Exclusive: Disney Animation announces first Marvel movie, ‘Big Hero 6’

May 09, 2013 | 8:00 a.m.

Walt Disney Animation Studios is announcing its first movie inspired by a Marvel comic Thursday, an adaptation of a lesser known crime fighter series called “Big Hero 6.”

Directed by Don Hall (“Winnie the Pooh”) and due in 2014, the CG-animated movie 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.

MORE: Disney is reanimated with ‘Big Hero 6,’ ‘Frozen’

For Hall, 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. “The idea of a kid and a robot story with a strong brother element, it’s very Disney.”

The original comic is set in Tokyo, though Hall’s film takes place in 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.

This concept art for “Big Hero 6” showcases the Bridge to San Fransokyo. Credit: Disney.

This concept art for “Big Hero 6” showcases the Bridge to San Fransokyo. (Disney)

“Marvel properties take place in the real world,” Hall said. “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 lifelong 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.

(For more on the development of “Big Hero 6,” see this Disney Animation story running in Sunday’s Calendar section.)

“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.”

For Hall, the movie itself  is a mash-up of two passions — animation and comic books.

“It’s basically geek wish fulfillment,” Hall said.

— Rebecca Keegan



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25 Responses to Exclusive: Disney Animation announces first Marvel movie, ‘Big Hero 6’

  1. Joe C says:

    This and Guardians of the Galaxy are two projects from Disney/Marvel I just don’t understand. Talk about scraping the bottom of the bucket for movie ideas.

    • Frank says:

      Guardians actually ties together many different marvel characters, then leads into Avengers 2. There is a point to ir

      • Joe C says:

        My point wasn’t the movie concept, it was the sad marketing of every character in the Marvel line up. If you talked to 20 people on the street, I’d bet “MAYBE” one person heard of the Guardians before the movie was announced. And that no one would know Big Team 6. That’s all. And with the lineup of characters still out there that haven’t been used these are still very low end characters. Doc. Strange, Giant-man, Black Panther, Ms. Marvel, Nova…the list goes on and on. These are all movies that should have come out before these two. Hell I’d rather see a Doc. Strange animation movie then a real life one but hey I’m not Disney and I’m not marketing to 8 year olds. And yes I know some of the line up I’ve mentioned is currently in preproduction.

      • Ben says:

        There is a Doctor Strange animated movie. It came out in 2007. According to head of marvel studios expect Dr. Strange after avengers 2.
        I agree that most people on the street do not know who GothG or Big Hero 6 are, but that is how you grow brands. You take small ones that have lots of potential and you bring them front and center. It worked for Iron Man who was a B level character best before 2008 and I have a feeling both will do very well for themselves.

    • ttt says:

      for big hero 6, the point of Disney is to find something really obscure to make an animated film, since if they use a popular one, there'll be fan attacks regarding the changes of the material. for guardians tho, I dunno. maybe this one is too obscure, so people try to make it more well-known. the ones u listed r quite well-known to the fans.

  2. @Vapes_ says:

    It's more like pulling out the other bucket people didn't know about.

  3. nick marino says:

    hahaha I'm probably the only person that read the original miniseries by Lobdell, the second mini series by Claremont, and the 00s appearance of Big Hero 6 in Lobdell's Alpha Flight!!!

    talk about obscure. i remember hearing that BH6 was in development last year, but honestly i assumed it would just die on the vine.

    the test footage looks great!! no characters, though, which feels a little weird. but i dig the look of Hall's CG Japan.

  4. RRA says:

    What you're not intrigued by this Japanified San Francisco and superhero team running from a theme park? Its insane ideas like that (and a gun-strapping space raccoon) which made me a fan of comics and sci-fi and fantasy in the first place.

    Besides, GUN-STRAPPING SPACE RACCOON. Ahh isn't he cute, I want to hold him. *Ka-Boom!, cut one-liners.* License to print money.

  5. YourMoma! says:

    Cool, but can we PLEASE STOP doing any more Asian characters as Samurais or martial arts experts for once?

    Aren't they allowed to be normal like everyone else? Can't they just be superheroes with super powers like the next black or white dude? Is that really too much to ask? Because there is a serious lack of this…Asian male superheroes.

    • There is Firestar from Marvel and on the female front; Jubilee from Marvel, and Doctor Light (II) from D.C.

      • Dave says:

        Firestar's not Asian, but Sunfire is. He was on the original version of Big hero 6, maybe we'll see him in the movie?

    • Elliot says:

      Don't you know that every Asian knows either Kung Fu or the way of the Samurai?

    • Daniel Ferguson says:

      Well…. considering that the samurai in the team was Silver Samurai…. yeah, the asian has to be a samurai moron. And there's not a lack of Asian male superheroes….. hence Big Hero 6! Even out of this team, there is a whole slew of Asian superheroes… both male & female.

      • Bobbyzlitch says:

        No there really isn't a lot of male Asian superheroes.

      • Jay says:

        Isn't Goku Japanese? And his show is still on the air! Try to remember that Japan is the one country in the world with as many superheroes as the United States, and some of them are even better than ours, so yes there are a lot of Asian male superheroes.

    • ttt says:

      Silver Samurai wont be appearing in the film since its licensed by Fox………

  6. Squeezyphresh says:

    Anyone notice wreck it ralph on one of the screens in the video?

  7. Duder NME says:

    I'm geting a great Incredibles vibe from this. Looking forward to it.

  8. Stace says:

    Steven T. Seagle and Duncan Rouleau are part of Man of Action, the group of creators behind Ben 10 and Generator Rex, and who are now co-exec prods on Disney XD's Ultimate Spider-Man. They essentially were a group of X-Men writers (and artist) who were pissed about lack of any sort of creative freedom at Marvel, left, formed their own company and pitched a number of ideas to Cartoon Network.

  9. Jesse Gendelman says:

    Will it be in IMAX 3D because marvel movies was released in IMAX 3D and IMAX for seven years?

  10. Gaymer says:

    at least marvel does something new… hey lets rebrand batman and superman a much as physically possible maybe one of the re-launches will be actually good.

  11. @manolis says:

    Seagle and Rouleau created the characters, but the series was written by Scott Lobdell. Seagle and Rouleau only did one story with the characters in Alpha Flight

  12. JESUS CAMACHO says:


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