Sometimes fortune can smile on you, and a meander past BFI Southbank and a peruse through the available films led me to successfully enquire about the scant remaining tickets. And so I found myself in NFT1 on a Sunday afternoon with an auditorium full of exciting young people for a preview of Big Hero 6.
As has once again become a tradition with Disney, the film was preceded by a new short film, the Oscar-nominated Feast. Disney uses these animated shorts as a testing ground for talent and technology, and Feast continues this as Paperman did in 2012. It’s a charming dog’s-eye tale of food and love, and it utterly delighted the audience, myself included. Considering though that Disney doesn’t see their animated shorts as commercial endeavours, it’s a shame they don’t do more to make them publicly available once the film festival screenings are over.
But the main event was Big Hero 6 itself. Some people have described it as ‘Frozen for boys’, in that both cover the theme of siblings and dealing with loss, but it didn’t have that feel for me. While the theme may have been a match for Frozen, I thought it felt more like How To Train a Dragon crossed with The Incredibles.
Based on one of Marvel’s more obscure properties, this is ostensibly a superhero team origin story, though this is an aspect of the story that is rapidly glossed over. Something I’m not too unhappy about, after all, aren’t we all a little saturated with origin stories?
It allows Big Hero 6 to focus on what Disney does best when Disney does it well: the emotional journey and general cuteness. In this case they have done very well indeed. There’s no doubt that with inflatable ‘personal healthcare companion’ robot Baymax, whose walk was modelled on that of baby penguins, they have created an endurable character, utterly different from other robots and from its Marvel origins. And the slightly trippy emotional climax at the end hugely affected the audience.
After the film, which the mostly younger audience loved, there was a Q&A with director Don Hall and producer Roy Conli. There was some curated talk about creative process which was good, but the questions from the audience were worth waiting for, once they got restricted to the under-12s. My favourite was by a little girl who was baffled as to how the humans were made to fly for the film. Director Don Hall did a sterling job answering the question in such a way that didn’t dispel the illusion that there was no difference between animation and people than can fly.
I’m not sure Big Hero 6 will attain the popularity of Frozen, Tangled or the peaks of Pixar’s output, but I enjoyed it and, more importantly, its target audience did too.