It takes much more than just a few drawings and clever dialogue to really make an animated film work, especially at the hands of such a prestigious studio. Walt Disney Animation Studios has been busy for the past couple years, creating their latest movie ‘Big Hero 6,’ which is the unlikely Marvel comic to get adapted into a feature film. The upcoming movie has been confirmed to be loosely based off it’s original source material, but a lot of Marvel fans aren’t fretting over that fact at all. In fact, there are many who are curious and excited for the latest superhero adventure, and one of the reasons is due to the continued hot streak going on at Walt Disney Animation Studios.
The animation section within the House of Mouse has been tearing it up at the box office in the past year with their spectacular hit ‘Frozen.’ For the studio to suddenly surprise movie-goers with an unfamiliar Marvel property has all sorts of viewers excited for that opening weekend, including ShockYa. In order to calm ShockYa’s curiosity, Walt Disney Animation Studios gave this site a fantastic glimpse into the fictional world of San Fransokyo at the early press day for ‘Big Hero 6.’
The first stop on the tour within the walls of the animation sector was an exclusive footage presentation of ‘Big Hero 6,’ along with the adorable Disney short ‘Feast.’ Roughly around 15 minutes worth of footage was shown for ‘Big Hero 6,’ a presentation that will be expanded upon in detail during the second of several articles to come dealing with this upcoming animated feature.
Quickly after the footage presentation, various journalists were shuffled off into different areas of the gigantic building as they were introduced to different parts of the creation process. ShockYa went with a few other journalists to a room covered with a incredible amount of images showcasing the backdrop of San Fransokyo. Now this wasn’t just for decoration; the images were put up to display the kind of talent, time and effort that transformed the idea of this fictional city into a reality through the magic of animation. The people in charge of this particular room included lead character designer Shiyoon Kim, character design supervisor Jin Kim, visual development artist Lorelay Bove and the head of story Paul Briggs.
Briggs brought the group through a step-by-step process of what Disney animators must go through not only to figure out the aesthetic look of San Fransokyo, but how much detail goes into everything that’s seen before our eyes. Movie-goers may look at a random street in ‘Big Hero 6,’ but have no idea the incredible amount of attention and time was put forth into making it look not just absolutely perfect, but the kind of world that would actually inhabit superheroes. “A superhero film has to feel huge, populated and believable in scale,” explains Briggs. “[We wanted] the superhero idea to seem believable so that they could be saving a city and not something that looked like a miniature. So we had to get all the details right, even the mundane details like the train stops and manhole covers. Try to get the density concept that would be a great backdrop for the story we were trying to tell.”
Speaking of that backdrop, some of the ‘Big Hero 6’ team had to put together concept designs in order to really transform it from a simple idea on paper to a movie that Disney Animation was more than happy to piece together. Lorelay Bove was one of many who helped conceptualize what ‘Big Hero 6’ co-director Don Hall had in his head for San Fransokyo and turning it into beautiful design art. “Lorelay was starting to explore the visual motifs might be for the film, exactly how that mash-up between the two different styles could be,” said Briggs.
There was a lot of research that happened in order for the animation team to pin down the right aesthetic for San Fransokyo. The animation and design team made their way across the sea to Tokyo, Japan and back to San Francisco to really see the contrast in architecture and how to bring those two worlds together. Briggs goes on to explain a little bit of the contrast between Tokyo and San Francisco. “We wanted to get a better sense of what the spaces were like in Tokyo. The skyscraper forms in a way are a lot more exuberant than what you’ll find in American cities, and we wanted to get the flavor in there.”
When they really scoped the general layout for what San Fransokyo would be, it was time to change their focus onto their main characters. The story revolves around Hiro (Ryan Potter) and his unlikely robot friend Baymax (Scott Adsit). The idea to have Baymax be an inflatable robot didn’t spring out of an animator’s head like in a cartoon, but rather took some time and research for the creative team to finalize the character design. Shiyoon Kim and his team had their work cut out for them when they were presented with a couple of interesting challenges for Baymax.
“With Baymax, we wanted to create a robot that we’ve never seen before,” explains Kim. “Another challenge was to make it as appealing as possible, and Don [Hall] also said ‘huggable,’ so that was an interesting challenge. The first thing that we did was the team went to carnegie mellon and they actually found out about soft robotics. It’s inflatable arm and they’re researching developing that kind of technology. The team thought what if Baymax was an inflatable robot?” After that point, the creative team settled on having Baymax be inflatable, which turned into a fun project for those animating the lovable robot.
The same concerns about the concept design for the protagonist Hiro popped up in everyone’s mind. The character is a genius but he’s also a typical, slightly sloppy teenager. There has to be a middle ground for the animators to expand on, and the concept design team were able to figure out how to pinpoint those qualities within his physical look. “With Hiro, we wanted him to be as appealing as possible, and very relatable,” said Kim. “For me, the way I connected with Hiro was with my own childhood, so there’s a lot of things that in growing up I would do and I would see my friends do. Kids nowadays they pull up their backpack straps all the way up to the back of their neck. I thought that was maybe Hiro could do that. He’s got sloppy, unstyled hair. He’s very messy. Hoodies I remember wearing hoodies a lot, so all those things, life experiences somehow affected the design for Hiro.”
After Shiyoon Kim’s explanation was complete, Jin Kim went ahead and did a bust drawing of Hiro for us all to see in real time. It was a pretty spectacular experience, already spoiling the journalists of what else they were going to see throughout the press day.
‘Big Hero 6’ comes out in theaters everywhere on November 7, 2014. If you want to read more on ShockYa.com’s coverage on the ‘Big Hero 6’ press day, read on what it takes to build the script and our chat with the filmmakers.