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!

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Week 48: Bolt

Introducing the Newest Great Disney Dog

dogs will be dogs

Originally Released: 2008

Disney has made some great animal films over the years, and two animals in particular seem to garner the most attention: mice (this is Disney we are talking about) and dogs. You can safely add Bolt to the pack of lovable hounds at Disney animation. He fits right in along with the likes of Tramp, Pongo and Perdita, Copper, and so many of the loyal sidekick dogs seen throughout the years.

Interestingly enough, despite Disney’s proven track record when it comes to dog movies, I had no interest in seeing Bolt when it was released in theaters. I don’t know if it was my aversion to anything and everything Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus, if it was the lack of trust in Disney Animation at the time, or if it was simply the saturation of great animated films that came out in 2008 that kept me occupied and satisfied (this was the year of Wall-E, Ponyo, and Kung-Fu Panda). Even after friends and roommates reported to me that they had seen and loved Bolt, I still didn’t take the time to watch the film until this project.

spies

So yeah, after finally watching Bolt, I can say that this movie is pretty dog-gone good (sorry). Not surprisingly, this is the first film in the Disney canon after Disney’s purchase of Pixar in 2006 to really have John Lasseter’s fingerprints on it in his new role of Chief Creative Officer (though it is mentioned in the Meet the Robinsons special features the he was at least involved a little bit in helping flesh out that film). This involvement led to Disney’s dismissal of Director Chris Sanders for this movie, and replacing him with Chris Williams and Byron Howard. Lasseter helped guide the new directors in the direction he felt the movie should go ultimately. So although I’m not sure how much day-to-day stuff John Lasseter did in Bolt, the film does carry itself well and shows signs of that “Pixar touch” with its pacing and payoff in the end.

As side note – I do really enjoy the film that Bolt ultimately became through Williams, Howard, and Lasseter, but after discovering the brilliance of Chris Sanders movies while researching during my Disney project, learning that he was the mastermind behind Lilo and Stitch and How to Train Your Dragon and its sequel, I can’t help but be curious to see how a Chris Sanders version of Bolt would have turned out. Surely it wouldn’t be as bad as Lasseter must have thought it was going to be, right?

the tv dudes are evil

Look, I know you think you are right, but maybe your way isn’t the only way, Movie Mastermind!

But I digress. From an animation standpoint, Walt Disney Animation Studios was really starting to gain some confidence with its 3D animation by this point in time. The animation didn’t reach the heights of Pixar with Wall-E (a magnificent movie, by the way), but I applaud the art direction, animal movements, and character added to the animals on the screen nonetheless.

Speaking of characters, Miley Cyrus really isn’t that bad, and John Travolta does a great job. Rhino is hilarious, both in voice and in animation, and he wonderfully represents that one fanboy that everybody knows – and maybe we are that person, which in that case we can relate to Rhino a little bit. I also really enjoyed the pigeons, with their New York accents and their uncanny, realistically jerky movements (although the team obviously had some inspiration from a certain 90’s cartoon with these guys…).

animaniacs anyone?

hmmm, you remind me of someone…someone from a few years in the past…hmmm…

animaniacs pigeons

…hmmm…New York accent…green, purple and grey…yes, there is definitely a resemblance to some othe trio I’ve seen before…

Musically, there is not much to say, other than that I didn’t notice much with it and I suppose it is appropriate for the movie. It isn’t a distraction, at least. Except, of course, there is this one funny moment in particular that I think is both distracting and a great touch involving Rhino and breaking the 4th wall.

Overall, Bolt is great entertainment and it had no reason to be passed over in 2008. It has no reason to be passed over now, if you haven’t had the chance to check it out yet. I’m glad I finally gave it a chance. Disney can still do the talking dog flick very well.

girl and her dog

hamster