At one time, Pixar Studios was the benchmark for quality computer animated films; however, in recent years, we’ve seen several other filmmaking teams make a viable run at upping the ante – including Pixar’s sister studio Walt Disney Animation Studios. In the last two years, Walt Disney Animation Studios scored back-to-back hits with Wreck-It Ralph and classic-in-the-making, Frozen and now the team is set to take on the superhero genre – bringing the lesser-known Marvel comic series Big Hero 6 to life.
Set in the future city of San Fransokyo, Big Hero 6 follows the story of Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter), a genius teenager trying to find his place in a futuristic work. Already well ahead his peers, Hiro takes to illegal robot fighting to challenge his intellect (and make some easy money) but, when tragedy strikes someone close to him, Hiro must embrace a greater purpose – to make the world a better place. To that end, he enlists the help of his equally brainy friends and a lovable medical droid named Baymax in the hopes of bringing San Fransokyo’s criminal elements to justice.
In a recent interview with Screen Rant, Potter explained his connection to Hiro, discussed the unique Japanese-American aesthetic of the film, and revealed the identify of his real life Baymax!
Watch our video interview with Potter at the top of the page or read the full transcript below (right after re-watching the awesome trailer for Big Hero 6):
Screen Rant: Now, you grew up in Japan until you were seven, the comic book Big Hero 6 was a love letter to Japanese pop culture, so this is part of your DNA really, this is the stuff you grew up with.
Ryan Potter: Absolutely. I mean, you have to realize this film takes place in San Fransokyo. I grew up in Tokyo. Every holiday season I would go up to visit my family in northern California. I’d visit San Francisco. My mom grew up in San Francisco. I’m very familiar with both of these cities. And, you know, the comic book, it’s published by Marvel, an American company, but it’s based around these Japanese superheroes. And that’s what I am. I’m Japanese-American. I embody that, you know, comic books are my life, and it’s just been very surreal.
SR: So a Disney movie based on a Marvel comic book about the two worlds you grew up in — it’s like a dream role for you.
RP: Yeah, I mean, the thing is I watched Disney films growing up as well, so that’s where it comes full circle again. I spent my first birthday at Tokyo Disneyland. And to be able to work on, you know, an Asian-American comic book that became a Disney film that takes place in two cities I grew up in, it’s like — it’s mind-blowing. I don’t — the way it’s worked out has been blowing my mind.
SR: Tell us a little about Hiro — what about him really appeals to you? What do you think makes the character so great?
RP: What I love about Hiro is that it’s been easy to work with him, because I mean, I am Hiro and Hiro’s me, and you know, we’re very similar in the sense that when we set our minds to something, we get it done. That’s the bottom line. We wear our heart on our sleeve and, you know, we’re very…what you see is what you get. We’re both “what you see is what you get.” That’s what I loved about working with Hiro and being able to voice Hiro, ‘cause it’s me up there.
SR: Now behind us is Baymax, I don’t know how well people can see him on camera but he’s back there. You have a big brother (Tadashi) in the movie, but Baymax sort of takes over as your big brother in a way, and I understand that in real life you work with Big Brothers & Sisters of America. Talk about the importance of having that kind of figure in your real life and your screen life.
RP: Yeah, my Big Brother James has been a massive, just a massive influence in my life. He’s been a huge role model and, you know, without him I don’t know if I would be here. I just don’t know. You know, he’s been my Baymax, he’s been my Tadashi and he’s kept me on the path and he’s been the role model that I needed.
SR: Let’s talk about working with the directors and the cast — I guess you guys didn’t get a chance to work together a lot, but how was the whole process for you?
RP: It’s crazy because I didn’t work with any of the castmates. I worked with Maya Rudolph very briefly, for 20 minutes max, and she was phenomenal to work with and was just so funny. But you’re in the booth by yourself. And you know, it’s interesting — everyone’s like, ‘Well, doesn’t that seem to be a disservice?’ But being able to be in the booth by yourself, it’s up to you, you know. You don’t have to wait for someone to say their line, you don’t have to — maybe they mess up their line and you have to start all over again. There’s none of that. You’re in the booth by yourself and it’s all up to you. I love being able to take on that challenge.
SR: How does it feel to have your action figure?
RP: (Laughs) I mean, that initial response is…man, it’s amazing. I mean, I have so many collectibles and action figures at home that it’s a dream come true to be able to add my own figure to the ones that I’ve collected since I was a child.
Big Hero 6 opens in theaters on November 7, 2014.