The latest Disney animated feature film is set in the near future in the fictional San Fransokyo, an impression of what San Francisco might be like if it were in Japan (unless they have gone all ‘Watchmen’ on the story and Japan won World War II, this is not elaborated on) which has allowed the illustrators to tinker with a more Japanese style of animation for various elements in the film (alas, no easily discernible hentai on display). It’s based on the little known Marvel comic of the same name, which Disney is at liberty to adapt having bought over Marvel some years ago now and in fact there are a number of elements similar to the character of Iron Man which are a little distracting, but again they don’t have to worry about encroaching on copyright. It’s a bit of a departure for Disney in many ways as their productions are often marked by their originality, whereas here it is a fairly familiar superhero set-up, admittedly with extremely finessed graphical work.
Hiro (Ryan Potter) is a young tech aficionado whose parents passed away in a tragic accident. His brother creates a medical robot, Baymax (Scott Adsit), who becomes Hiro’s closest friend and adventuring companion when a mysterious fire not only destroys his world changing microbots he had been working on, but also sadly claims the life of his brother as well. Baymax has a bulky frame but one created largely via an inflatable exterior, thus differing from all other big-screen mechanoids, and he brings much needed light relief to the film as the duo are accidentally flung into investigating what really happened on that fateful day.
On his journey of self discovery Hiro will have to question his own feelings of rage, as well as what role other people should play in his life – the other engineers from his brother’s lab are concerned about his welfare but he initially keeps them at a distance, for example. All of these elements are resolved and delivered in a fairly two dimensional way, but there is action aplenty and it all looks and feels fresh enough to entertain even if it is going to appeal in a grander way to a younger demographic rather than adults. Maya Rudolph, Jamie Chung, Alan Tudyk and James Cromwell (as Professor Callaghan – a reference to Harry Callaghan, aka ‘Dirty’ Harry, San Francisco’s very own urban diplomacy expert) are the most recognisable names in the supporting line-up and, as you might imagine, there are Easter eggs galore to spot throughout the film.