Movie a Day Blog is never a sore loser with its Oscar predictions and personal votes, with only some exceptions (cursed be Eddie Redmayne!).’
Although I favored THE BOX TROLLS (2014) for Best Animated Feature, I wasn’t disappointed to see BIG HERO 6 (2014, DVD) win. It made it a clean sweep for Disney Animation Studios this year — they also took home the Oscar for Best Animated Short with FEAST (2014), the cartoon that premiered before BIG HERO 6 in its theatrical release. (Movie a Day, 2/7/15).
BIG HERO 6 is unique in presenting a Japanese-dominated future (it takes place in San Fransokyo), and while the anime influence on Disney animators is noticeable, it certainly isn’t dominant — AKIRA (1988) this is not, even if the hero is named Hiro Hamada.
He’s a frustrated teen prodigy who finds his mission when confronted with his even smarter older brothe’s invention, a big white inflatable “nurse robot” named Baymax who is as dedicated to health care as an Obama devotee. This inspires Hiro to come up with his own invention, tiny microbots who can be assembled in endless numbers to do just about anything.
It’s all great fun because these ideas are sprouting out of the heads of college students and teenagers, and their verve and enthusiasm are contagious and appealing. Baymax begins to loosen up, so to speak, and assumes great powers than just checking his owner’s vital signs. The problem is he turns into an armored-up superhero.
There’s a bad guy, of course, a good professor turned bad like the usual comic book scenario, and that’s when BIG HERO 6 goes astray, in my estimation, and the reason I didn’t vote for it. It became like Disney’s most valuable asset, a Marvel action movie, only with animated characters.
It was a relief to be out of the pun-dominated Pixar and DreamWorks Animation universe and into a future world that was innovative and different, but when the scale of the destruction approaches blockbuster proportions, animation just seems like a cheaper way to blow stuff up.
The plot of BIG HERO 6 becomes ever more complex, moving away from its soft and fuzzy opening in a way that may alarm some parents. Maybe the reference to the groundbreaking AKIRA wasn’t so outlandish after all — that film ended with a nuclear and cosmic explosion designed to start a new world.
There’s nothing that radical at the conclusion of BIG HERO 6, of course, although the youthful protagonists end up running through their chosen city as did the new generation of motorcycle kids who survived in AKIRA.
Baymax becomes more appealing than just an Obamacare joke, and the slick direction by animation veterans Chris Williams (BOLT, 2008) and Don Hall (WINNIE THE POOH, 2011) keeps the movie flowing, although at 102 minutes, like every other Hollywood picture in the era of endless digital footage, it’s too long.
People still can’t get over THE LEGO MOVIE (2014, Movie a Day 2/7/14) not being nominated, but the art of animation is at such a high level these days, no one has a monopoly on the best work. I was relieved that HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON 2 (2014), with its preachy self-help messages, failed to win as predicted. But I have to admit its animation style was superb, as was the Laika stop-motion studio’s work on BOX TROLLS. (Posts on all these to come!)
It’s difficult to pick favorites when animation, either hand-drawn or computer-assisted, is in a second Golden Age. Let’s just enjoy the embarrassment of riches.