Marketing material for the upcoming Big Hero 6 – this year’s offering from Walt Disney Animation Studios – hasn’t played up the film’s connection to the Marvel comic book universe – but perhaps with fair reason. The eponymous squad debuted in comic form in 1998, but is far, far from being a household name; even many a hardcore comics fan is only so familiar with the property’s Manga-influenced characters and world design. That is to say, the Big Hero 6 brand is pretty obscure.
The Marvel brand, however, is decidedly not obscure, but it gets complicated where it comes to Big Hero 6. In short: because Marvel Studios is under the Disney roof, selling the Big Hero 6 animated feature as a “Marvel creation” would (for many people outside the film geek community) create a misunderstanding about the film’s connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. As Disney and Pixar animation’s Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter made clear to Vulture in a recent interview, though, Big Hero 6 the movie is very much its own, separate thing.
Big Hero 6 is a Disney animated Marvel adaptation, but Lasseter indicated to Vulture that a Disney/Marvel ‘toon that fits into the MCU continuity – something Lasseter says hasn’t been discussed (yet) – could feel quite different, since “If we went directly into the Marvel Universe, that would mean we’d work more directly with Marvel.”
Marvel Studios films, like Disney Animation releases, certainly have a recognizable formula of their own – with the better ones being (obviously) those that find more creative ways to mix up the recipe – and Big Hero 6 (as evidenced by the trailer footage) does feel very much in line with more recent Disney animated features. As Lasseter put it:
“Without question, [‘Big Hero 6’] was made 100 percent here [at Disney Animation Studios]. They’d forgotten the books existed.”
That does, however, raise an interesting question – how would a Disney animated Marvel movie that’s part of the MCU differ from something like Big Hero 6? The latter was co-written and directed by Don Hall (Winnie the Pooh); as many have noted, the setup for Big Hero 6 – young Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) helps to form a crime-fighting team in the wake of a personal tragedy – makes use of certain tropes that are commonplace in Disney animated fare – as does the animation style resemble those of more recent ‘toons from the Mouse House (see: Tangled, Frozen, etc.).
Big Hero 6 does seem to be closer to a Disney animated feature that just happens to be based on a Marvel comic property – as opposed to, feeling more like a Marvel comic book movie that just happens to be animated by Disney, so to speak. The latter would (in theory) resemble this year’s Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy – in the way those films are Marvel Studios movies first, other sorts of genre films second. Hall, as it were, still feels that Big Hero 6 and Guardians of the Galaxy are similar – albeit, in a different sense.
“They do feel like distant cousins. Guardians is a Marvel movie, but it’s sort of gone off on a different branch. It indicates that fans of superhero movies are willing to try new flavors.”
Lasseter voiced a similar comment, as he mentioned to Vulture that “We call [‘Big Hero 6’] a super nerd movie,” rathe than a superhero movie. Indeed, as our Chris Agar recently discussed in his analysis of superhero/comic book movies, the superhero genre is flexible and can accommodate multiple other genre (and sub-genre) elements with ease. In the case of Big Hero 6, then, it sound as though the end result could be something like a superhero feature by way of the “young people on an adventure” sub-genre (think The Goonies, Super 8, etc.).
Big Hero 6 opens in U.S. theaters on November 7th, 2014.