On­ward and Up­ward for Big Hero 6

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Dis­ney TV An­i­ma­tion’s 2D fol­low-up to the fea­ture looks to delve deeper into the char­ac­ters, set­ting and his­tory of the su­per­hero sex­tet. By Tom McLean

max, whose soft, in­flat­able form was given comedic wit via Ad­sit’s sharp comic tim­ing. McCorkle says the fea­ture film­mak­ers were cor­rect in ad­vis­ing him that writ­ing Bay­max was tough to get right. “They talked about their guide­lines with him and how, for them, a lot of it was ex­plo­ration—if a mo­ment would be too ro­botic or would be too hu­man—and find­ing the ex­act bal­ance,” he says. The se­ries re­lied on Ad­sit’s knowl­edge and affin­ity for the char­ac­ter in de­cid­ing how lines could be de­liv­ered and what was and was not in char­ac­ter for Bay­max.

De­sign­ing the char­ac­ter for 2D was a sep­a­rate chal­lenge. “Bay­max is a char­ac­ter that is very soft and round, and he has to project a cer­tain type of per­son­al­ity,” says Lopez. “I think that those el­e­ments, in terms of the line and the shape el­e­ments, have helped him quite a bit. But then when we go to the su­per­hero ver­sion of him, we’re go­ing to be able to push that graphic el­e­ment and push the shapes quite a bit more.”

Room for Growth Hav­ing come to terms in the fea­ture with his brother’s death, Hiro faces sev­eral new chal­lenges in the se­ries. “Now, he’s try­ing to be a bet­ter kid to Aunt Cass. He’s new at school, he’s at this col­lege, and he’s new at be­ing a su­per­hero,” says McCorkle. “Those are three dif­fer­ent tracks where we’re go­ing to get emo­tional sto­ries for his growth… The other thing was the other mem­bers of the team were all funny char­ac­ters and fun char­ac­ters, and vivid in the movie, but there wasn’t a lot of screen time to ex­plore them. So, that’s a whole other thing.”

The se­ries will ex­plore the char­ac­ters as reg­u­lar kids, which helps them feel more real and pro­vides some stakes for the su­per­hero smack­downs, as well as a lot of po­ten­tial for comedy.

“We re­ally try to stage [ac­tion se­quences] in a way that it is char­ac­ter spe­cific,” Schoo­ley says. “Fred would not do some­thing that Wasabi would do; Hiro and Bay­max would not do some­thing that GoGo would do. The main thing is that th­ese char­ac­ters have heart, and we bring that into the ac­tion with them.”

A Heroic Her­itage The set­ting of San Fran­sokyo of­fers plenty of ideas on its own. Filippi says with Fred’s fa­ther be­ing voiced by Marvel Comics icon Stan Lee, the se­ries can go into San Fran­sokyo’s su­per­heroic past.

“The fact that [Fred’s dad] was a su­per­hero, in a past time when su­per­heroes were around in San Fran­sokyo, gives us op­por­tu­ni­ties to bat­tle with his old foes,” he says. “We have some fun with that in a very comic-book way.”

The city it­self will re­main a dense, mul­ti­cul­tural set­ting—a chal­lenge on a tele­vi­sion sched­ule and bud­get, says Schoo­ley. “We have to do it in a way that’s go­ing to ap­peal to the au­di­ence, but also be doable,” he says. “We went through a lot of dif­fer­ent dis­cus­sions and ex­plo­rations and re­views to fi­nally come to where we are now.”

Snip­ple An­i­ma­tion Stu­dios in the Philip­pines and Nør­lum in Den­mark are an­i­mat­ing the se­ries, while the open­ing ti­tle sequence was done by Imag­i­nary Forces. Big Hero 6 was picked up early, with a sec­ond sea­son or­dered months in ad­vance of the show’s still to-be-an­nounced fall pre­miere.

“We def­i­nitely have a mythol­ogy that un­folds over the course of the sea­son,” says McCorkle. “There’s all th­ese things that come up and they all end up by the end of sea­son in­ter­sect­ing in a way that’s pretty big and dra­matic.” Big Hero 6 The Se­ries will launch with a one-hour movie “Bay­max Re­turns” on Novem­ber 20 at 8 p.m. on Dis­ney XD and Dis­ney Chan­nel. Two new episodes will be avail­able on the Dis­neyNOW app after the movie. The se­ries will pre­miere in early 2018 on Dis­ney XD.

de­sign­ing some of Las Ve­gas, which was fan­tas­tic. We ac­tu­ally low­ered the streets to get th­ese huge canyons and then we talked about even at­mos­phere to the hori­zon. We looked at a lot of dif­fer­ent references from Lon­don in fog to var­i­ous ci­ties in the world with heavy pol­lu­tion.”

Vol­ume ren­ders for the fog sim­u­la­tions were treated on a shot-by-shot ba­sis. “One size did def­i­nitely not fit all be­cause you would have a good vis­i­bil­ity for a close-up or medium shot and for a wide shot you would have to cheat it a lit­tle bit more open, oth­er­wise you wouldn’t be able to see five feet,” re­marks Nel­son. “But then you would get th­ese amaz­ing strik­ing im­ages of things com­ing out of the fog, which we liked. We were di­al­ing all of it. I re­mem­ber one big vol­ume ren­der of Las Ve­gas with Frame­store where we lit­er­ally marched all the way through in ZBrush.”

“We have some wide and tight shots so we had to bal­ance how much of that even chok­ing at­mos­phere could be seen,” ex­plains Nel­son. “We would con­stantly be tak­ing de­tail out of the skies and make it chok­ingly even, as if the at­mos­phere has been build­ing up for a long time. Then at night it would be mostly lit by prac­ti­cals such as signs. We had such a drone and ad pres­ence that the ads would vol­ume light up the at­mos­phere.”

Nel­son points out that the Wal­lace build­ing is two and half times the size of the Tyrell pyra­mids. “In a world that vir­tu­ally has no sun, Nian­der Wal­lace is so rich that his in­te­rior light­ing emu­lates the real sun and moves,” he says. “Roger Deakins was adamant on this. We have a big CG shot in the Records Li­brary where we shot on a small stage. Roger had a ma­que­tte built [by the art de­part­ment] which was eight feet long and roughly the shape of the ar­chi­tec­ture; he lit it so we could see this big beam of trav­el­ling light. The light­ing pass of the ma­que­tte was what we put into our CG light­ing.” Elvis Lives! Just as in the first movie, high-tech ads are a promi­nent part of the cityscape. “In­stead of hav­ing blimps [as e in the orig­i­nal Blade Run­ner] we have drones pro­ject­ing ads all the way down a city block,” states Nel­son. “For our holo­grams, we shot real peo­ple and mapped them onto a vol­ume of that same per­son. By light­ing them in dif­fer­ent ways and putting dif­fer­ent types of shells on them in 2D and 3D we were able to do some cool stuff.”

New tech­nol­ogy was cre­ated to pro­duce a back fac­ing shell that al­lows the viewer to see through the holo­gram to the back­side. “We have holo­grams all the way through and some of them were for fa­mous peo­ple,” adds Nel­son. “We have a holo­gram of Elvis that BUF did in Paris. We had some medium close-ups and worked un­til the last day to get that right. There’s an el­e­ment of verisimil­i­tude and an el­e­ment of per­for­mance that needed to be cor­rect.”

The big­gest tasks were get­ting the ci­ties and holo­grams vis­ually cor­rect as well as us­ing the ef­fects well to tell the story. “The Sea Wall is this huge scene at the end of the movie,” states Nel­son. “The oceans have come in and stopped at the 405 free­way. Get­ting all of that to­gether and have it look cor­rect was a huge chal­lenge. We helped out on 20 big beats. One of the things that I’m hap­pi­est about is that we tried to stretch the look. We used matte paint­ings in 2D and 3D where you map 2D on to 3D, shoot as much as you can shoot, and put it back on top. We even used minia­tures in cer­tain in­stances. You start on a big scene that might be a Mex­ico City land­scape with CG added onto it and by the time you get into the des­ti­na­tion it’s a 1/48 scale minia­ture for a huge build­ing.”

Sub­tle de­tails were key to the suc­cess of all the vi­su­als, but some­thing more was also at play. As Nel­son ex­plains, “One of my fa­vorite scenes is this woman who makes mem­o­ries and K [Gosling] asks her, ‘What makes a good mem­ory real?’ She an­swers, ‘Peo­ple think it’s all about de­tail but it’s not. It’s about how you re­mem­ber and the emo­tion that you feel.’ You can talk about vis­ual ef­fects in the same way.” Warner Bros.’ Blade Run­ner 2049 now play­ing in the­aters na­tion­wide.

Friendly Robot Re­dux: The ad­ven­tures of 14-year-old ge­nius Hiro, his robot friend Bay­max and the rest of the su­per­hero team con­tinue at the San Fran­sokyo In­sti­tute of Tech­nol­ogy in Heroic Trio: From left, Nick Filippi, Bob Schoo­ley and Mark McCorkle.

Climate Changed: The vfx artists cre­ated new, at­mo­spheric land­scapes that re­flected L.A. and Las Ve­gas rav­aged by harsh weather con­di­tions.

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