Onward and Upward for Big Hero 6
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.