In November 2014, Big Hero 6 hit cinemas as the 54th Disney animated film about a young robotics genius, who forms a superhero group with his friends in the city of San Fransokyo. The film received critical and commercial success, becoming the highest grossing animated film of that year, with an animated TV series sequel set to debut in 2017. However, it is a little-known fact that Big Hero 6 was originally a Marvel Comics property, appearing in two self-titled miniseries: Sunfire & Big Hero 6 in 1998 and Big Hero 6 in 2008. Created by writer Steven T. Seagle and artist Duncan Rouleau, Big Hero 6 was Japan's premier superhero team, defending its country in the name of the Emperor and set in the wider Marvel Universe. This article will compare the 2008 series, written by Chris Claremont to the movie, of which it is loosely based upon.
The Setup: (Comic)
After coming under attack from a trio of villains in Tokyo, Big Hero 6, Japan's pre-eminent superhero team, travel to New York to protect a professor and save a mysterious artefact from falling into an unknown enemy's hands.
The Setup: (Movie)
Hiro Hamada is a brilliant but unmotivated robotics prodigy, who is introduced to San Fransokyo’s Institute of Technology by his brother, Tadashi. When an enigmatic assailant steals Hiro’s nanotechnology and begins to wreak havoc on the city, Hiro forms a superhero team with his friends to stop the masked individual.
The Players: (Comic)
The Players: (Movie)
Wasabi Alistair Krei
After Disney's buyout of Marvel in 2009, Disney CEO Bob Iger encouraged the company to explore Marvel properties for potential movie adaptations, with the belief that by choosing a relatively obscure title, it would give Disney freedom to create their own version. Eventual Big Hero 6 co-director Don Hall came across the original comic in a Marvel database and presented the idea to John Lasseter, Chief Creative Officer of Walt Disney Animation Studios. Lasseter gave the greenlight and in 2012, Disney announced that they would be adapting Big Hero 6 for the big screen, albeit an entirely new version, separate from the comics.
In the film, Hiro Hamada is a 14-year-old robotics genius who spends his time participating in illegal bot fights, having graduated high school at 13. His concerned older brother Tadashi shows him his lab at San Fransokyo’s Institute of Technology, where Hiro meets GoGo, Honey Lemon, Fred and Wasabi. Hiro also meets Tadashi’s creation, Baymax, an inflatable healthcare robot. Having become fascinated with the Institute, Hiro decides to enrol, but first has to get the attention of Professor Robert Callaghan, the head of the robotics program. Hiro signs up for the school’s science fair and presents his project: microbots that can link together to create any construct possible, controlled using a neurotransmitter. Hiro is accepted into the program, however, a fire breaks out, seemingly killing Callaghan and Tadashi. Sometime later, Hiro and Baymax follow Hiro’s sole remaining microbot to an abandoned warehouse, where they find someone mass-producing the bots and are attacked by a masked man. Escaping, Hiro programs Baymax with a battle chip and equips him with armour and go to confront the masked man at the docks. Quickly overwhelmed, Hiro is joined with GoGo, Honey Lemon, Fred and Wasabi, where they retreat to Fred's mansion and decide to form a superhero team to take down the masked man. The group track the masked man to an abandoned lab and suspect him to be Alistair Krei, the president of Krei Tech. In a twist, the masked man is revealed to be Callaghan, who used Hiro’s microbots to protect him from the explosion. Realising that his brother died for nothing, an enraged Hiro orders Baymax to attack Callaghan, removing his personality chip to do so. Honey Lemon manages to reinstall the chip, allowing Callaghan to escape. An angry Hiro takes off, but later makes up with his friends after Baymax shows Hiro video logs of Tadashi during Baymax’s development to comfort him. The team discover that Callaghan is seeking revenge against Krei, after his daughter, Abigail, a test pilot for Krei’s experimental teleportation technology, disappeared in an accident. Callaghan confronts Krei, using the teleportation device to destroy Krei’s headquarters. The group intercept Callaghan and during the climactic battle, Hiro and Baymax travel through the portal to rescue Abigail, although Baymax becomes damaged in the process, sacrificing himself to save the other two. Later on, Hiro discovers Baymax’s personality chip and rebuilds the robot.
The comic is vastly different from the film, as the film only took the core concept of the superhero team and the characters, creating an entirely new version of Big Hero 6 . In the comic, Hiro Takachiho is a high school student and a secret member of Big Hero 6, Japan's government run superhero organisation. Furthermore, certain characters in the film are characterised very differently than in the comic. For example, Baymax is Hiro’s bodyguard that he built and contains the brain patterns of his late father, dressing in a suit. Furthermore, Honey Lemon in the film, is a quiet, shy girl (similar to Marys), while in the comic, she is a sassy extrovert, with a special purse that allows her to pull out anything she needs at a particular moment. After Hiro’s school is attacked by the villains, Whiplash, Brute and Gunsmith, the assault is quickly dealt with by the team, who discover that the attack was a diversion to steal an ancient artefact and that the last artefact is in New York. The group undertake a covert operation to protect the final crystal, posing as transfer students at a school, while the team’s leader, Furi Wamu travels to the Plum Island research facility, where the crystal is located to assist Dr Isoama. Later, Baymax receives a distress signal from the facility and the remainder of the team investigate, only to find it was a trap, with Honey Lemon, Furi and Isoama having been brainwashed into new iterations of Whiplash, Gunsmith and Brute respectively. Leaving the battle, Hiro and Isoama’s daughter, Marys travel deep into the base, where they confront BadGal, the mastermind behind the thefts and responsible for brainwashing Honey Lemon, Furi and Isoama. BadGal quickly disposes of Hiro, even turning Marys into the new Brute, but is rescued by Furi, having broken free of her programming and defeats BadGal. The capture of BadGal restores the others to their former selves and the team eventually find a group of aliens that have been trapped on Earth. The crystal saved, the FBI detains Big Hero 6 for their clandestine activities and prepares to return them to Japan. Under house arrest, the team manage to break free and help the aliens in the facility return to their homeworld by repairing their spaceship (following a rematch against BadGal).
The movie and comic of Big Hero 6 are extremely different, with only a few elements intact from the transfer from page to screen. Big Hero 6 was the first Disney produced animated film to feature Marvel characters; although Marvel had very little to do with its production and so the decision was made to not tie the film to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It's interesting to note the difference in some of the characterisations such as Honey Lemon and Baymax from the comic counterparts, while others like Hiro, GoGo and Fred are much more similar. The plot of the film is its own original story, while the 2008 miniseries built upon the previous miniseries a decade prior in Sunfire & Big Hero 6 . While the comic’s narrative is a little shaky, with the artefacts’ power not being explained very well or the final plot development of the team having to return aliens to their homeworld, seemingly coming out of nowhere; the fact remains that Big Hero 6 is a fun and quirky property that should be further expanded and given more attention. The movie has taken the property in another direction and hopefully Disney can develop their version of Big Hero 6 to its fullest potential.