, because you can easily tell that the filmmakers had a heyday with that idea, creating one of the most unbelievably cool looking cities I’ve ever seen in a film. It perfectly blends the best touches of the Japanese metropolis – its bright lights, the super-cute (かわいい, or Kawaii) characters scattered around, its train transportation system, etc. – with purely San Francisco characteristics like the steep streets complete with “Full-House” homes on them, and the San Francisco cable-cars in the middle of the streets. To top it off, perhaps my favorite blending is the golden gate bridge that has been modified to contain the Japanese shinto “Torii” gateway arches atop its towers.

san fransokyo

bridge with Temple entrance arches

Seriously, who wouldn’t want to live in San Fransokyo?

From a technical standpoint, Disney animation is really starting to hit its stride. Earlier this year I was absolutely floored by the incredible detail and realism displayed by Dreamworks’ How to Train Your Dragon 2. I thought the guys at that studio had finally done it and out-Pixar’d Pixar with technology and advancement in 3D animation and effects. Well, it turns out Disney Animation has also gone and surpassed the wizards at Pixar with Big Hero 6. It is an overall fantastic-looking film, aeons beyond the rubbish we saw in Chicken Little. The characters move fluidly, have more personality, and blend in better than ever with their backgrounds.

While all the characters in the film look great, there is one character in particular that I want to mention. Most of the characters in Big Hero 6 are highly stylized and caricatured, which method doesn’t lend itself too well in making comparisons to reality. There is, however, one exception: Aunt Cass is the most convincing human I have ever seen in a 3D animated film. The textures, lighting, physics, and movements in her hair, clothes, etc., are extremely realistic; her facial expressions are incredibly well animated; and her overall general movements, such as walking, are beyond impressive. I think Disney was going for a regular, ordinary-looking person with Aunt Cass, and wow did they deliver. It is crazy to think how far technology has come, but one quick comparison of Aunt Cass to Andy’s mom in Toy Story will show just how far we really have come in the technical side of 3D animation.

Is Cass the new standard in 3D animation technology? I think so.

Is Cass the new standard in 3D animation technology? I think so.

The next topic I want to bring up, as I often do, is the music. The score was composed by Henry Jackman. He was also responsible for the score in Wreck-It Ralph and Winnie the Pooh, and is becoming a mainstay in Disney animation. The ending credits song was provided by rock group Fall Out Boy. For the most part, the score was appropriate and did what it needed to do. It stayed in the background and let the characters and animation take the spotlight. So I’d say it was pretty good. More than “pretty good,” however, is “Immortals” by Fall Out Boy. I’ve had that song on repeat for many days post-viewing of Big Hero 6. If there was an awards category for “Most awesome credits song in a Disney film,” I think Fall Out Boy would win the award.

bad guy

“Immortal?” Nah, not even close.

BIG HERO 6

“Immortals?” Hmmm, maybe. Let’s get a sequel before we make any hasty conclusions.

belly button

“Immortals?” Baymax could just yet become immortal in Disney history.

Speaking of awards, in my opinion, Big Hero 6 gives us a new champion in the “lovable robot” category. Move over Wall-E, you have officially been dethroned. Just as in Wall-E, once again the most heartwarming, charming and caring character in a film involving robots belongs to the robot. Baymax steals every scene he in which he is involved, and he really becomes the heart of the movie by the end (though the one gripe I will direct to this film is that the ending Baymax scene was completely unnecessary and was just an attempt at emotional manipulation, as absolutely nothing would have changed to the real ending with or without the “Baymax moment”). At its core, Big Hero 6 is about love between family members and friends, and Baymax stands at the center of these themes. He is the one character that makes these messages work.

"On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate my movie?"

“On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate my movie?”

In conclusion, I don’t typically do scales, but since Baymax asked, and I like Baymax, I will throw out a rating this time. The first time I saw it, I would have given Big Hero 6 around a 7.5 out of 10. But after a second viewing, Big Hero 6 gets an 8.5 out of 10.  And I suspect I will probably raise it up the next time I view it, too.

best robot ever

BIG HERO 6

fly gif

To infinity, and BEYOND!

Week 42: Lilo & Stitch

A Welcome addition to the Disney Ohana

space toy

Originally Released: 2002

It is easy to get lost in the surface-level entertainment that is offered by Lilo & Stitch. The 42nd offering from Walt Disney Animation Studios has a unique, colorful, and welcoming art style that is fun to look at. The Hawaii location really adds to the inviting atmosphere. Musically, the movie features some of the best hits from the King of Rock n’ Roll, Elvis Presley, it contains several fun songs performed by a talented Hawaiian children’s choir, and Stich plays the ukulele to great effect. Stitch himself is very funny and steals most of the scenes in which he is involved. Yes, on the surface, Lilo & Stitch provides great entertainment to kids and adults.

Crazy, lovable, entertaining Stitch

Crazy, lovable, entertaining Stitch

However, like all really good films, there are deeper themes found in Lilo & Stitch, and these themes are what to me makes this film the cream of the Disney canon crop in the 2000’s decade, and worthy to be mentioned alongside the other Disney greats. Directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois were able to create in the characters Lilo, Stitch, and Lilo’s sister Nani something that we all should be able to relate to, regardless of our age or gender or social situation (incidentally, this directing duo is also behind my favorite Dreamworks animated features How to Train Your Dragon and How to Train Your Dragon 2 – two more wonderful films that really “get it” from a human message standpoint).

At the forefront of these deeper themes is the concept of ohana. Ohana means family. Family means nobody gets left behind, or forgotten,” says Lilo. It seems pretty straightforward, but how easily this can be forgotten in the daily turmoil and stress that we encounter with our families, friends, and others. The film makes it clear that “family” isn’t necessarily confined to strictly blood relatives, but that it can reach wider than your immediate family members.

I once had a friend criticize this film and its message by saying he was upset that the film attempted to rewrite the definition of “family” to also include things like your pet dog, and that the film was really an underhanded attack on the traditional family. I suppose I can see his point if I REALLY stretch, but I think he missed the concept and the real message the directors were trying to get across. To me, in order to really understand the concept, all it takes is to swap the word “family” with “neighbor.” I can then ask a familiar question: “And who is my neighbor?” Whether it be Stitch, Lilo, or a random stranger who was beaten and left for dead (please watch the link, it is worth your time), no one deserves to be alone, left behind, or forgotten. It doesn’t matter if you want to call them “family” or “neighbor” or “stranger” – what matters is that they still deserve our love and attention, even when it is hard or inconvenient to do so.

surfing

Beyond that most obvious message of ohana are the smaller touches surrounding the main characters. Who among us has never felt like Stitch at one point or another: alone and friendless, misunderstood, or seeking our true purpose? Or maybe we can relate more to Nani, trying to cope with life’s challenges while at the same time having no clue how to help a naughty or rambunctious child/family member whose “badness level” is almost filled to the brim. Or do we maybe feel more like Lilo, when we try to help with things, but our efforts either go unnoticed or seem to make things worse? To me, amount of relatable situations in Lilo & Stitch – from both an adult and child’s perspective – only adds to its value as a great film.

model citizen

To summarize, Lilo & Stitch works for me on all levels and always leaves me in a better mood after I watch it. I can credit that to the surface-level factors as well as it deeper thematic message. Lilo & Stitch earns its place on my list of highly recommended Disney animation.

destroy city

bad guys

spit

hula class