From Walt Disney Animation Studios, Big Hero 6 follows robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter) who, after a tragic event, turns to inflatable and huggable robot companion Baymax (Scott Adsit). With a dangerous plot unfolding on the streets of San Fransokyo, Hiro transforms a group of like-minded friends – adrenaline junkie Go Go Tomago (Jamie Chung), precision freak Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), chemistry whiz Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and fanboy Fred (T.J. Miller) – into high-teach heroes determined to solve the mystery and save the day.
At the film’s press day, voice co-stars Genesis Rodriguez and Jamie Chung spoke at a roundtable interview about how much they got to see of their characters while they were recording the voices, how similar they are to the characters they brought to life (Genesis Rodriguez was actually even on her high school robotics team), how important it is to them that there are two very smart women in the film, telling an emotional story that’s very relatable, their action figures, that the finished film actually brought them to tears, how much improvisation they did, where they’d like to see their characters go in future films, and how strange it is to be a Disney character. Genesis also spoke about the Kevin Smith trilogy of films that she’s a part of, while Jamie spoke about her Hulu series, produced by Elizabeth Banks.
JAMIE CHUNG: When I came in for my first recording session, they had decorated the room to inspire me. It’s all of the sketches of your character, in and out of the suit. So, it was pretty developed, by the time I came around.
GENESIS RODRIGUEZ: Same with me. What was weird was that, when I went to audition for the part, I wore socks and heels, which I never do, and that’s Honey Lemon’s wardrobe.
CHUNG: It’s super interesting because Honey Lemon is Genesis, with all of the mannerisms and everything.
Jamie, how much of GoGo is in you?
CHUNG: In terms of the characteristics, a need for speed. I feel like I am an adrenaline junkie. I’m always trying different things. But I’m a very safe driver, unlike GoGo. I can be sassy. You can ask my fiancé. I’m sure he’ll say that I’m very sassy. But, I’m a bit more warm. I feel like she only expresses that occasionally, or once in the movie.
How important was it to you that there are two very smart women in the film?
RODRIGUEZ: It’s super important. We want to inspire girls to use their minds to achieve anything they want to do. I think that’s the beauty of this movie. It has a really cool message that, if you educate yourself, you can do anything. You can be a superhero, even. These are normal kids with extraordinary powers because of their minds. For me, I hope that, if any kid sees this movie, in the near future, we’re gonna have a Baymax because they got inspired by this. We need Baymaxes in the world.
CHUNG: It was so difficult. You don’t really get to see the animation. They’ll give you a print-out of the storyboard for the story that they’re trying to tell, and the directors do such a great job, in terms of guidance. But ultimately, you’re really flying blind. Don [Hall] and Chris [Williams] tell you what’s happening in the scene or what happened in the moment before, but it’s really a room, your voice, the sketches, and the guys behind the glass telling you to try different things. That’s about it. There’s not much to go on. It’s pretty raw.
Is there a different preparation for you, when it comes to voice work?
RODRIGUEZ: I didn’t do any warm-ups, if that’s what you’re asking. We really didn’t know too much about the story. We had little bits and pieces of who we were. They told me that I was a chemist, and we had to do a lot with robotics and building things. For me, I know a lot about that because I was on a robotics team, so I just took from what I knew.
CHUNG: I don’t think there’s a huge transformation that’s necessary, in terms of prepping for this role versus something that’s live-action, because there’s the luxury of time, for you to develop your character as it goes along. You have more time to play with things. When they hire you off of your voice, you have to have that essence for the character because that’s what they play with.
RODRIGUEZ: The character starts getting more whole throughout the sessions. It starts off like a little piece, and then it starts getting more complete.
Genesis, when were you on a robotics team, and did you do bot battles?
RODRIGUEZ: Yes, I did. In high school, I was on an all-girls robotics team. I was a welder, and I had to do a little bit with the pneumatics of the robot. Basically, I handled what makes everything turn, move, fight, crunch, punch and spin. I did it for fun. I’m glad they hired me for Honey Lemon because I had a little bit of knowledge about it.
Did they get it right?
RODRIGUEZ: Totally! Ours was a spinning robot that would just go really, really fast, and then just slice the competition. And then, our second robot was The Croc. We basically came in at an angle, knocked your robot on his side, and then chomped it to death.
CHUNG: Maybe that’s the Marvel element to this because it is a collaboration. It’s not a talking fish or a talking doe. It still has the magic, but it is more relatable because it’s in our near future. It’s celebrating science and engineers. But I feel like the theme of these movies are all very much the same, and all about family. It’s just a new kind of family. It’s not a traditional family.
RODRIGUEZ: Disney always has those heart-breaking stories, but I feel this one could help a lot of kids with how to deal with grief. Hopefully, someone comes up with a Baymax, so that life could be a bit easier. He’s like the perfect man. I’ve decided that I need Baymax in my life.
CHUNG: It’s like a Japanese snuggle pillow, with an arm and a body that you can snuggle.
Have you seen action figures for the characters?
CHUNG: At Comic-Con, yeah. It’s really cool.
RODRIGUEZ: It’s so exciting! I’m definitely going to have a shrine in the house, with everything that I can find of Honey Lemon.
CHUNG: I want to collect all six.
Genesis, why does Honey Lemon say Hiro with an inflection that’s different from the other characters?
RODRIGUEZ: We were trying to figure out if she’s a latina with an accent or not. Sometimes I would come in and do an accent in the sessions, and then the next time I would go in, they’d say, “You know what? Let’s get rid of the accent.” We just kept little words that would have that Latin flare. So, Hiro is basically that.
RODRIGUEZ: Oh, my gosh, I cried like a baby. The Disney music came on, and I was in tears. It’s so cool. It’s really surreal. It surprised me, what they did.
CHUNG: To be such a tiny role in such a big process, even just seeing the end credits, it’s so humbling. It’s such a reminder of how many people it takes to make a film like this and how many years they put into it. It’s crazy!
RODRIGUEZ: But, the results are well-polished jokes. Everything is perfected.
CHUNG: Yeah, it’s really great.
How much improvisation was there?
CHUNG: In terms of changing the lines around, just a bit. There was some wiggle room for my character. But with my character, when she speaks, it’s very specific. She doesn’t have much to say, so we couldn’t go off on a random improv like Fred does.
RODRIGUEZ: I think most of T.J. Miller’s stuff was improvised.
Assuming that Big Hero 6 does well, where would you like to see your characters go from here?
CHUNG: I would love to see GoGo fall in love.
RODRIGUEZ: I’d like to see that, too. I don’t know what Honey Lemon would do.
RODRIGUEZ: It’s so strange!
CHUNG: It’s great! It’s the Ferrari of cartoons. It’s amazing!
RODRIGUEZ: I used to get a fork and comb my hair like Ariel in The Little Mermaid. This is a very big thing in my life. I’ve been a Disney princess, all my life. So, to be Honey Lemon is the greatest gift that has happened to me.
CHUNG: I’m spoiled. I get to be Mulan (on Once Upon A Time) and GoGo, who are both very strong female characters. It’s very exciting. One’s live-action and one is cartoon, but it’s always fun.
Will we see Mulan on the show again?
CHUNG: I hope so. I just talked to Eddy [Kitsis] and he was like, “We’re working on it!”
Genesis, do you play the same character in the next two Kevin Smith movies that you played in Tusk?
RODRIGUEZ: In Yoga Hosers, I’m playing an angry Canadian P.E. teacher, so no. But in Moose Jaws, I come back as Ally. She has this obsession with exotic animals and starts studying animal biology. She got traumatized by the whole walrus situation, but it’s the same character.
Jamie, what’s coming up for you?
CHUNG: I have a show on Hulu, and a bunch of independent movies. You never know what the fate of those are going to be. Some just disappear, so I don’t know what the fate of those will be. The TV show is called Resident Advisors, and Elizabeth Banks executive produced the project. It’s a comedy with college humor.
Big Hero 6 opens in theaters on November 7th.