A while back rumor started floating around that Disney was looking at making an animated movie based on Marvel’s comic series Big Hero 6, and today Disney officially announced that Big Hero 6 would indeed be Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 54th animated feature, scheduled for a release in November of next year.
You’d be forgiven for not knowing who or what Big Hero 6 is. I myself am only a casual comic book fan, but from the reaction I’ve gathered from around the internet today even the biggest of Marvel fans are reacting to this news with confusion. Apparently Big Hero 6 was a limited series that was published in 1998 and featured a team of superheroes operating out of Tokyo. Among the members of the team were Silver Samurai, a frequent nemesis of Wolverine who eventually had a change of heart and became the bodyguard of Japan’s prime minister; Sunfire, a former member of the X-Men who can fly and shoot hot plasma; GoGo Tomago, who can turn into an explosive ball of energy; Honey Lemon, who has a purse that can generate anything the holder desires (more-or-less); Ebon Samurai, a dark reflection of Silver Samurai*; Sunpyre, who was an alternate reality version of Sunfire’s sister**; Wasabi-No-Ginger, a sword fighting Japanese chef; Fred, a man who can turn into a Kaiju (giant Japanese monster. Think Godzilla); and Hiro Takachiho, a 13-year-old genius who creates a robotic warrior named BayMax. Big Hero 6 have shown up a couple times in other Marvel stories (at one point they helped Spider-Man fight Doctor Octopus), but for the most part they’ve remained a fairly obscure part of the Marvel Universe.
It turns out obscure is exactly what director Don Hall (2011’s highly entertaining, but tragically overlooked Winnie the Pooh) was looking for. The fact that Big Hero 6 doesn’t have the same kind of dedicated, detail-obsessed fan base that many of Marvel’s more well-known characters do allows Hall the freedom to play with these characters and stories without being bound by the original comics.
Hall’s version of Big Hero 6 takes place in the city of San Fransokyo (an amalgamation of San Francisco landmarks with the lights and aesthetics of Tokyo) and will focus primarily on Hiro Hamada (his last name is changed for the film) and BayMax. Disney has not yet mentioned any of the other members of the team who will be appearing in the film, but I figure Silver Samurai and Sunfire (and, by extension, Ebon Samurai and Sunpyre) are unlikely due to Fox currently holding motion picture rights to X-Men characters. As for the other characters, I expect some basic elements will remain, but it’s likely that names, backstories, and even powers will be changed for the film (I somehow doubt the name Wasabi-No-Ginger is going to fly). And that, I think, is the beauty of this. Disney is, more-or-less, free to do whatever they want with this story.
You see, Walt Disney Animation has a long history of adapting classic (and not-so-classic) stories to film, but they’re never particularly faithful adaptations. They take these stories and break them down to their essence and rebuild the whole thing around that to make it something that is uniquely their own. Whether it’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, One Thousand and One Nights, or Hamlet, Disney’s never had much interest in doing strict adaptations. If Walt Disney Animation Studios is to do Marvel films I feel they should be treated like any other adaptation they do. For that reason I think Disney Animation is the wrong place to take characters like Fantastic Four or Spider-Man, but when it comes to weird fringe material like Big Hero 6, I’m all for seeing what Disney can do with it.
The other thing I’m curious to see is whether or not this will tie-in to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe. The fact that it takes place in San Fransokyo pretty assuredly tells me “no,” but stranger things have happened.
Big Hero 6 is scheduled for November 7, 2014, which, incidentally, makes it the third Marvel release of that year (after Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Guardians of the Galaxy). Here’s a piece of concept art along with an animation test showing off San Fransokyo:
*Apparently Ebon Samurai was originally a Japanese police officer who was killed by Silver Samurai. He vowed vengeance and was brought back from the dead to kill Silver Samurai, but changed his mind when he found out that Silver was now a good guy. (?!)
**Sunpyre found her way into the mainstream Marvel continuity by being pulled out of Honey Lemon’s magic purse. (?!!)
Source: Hero Complex