News Column

Marvel Universe Heroes Enter the Disney World

May 20, 2014

Brian Truitt, @briantruitt, USA TODAY

Superheroes are invading the world previously ruled by talking animals and ice princesses.

Big Hero 6, in theaters Nov. 7, is the 54th movie from the Walt Disney Animation Studio but the first to use characters from its pals over at Marvel Comics. The result: comic-book action-adventure and major spectacle mixed with humor and emotion in its story of a kid hero and his robot.

"They're the beating heart of the movie," says Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh), co-director with Chris Williams (Bolt).

Though the voice cast won't be announced till later this summer, the first Big Hero 6 teaser goes online Thursday to introduce 14-year-old prodigy Hiro Hamada and nurse robot Baymax.

In the American-Japanese mash-up locale San Fransokyo, Hiro is a brazen, fast-talking kid inventor who is squandering his potential. Older brother Tadashi wants to steer him toward being a productive member of society.

Baymax comes into his life, too, and when "forces of antagonism" rise and a mystery develops in the city, Hiro turns his squishy, soft and pliable robot, meant for a career in health care, into an armored fighting machine, Williams says. "They form a relationship and a bond that Hiro wasn't counting on."

The youngster also teams with his big bro's talented teen friends: adrenaline junkie Go Go Tamago, neat freak Wasabi No-Ginger, master of chemistry Honey Lemon and resident fanboy Fred.

They're no Avengers, however. Instead of superheroes, these kids are supernerds, Hall says.

"No one's a god, like Thor, and there's no supersoldier serum or anything like that," he says. "It's all their brains and tech."

The main question for directors at first was, "What does a Disney superhero movie look like?" The late-1990s Marvel comic on which the film was loosely based was "a love letter to Japanese culture," so an anime influence and Asian flavor is definitely in Big Hero 6, Hall says.

Plus, they wanted to honor the Disney legacy but give it a personality all its own with a cinematic look and scientific bent.

"It became really, really interesting immersing ourselves in the tech world right now and leveraging that into superpowers," Hall says. "At every turn, we try to give the audience something they haven't really seen before."

Adds Williams: "Working at Disney animation, it's easy for us to connect to nerdy types. In our building, we have a few -- ourselves included. There's certainly a lot of inspiration all around us."

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Source: Copyright 2014 USA TODAY

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