When Disney bought over Marvel back in 2010, and once all the badly photoshopped pics of Mickey Mouse cold-clocking Captain America had finished making the rounds, fans started to get really excited about the prospects of the House of Mouse’s prodigious animation talents being put to use to bring one of Marvel’s comics to animated life on the big screen. It’s taken four years, and it most definitely isn’t the characters we were hoping for (or even knew existed), but the wait is finally over. And damn, was it worth it!

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Big Hero 6 aka Disney’s New Licence To Print Money, is an infectiously vibrant, effervescent tale filled with the type of modern splash-page superheroics we’ve come to love from Marvel’s most timeless characters, but combined with the animated charm and wildly beating heart of some of Disney’s classics.

Inspired by the little-known Marvel comic book super-team of the same name, Big Hero 6 is set in the make-believe city of San Fransokyo – an East meets West mash-up of classic Americana San Francisco and high-tech futuristic Tokyo. Hiro Hamada (voiced with glee by Ryan Potter), is a rebellious 14-year old robotics genius who’s more interested in hustling for cash in illegal robot fights than reaching his true potential by joining his brother Tadashi’s vaunted university robotics program.

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During an impromptu tour of Tadashi’s lab though, Hiro gets starstruck at his brother’s celebrated professor Callaghan (James Cromwell), and meets Tadashi’s colourful lab partners – Fred (TJ Miller), a layabout comic-book fanboy; Gogo Tomago (Jamie Chung), a tough speedfreak developing new electromagnetic wheels; Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.), a neurotic, easily scared neat-freak and laser expert; and Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), lovable oddball with a knack for transmutational chemical reactions. Throw in an introduction to Tadashi’s own special project, a personal healthcare robot named Baymax, and he’s finally convinced to apply to the school.

But calamity strikes during Hiro’s presentation of his highly impressive university entrance project – a swarm of remote-controlled microbots that can form just about any structure the controller can imagine – as a fire in the university lab leaves both Tadashi and Professor Callaghan dead, and Hiro’s project destroyed.

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Blaming himself for the tragedy, Hiro’s personal life and professional ambitions grind to a depressing halt. But when the mopey Hiro accidentally activates the care-giving Baymax, who immediately tries to heal the young boy of his broken heart – whatever it may take to do that – it sets off a chain of events that sees the tech prodigy upgrading the squishy, non-threatening Baymax with battle armour and assembling/powering up a team consisting of Tadashi’s old lab partners to take on a powerful menace to the city and becoming the hero (pun most definitely intended) his brother always believed he could be.

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And the path to that realization is strewn with not only gut-busting guffaws for “kids” – young, old and everything in between – but also tender moments of shattering emotion. And standing in the center of it all is the hearty pairing of Hiro and Baymax. The latter in particular is sure to climb right into viewers’ hearts (and probably also into a whole lot of parents’ wallets if Disney’s merchandising department has its way), with his quirky-voice, wide-eyed innocence, and infinitely huggable form. Watching him “deflate” as his batteries run down, is the best “comically drunk” scene you’ll see all year. The characterization for Hiro and Baymax is so strong though, that it severely highlights the fact that most of the other characters don’t get more in-depth than what I wrote about them 4 paragraphs before this. Note: I said “most”, as affably goofy Fred, one of the few to be more than just a name and a gimmick, also steals many a scene with his boundless excitement (make sure you stay behind for the post-credits scene!).

Read  The best comic book covers of the week – 10 September 2018

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But what Big Hero 6 lacks in support cast development, it makes up for with a breathy, palpable energy and striking, dynamic CG visuals all put to superb use by the film’s highly engaging action beats. There’s never a dull moment to be found here, whether due to high-tech pyrotechnics or the fact that you’re often just left gawking at the macro and micro details that the animators use to fully realize this world and the characters that live in it. It’s a pity that the 3D, while certainly not detracting and showing a few inspired flashes, doesn’t do more to amplify or at least match up to the rest of the film’s very impressive visuals. The plot will probably also be a little bit on the predictable side for older folks.

But that and other small flaws aside though, Big Hero 6 is gorgeously made, hugely exciting in places, often hilarious and has that uncanny ability to leave your throat all lumpy when you least expect it. In the spunky Hiro, the ginormously charming Baymax, and their effortlessly entertaining compatriots, the pairing of Disney and Marvel has birthed a new franchise that is sure to be a big (hero) hit with the entire family.

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Last Updated: January 7, 2015

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Kervyn Cloete

A man of many passions - but very little sleep - I've been geeking out over movies, video games, comics, books, anime, TV series and lemon meringues as far back as I can remember. So show up for the geeky insight, stay for the delicious pastries.

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