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Big Hero 6: Thoughts From the Cast & Creators

Posted on the 05 November 2014 by Horsingaroundinla @HorsingAroundLA

Big Hero 6: Thoughts From the Cast & Creators

By Mindy Marzec

Last month I had the great privilege to see a screening of “Big Hero 6” and attend a press junket with some of the film’s creators and voice actors. It was a fun afternoon at the Disney studios in Burbank, CA, and I want to thank Erin at Horsing Around in L.A. for the experience! My review of the film is coming up, but first I wanted to introduce you to some of the creative geniuses behind “Big Hero 6” and also the short film that runs before it, called “Feast.”


First we got a little background about how the film was made from Don Hall (Director), Chris Williams (Director), and Roy Conli (Producer). They were asked about how the project came to be and how similar it is to the original Marvel comic of “Big Hero 6.”

Don: “The project came from my love of comic books. It was a dream project to take these things (Disney and comics) and combine them. We inquired about the project because I liked the title, found out it was a Japanese super hero team and then became more intrigued, then actually read the comics and got really intrigued. And so when we met with Marvel and said, ‘We want to do Big Hero 6,’ they loved it, they loved the idea we were going to do, and they said ‘don’t worry about setting it in the Marvel universe. Do your own thing. Use your own creative and create your own world.” So then we created San Fransokyo, because that’s what we do first, right off the bat, what’s the world we’re dealing with here? We love fantasy and we do fantasy very well, and so we wanted to create a fantasy world. That’s what led to this mash up of San Fransokyo. We wanted this world to not be super powered beings walking around, there’s a reality to this world. And then super technology became everybody’s super power. So a lot of these little decisions took us farther away from the comic book.”


What about criticism from Marvel fans?

Don: “One thing about our process is, no matter what story you think you’re going to tell when you start out, it is going to be something else by the end. That’s just the way it is. (Changing the story) was always going to be that way. I will say that Duncan Rouleau, who is one of the co-creators of the original comic, just saw (the film) and loved it.” 

The relationship between brothers: Hiro and Tadashi The directors revealed they  held a “brothers summit” at the studio. Roy remembers that afternoon even though he wasn’t working on the film yet.  “(Don) basically put an APB out for anyone who has a brother.  “At 4 o’clock today, there will be beer, come talk.’” Don added, “Part of me felt like a therapist all of a sudden. I’m there with a ledger pad and taking notes, like … “really, go on.” Roy said it was a really interesting experience  because employees from all different departments, not just the animation department, came to help out. “It was so cool because the brotherhood thing was so important to the film.”

Next we got an opportunity to chat with Damon Wayans Jr. (“Wasabi”) and T.J. Miller (“Fred”).

Damon talked about how he had never done voice-over work before. T.J., on the other hand, has lent his voice to several movies and TV series (“How to Train Your Dragon” and “Gravity Falls” just to name a couple). When T.J. was asked if working with Disney on a major animated feature was any different than past voice-over jobs, he said, “I found that Disney was so open to, ‘oh, let’s make the storyline this, you riff that;’ it’s really a collaborative process. (Disney) would let you get absurd and say “yeah, try it and we might use it,” and in your mind you’re thinking this is unusable … and then you watch the movie and sure enough, it’s in there. (Disney gave us) the freedom to do anything you want, and they will sort of work with you for as long as you’re able to stand up. There are a lot of improved lines in there.”

Both Damon and TJ admitted they cried when they saw the finished movie for the first time. TJ joked “I kept checking my mascara on my compact mirror.” He goes on to say, “(The movie) has got so much heart … it has got some sad stuff, but it’s mixed so well with the comedy and the action.”


Then we chatted with Scott Adsit (“Baymax”) and Ryan Potter (“Hiro”)

Basically these two are the lead voices in the film. When they were asked about their chemistry in the movie, they admitted they actually just met each other for the first time a couple weeks earlier. “But we feel a camaraderie and it’s a closeness that’s odd and unique to our business,” Scott said. “We feel like we’ve been working together for a year and a half. A friendship by proxy.”

Ryan spoke a little about what “Big Hero 6” means to him. “The film has a lot of really amazing messages. One is, family is not necessarily the one you’re born with, they are the ones you find and the ones you create. The message of being yourself is very important. I’m a very, what-you-see-is-what-you-get person. I don’t put on an act, and that’s what these characters do, too. They are so proud to be themselves and they don’t apologize for who they are, and I think that’s going to be really good for kids to see. 


As far as the film’s “nerdy” plot, based around science and making things, Ryan says, “I grew up with anime, I am an anime nerd.” Scott added, “I prefer geek.”

When asked about how he channeled the voice of Baymax, Scott said, “I went in with the idea that (Baymax) had to be very benign because he’s a caregiver and non-threatening, and also user friendly, so the first thing I thought of was automated phone systems and the fact that they are friendly but there’s something a little off with them.”


 Scott and Ryan recreating their characters’ signature fist bump from the movie.

Scott said he is still kind of in shock he’s the voice of a character in a Disney movie. “It’s the ultimate job, I think. There’s a great joy that you associate with this. I hate to just go on and on, like Pollyanna about (Disney), but I have never had such a pleasant working environment. Everyone I’ve met here loves their job and they can’t wait to do it some more, and they want to stay longer. And that creates such a great place to come and feel like a collaborator.”

When asking about what they thought of the final film, Ryan, much like Damon and T.J. said, “We cried.”  

Ryan, who himself is just starting college, was asked to comment on the importance of education, especially since his character Hiro starts the film as a bit of a slacker but is later convinced by his older brother to enroll in school. “I think (college) is important now, speaking as an artist,” said Ryan. “Not everybody flourishes in a college environment. Some people flourish in arts school, or four years of college, but some people flourish in job training. So for kids to continue education in a field where they are inspired I think is really important.”

Next up were Jamie Chung (“GoGo Tomago”) and Genesis Rodriguez (“Honey Lemon”).

When asked about how she voiced her character Go Go, Jamie told us, “I feel like I’m a bit warmer than my character and they kept asking me to tone it down, make it drier. So that was the challenge.”  In speaking about the role of Honey Lemon, Genesis said, “I couldn’t believe how similar we (myself and Honey Lemon) were, and without planning it. I walked into the audition with socks and heels, and I had never done that before. And they are a robotics team, and I used to do robotics in high school. I was blown away. Kind of like when you’re meant for a part.” 


Genesis loves the message of the film. “Hopefully with this movie, a lot of little boys and girls can dream of changing the world with science, becoming scientists or chemists. Anyone can be a super hero if you just prepare yourself and educate yourself, you can do anything you dream of, and these girls are just, they are total opposites but they are super intelligent and super strong females and they are kind of even stronger than the boys in the film.” Jamie adds, “(The movie) also breaks down the stereotype of what a family is and the contemporary and conventional idea of what makes a family. There are a lot of different things that are addressed in this film that I support.” 

Finally, last but not least, we had a chance to talk with producer Kristina Reed about the short animated film “Feast,” which plays before “Big Hero 6.”

Kristina told us, “The idea (for ‘Feast’) came from something that Patrick had been doing, which was using a one second a day app and filming his dinners, and you watch the film now and it’s just plates of food. He sat down and watched all of these meals in one sitting, it was about six minutes, and he realized he could see what was happening in his life through these meals. He could see when he was in a production crunch; he could see when his fiancé moved in with him, he could see how his feelings were changing, how his life was changing, just by looking at his food. And he started to wonder if it was possible to tell a broader story, one that the audience could figure out. And that was the genesis of ‘Feast.’


“One of the things (Patrick) did to make it broader, was he realized dogs are creatures of pattern, so if something changes for them, they notice. So he realized that would help the audience see the changes more quickly in the story beat, so that was how he realized he needed to tell the story with a dog. Then it became an issue of finding the right dog. The first thing we did was look through all the Disney films and say, well, we want a new dog, we want a fresh dog, we want to pick a breed that’s never been done before, which is … Disney has had quite a lot of dogs. We wanted a small dog, because we wanted to show the meals are moving from the floor, to the couch, and to the table. And then when the girlfriend comes it’s back down to the floor. So you sort of see this promotion and demotion happening. And then because Patrick knew he wanted a flat rendering style, when the dog turns you wouldn’t necessarily be aware of that unless the dog had some kind of markings on their face. So that led us to Bostons (Terriers) because they have that really distinctive pattern. So that’s the genesis of it.” 


In talking about the film’s unique visual style, Kristina said, “Patrick wanted to make it feel sort of handmade, and so the way we got that was, all the edges are a little bit rough. It’s really typical of CG to have really clean, really sharp edges, everything’s sort of perfect. We have these rough edges on everything and so we had to use software that would track where the edge is, because sometimes the edge is here, and then if the dog moves it’s here, and then it’s here, and that’s the Meander software that you may remember from ‘Paperman.’ This is us using it for the first time in color. It has an amazing feel about it.” 

When asked if there were any challenges in making the film, Kristina told us, “The most challenging thing was finding food that’s instantly recognizable. You need to know what it is that dog’s eating, all the time. We had to constantly find food that was iconic – a slice of pizza, nachos – finding the vegetables was actually the hardest thing. (We had to ask ourselves) what can you recognize right away? We brought in a food stylist to help talk to us about how to make food look appealing, because if the food didn’t look good you definitely weren’t going to be along with for the ride with the dog. And then of course, we had to do a lot of research. The whole time we were making the short we had to be bringing in food from the short, because, we had to make sure! (Laughs) We were all gaining weight, it was kind of embarrassing.”

I hope these behind-the-scenes insights makes your viewing of “Big Hero 6” even more enjoyable! Come back later this week for my review. Remember “Big Hero 6” is in theaters everywhere this Friday, November 7.

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