Don Hall and Chris Williams Big Hero 6


Don Hall and Chris Williams Big Hero 6

Don Hall and Chris Williams Big Hero 6

Cast: Jamie Chung, T.J. Miller, Maya Rudolph
Directors: Don Hall and Chris Williams
Genre: Animation, Action, Comedy

Synopsis: It's up to Hiro and Baymax to save the world, if they can get out the door...

With all the heart and humour audiences expect from Walt Disney Animation Studios, Big Hero 6 is an action-packed comedy-adventure about robotics prodigy Hiro Hamada, who learns to harness his genius"thanks to his brilliant brother Tadashi and their like-minded friends: adrenaline junkie Go Go Tamago, neatnik Wasabi, chemistry whiz Honey Lemon and fanboy Fred. When a devastating turn of events catapults them into the midst of a dangerous plot unfolding in the streets of San Fransokyo, Hiro turns to his closest companion"a robot named Baymax"and transforms the group into a band of high-tech heroes determined to solve the mystery. Inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name, and featuring comic-book style action, Big Hero 6 is directed by Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh) and Chris Williams (Bolt), and produced by Roy Conli (Tangled).

Big Hero 6
Release Date: December 26th, 2014

 

About The Production

 

A Boy And His Robot
Original Story Fueled by Research, Robotics and One Special Relationship

'Big Hero 6" filmmakers set out to create a movie that balances action, humor and emotion, but according to producer Roy Conli"it's not necessarily an even split. 'When all is said and done, heart and humor are so important to us"we want to make sure that the action always has meaning"an emotional context to live in. Emotion and humor tend to come along with the action in -Big Hero 6.'"

Inspired by the Marvel comics of the same name, 'Big Hero 6" features comic-book-style action, but at its core is the budding bond between Hiro and Baymax.

'Hiro is a 14-year-old precocious genius," says screenwriter Robert L. Baird. 'He graduated high school at 13, but he's not exactly using his gifts for the good of the world He's spending is days and nights participating in back-alley robot fights."

According to fellow screenwriter Daniel Gerson, Hiro's brother Tadashi manages to trick his little brother into making a change for the better. 'Tadashi is a smart confident guy," says Gerson. 'He takes Hiro to San Fransokyo Tech, and Hiro's blown away by what's going on there. He meets the professor who invented the magnetic bearing servos that Hiro actually used in his battle bots. By the time Hiro leaves, he's sold on the school. He's sold on college."

'Hiro has to present something to get into the school," says director Don Hall. 'So he invents these telepathically-controlled miniature robots called microbots that can form shapes and tools"they can do anything you imagine."

But, of course, things don't go as planned. 'Tadashi tragically passes away in an accident, while attempting to save his professor," says Hall. 'Hiro is devastated. He misses his brother greatly and he's on a downward spiral. That's when Baymax"this compassionate caring nurse robot that Tadashi designed"comes to life and begins to pull Hiro out of his grief."

'The movie is really about the two of them coming together," says director Chris Williams. 'We decided early on that the central relationship would be between Hiro and Baymax as Hiro struggled to deal with the loss of his brother. While we want the story to be really fun and funny, at the same time, there's this emotional depth and resonance that is pretty far beyond what people might expect."

The Origin Story

The story represents what happens when two beloved entities come together"a boy and a robot, for example"and this mash-up mentality is threaded throughout 'Big Hero 6." While the genesis of 'Big Hero 6" lies in the Marvel vaults, filmmakers say the comic- book series was small and not widely known. 'When I was a kid, I loved Marvel comics," says Hall. 'While working on -Winnie the Pooh,' I asked John Lasseter if I could explore the Marvel world for inspiration for my next film. I was encouraged to explore the Marvel vaults and one of the projects I found was called -Big Hero 6.' I'd never heard of it, but I liked the title and its Japanese influences."

According to Hall, he was encouraged to take the idea and run with it. 'From the beginning we were told to make it our own," he says. So Marvel's comic-book style was infused with Disney's classic filmmaking. 'It's a Disney movie with Marvel DNA," says Conli. 'The Marvel team was very supportive. They've never suggested anything other than to make a great movie. We're all fans of Marvel with great admiration for their style of action and adventure, so we wanted to make sure that was deeply ingrained in our storytelling, along with the desire to make a film with the heart and humor audiences expect from Disney animation."

The Research

Part of the process involved researching the robotics world to find Baymax. Hall spent some time with researchers at Carnegie Mellon University. 'We had great conversations about robots in pop culture," says Hall. 'And I learned that they were actually researching soft robotics, including this vinyl arm that was inflatable and non-threatening. It could do simple things like brush somebody's teeth, but the possibilities were endless."

Hall and several members of the production team visited a number of East Coast universities, including Harvard and MIT. The environments inspired the San Fransokyo Tech labs and the researchers there helped inform how technology would be positioned in the film. 'Robots aren't always depicted in the best light," says Hall. 'But once we saw that vinyl arm, Baymax's whole personality emerged."

According to head of story Joe Mateo, Hiro's personality was also informed by research. 'We met young people and asked them about their interests"what they did for fun."

Hiro's love of technology was inspired in part by Japanese researchers, says Hall. 'They were all influenced by Japanese pop culture and the robots they saw in animation. Their robots are different from Western robots. In Japan, robots are the key to a hopeful future. It's about making the world a better place."

Hiro's show-stopping microbots invention was also developed through research. 'We did some research at UCLA on their work with nanobots"like molecular-level robots," says Hall. 'Then we went to Carnegie Mellon University and MIT and met some people doing research on tiny robots. Our microbots evolved and while there's nothing out there doing the things Hiro presents in the movie"the technology is out there. It's in the works somewhere, I'm sure"or something like it. We're trying to be cutting-edge"but the possibilities are catching up."

For the film's finale, filmmakers consulted local expert Sean Carroll, a theoretical physicist at Caltech. 'I do research on gravity and cosmology, the whole universe, and particle physics and quantum mechanics," he says. 'I think it's very smart of the filmmakers to try to make the amazing stuff that happens in the film actually relate to real-world research. It lends a little bit of verifiability to the movie, and scientists are creative people who might have some cool ideas, too."

The team also did serious research into grief, particularly how loss impacts someone Hiro's age. Several members of the story team spent three hours with clinical psychologist Michelle Bilotta Smith. 'I work with people who have experienced severe trauma and grief."

Smith helped the story team identify exactly how Hiro would handle the loss of his older brother"how adolescents process loss differently than adults. 'They wanted to know what a depressed kid would look like," she says. '-What would his room look like? What would he be doing?'"

'We pick up right after Hiro's loss, and that's a really hard place to find your main character," says Williams, who worked on the scene in which Hiro discovers Baymax. 'I love characters like Baymax who are newborns"seeing the world in a fresh new way. Then we can all see the world again through their eyes. A character like Baymax is so naïve, so pure, so simple and good. And I loved the comedic potential of having that very quality be exasperating for Hiro."

Who's Who In 'Big Hero 6"
Ensemble Cast Brings Action-Packed Movie to Life

Given that the film is called 'Big Hero 6," filmmakers knew that they'd need to build a strong roster of characters. Perhaps one of the qualities Marvel and Walt Disney Animation Studios share is in how characters are built. Says head of story Paul Briggs, 'Stan Lee's characters have problems, shortcomings and foibles. They're not perfect and we love them anyway. They feel real. The characters in -Big Hero 6' don't have magical superpowers. Technology and their brains are their powers."

'[Marvel's] original source material gave us six very interesting and brilliant kids that we could explore," says producer Roy Conli. 'And because we decided to take it into a heightened world, we were able to reimagine the characters for the film."

In fact, the movie boasts 17 main characters, including the key six, plus their super alter egos, and averaged more main characters on screen at one time than in any previous WDAS film. The supporting characters"and even the people who populate the diverse city of San Fransokyo"are more detailed and varied than ever before, thanks to advanced artistry and technology. Nearly 700 unique characters populate the film; considering the 2012 Oscar®-nominated film 'Wreck-It Ralph" broke records at that time with 185 characters, 'Big Hero 6" is shattering the possibilities of the past.

Filmmakers summoned a wide range of performers to help bring the characters to life on the big screen.

'The only limit is your imagination." ~ Hiro Hamada

Robotics prodigy HIRO HAMADA has the mind of a genius"and the heart of a 14-year-old: his state-of-the-art battlebots dominate the underground bot fights held in the dark corners of San Fransokyo. 'He's a troublemaker," says Ryan Potter, who lends his voice to Hiro, 'but he's a really good kid at heart."

Fortunately, big brother Tadashi redirects Hiro's brilliance, inspiring him to put his brain to the test in a quest to gain admission to the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology.

'We really wanted them to be brothers first," says producer Roy Conli of Hiro and Tadashi. 'Tadashi is a smart mentor. He very subtly introduces Hiro to his friends and what they do at San Fransokyo Tech. Once Hiro sees Wasabi, Honey, GoGo and even Fred in action, he realizes that there's a much bigger world out there that really interests him."

When a tragic event changes everything, Hiro turns to a robot named Baymax, and they form an unbreakable bond"and two-sixths of a band of high-tech heroes on a very important mission.

'Hiro is transitioning from boy to man," says director Don Hall. 'It's a tough time for a kid and some teenagers develop that inevitable snarkiness and jaded attitude. Luckily Ryan [Potter] is a very likeable kid. So no matter what he did, he was able to take edge off the character in a way that made him authentic, but appealing."

'I grew up watching Disney films, and I grew up reading Marvel comics," says Potter. 'So when I heard that a Disney movie that was inspired by a Marvel comic actually featured an Asian American kid, I absolutely had to be a part of this film."

Lead character designer Shiyoon Kim spearheaded early exploratory drawings of Hiro. It's no accident that the character sports gloriously messy hair. 'Hiro's hairstyle was inspired by a lot of things," says Kim. 'But mostly Japanese teenagers"it's a popular hairstyle in Japan."

According to animation supervisor Nathan Engelhardt, who oversaw much of Hiro's animation, Hiro's hair was a mess in more than one way. 'We had all sorts of rules for that mop on his head," he says. 'We knew which strand needed to go where and what to do in certain angles so that his eyebrows and expressions could be seen under his hair."

Hiro's attire also reflects a subtly messy teenage look with Japanese influence, particularly the long cargo shorts. And per Hall's request, artists gave the teenager an unkempt look with a strategic design. Visual development artist Lorelay Bove gave Hiro a red shirt with a robot graphic to connect him to Baymax. 'But," says Bove, 'his hoodie's not perfect on his shoulders. Don wanted a little asymmetry in Hiro's look."

Hiro's personality changes over the course of the movie, so animators needed to showcase that change. 'It's a bit of a coming-of-age story for Hiro," says Engelhardt. 'He grows from this cocky, selfish kid who knows more than everyone in the room to a confident, selfless leader."

Engelhardt says the team explored ways to show Hiro's cocky side"half-lidded eyes, dismissive gestures and a swagger"and his more mature evolution with softer, more genuine expressions.

'On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your pain?" ~ Baymax

BAYMAX cares. That's what he was designed to do. The plus-sized inflatable robot's job title is technically Personal Healthcare Companion: With a simple scan, Baymax can detect vital stats, and, given a patient's level of pain, can treat nearly any ailment. Conceived and built by Tadashi Hamada, Baymax just might revolutionize the healthcare industry.

While Hall's visit to Carnegie Mellon University triggered the idea of an inflatable, vinyl robot, it was Japanese infomercials that helped shape the design. 'If they're selling a rice cooker, for example," says Kim, 'it always seems to emphasize the cute aesthetic, yet hide the technology. We wanted the same feeling for Baymax, because it made him less threatening in appearance."

Baymax's vinyl design did present a challenge: lighting him. 'We did a lot of research early on in the lighting studio," says Adolph Lusinsky, director of cinematography-lighting. 'We did tests with vinyl beach balls, then we set up the same test in Hyperion. The way the light bounced around the vinyl looked exactly like the reference we shot."

According to Zach Parrish, head of animation, his team looked at a host of references when it came time to make Baymax move. 'We looked at real robots, movie robots, plus cute cuddly things like babies, babies with full diapers and koala bears," he says. 'We eventually landed on baby penguins because they have similar body proportions"long torsos and short legs"and they don't use their arms-wings when they walk. Robots wouldn't move anything that doesn't have to move. Penguins also have this curious way of moving their heads"they telescope their necks, which gives a lot of personality."

Baymax is not equipped with a mouth, so animators had to get creative with the huggable robot. 'It's called -un-imating,'" says Mark Henn, lead 2D animator. 'It's a term coined because animators tend to put too much in. Less is best for Baymax. It really did become an exercise in capturing a very quick and easily-read pose. And if he had dialogue, it was all about timing"how much to move his head or when he should blink."

'We might posture him up a little to show pride," says Parrish. 'A head tilt or double eye-blink can mean he's confused. What's cool about going that minimal is that it allows the audience to project onto him what they're feeling, which makes them active participants."

The look of Baymax informs his character. 'Baymax views the world from one perspective"he just wants to help people," says Hall. 'He sees Hiro as his patient. At first, Baymax thinks Hiro is going through puberty, and he wants to help him with that. But then he realizes that Hiro's dealing with the loss of his brother and his mission is to heal his broken heart."

Not only did Hall like the idea of a soft non-threatening robot, he liked what it could become. 'A big part of this movie is that Hiro turns this compassionate nurse robot into a meched-out warrior with some dangerous consequences at stake."

To Hiro, the nurturing, guileless bot turns out to be more than what he was built for"he's a hero, and quite possibly Hiro's closest friend. And after some deft reprogramming that includes a rocket fist, super strength and rocket thrusters that allow him to fly, Baymax becomes one of the 'Big Hero 6."

Scott Adsit was called on to provide the voice of Baymax. 'The fact that the character is a robot limits how you can emote," says Conli. 'But Scott was hilarious. He took those boundaries and was able to shape the language in a way that makes you feel Baymax's emotion and sense of humor. Scott was able to relay just how much Baymax cares."

'Everything Baymax says is essentially programmed because he's a robot," says Adsit. 'But over time, as he builds a relationship with Hiro, he adapts and deep inside his inflatable self is a soul, I think. He starts out almost like a child"with a waddle and an innocent look"and grows, embodying different aspects of the relationships in our lives: he's a son, a brother, and eventually a father. So Baymax is family."

'Do you feel this? Our origin story begins. We're gonna be super heroes!" ~ Fred

Fanboy FRED comes off like a laid-back dude with no direction. 'Fred doesn't actually attend San Fransokyo Tech," says screenwriter Daniel Gerson. 'During the day, he's the mascot. But by night, he's also the mascot."

This sign-twirling, monster-loving, comic-book aficionado is sure to go places"when he's good and ready. For example, Fred doesn't hesitate to join 'Big Hero 6," and he has a lot of ideas for his super-hero skillset, too. His ferocious, fire-breathing alter ego comes complete with claws, integrated communications and a super bounce. But his sign-spinning experience as a mascot may still come in handy.

T.J. Miller helps bring Fred to life. 'He's a real student of comedy," says director Chris Williams of Miller. 'There are a lot of layers to his performance, so Fred ended up becoming a richer character than anyone expected."

'I was encouraged to bring my own comedy to it," says Miller. 'It was really fun to be able to improvise"it's exciting to work with people that are that collaborative. One of the great things about voiceover is that you can give them ten options for every single line they give you."

'Stop whining. Woman up." ~ GoGo Tomago

Aptly named GOGO TOMAGO knows what it takes to be fast. She's tough, athletic and loyal to the bone, but not much of a conversationalist. Popping bubble gum and delivering well-placed sarcasm are totally her speed. 'GoGo is a total badass," says Jamie Chung of her character. 'Even before the hero transformation, she's tough. She's strong. She can totally hold her own."

'She's no nonsense," says head of story Paul Briggs. 'That's so refreshing and fun to play. I've really enjoyed how tough she is."

'She's probably the character who's most suited to become a super hero," adds Gerson. 'She takes to it like nobody's business."

The daredevil adrenaline junkie is at her best on wheels, and when GoGo joins forces with 'Big Hero 6," she rolls like never before, using maglev discs as wheels, shields and throwing weapons. Says Hall, 'She's streetwise. We looked at bicycle messengers as inspiration for her character."

Artists looked at actors like John Wayne, Clint Eastwood, Gary Cooper and other cowboys to study cool, emotionally reserved traits. They also looked at speed skaters to inform GoGo's body type and movement. Parrish says she's smooth and direct. 'She has a lot of attitude," he says. 'She's going to pick the quickest way to any given point and stop there, and with a deadpan look, she'll blow and pop a bubble. That gesture alone says, -I'm too cool for you.'"

"There's a place for everything"everything in its place." ~ Wasabi

WASABI is super smart and just a touch neurotic, but the big and burly neatnik can't help but join the cause when Hiro needs him most.

'I've always been a big Wasabi fan," says Williams. 'He's actually the most conservative, cautious"he's the most normal among a group of brazen characters. So he really grounds the movie in the second act and becomes, in a way, the voice of the audience and points out that what they're doing is crazy."

Filmmakers cast Damon Wayans Jr. as the voice of Wasabi. 'I can relate to Wasabi," says Wayans. 'I have a place for everything. I need my books a certain way. I need to smell good all the time. I definitely have a little Wasabi in me."

Wasabi, at one time, was a very Zen character with very Zen dreadlocks. 'Neurotic Wasabi was so much more fun to watch," says Engelhardt. But when filmmakers tweaked his personality, they initially decided the neatnik wouldn't be a fan of the not-oft-shampooed-do and gave him a haircut. The look didn't last. It turns out, everyone was just too attached to his cool locks.

As part of 'Big Hero 6," Wasabi amplifies his prowess for precision with jaw-dropping plasma blade weaponry. Sharp doesn't even begin to describe this guy. But animators had to be careful when the blades came out. 'With just a flick of the wrist, Wasabi would essentially be chopping off his own hand, so animators had to keep his wrists locked at all times," says Parrish.

"Now that's a chemical reaction." ~ Honey Lemon

It's elemental when it comes to chemistry whiz HONEY LEMON. Don't let her glasses and funky fashion fool you: Honey may be as sweet as her namesake, but she has a fire in her belly and a can-do attitude that make her pretty much unstoppable. 'She's a glass-is-half-full kind of person," says Williams. 'But she has this mad-scientist quality with a twinkle in her eye"there's more to Honey than it seems."

According to Engelhardt, filmmakers capitalized on the character's larger-than-life personality, giving her exaggerated features and infusing some anime qualities in her posing. But it was tough to find the right balance for the character. Says Engelhardt, 'Honey has a fun, bubbly personality, but she's not air-headed"she's very smart. She has chemistry chops to spare. But we liked to push her, especially when Hiro first meets her. She's almost too much to handle. She's a close talker, excited, energetic and so personable."

Genesis Rodriguez voices the bright-eyed, bright-minded character. 'She's very optimistic and happy"and so like me," says Rodriguez. 'I used to be on a robotics team, so I love that she's girly and into science. It was very easy to play this character."

Honey is bright. Her knowledge of alchemy proves powerful, too, when the effusive brainiac becomes part of the 'Big Hero 6" and creates clever concoctions that when thrown, can get her team out of nearly any jam.

'She has a periodic table-programmable chem-purse that she uses to make instant weapons"like bad-guy encasing goo," says Rodriguez. 'It's pretty fun. I wish I had that purse."

"Let's feed those hungry brains." ~ Aunt Cass

Voiced by Maya Rudolph, AUNT CASS is the overworked but always-supportive guardian of brothers Hiro and Tadashi. 'Aunt Cass is the cool aunt you either wish you had or wish you were," says Maya Rudolph, who lends her voice to the character. 'She loves those boys so much."

The owner of a popular San Fransokyo bakery and coffee shop, Aunt Cass is proud, ebullient and thinks the world of her two genius nephews. She's always good for a laugh and ready with a hug, tirelessly there for support and a great home-cooked meal.

'I wanted Aunt Cass to evoke the San Francisco vibe," says Hall. 'I always imagined her as the second or third generation of hippies. She's fun and energetic"a little more loosey-goosey"and Maya embodied that perfectly. She got it right out of the gate."

'I felt very welcome to bring my sense of comedy and input to Aunt Cass," says Rudolph. 'There are many levels of emotion in the story, and Aunt Cass truly has to go on this journey with Hiro."

'Shake things up. Use that big brain of yours to think your way out." ~ Tadashi Hamada

TADASHI HAMADA is a good guy. He just is. He actually developed, built and programmed a state-of-the-art nursebot"a Healthcare Companion named Baymax that will likely help millions worldwide. But it's his role as big brother that makes Tadashi truly special. Every kid needs a guy like Tadashi looking out for him, and Hiro knows just how lucky he is to have him in his life. 'Tadashi is Hiro's strength," says Daniel Henney, who voices the big brother. 'They lost their parents years ago, so Tadashi is a father figure, and in many ways, the heartbeat of their family."

But, adds Henney, Tadashi is smart enough to know how to redirect a kid like Hiro. 'Sometimes you have to manipulate the situation a little to get people to see it your way," he says. 'Instead of telling Hiro what to do with his life, Tadashi tricks him into figuring out for himself what's good for him."

As far as brothers go, these two have it down, says Williams. 'I have a brother, so I know something about these kind of relationships. You make fun of your little brother"have fun at his expense. But at the same time, there's this incredible bond and love. If anybody else tries to mess with your brother, you can't let that happen."

'We push the boundaries of robotics here." ~ Robert Callaghan

PROFESSOR ROBERT CALLAGHAN heads up the robotics program at the prestigious San Fransokyo Institute of Technology and is Tadashi's professor and mentor. When Hiro visits the university for the first time, he is star-struck by the world-renowned roboticist"while Callaghan immediately sees the potential in the 14-year-old prodigy, encouraging him to put his brain to better use.

James Cromwell was cast as the voice of Callaghan. 'He's educated; he's in charge; he's devoted to pure science," says Cromwell of his character. 'But he doesn't treat his students or Hiro as less-thans. He's avuncular. He has a way of engaging them because he understands their level of intelligence."

'I'm Alistair Krei. Krei Tech Industries." ~ Alistair Krei

Pioneer entrepreneur and tech guru, ALISTAIR KREI is San Fransokyo Institute of Technology's most illustrious alum. Owner of the biggest technology company in the world, Krei Tech, Krei is always on the hunt for the next big thing. He attends the showcase at San Fransokyo Tech and is overwhelmingly impressed by Hiro's ingenuity.

Alan Tudyk was called on to help bring Krei to life.

'If we're going to catch this guy, I need to upgrade all of you." ~ Hiro Hamada

YOKAI is the masked man behind the terrible tragedy that strikes San Fransokyo, turning Hiro's world upside down. 'I did a lot of different versions of Yokai's Kabuki mask," says lead character designer Shiyoon Kim. 'We were all drawn to a white mask that had a mysterious quality about it and contrasted nicely with Yokai's black outfit."

Hiro transforms a group of nerds into a team of high-tech crime fighters"'Big Hero 6""with one mission: Track down Yokai and bring him to justice.

Bring On The Crowds

Beyond the key characters in 'Big Hero 6," there are hundreds of background characters. Filmmakers found it critical that the fictional setting of San Fransokyo was an authentic and believable city. And a city like San Fransokyo needed people"lots of people"of different shapes, sizes, cultures and fashion senses.

Enter Denizen, a proprietary system created within Walt Disney Animation Studios team that revolutionizes how artists create and animate crowds. 'In order to create and maintain those characters," says John Kahwaty, character rigging supervisor, 'we needed to find a way to generate them procedurally so they could evolve as the show evolved and be created on the fly when needed."

According to Kahwaty, Denizen is a character asset pipeline wrapped up into one small package. 'It ingests a small number of characters that define the style for the show and analyzes and compares them," he says. 'It then provides a character designer a way to see all the pieces we create up front and blend them together to create a final model, rig, cloth rig, hair rig, and look that can be immediately inserted into a shot, animated and rendered."

The system created 670 unique characters, compared to 270 in 'Frozen," 185 in 'Wreck-It Ralph" and 80 in 'Tangled." Each of the 670 characters has up to 32 different clothing look combinations, plus 32 different hair and skin tones. That means filmmakers could invite 686,080 unique characters to the San Fransokyo party before there were any exact repeats.

Customizable characters were made possible with Denizen, and WDAS employees were encouraged to model themselves as background characters. As a result, 200 WDAS employees make cameos within the crowd shots in the film.

On Location
Filmmakers Tap All-New Technology to Create Big City Mash-Up

Filmmakers decided to set their action-packed story in an all-new world that embraced the Japanese influences, but provided a fresh setting unlike anything audiences had ever seen. 'I thought about San Francisco," says director Don Hall, 'which is cool, but I thought -What if it was San Francisco mashed up with Tokyo.' It felt more interesting as a setting"more playful and exotic. It was something we could create. And the visual possibilities of those two cities"which are pretty different aesthetically"mashed together felt like a really cool place to set the story."

'San Francisco has so many incredible landmarks and such a rich history"it's a world-class city," says producer Roy Conli. 'Tokyo"with its neon lights and energy"is amazingly beautiful. The two of them combined is the ideal location for this film."

Filmmakers traveled up the California coast to visit the first of the two cities. 'We spent three days just driving around the city, hitting the Golden Gate Bridge, Coit Tower, Market Street and Japantown," says Hall. 'We spent some time on Angel Island."

The team viewed the city from the ground, logging many miles on foot"and in the air, with breathtaking helicopter rides. According to Hall, filmmakers used San Francisco for more than just inspiration. 'We literally wanted our setting to geographically be San Francisco."

Artists turned to a software program that basically provided them with the blueprint for San Francisco"from the layout of the streets to lot sizes, business zones and residential zones. 'You can plug in something like the county assessor's map of San Francisco," says production designer Paul Felix. 'Then we could break it down further and specify the types of buildings we wanted on a particular parcel of land or district. We could do some prototypes, and those would be expanded procedurally within the program to give variety. No two buildings are alike, but they're all similar."

'It actually looks like San Francisco from a distance," adds Driskill. 'It has the right buildings in the right place, and they're the right size. It wasn't all made up"it was actually crafted from real data so that it would look authentic."

Artists stylized everything to make it uniquely San Fransokyo"some hills are steeper and some buildings downtown would be shockingly tall in real life, but it all started with actual geography.

According to Felix, Tokyo lends aesthetic elements. 'We adopted Tokyo's visual styling of the architecture," he says. 'We were inspired by the urban design in Tokyo"the giant public works and the density, and even how some of the streets are organized: there are minimal sidewalks in some areas, for example. We wanted to make sure that we captured those ideas so the audience would feel that this could be in an Asian country."

Artists filled the city with signage"a graphic designer was tapped more than two years ago to create the massive amount of designs needed to fill the vast city.

Home Sweet Home

Hiro and Tadashi Hamada reside with Aunt Cass in a home that's situated above her bakery. Art director Scott Watanabe created the three-story look that aptly combines Japanese and Victorian design. Inside, artists decorated the home with a bohemian mindset. 'There's the hanging chair, spider plants, macramé and big color prints on the walls," says Felix. 'There are traditional Japanese furnishings"like a low dining table. And there's also a Victorian motif with patterned wallpaper, but with a Japanese overtone.

'We wanted to make sure the house had a sense of history," Felix continues. 'It should feel improvised."

Home Away From Home

San Fransokyo Tech features Stanford mission architecture crossed with Japanese architecture. 'We looked at campuses like Caltech," says Felix, 'where there is an original campus styled in the early 20th century. And over the decades, it proliferates into other design styles."

Technical supervisor Hank Driskill accompanied Felix and visual effects supervisor Kyle Odermatt to Pasadena's Jet Propulsion Lab. 'The JPL trip was a field trip through their lab spaces," says Driskill. 'We looked extensively at their manufacturing facilities because we were considering how Hiro and company would build their gear, and JPL specializes in one-off manufacturing for the components of their probes and landers and such. We also saw some of their specialty labs in nanotechnology and robotics. It complemented the earlier research trips the directors had done to robotics labs in the U.S. and abroad, and definitely helped influence the look of the lab at San Fransokyo Tech."

Technology was ever-present in this slightly futuristic city, and filmmakers incorporated wind turbines into their dramatic landscape. The idea, of course, was to introduce a clean-powered, near-future feeling to the city's look. Artist Kevin Nelson created giant Japanese kite-inspired shapes. 'It was fanciful, yet functional," says Felix of the design. 'Kevin has a good sense of engineering in his design work, so everything felt playful, yet technological"the perfect tone for our city."

Making It Happen

The elaborate design of San Fransokyo"with its vast reach, big crowds and ample detail"would not have been possible without a new innovation called Hyperion.

Walt Disney Animation Studios' Brent Burley, Sean Jenkins and Chuck Tappan led a team of developers to create the rendering tool. 'We were struggling with two things," he says. 'There was ever-increasing complexity running up against memory limits" says Burley, principal software engineer. 'And there was a desire to have richer, more complex lighting in a more efficient way"lighting was pretty labor intensive."

'Renderers in general will load the whole scene into memory in some form or other," explains Hank Driskill, technical supervisor for 'Big Hero 6." 'The machines weren't big enough anymore to hold everything we wanted to do, so we started breaking scenes up into layers and rendering lots of layers and reassembling it afterwards into the final image. It was becoming more painful with each movie for the artists to manage the data."

Disney's Hyperion allows the artists who specialize in lighting to focus on the art, versus dealing with massive amounts of data. 'It can handle lots of complexity and give really believable lighting simulation within that complexity," says Adolph Lusinsky, director of photography-lighting. 'At the same time, there's such simplicity to Hyperion because it has fewer controls for the artist, but with a better outcome."

According to Walt Disney Animation Studios' chief technology officer Andy Hendrickson, Hyperion comes closer to mimicking what happens in the world around us. 'We decided to model the physics of real life in terms of how light rays bounce around, how they interact with materials and what happens when a light ray bounces."

The system allows for multiple bounces, which is how natural light works. Says producer Roy Conli, 'Once nature is achieved, our artists can spend their time achieving a cinematic look. A live-action film is not natural light"it's very strategic. So now the lighting team is able to spend more time lighting a scene just as they would in a live-action film."

'Baymax is like a big balloon," says Jenkins, technical supervisor for Hyperion. 'With our early tests, we found that the white vinyl was one of the hardest materials to light"light goes through it and bounces around and bounces and bounces. It takes a lot of bounces before it starts to look right"and without this new tool, it would've been very difficult"if not impossible"to fake the ultimate look. He wouldn't have looked like he does."

Hyperion also allows filmmakers to explore more of the world they've created. 'We're doing flyovers with thousands of crowd characters," says Tappan, who worked on Hyperion's artistic integration. 'When Baymax and Hiro first take flight, they soar over San Fransokyo. It's a breathtaking sequence. Art challenges technology."

The software has been in the works for two years and 'Big Hero 6" was, in many ways, in the right place at the right time. It was also the perfect film to adopt the new renderer, as it endeavored to feature the kind of complex setting Hyperion was built to achieve. 'We couldn't make -Big Hero 6' with the tools we used to make -Frozen,'" says Burley.

'The overall culture at Walt Disney Animation Studios allows us to take risks when it comes to new technology," says Tappan. 'With the creation of Hyperion, we changed a lot. Making a new renderer is one of the ultimate changes we can make. And now that we've done it, the people in this building feel like we can do anything."

Sounds Good
'Big Hero 6" Soundtrack Soars with Henry Jackman Score, Plus Original Song 'Immortals" from Fall Out Boy

In a film where mash-ups are mainstream, it's no surprise that the music blends composer Henry Jackman's orchestral score with synth sounds and original music from American rock band Fall Out Boy. 'Music is really the emotion of the movie, beautifully stitching the scenes together," says director Don Hall. 'We wanted a score that was melodic with prominent themes, while pushing technical boundaries with electronica music, too. Henry Jackman was able to weave it all together brilliantly."

Jackman ('Captain America: The Winter Soldier," 'Wreck-It Ralph") created a score that celebrates the comic-book style action of 'Big Hero 6," the embracing of technology and, of course, the special relationships that are forming. 'There are a lot of cues that are kind of a hybrid"half-orchestral and half-record production," says Jackman. 'It would be very tempting to make robotic music for Baymax, and there are some synth textures, but as the story develops, you realize that the relationship between Baymax and Hiro is just the same as any other two leading characters. The drama between Hiro and Baymax is scored very personally and often with an orchestra. It's one of the most intimate duos I've encountered in a film."

Jackman used a 77-piece orchestra to score the film. 'It's very important to me in a score like this when there's a lot of emotional content, as well as heroism and jeopardy and the rest, to allow the musicians to play together. If you can put everyone in a room together, it's great. They bounce off each other."

Fall Out Boy was tapped to write and perform the song for the film's sequence in which the 'Big Hero 6" team is transformed from a group of super smart individuals to a band of high-tech heroes. Their mission? To help Hiro unmask the villain and get to the bottom of what happened to Tadashi. 'The idea of this kid stepping up on behalf of his brother is what inspired the song's title -Immortals,'" says Patrick Stump. 'Your victories aren't exclusively yours, so the fact that all of these people are coming together to help him get to the finish line is really exciting."

'They're testing out their new super suits for the first time in the scene," says Pete Wentz. 'Some of it works"some of it doesn't. You get the sense that they're stepping into a bigger role. The story's in the DNA of Fall Out Boy. It is an authentic story and it's who our band is"we've always identified with the underdog."

The band felt a connection to the filmmakers, sharing interests and creative passion. 'We got to see bits of the movie before we wrote the song and the thing that struck me was how invested the people working on this film were in these characters," says Patrick Stump. 'We could feel their energy"their dedication is inspiring."

The soundtrack, which is available from Walt Disney Records on Oct. 24, follows.

1. Immortals Written and performed by Fall Out Boy
2. Hiro Hamada Score
3. Nerd School Score
4. Microbots Score
5. Tadashi Score
6. Inflatable Friend Score
7. Huggable Detective Score
8. The Masked Man Score
9. One of the Family Score
10. Upgrades Score
11. The Streets of San Fransokyo Score
12. To the Manor Born Score
13. So Much More Score
14. First Flight Score
15. Silent Sparrow Score
16. Family Reunion Score
17. Big Hero 6 Score
18. I Am Satisfied With My Care Score
19. Signs of Life Score
20. Reboot Score


Big Hero 6
Release Date: December 26th, 2014

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