Tag Archive: Big Hero 6


Zootropolis-1Arguably, the output from Disney Animation Studios of late has been better than that of Pixar Animation Studios, not that the two are competing. Since 2010, Disney Animation (with John Lasseter as its head of production) has released Tangled, Wreck it Ralph, Frozen, Big Hero 6, and now Zootropolis, all of which were graced with strong to exceptional box-office numbers and equal critical acclaim. Pixar, while capable of still producing both critical and box-office darlings like Toy Story 3 and Inside Out, have seemed to lack a certain spark or depended upon hits of yesteryear (continuing to do so this year with Finding Dory). Disney themselves are once again leading the pack when it comes to mainstream animation, and in Zootropolis they have cemented what we were already beginning to suspect; Disney are in something of a resurgence period, one to match the second Golden Age of the 90’s. And this time, it’s political.

In  a world populated by animals of an anthropomorphic nature, whom all co-exist peacefully, young rabbit Judy Hopps (Ginnifer Goodwin) has just become Zootropolis’ first rabbit police officer. While often being faced with a certain degree of prejudice due to her size Zootropolis-2and species, Judy none the less is keen to make an impression and prove she’s more than capable to tackle the serious cases often handed out to her colleagues. The opportunity soon arises when she is tasked with a missing animal case, one of many in the city. Teaming up with street-wise con-fox Nick Wilde (Jason Bateman), Judy soon uncovers a conspiracy that could upset the peaceful balance held in the city of Zootropolis

Zootropolis is the type of animation that offers plenty for more adult viewers, despite the fact that it is a feature populated by talking animals walking on their hind legs. It is an incredibly timely tale that deals with various degrees of prejudice, holding a mirror up to American society, both its past and unfortunately its present. It tackles these mature themes through sophisticated allegory, all the while remaining a cute and engaging caper allowing for plenty of fun to be had throughout. Disney has often been very deft at such a balance, but rarely has it felt this timely.

Zootropolis-3Along with this potent allegory, Zootropolis also has a team of animators working at the top of their game. The level of detail in the design of the numerous districts of the city of Zootropolis and its suburbs is phenomenal, with many scenes littered with intrinsic features and visual gags. This is the sort of film which will appreciate home viewing experience so one can pause a frame and pick out all the wonderfully imaginative details that can be found within a chosen scene. The character designs as well hark back to Disney of old, with the 1973 Robin Hood particularly coming to mind through numerous characters.

The general plotting of Zootropolis is perhaps the weakest point of the film. While it does have some smartly applied allegory, it does take a while to get to the truly meatier aspects of its politically tinged plot developments. For the most part, the proceedings take on a noir-ish element, and it is not always all that successful, particularly when it feels the need to reference both films within that genre and popular culture which don’t particularly share any DNA with the proceedings. It means a few of the gags do fall flat, but for the most part the script remains largely witty, if a touch too obviously self-referential in regards to Disney’s history (and future).

Zootropolis does a great deal beneath the surface of being a seemingly traditional Disney animation. It has an incredibly well written central female role, as well as populating the rest of the cast with characters who feel well crafted and well defined, even if this still suffers from the prevalent issue of Disney movies of Zootropolis-4late struggling to deliver a truly memorable antagonist. The voice-cast across all the characters, no matter how small their part, all do excellent work, particularly Goodwin and Bateman, who strike a strong chord as the two leads whose dynamic is incredibly refreshing, proving to be excellent company across the neatly paced run-time.

It shall be interesting to see how long this strong streak lasts for Disney, as they will more than likely succumb to the call of sequelizing their recently popular titles (Frozen 2 is happening, a decision which is surely more financially motivated than it is creative). For now, though, they can revel in what is proving to be a resurgence in which both the studio and the audience benefit, providing films that offer excellent entertainment and important moral lessons for all ages. A shining new era is tip-toeing nearer.

4/5- Textured, progressive and incredibly timely, Zootropolis can easily class itself as an instant Disney classic. 

 

Animation is a craft, no matter what form it is in. Be it 2-D drawings (my personal favourite), stop-motion, puppetry, or computer generated, the work of a group of talented animators can be felt (well, if it’s well made that is). The dominate form of animation these days is the computer animated form, with Disney abandoning the form that made their Studio fortune. None the less, the studio has recently had a string of quite brilliant hits, from Tangled, to Frozen, and most recently with Big Hero 6. The second most prevalent form of animation is arguably stop-motion. The time-consuming process does herald a great deal of respect, with Laika leading the way in recent cinematic stop-motion endeavours. With two examples of these forms currently playing in cinema, I thought I would take out two birds with one stone to express my views on two examples of these different, yet no less creative forms of animation, Big Hero 6 and Shaun the Sheep: The Movie.  

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Big Hero 6 (Dir: Don Hall & Chris Williams) 

Disney’s first dip into the Marvel pool that is separate from the MCU mines material from a comic-book which began in the late 90’s. Although it bears little similarity, the central basis of the team allows for the Disney gurus to produce something that feels very distinctly Disney, and very distinctly Marvel at the same time. The film follows young teenaged genius Hiro Hamada (Ryan Potter), who is left grief stricken following the death of his brother, Tadashi (Daniel Henney). When he begins to stumble on a conspiracy surrounding his brother’s death, Hiro is aided by his brother’s robotic health-care invention, Baymax (Scott Adsit), in finding out the truth. When they stumble across what appears to be super-villain, Hiro sets about forming a super-hero team with Tadashi’s old class-mates in order to save the city of San Fransokyo, and reconcile his own grief.

The design and execution of Big Hero 6 is nothing short of spectacular. The futuristic city of San Fransokyo is a hive of colour, energy and creativity. The opening act, which does a highly efficient job of introducing all the main characters, buzzes with invention, with every character coming across as very rounded and clearly defined individuals. The infectious momentum of the opening allows for the devastating emotional beats to truly hit hard, allowing for Big Hero 6 to navigate more complex emotions than your normal kiddy-fair.

This momentum doesn’t quite sustain, as the film loses much of its originality as it becomes more and more of a superhero movie. The initial team-up remains visually unique, as the team discover and come to terms with their powers and what they are capable of. The film veers towards being more action-orientated in the final moments, yet what is impressive is the individual sense of character that remains within the more heroic moments. It is not afraid to continue to delve in to more mature themes, particularly when Hiro is faced with the identity of the man responsible for his brother’s death. It deftly balances the conventional super-heroics with its thematic concerns in a very sophisticated manner. BigHero6

Much of the charm of the film comes from its characters, and in the team we have a great bunch in which to spend time with. The true stand-out is Baymax, the huggable robot re-fitted for heroism is both a hilarious and touching creation, thoughtfully designed and well performed. The relationship between Baymax and Hiro brings welcome comparisons to The Iron Giant, with the films conveying similar sensibilities in regards to how they approach their audience; rarely pandering, and not afraid to explore mature themes, and most importantly, offering important advice for those themes. A fine addition to the Disney pantheon. 4/5  

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Shaun the Sheep Movie (Dir: Richard Starzak & Mark Burton)

Aardman have well and truly established themselves as masters of the stop-motion technique. While their feature films only come around once in a blue moon, they are often works of brilliance (Flushed Away not withstanding). Their latest, a big screen adventure for Shaun the Sheep, may not be up there with the likes of Chicken Run and Wallace & Gromit, is still a lovingly made piece of entertainment that anyone can enjoy.

Hoping for a bit of Ferris Bueller’s Day Off kind of fun, Shaun leads a scheme which will see the farmer incapacitated for a day so that the flock can take a break from the daily routine. When the plan goes awry and leaves the Farmer with memory loss lost in the city, it is up to Shaun to lead a rescue team. However, they soon attract the attention of a tenacious animal catcher, who will stop at nothing to see Shaun and his friends impounded.

Shaun is a character that I have a great fondness of, due to growing up in the company of Wallace & Gromit, with Shaun’s début in A Close Shave standing as a personal favourite of the W&G shorts. I am slightly too beyond the target audience for his TV series (even if I have dabbled), but he has continued to prove to be a popular character for Aardman to explore. The show plays like silent comedy, and the film-makers have been rather brave in keeping with that style for his cinematic venture. It allows for the format to develop more into the physical slapstick quality that Aardman are deft hands at.

Aardman have always proven capable of providing personality in characters who say very little. Gromit remains one of the most engaging animated characters of our time, and while the characters in Shaun the Sheep are not as endearing, they still have a remarkable amount of individuality for characters who only communicate through gestures and bleats.

The visual puns and background quirks that audiences have come to expect from Aardman are present and correct, but there is the sense that this particular property has not be made with adults in mind quite as much as their previous efforts. The sets are a bit cruder than some of their other work, while some of the jokes simply do not have the sophistication that the likes of Chicken Run exude. Shaun

Nonetheless, the dedication is, as always, clearly evident. No other form of animation exhibits the labour of the craft in the same way as stop-motion. The clear indents of finger-prints add to the charm rather than distract. They demonstrate that what you are seeing is a product of collective talents, working pain-stakingly around the clock to capture a single frame of film. It is for this reason that well-made stop-motion, with charming characters, is rather full proof when it comes to criticism. It is hard to critique something which has quite clearly been nurtured and cared for across every step of production. Shaun the Sheep Movie stands as yet another testament of the vibrant energy that the format can, and always does, provide. 4/5