I feel with this, Frozen, and Wreck-It Ralph, Disney is really entering another golden age (I know, all the critics say that...), which makes me happy despite all my issues with Disney because Disney is so much of my childhood. I was afraid Big Hero 6 was going to be too pop-culture-referencing and wink-wink-nudge-nudge, as well as being afraid that the main character would annoy me (that's my biggest issue with How to Train Your Dragon) and that the blend of San Francisco and Tokyo would feel pasted on and Orientalist. Instead, it's a really good movie that made me cry more than once, has some great relationships, and did what I thought was a pretty impressive job of balancing gender roles and portrayals as well as having POC representation.
(That said, Disney, I will be so happy if you make your next geek-oriented movie with a female lead!)
Also, the marketing department did a really good job with the trailer; I think it only goes into the first half hour of the movie and doesn't let on to some pretty big things while keeping the overall tone of the movie.
What most impressed me about the trailer was how the first ten or fifteen minutes of the movie completely recontextualizes a lot of the scenes, so even if you've seen them a lot, there's more there when you see them again in the movie. As I mentioned, I was worried I would be annoyed at Hiro, and I kind of was... and then they introduced another character that helped a lot. Then when something happens and Hiro gets acquainted with Baymax the robot, it adds a new emotional layer to all the boy-plus-robot scenes from the trailer. Also, Baymax is hilarious and adorable, as the best companion robots seem to be. (Are there any girl-and-robot stories that mix coming of age with teaching your robot how to be more human or something? Boy-and-robot seems to be a distinct subgenre, with this, The Iron Giant, Terminator 2, and probably more I can't think of right now.)
I was also very worried about San Fransokyo, cultural appropriation, and the whole Firefly thing. They went a long way in dispelling doubts when they made the main character and his brother Japanese (multiracial, I think?), and I was incredibly glad to find that they even cast multiracial Asian voice actors for the two as well. Obviously, Daniel Henney is not Japanese (ditto Jamie Chung), but the fact that they actually were trying to match the voice actors with their characters' races was nice. I wish this weren't something to remark on, but sadly it is not really something you can take for granted with Hollywood!
Also, I am sure San Fransokyo isn't free of problems, but to be honest, I loved it. It felt like a very real blend of two cities I love instead of the "Pier One pasted-on-yay" feel I've gotten from other shows/movies. As far as I noticed, all the Japanese was accurate and looked like it was written/drawn by people who knew Japanese (I HATE it when they don't do that, because you can so tell, especially with the Chinese characters). And there were so many random little details that I loved, from the carp-head wind turbines flying above the city to the red-and-white brick building for the police station reminiscent of Japanese colonial architecture to the bits of the city that looked like SF's Japantown and the downtown that looks like Shibuya. I wasn't the hugest fan of some of the random Asian details put on the Golden Gate Bridge or the cable cars, but oh well. Also, I was extremely amused to see that they made the Bay Bridge into a mashup of the east and west spans! (I have been complaining about how the Bay Bridge never gets as much attention as the Golden Gate Bridge, especially because I love the look of the new span, so it was nice to see it.)
And I loved that you can see so much of the city during the nod to the Ghibli flight sequence. Apparently they took open-source data of SF so they could basically create all the buildings in SF (even if they look different), and even street lamp locations and such.
Despite the lack of a female lead, it was nice that they avoided the Smurfette thing and managed to include two different women with different personalities who were cool in their own ways--especially since they were all engineering/science geeks. It reminded me a lot of how Wreck-It Ralph also tried to show that video games weren't a solely male domain by having Jane Lynch's character in the Call of Duty-esque game and the girl gamer playing Sugar Rush in the arcade. And as far as I noticed, most of the background scenes were populated with men and women too. Little things, but things you still can't take for granted now.
I similarly appreciated the racial diversity in the characters and the voice actors. I didn't notice the background characters as much in terms of race--did anyone else? There were just a lot of little things that made it feel like they had taken a lot of care and thought around racial and gender diversity (less so with other axes), from the throwaway line about how Wasabi got his nickname to the pictures on the wall in Hiro's house.
I am talking a lot about the more political aspects of the movie and not focusing on just how fun the movie is, I think partly because so much of it is in the background and not that noticeable if you aren't looking for it. I thought this was a really great example of how to have diverse characters and places and make it feel organic and not the central issue of the story, and it's what I would love to see more of, especially in genre stuff.
A lot of the reviews I've read were tired of the whole superhero thing, but I did not realize it was a superhero movie going in (I had it more pegged as an Iron Giant thing), so when Hiro starts seeing everyone as a superhero team, it totally cracked me up. Because if you are a boy with a giant robot and a 3D printer, why not?
And finally, I LOVED how the entire movie was a celebration of engineering and science and making things; one of my favorite parts is Tadashi showing Hiro his "nerd school" and how clearly he loves it. I feel I should say so much more about this, because it was a huge part of why I loved the movie so much (that, and the Tadashi-Hiro relationship) and I've spent so many words on the background stuff. Except I don't really have anything outside of how much I love it and how much they made an effort to show that the whole maker culture thing isn't solely a white guy thing.
On a completely random note, I'm amused by the Disney-Pixar-Marvel mashup so that the movie has the now-famous animation short a la Pixar and the post-credits scene a la Marvel.
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