When Walt Disney Animation Studios last year announced its first movie inspired by a Marvel comic, an adaptation of a lesser known crime-fighter series called “Big Hero 6,” director Don Hall said that the absence of a detail-obsessed fan base for the series was part of its appeal, as it left every character and setting open to interpretation.
“I was looking for something on the obscure side, something that would mesh well with what we do,” Hall said in an interview with Hero Complex. “The idea of a kid and a robot story with a strong brother element, it’s very Disney.”
On Monday, a new teaser poster arrived for the project, which will center on a robotics prodigy named Hiro Hamada and his robot companion BayMax, who join a team of superheroes in a high-tech city called San Fransokyo.
(For a closer look at the city of San Fransokyo, see the video above).
Even die-hard comic book fans may have trouble recalling the Marvel series, which was created by Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau in 1998 and is something of a whimsical love letter to Japanese culture. Characters in the original comic include a samurai, an agent who invented a nanotechnology-based Power Purse and a monster born from a child’s drawings.
While the original comic is set in Tokyo, the “Big Hero 6” filmmakers opted to relocate the story to a mythical mash-up of Tokyo and San Francisco, a conceit that allows Disney’s animators to imagine a uniquely stylized cityscape — and indulge a studio-wide affinity for Japan fed by that country’s strong animation tradition.
“Marvel properties take place in the real world,” Hall said last year. “We were looking for something to do where we could make our own world — bring in the Japanese influences, have recognizable landmarks mashed up with a Japanese aesthetic.”
Hall, a life-long comic book fan who started at Disney Animation in 1995, was in the midst of directing “Winnie the Pooh” when Disney acquired Marvel in 2009. He found “Big Hero 6” while digging through Marvel’s library for ideas and pitched it to Disney’s chief creative officer, John Lasseter, in 2011.
“Big Hero 6” is being produced wholly at Disney Animation, but Marvel Chief Creative Officer Joe Quesada has been participating in brainstorming sessions about the project.
“Don was a huge fan of Marvel,” Quesada said of Hall. “He understood what we did. I didn’t have to explain our world to him. The relationship between Hiro and his robot has a very Disney flavor to it … but it’s combined with these Marvel heroic arcs.”
“Big Hero 6” opens in theaters Nov. 7.
–Rebecca Keegan | @LATHeroComplex