After spending years in Pixar's lamp-shaped shadow, Disney Animation Studios blossomed in a big, big way.

With "Frozen," the original animation kingpins came back. (At least publicly, keen-eyed animation enthusiasts had always known how good features like "The Princess & the Frog" and "Winnie the Pooh" were.) What began with "Tangled" and continued with "Wreck-It Ralph" reached a peak with "Frozen," which became the highest-grossing animated film ever. Wowza.

Now that Disney Animation Studios has taken the heavyweight belt, they're ready for their victory lap, in the form of "Big Hero 6," a title taken from a relatively obscure Marvel comic book that concerns a pint-sized genius named Hiro (Ryan Potter) and his friendship with an inflatable nurse robot named Baymax (Scott Adsit). Together with some of Hiro's friends, they create a crime-fighting team to take down an evil madman with mind-controlled robots. (Don't worry, this makes more sense in the context of the movie.)

But does the movie follow in "Frozen's" do-you-want-to-build-a-snowman footsteps or does it crash and burn attempting to do so? Read on to find out!

1. It's Unlike Any Disney Animated Movie You've Seen Before
From a purely visual standpoint, "Big Hero 6" is beyond unbelievable. Part of this is due to Hyperion, a new rendering engine that allowed for amazingly tactile surfaces and advanced crowd control. But if you aren't a super nerd, just know that the movie looks gorgeous and unlike any animated movie you've seen before. The image is so dense, the camerawork so active, the lighting so moody and purposeful... It's so lush that it's almost hard to drink in during a single viewing. (More on that in a minute.) The world of "Big Hero 6" is just incredible. Your jaw will be on the floor the entire time.

2. Baymax Is a Certifiably Classic Disney Character
Sure, Baymax was a character from the original comic book, but he was a much different character (he was an aggressive butler robot). The Baymax the folks at Disney have created is both 100% Disney and 100% classic. This is a character that you will see little kids carrying around forever. He's big and squishy and has a heart of gold (and Scott Adsit's vocal performance is miraculous). Baymax is the kind of character that could have only been developed by Disney Animation Studio, one that feels like you've known him (and loved him) for your whole life.

3. There Is No Real Connection to the Marvel Cinematic Universe
Yes, this is based on a Marvel comic book property. But that's about where the connection begins and ends. Although, if you really want the full "Big Hero 6" experience, there is a fairly lengthy post-credits sequence, just like in the Marvel movies. Maybe this is the beginning of the Marvel Animated Universe? Hmmm... I like the sound of that.

4. The Characters Are Refreshingly Diverse
"Big Hero 6" is arguably the most ethnically diverse Disney animated movie in the history not only of Disney animated movies, but animated movies period. That's kind of a big deal. Hiro himself is a mixed-race hero, both Japanese and American, and the team is filled out by Honey Lemon (voiced by American-Venezuelan-Cuban actress Genesis Rodriguez), Wasabi (voiced by African American actor Damon Wayans, Jr.) and Go-Go (Korean American actress Jamie Chung). That's pretty darn cool, no?

5. It's Also Wonderfully Feminist
"Frozen" was no fluke in terms of the Studio's commitment to top tier female characters. Not only are Go-Go and Honey Lemon essential members of the team, with their own set of skills and interests (Go-Go even yells at a male teammate, "Woman up!"), but Hiro's aunt, played by Maya Rudolph, is a wonderfully strong female character. She adopted Hiro and his older brother when their parents died, and as a single caretaker she isn't depressed or put-on, she's a successful business owner, is wildly supportive, and has an active interior life. The fact that these women are so different and yet maintain a similar inner strength is what makes "Big Hero 6" so powerful and unique.

6. You Will Cry
Bring tissues.

7. The Action Sequences Are Incredible
Brad Bird, who directed "The Iron Giant" and "Incredibles," has famously railed against people labeling animation a "genre." Bird notes that an animated film can be anything, really. They can be a romantic comedy or a thriller or, as is the case with "Big Hero 6," an action movie. And "Big Hero 6" does not skimp on the action sequences; there must be at least a half-dozen crammed into the movie's 90-minute runtime. The sequences are staged brilliantly; they bristle with tension and energy. All of the artists behind "Big Hero 6" seemed to really be pushing it to both look and feel like something you've never seen before. And they succeeded.

8. It's More Fun to Watch Than 'Interstellar'
Nolan's sci-fi epic is spectacular but singularly grim. There's a lot more color and life in "Big Hero 6." Also, they both have mysterious wormholes.

9. The Short Attached to It Is Terrific
Always interested in providing you with a full evening at the movies, Disney Animation Studios have attached a wonderful new short film to "Big Hero 6" called "Feast." We first saw "Feast" back in September and promptly wrote it up, but it was just as enjoyable a second time and coupled with "Big Hero 6," they serve as bold, brilliant exercises in extreme stylization. Really wonderful stuff.

10. You'll Be OK With Further 'Big Hero 6' Spin-offs/Sequels/Theme Park Rides
While the post-credit sequence offers a hint of the larger "Big Hero 6" universe, the movie's short runtime and abundance of amazing characters means that you will be itchy for further adventures from the team. Whatever form the subsequent material consists of (spin-offs, sequels, web-shorts, theme park rides), you know I'll be first in line, clutching my stuffed Baymax lovingly.

categories Movies, Reviews