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Big Hero 6

Year: 2014
Studio: Disney
Director: Don Hall/Chris Williams
Writer: Jordan Roberts/Daniel Gerson/Robert L Baird/Duncan Rouleau
Cast: TJ Miller, Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr, Genesis Rodriguez, James Cromwell, Alan Tudyk, Maya Rudolph

Like few other family animated movies recently, you can see how much design and world-building has gone on during the creative development phase up on the screen. The parallel universe Japanese-American city of San Fransokyo is a gorgeous creation and as I heard said in one review, you almost want the movie to stop so you can just look around the city.

From the entrepreneurd culture of Silicon Valley to the Torii gate-shaped Golden Gate Bridge, everything on screen feels authentic and lived in to a degree few live action movies manage, much less animated ones.

The story and characters are at the higher end of the animated family movie scale – universally loved by most audiences and critics, so you'll find them more than tolerable if you don't like kids' films as a rule.

It has two quite outstanding elements that deserve mention aside from the sweeping sequences of flight, jokesy nods to modern pop culture and canned moral-of-the-story narratives that are prerequisites for any PG13 film today. The first is the quite sensitive and sober treatment of the death of a character early on that doesn't spoon feed a mood or ham-fistedly pull heartstrings like many films do.

The other is a clever script that takes a character occupying something of a Terminator archetype (a robot that follows orders) but which manages to make an exciting movie even though the robot in question is programmed for assistance and care rather than destruction and heroics.

The hero, Hiro (see what they did there?), is aimless, wanting to enter his robotic creations in fighting tournaments rather than concentrate at school. His kindly older brother, a robotics engineer at the university nearby, tries to put him on the straight and narrow, but it's not until Hiro's work impresses the dean of the department (James Cromwell) and he's offered a place that he starts to think he might have a future.

Things turn bad when Hiro's brother dies in an fire during a presentation ceremony, leaving behind his creation Baymax, a inflatable robotic health care assistant that's hard for both the audience and eventually Hiro to resist falling in love with.

At about the same time of Hiro coming out of his shell and starting to reengage with life, a masked villain who apparently stole Hiro's design for a small scale, self-replicating self-assembly bot takes to the streets of San Fransokyo to cause havoc.

Joining together with his brother's colleagues and friends and putting Baymax in a metallic battle armour, the gang suit up with weapons based on the inventions they've been working on and wage war against the mysterious antagonist.

It's all very colourful, full of movement and action figure-friendly, hitting all the expected beats and payoffs. This time however, the backdrop behind it all is much more interesting.

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