This movie will sell a lot of toys. Whilst that is far from the defining feature of Big Hero 6, it is surely a line that was used when Disney was discussing their first animated team-up with Marvel (the film is loosely based on an obscure comic series). All the characters lend themselves very well to action figures, and the star of the piece, Baymax (voiced with a child-like deadpan by Scott Adsit), is one of the most lovable animated characters ever put on screen. Every single moment of the film in which this Michelin-man like figure appears is memorable, from his first awakening to a hilarious sequence where he runs out of battery, which for reasons unexplained turns him into a deflated drunk. I can’t imagine kids appreciating any 2014 character as much as this kindly robot and, come the end of the film, I absolutely wanted a Baymax of my own.
Set in the fictional California/Japan amalgam city of San Fransokyo, Big Hero 6 immediately throws the audience into a world where robotics is the primary focus. They are used as helpful tools, are the defining element of university life, and pitted against one another in underground fighting tournaments. After boy genius Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) loses his equally intelligent brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) in a fire, he’s thrown into a deep depression. He abandons his hopes of going to college and loses contact with his friends. It’s only after he accidentally revitalises Baymax, his brother’s creation, that he manages to turn his life around. Built as a nursing unit, Baymax’s heroics, whilst building to the inevitable showdown with the Big Bad, mainly come from his desire to heal, and the message that supporting your friends and family through tough times is heroic in itself is a positive one to give its audience. If last year’s Frozen was all about providing young women with individual agency, Big Hero 6 encourages children to never go it alone, that sharing your problems is a key to enjoying life.
If the moral is the medicine, then the bounding sense of humour is the spoonful of sugar to help it go down. Baymax’s large bulk and balloon-like body allows for proper, Laurel and Hardy-esque slapstick humour. The gags that emanate from the robot misunderstanding human customs are far from original, but that never stops them from being very funny and charming, especially when Hiro teaches Baymax about fist-bumps. Even when the eponymous team of heroes is formed, each given powers by their specific roles in the university science lab (even the school mascot gets a fire-spewing lizard outfit), Big Hero 6 never loses sight of its playful tone, with the team’s first attempts to fight crime going terribly. Given that this is technically a Marvel adaptation, the big showdown at the end involves lots of destruction and crashing, but also throws some sublime visuals in the mix and maintains the rest of the film’s strong sense of pacing.
Without Baymax, Big Hero 6 would be a strong children’s film with enough appeal to the parents to be an enjoyable day at the cinema. However, with him, the movie is elevated to a whole new level, with the character perfectly blending adorability and hilarity. It may not be on a par with top-end Pixar work or this year’s standout animation, Lego Movie, but it doesn’t have to be. Mixing a touching and important message with constant laughs, Big Hero 6 comes highly recommended.