“John lasseter wanted baymax to feel big, imposing and inflatable”
emotionally. Part of the treatment for this is to surround him with friends and loved ones. Then it was like, ‘ Oh, that’s how they’re going to be incorporated into the movie.’ It sewed them into the movie in an unbreakable way.”
With their story in place, Hall and Williams turned to production designer Paul Felix ( another veteran of Bolt) to develop the complex megalopolis of San Fransokyo.
“It was always Don’s inclination to make sure that it was something wholly original,” says Felix, taking a break from the lighting stage of production to tell us a little about Big Hero 6’ s look. “That’s why he didn’t want to set it in someplace too recognisable. The hope is that this would be the near future, like, ten years out. But that it was recognisably San Francisco was definitely the idea. We wanted to make sure that the parts of the city that you expect to see are where you would imagine them to be.”
To create the film’s setting, a cultural hybrid appropriate for its characters, Felix and his team undertook an intensive study of anime.
“It helped us get a sense of how Japanese cities organise space; and the kinds of spaces you don’t find in American cities. Like marketplace walkways, and the way they cram air conditioning ducts and dense detailing into those parts of the city. That was important, because it felt specific to a place.”
Examining Japan’s animation culture, Big Hero 6’ s artists soon found themselves incorporating its minimalistic approach to character design, despite its challenges.
“The characters,” explains Felix, “are so stripped- down — not just the costumes but their features — that it was really important everything get placed in the right place. If one thing is slightly off, you know it. There were fewer opportunities to put a mass of detail on and hope that something that doesn’t get resolved isn’t noticed. There were times that I could have taken a different design direction. Early on, we had this idea that they wouldn’t have access to a lot of the machinery they would need to make their costumes, so they would be more of a ragtag band. Which is a cool aesthetic in and of itself, but in the end it started to feel better that they were more unified. They’re all geniuses, and 3D printing seems to be a big part of the show. So it just made sense.
“When Shiyoon Kim — our lead character designer — took his first pass at the costumes we have now he really wanted to come up with something that unifies them all. He came up with the circle motif that you’ll find between their shoulder pads and their breastplates and on their helmets. That kind of curvilinear aesthetic was the one thing that we hoped would tie them together. We really wanted a more minimalistic approach to it, kind of Apple- like.
“Something John Lasseter wanted,” laughs Felix, “was to keep Baymax a little bit more relatable, and not just a perfect V shape. To feel big and imposing but keep a sense of the inflatable inside. So he still has that kind of rounded swell to his abdomen.”
In the end, it’s Baymax who, ironically, symbolises the spirit of Big Hero 6, revealing a core of humanity even while buried under layers of technology.
“I just fell in love with the characters,” says Hall, remembering his first encounter with the comic books, “and the potential for what we could do with them.”
Big Hero 6 is released on Friday 30 January.
Do 3D printed parachutes work? Baymax and Hiro are about to find out.
The standard tabloid A- level results day poses never change.