“Big Hero 6,” Disney Animation’s latest theatrical feature, is a classic superteam origin story. But what’s interesting is that the characters’ original creators function as a kind of superteam themselves.
The writing collective known as Man of Action is credited on screen with the characters of “Big Hero 6,” but in reality the group consists of four individual writers: Steven T. Seagle, Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey and Joe Kelly. They have distinct points of view, but together they share everything: both the glory and the workload.
“We have a very socialist business model,” says Seagle, who co-created the “Big Hero 6” characters with Rouleau for Marvel back in 1998. “It shocks and appalls a lot of people. At first we were all skeevy about it, whether that would work in Capitalist America, but it’s really panned out pretty well.”
The group has operated together as a single entity for 14 years, creating the long-running Cartoon Network series “Ben 10” and serving as writers and executive producers on the Marvel animated series “Ultimate Spider-Man” and “Avengers Assemble.”
Though they created the characters, “Big Hero 6,” the film, was produced through Disney Animation Studios, with Man of Action looking on mostly as fans. But just the fact that the film is getting made at all is enough for them.
“When we made those characters, we loved them and thought it was a pretty pimp idea, but we didn’t think anything would come of it,” Seagle said. “But for Disney, that’s only made 50 [animated] movies, to say one of those should be ‘Big Hero 6,’ we’re floored.”
The film tells the story of young robotics genius Hiro Hamada and his brother’s white, puffy helper robot named Baymax. Together, along with several other science grad students, they take on a masked threat to their hometown of San Fransokyo.
“When we went in and saw what [the Disney animators] were drawing and what stories they were focusing on telling, we saw it was based a lot on the original work we’d done on the series, which, oddly enough, didn’t make it into most of the books,” Rouleau said.
Now Man of Action can boast it has something in common with Hans Christian Andersen, the Brothers Grimm and Mother Goose, but the group isn’t resting on its laurels. It’s branching out internationally through a partnership with Zag Animation Studios, founded by French animation producer Jeremy Zag, in Glendale. And it’s looking to move into live-action fare, too.
All four of the writers continue to produce comic books, mostly through Image, that they write independently.
“You have your own projects you can obsess over and make everything exactly right,” Casey says, who is currently writing a comic called “Sex.” “And then you can come to this situation and give yourself over to the collective because your creative ego’s not riding on the project. As long as you have both, the balance tends to work.”
— Patrick Kevin Day | @LATHeroComplex
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