Big Hero Six
Director: Don Hall & Chris Williams
Stars: Scott Adsit, Ryan Potter & T.J. Miller
Disney Animation Studios has been hugely successful in recent years by making movies built on modern twists. Wreck-It Ralph was a redemption story about a sympathetic villain, while Frozen told a princess fairy tale that subverted all expectations.
Next up is as sure a hit as one could imagine: a Disney animated superhero movie. This time it is treading the well-worn boards of an incredibly popular genre but using it to champion a modern message that being clever rather than strong is a superpower in itself.
Iron Man's influence can certainly be felt (the brains over brawn message is prevalent in that series too) but for a film to teach children that being smart, interested in books and keen on science is something to be proud of is both important and timely.
At its core, Big Hero 6 is a fairly routine superhero origin tale that also deals with classic Disney themes such as love and loss. There are a few moments of cliché but they are well-balanced with a great script full of laughs and well-realised characters, with plenty of Meta commentary on superhero and action movie tropes.
The modern feel of Big Hero 6 extends beyond the script and into the visual language of the film, with references to modern trends such as selfies and 3D printing - the former feeling just a little forced but not to the film's detriment.
A diverse principal cast also makes this Disney's most multicultural film to date, something perfectly exemplified by the clumsily christened setting of San Fransokyo. It's great to see and occurs naturally, never feeling like a film being diverse for diversity's sake or to make a point.
All that said, Big Hero 6's biggest star is white: a big white marshmallow-looking "personal health care robot" by the name of Baymax (pictured above, below and all over each of the film's posters), who is given life by the comforting voice of 30 Rock alum Scott Adsit.
Baymax was invented by Tadashi Hamada (Daniel Henney) and befriends his creator's boy genius brother Hiro (Ryan Potter) at a crucial time in his teenage life. Hiro is struggling but is supported by a group of like-minded and nerdy friends.
When a masked villain threatens the city with a world-changing invention, Go Go (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and Fred (TJ Miller) join Hiro and Baymax to form the title team, who wear suits built by Hiro to save the day.
They're a group whose powers are based on their own ideas and creations, which makes the supporting cast feel important and further bolsters the film's central themes of invention and self-belief.
In an interesting twist, Hiro does not grant himself an ability because his power is his keen inventive mind - represented by the six awesome suits he and his friends wear - rather any particular invention produced from it.
The time given to each team member varies. Fred and Honey Lemon are served just fine but the other two are not. Go Go in particular does not get much to do, making her feminist war cry "Woman up" feel a bit strange coming from the mouth of the film's most underwritten female character.
But always central to the plot and action is Baymax, who is masterfully animated and designed, and stands out despite the incredible work put into the near-photo-realistic scenery. Throughout, he wants only to serve and help Hiro and at one point acts as a cipher for the boy's own angst and brief violent streak.
The robot is Big Hero 6's clear star and he lives up the billing, ensuring Baymax will be a hit with the film's young audience – who will undoubtedly want as many toy versions of him as possible. Chalk up another big win for Disney's marketing department.
Big Hero 6 treads well-trodden ground but does so with panache and a fresh take on adolescent life. Like Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen before it, this is another film that does not fit the traditional Disney mould but one that matches the studios' renowned quality.