Big Hero 6

Big Hero 6 (2014) is an animated superhero film from Disney and Marvel, based on the Marvel superhero characters of the same name; the score was composed by Henry Jackman. It takes place in a fictional city called San Fransokyo, a conglomerate of American and Japanese architecture and culture. A prime example of the cultural blend is seen with the Golden Gate bridge, which harbors most of its present day design, with added pagoda tiers at the tops of the towers. The film blends the strengths of both companies: the heartfelt charisma of Disney and the exciting action of Marvel.

One of my biggest takes from the film is how great it is as a role model for kids. The cast is racially diverse (still a novel idea, unfortunately), and it shows kids how focusing on school and science is directly linked to success and badassery. Hiro (Ryan Potter) is a genius high school graduate at the age of 14. His older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) is a university student in an innovative robotics program and finds himself worried about Hiro’s lack of intellectual pursuits. He takes him to his lab and introduces him to his colleagues: Go Go (Jamie Chung) who is designing a electromagnetic bike; Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr.) who is working with lasers; Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), a chemistry expert; and Fred (T. J. Miller), who is less scientist and more science enthusiast. Finally, Tadashi shows his brother the project he’s working on, a healthcare personal assistant called Baymax (Scott Adsit), a friendly robot with a huggable nature. After seeing all of these projects, Hiro is immediately enthusiastic about continuing his studies at San Fransokyo’s Institute of Technology — upon seeing that higher education can be seriously cool.

Not only are the students’ projects really cool, but the students themselves are incredibly diverse. Hiro is a biracial leading man, half-Japanese and half-Caucasian. Go Go, an unyielding and independent Asian woman, at one point, shouts for someone to “Woman up”. Wasabi is a caring and goodhearted African-American man who becomes the foundation of the group and the voice for the audience. The eclectic group that comes together gives the myriad of children watching this film to identify with and connect with one or more of the characters in a more meaningful way than the majority of other animated films. Throw in their incredible intelligence and problem solving, and you’ve got a recipe for inspired kids.

While the film is a bit predictable at times, the story has a huge heart that more than makes up for that. Baymax dares anyone not to fall for his charisma. He’s another classic example of a robot who interacts with an emotional human being. Baymax is programmed to care for his patient, Hiro, and goes to great lengths to provide him with the utmost care. The relationship between the two is palpable, as Baymax becomes more and more of an older brother figure for Hiro. He’s always there for him, whether he’s slumming through a phase of low-battery (which remarkably resembles a human’s drunken state) or learning a fist bump to revel in Hiro’s successes (balalala). He becomes such a great counselor for Hiro that we just want to jump through the screen and give him a big, marshmallowy hug.

And who didn’t think of Interstellar when Hiro and Baymax fly through into the portal? That animation was absolutely gorgeous, creating a fantastically thrilling universe with bright colors swirling around together.

Big Hero 6 honestly wasn’t on my radar when it came out. Better late than never! This film is a delightful adventure, working through grief and reimagining family. The film creates great role models for kids and provides plenty of laughs for everyone. San Fransokyo sounds like an incredible city, so please let there be a sequel so we can steal away to that place once again.

Saving Mr. Banks

Saving Mr. Banks (2013) is a comedy-drama, directed by John Lee Hancock, about writer P.L. Travers, author of the Mary Poppins novels. The film focuses on the 2-week long period where Walt Disney (Tom Hanks), and his production crew, persuade Travers (Emma Thompson) to sign over the screen rights to her novels. The film parallels Travers’ time in Los Angeles with flashbacks of her childhood, growing up with her imaginative yet alcoholic father. The various flashbacks unravel the mystery of how the young and free-spirited Helen Goff/Ginty (Annie Rose Buckley) transformed into the cold and rigid P.L. Travers.

Emma Thompson excellently portrays the stern and unyielding Mrs. Travers. Travers is a character burdened by decades of guilt and resentment, choosing to express herself through concise diction, appropriate gestures and dress, and through her books. Thompson delivers every line masterfully, strikingly similar to the recording played during the film’s credits of an actual session with P.L. Travers and the Disney production crew. Thompson’s stringent performance throughout the majority of the film makes those few moments where Travers lets down her guard that more moving. Her soft moments truly contrasted from her many hard moments. Travers an austere character, but the film’s care with her childhood story arc allows her to be a sympathetic character, despite her harshness. The audience wants to find out what has made her so firm and wants her to find peace.

The cast is delightful. Disney’s production crew is a bubbly and optimistic group of people — who really have to their optimism put to the ultimate test. Bradley WhitfordJason SchwartzmanBJ Novak, and Melanie Paxson give spirited performances. Their characters in general are happy Disney employees who have to go the extra mile to appease the difficult Mrs. Travers.

The film is named for Mr. Banks, the father character in Travers’ novels. As far as the production crew knows, Mary Poppins comes to care for and save the children, but the flashbacks into Travers’ childhood prove that there is a greater purpose for her presence. Mary Poppins was inspired by Ginty’s Aunt Ellie (Rachel Griffiths), who came at the lowest point in her childhood to fix “everything”. She succeeds in almost everything, but she was not able to save Ginty’s sick father (Colin Farrell). Aunt Ellie’s failure stays with Ginty as she grows up. Mary Poppins comes to save the children’s father, illustrated in touching scene in the film where the song “Let’s Go Fly A Kite” is born.

This delightful and moving film defies multiple expectations, the most important of which is Travers’ transformation. The film is not about forgiving herself. She does not need to save herself. The film is about forgiving her father, forgiving her aunt, forgiving Mary Poppins for not saving her father.