A boy’s best friend is his surprisingly squishy robot in this first teaser from Disney’s next animated feature Big Hero 6 (in theaters Nov. 7.) Inspired by the Marvel comic book of the same name, it focuses on a 14-year-old named Hiro Hamada and his faithful, soft-hearted and soft-bodied best pal Baymax.
Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams tell Yahoo Movies that the footage is meant to illustrate the movie’s central friendship. “Hiro wants to take the healing, loving, guileless nurse robot and turn it into a mechanized warrior,” says Williams. “That’s sort of the backbone of the film.”
Disney’s Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter had the Big Hero 6 team do a deep-dive into robotics research where they met with engineers at Carnegie Mellon working in the new field of “soft robotics” made with inflatable vinyl. Hall says the technology “will have potential probably in the medical industry in the future, making robots that are very pliable and gentle and not going to hurt people when they pick them up.” Suddenly, the movie’s “huggable robot” wasn’t that farfetched.
Hiro, though, isn’t content with just a cuddly pal. He designs a mechanized armor to turn Baymax into a battle-bot. Hall says developing the mech look took time “because of the sheer amount of robots out there and just trying to get something that felt like the personality of the character.” Williams adds, “A big part of the design challenge is when he puts on the armor you want to feel that he’s a very powerful intimidating presence…at the same time, design-wise he has to relate to the really adorable simple vinyl robot underneath.”
While creating a robot with two different looks was one challenge, crafting an entire film that could appeal to both Disney audiences and Marvel comics fans was another. “We want people to feel comfortable bringing families and kids,” says Williams. “At the same time, there are going to be people who are fans of superhero movies and they’re used to action scenes of a certain scope and we don’t want to disappoint those people. We are those people.”
Like Disney’s last animated sensation Frozen, the directors hope that Big Hero 6 will have a cross-over appeal with girls in the same way the icy fairy tale enchanted boys. Hiro and Baymax do team up with four other adventurers — two of them being female — to make up the 6 of the title, and the directors promise you’ll see more of the group in later trailers. “It would be very easy for this movie to be seen as a boys’ movie, just like it would have been very easy for Frozen to be perceived as a girls’ movie,” says Hall. “But I think you don’t make over a billion dollars by having it just skewed to one thing.”