Walt Disney Animation has been on a serious roll the last few years. Starting with the fairy tale Tangled in 2010, the company has put out the critically-acclaimed Winnie The Pooh in 2011, the hit Wreck-It Ralph in 2012, and the phenomenon that is Frozen in 2013. So how can they possibly top themselves for 2014? How about combining creative forces with one of the biggest brands in modern Hollywood? Marvel Comics’ Big Hero 6 is the next feature coming your way from the legendary animation company, and earlier this summer I got to be a part of a very special a behind the scenes look at the film.
Inspired by though not directly based on the comics created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau, Big Hero 6 begins in the fictional city of San Fransokyo and follows the story of Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), a young robotics prodigy. With the support and inspiration of his big brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney), he makes a huge scientific breakthrough in the field of mind-controlled nanobots while on the verge of attending an esteemed technological university. On the night he shows his invention to the world, however, disaster strikes, Tadashi is killed, and the nanobots are seemingly destroyed. What Hiro eventually realizes, however, is that his invention was actually stolen by a villain who has an incredibly dastardly plan, leading our main character to team up with a group of five friends and a soft, lovable nurse robot named Baymax to play superhero and defeat evil.
To get an early look at the still-in-progress film, this past July I was invited along with a group of other film journalists to not only tour the halls of Walt Disney Animation Studios, but to visit the various departments and talk with the men and women responsible for taking the project from its original concept to its final stages. As part of the day’s events, I also had the fantastic opportunity to sit down with the two men responsible for making it all happen: directors Don Hall and Chris Williams. I had an absolutely enlightening experience talking with the two filmmakers about their work and its greatest influences, and now I can share with you what I learned!
Frozen Definitely ‘Ratcheted Up The Pressure’While the folks at Walt Disney Animation are certainly no strangers to the feelings of success and accomplishment, Frozen was such a truly extraordinary win that we are still seeing reverb from it to this day. As the title that is serving as the follow up, Big Hero 6 naturally has quite a bit of pressure on it – and it’s pressure that the directors openly admit to feeling.
Asked about the larger mark that the snow-covered fairy tale has left on the goings-on at Disney, Don Hall admitted that the environment at the studio has changed to a degree, mostly in terms of outlook and anticipation. "[Frozen] certainly ratcheted up the pressure as far as it was a really great movie, is well received, and we loved it - and so you just want to make sure you don’t drop the ball," the director said. "It has all the heart and humor that you would expect from a Disney film. But [Frozen] certainly raised the bar."
Of course, because animated films take such a long time to make their way through development, Frozen’s impact on Big Hero 6 at Disney is more represented in the mentality of the filmmakers than the actual movie. After last year’s blockbuster, there was no kind of rush to add in any kind of new details or elements that would make the new movie more like the hit in terms of content or appeal. "There was nothing along those lines at all," Chris Williams confirmed.