If your weekend plans are currently up in the air, consider a night at the movies with Big Hero 6. Out today, the Disney animated film is the right kind of uplifting film to end the week with. It's a thrilling but heartwarming tale about the power of friendship in times of grief, masked as a superhero movie. In the film, a young genius named Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) copes with the loss of his older brother (Daniel Henney) and finds companionship in the invention he left behind: a bubbly robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit) which is programmed to heal humans both physically and emotionally. Together with a ragtag team of tech geeks (brought to life by Damon Wayans Jr., Jamie Chung, Genesis Rodriguez, and T.J. Miller), the duo seek to subdue the evil force who's highjacked Hiro's award-winning invention—tiny mind-controlled microbots that can transform at the will of their operator—to control the world.
Complex sat down with the cast at Big Hero 6's press day at Disney Animation studios to hear them talk about the inspiration for Baymax, the film's potential influence over budding techies, and what it means to have Asian-American characters lead the film.
On the Inspiration for Baymax’s Voice:
Scott Adsit (Baymax): I knew it was a robot, so I didn’t know if I had to come into the audition with a robot voice. When I saw the character design, I knew that it had to be a very benign voice and so that’s what probably drew [the casting people] when they saw me on stage... I thought that the state of robot communication would be automated phone systems, and [Robots] have a set group of sentences that they're ready to say, but they have one word that's a fill-in-the-blank. So, [his voice] is slightly separated. That’s what I went for.
On the Movie's Message About Grief:
Ryan Potter (Hiro): Coping with any loss is hard, and I think what’s so important with Baymax is that he reflects who Hiro lost. Baymax is very much a reflection of Tadashi. When somebody loses somebody, sometimes you’re not gonna have someone who is exactly like that person, but Hiro is very fortunate that he can find very similar characteristics in Baymax that mirrored Tadashi. The fact that Baymax cares, that he wants to take care of people... It’s important in finding your own Baymax, finding someone that you feel very comfortable with, and that someone can help you emotionally. Hiro rebuilds Baymax physically, but Baymax repairs Hiro emotionally.
Damon Wayans Jr. (Wasabi): I feel like our inner hero is hope and empathy. The closest thing we have to reading someone’s mind is putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes. I think once you’re surrounded by the right people, they bring that out of you. Nothing could stop you. That was a great lesson in the movie, that Hiro had loss, but he also had these friends who helped him cope with the loss... It was a great example of what the right family and the right surroundings can do for the human process.
On Its Asian-American Lead Characters:
Daniel Henney (Tadashi): I obviously knew it was a Japanese-American character, but there was nothing specific as how I was to play it… It was more about, you’re playing a human, you’re playing a brother. More important for me than focusing on ethnicity or where they’re from was to find out how to make a connection with my brother.
Potter: What I really liked about when they cast our characters was that they wanted to cast true to the ethnicity, but they weren’t saying, “Hey you have to put on an accent.” This film is a representation of the world and of the United States right now. If you’re gonna call the United States the melting pot, you have to start having film and television represent that. I spent the first seven years of my life in Tokyo, but when I moved here, I learned English. English is my second language but I don’t have an accent. If it throws people off that this voice is coming out of this look, well then I don’t quite understand what’s going on if you’re considering this a melting pot. I think that’s a really cool thing that the creators of the film did, they didn’t specify. Yes he is Asian-American, but you don’t have to play on that because you already see he is Asian-American.
Henney: It’s refreshing [to play Tadashi]. Stuff I’ve done here [in the U.S.] is tough at times. Parts are written a certain way because writers come from certain backgrounds, and that’s the way it should be because you write what you know. For a long time the Asian male, the idea of the Asian male, has been a bit desexualized. It’s nice to see strong protagonists. It’s nice to see strong women now. It’s nice to see this happening. So yeah, it’s very refreshing when you see characters who are leading a film who are very intelligent, very progressive, very handsome, very charming. It’s very refreshing to not have to subscribe to someone else’s idea of what we are as humans.
Jamie Chung (Gogo): I don’t know if [my character being Asian] was relevant. I think what is important is that it’s a multicultural group. It’s very diverse. It’s just like the city they represent, San Fransokyo. I love that these group of people are friends and it’s not a question of their race. They all came together because they love science and they love robotics engineers. They have that commonality. The great thing about these two women [Gogo and Honeylemon] is that Disney didn't stereotype the women to what you think is a strong female character. Honeylemon and Gogo are both very different and it really shows that strength can be represented in all shapes and sizes.
On Its Influence Over Young Girls Interested in Tech:
Chung: I hope that it inspires young girls, and like Genesis said, we want [these girls] to be the first to answer questions in class.
Genesis Rodriguez (Honeylemon): I think this is about getting girls to be comfortable with the idea, whether you’re the strong silent type or whether you’re the super girl one, that you can still be brilliant and it’s okay to be that way.
On What Separates the Film From Other Superhero Movies:
Rodriguez: I would say these are normal kids, very educated, and their superpowers are their brains. I think they’re more relatable in terms of superhero status. I hope we get to inspire kids to hit the books more and get into science and start their own inventions.