To promote the upcoming November 7th release of the Walt Disney Animation Studios feature Big Hero 6, the studio invited members of the press out to see portions of the animated action-adventure comedy and to participate in presentations and demos to show what it takes to put a film like this together, from all aspects of the production. The story follows robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) who, after a tragic event, turns to the robot companion Baymax (voiced by 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 (voiced by Jamie Chung), precision freak Wasabi (voiced by Damon Wayans Jr.), chemistry whiz Honey Lemon (voiced by Genesis Rodriguez) and fanboy Fred (voiced by T.J. Miller) – into high-teach heroes determined to solve the mystery and save the day. For more on the film, watch the trailer.
Inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name, Big Hero 6 has the heart and humor that you would expect, but it also has more characters and bigger action than any Disney animated feature to date. During the early press day to preview what audiences can expect when the film opens, we heard from the directors, the animation department, the script and story department, visual effects and production design. Hit the jump to find out more about what we learned.
24 Things to know about BIG HERO 6
- Created by John Lasseter, the Story Trust is comprised of a group of directors who work on each individual’s film, as a team, as well as find stories that really speak to them. Each film must be unique and engaging, with all of the heart and humor that audiences expect from a Disney animated film, while exploring new worlds and creating compelling characters to fall in love with.
- Filmmakers typically screen an animated feature eight or nine times during the development process, and they bring the voice cast in around the third or fourth screening. There are generally about 12 weeks in between iterations, which gives them the ability to actually start molding the character to fit the actor.
- As a life-long fan of comic books and of Disney animation, director Don Hall started imagining what a combination of those two things would look like. When he came across the lesser-known Marvel comics series Big Hero 6, he was inspired to create an original story set it in a new, unique world.
- Marvel was supportive, but not possessive about what they wanted to do with the property. Joe Quesada and Jeph Loeb went to screenings and became a part of the Story Trust meetings where they would give notes, but they were only ever suggestions and not directives.
- Even though they didn’t take the story from the comics, they did want to keep the playful and fun tone, the fact that it’s a love letter to Japanese pop culture, in superhero form, and that it has a core relationship between the 14-year-old super genius protagonist and a robot.
- The setting for the story is a city in the near future, called San Fransokyo, that is a mix of both San Francisco and Tokyo. It is a high-tech city that blends both Eastern and Western culture.
- To create the city, they took a research trip to Tokyo to get a visual sense of what it was like, and they paid special attention to the light in the Bay Area.
- Because of the city the story takes place in, they knew early on that it was absolutely vital that the team of self-made superheros represent that multi-cultural world.
- This film is a superhero origin story and even though there is potential with these characters and this world to do many more stories, they really wanted to put everything into this movie without thinking about possible future films.
- A family tragedy was always the catalyst for Hiro’s journey, from the first pitch of the film.
- Animated films take four to five years to make, which is due, in large part, to the time it takes to develop the story. The story team consists of directors, writers, head of story and the whole storyboarding team. The process is a lot more like writing for a TV show, where they sit around a table for months and months, talking and building it.
- About a year into the screenwriting process, they hire actors to come in and do a radio play of the script to see what’s working and what’s not.
- There were 85 animators responsible for all of the character motion in the film.
- During pre-production, in the long tradition of Disney animation, everything starts with a drawing that then provides the animators with the emotional range of the character from multiple angles and keeps a consistency of look with the characters, through the rigging process.
- Each control moves a specific part of a character, ranging from very broad pieces of the body, all the way to the most finite pieces, like fingers, eyes, lids and lashes, and there are hundreds of controls for each character.
- This cast is the largest cast of characters ever in a Disney animated film. There are about 15 main characters, but 701 unique characters, which all have to be animated. 1,300 animation cycles were created, which is about 600 per gender, and allows them to populate the world with characters who are standing, sitting, talking, texting, talking on the phone, carrying a shopping bag, etc., to really fill in the world and make it rich.
- Another challenge was the breadth of animation, which ranges from very subtle, nuanced performances to very heavy action sequences. With seven action sequences, many on a much larger scale than we’ve ever done before, there is more action in this film than in any other Disney animated film.
- To create the look of Baymax, the character design team went to Carnegie Mellon and learned about soft robotics, which led to him being an inflatable robot. Bells inspired the look of his eyes.
- They looked to penguins for inspiration in animating Baymax because they don’t really use their arms and a robot doesn’t need to move anything that doesn’t necessarily have a function. That simplicity to Baymax really allows the audience to be a more active participant in his performance because you project onto him what you think he’s feeling.
- Baymax is a personal health care companion robot who’s programmed with over 10,000 medical procedures.
- Costume and color supports the character’s personality, and you should be able to tell who they are by what they’re wearing. Like the Power Rangers, they wanted the colors for each member of the team to be very iconic.
- The effects department, which has grown significantly over the last few films, is a balance of the creative and the technical. For Tangled, there were 13 effects animators, and for Big Hero 6, there were 40 effects animators.
- Each superhero has a superpower, in the form of effects, that reflects their individual personality. The effects department works very closely with character animation to achieve those effects.
- They think about the 3D element from the very outset because it allows them to have the most interesting visuals. Our stereo supervisor is there throughout and makes suggestions about camera placement for the most compelling 3D effects.
Big Hero 6 opens in theaters on November 7th. For more on the film, check out the Facebook page.