In anticipation of the Disney smash hit Big Hero 6’s in-home release (DVD, Blu-Ray, On Demand) on February 24, I had a chance to sit down with the directors of the movie during my whirlwind trip to Los Angeles last week. Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams shared how they were won over with the Baymax character, how they got into animation and other behind-the-scenes stories from the making of Big Hero 6.
Q: Did you ever expect the response of success of “Big Hero 6”?
DON: Yeah. [LAUGHTER] We did. We’re very fortunate because we’re always the first audience. And so we were won over by Baymax as a character and — and the film subsequently. You always feel like OK if I’m not that different from everybody else and if we like it and our Studio likes it, hopefully everybody will. And then once we started rolling it out and you know, sat in the audience and listened to him laugh and gasp and cry, you know, then it started to hit us that OK, it seems to be resonating with people.
And Baymax, as a character, that is something you can’t predict. That is, that a character will blow up that big – that a character will just resonate like that with people and worldwide. It’s just resounding. It’s — it’s pretty cool. To have contributed to a character like that to sort of the Disney legacy is pretty cool.
CHRIS : And that legacy is something we think about a lot. We got into animation because we fell in love with Disney when we were kids and I loved the Baymax character. That was definitely my in to the film and then I’m really proud of the dynamic between Hero and Baymax. Definitely the lineage from Baymax all the way back to Bambi and Dumbo and Pinocchio and these kind of Characters that have this purity and this sweetness to them. I always respond to those kind of characters that they’re a big part of the Disney heritage. It is an overwhelming idea sometimes for us that we are part of this group that’s helping to carry that legacy forward. Uh, but here we are. We’re very proud of the movie.
Q : How important was the Clinical Psychologist that you brought in to mold Hero’s Character?
DON : It was hugely important on a couple of different levels. We always start with our personal story, especially when you’re dealing with something as personal as loss, so you know, the conversations in the story room would always be more personal stories so you always start there because that’s your only experience. I did some reading very early on about loss and grief and watched “Ordinary People.” When we did bring in the Clinical Psychologist and Child Psychologist later, what it did is, it did two things. It gave us a new insight into specifically teen loss. But it also reinforced that we’re on the right track because a lot of things she talked about, and her social worker friends talked about, we were already doing in the film. So, in a sense, it kind of validated our approach and also gave us some new insight.
CHRIS: It is amazing in our story room how generous and open people are and how vulnerable they allow themselves to be. The story room for us is a really sacred space. We come in there, we close the door, and then people are very open and respectful. And people will talk about some of the most difficult moments of their lives since we were telling a story about the character who’s dealing with loss and we wanted to be true to that experience. And that’s one of the things I’m most struck by is we don’t want to be driven. We want to talk about our own experiences and that’s certainly helped us a lot with this film.
Q: Big Hero 6 up for an Academy Award – Best Feature Film. How has working on this been different from anything else you’ve ever worked on?
DON: It just reaches back into those childhood loves and it– I mean, it sounds trite but it is sort of a dream come true, to be able to do a movie like this. And then to have it be recognized by people. I mean, that’s sort of the icing on the cake. We’re thrilled and especially considering the field of other nominees. I mean, there are some, there’s a lot of animated films this year and they’re all really, really good. So it’s an incredible feeling.
CHRIS: We have both worked at Disney Animation for about 20 years and I’ve worked on a lot of movies and every story’s hard. You know, it’s just the way it is. They’re meant to be. If you’re gonna do something original, then it’s gonna be hard. This one I think we would agree was the most challenging story we’ve ever worked on.
It was just really ambitious. I think the number of characters, the size of the world, technically, it was incredibly challenging. But I think there was also a choice made from the very beginning that we were gonna attempt to reach a depth of emotion with this film that was gonna be pretty deep. And we knew that was the bar we were aiming for and we had to achieve that, or again, we wouldn’t have done our jobs. And so I think that we managed it and again, it’s not a process, it’s not Don and I and a crew that works with us. We work with hundreds of really talented artists who are so invested and they give everything they have, and they give years of their creative lives to this one thing. And so we achieved it with them and I’m really proud of what ultimately came together.