I can actually remember the first time that I had frozen yogurt. Dessert, especially of the cold and dairy variety, wasn’t really a staple in my household, save for the occasional tub of ice cream that Mom would buy around our birthdays, which we could not wait for. So when my first real girlfriend started working at a local frozen yogurt shop, I jumped at the chance to try any and every variation I could.
This is the closest to a real-life montage that I’ve ever experienced: first, it was the taste test with small disposable spoons, then a smattering of mixed swirls that neatly folded itself into small cups. Candy topping came next, then the fruit toppings, then the sauces and syrups. By the end of her first week in the shop, my then-girlfriend had watched me work through the gamut of frozen treats, crafting my low-in-sugar masterpieces.
The point of my story is this: I had never thought that I would enjoy anything like ice cream, until I got the chance to test a variation of a popular formula. This is how I feel about Big Hero 6.
It’s not a shock that the Disney animated feature varied wildly from its comics counterpart: created in the late 90’s by the collective group known as Man of Action, the source material is slightly racially insensitive at its best times, and inaccessible to non-comics readers at its worst. With references to Eastern ideals and an interesting take on how anime culture seeps into our lives, it’s no shock that the series only last a few issues here and there, with scant appearances after. Truthfully, this is why I was so surprised that Disney considered this intellectual property in the first place.
While the source material did feel inaccessible and blatantly aimed toward the Asian market at times, the Disney animated feature never gives you the same impression. Accessibility and inclusion of all types of ethnicities feels like an ever-present priority in the writing, blending lines and personalities that usually separate us in a simple and effective package. Take the namesake of the city, for example, which is San Fransokyo: one of the best and most progressive Western hubs mixes well with the high tech, fast-paced Eastern metropolis, into a fantastical and hope-filled backdrop.
I don’t think this is a perfect movie, but I do have to point out how impressed I am that there is something that any type of person can enjoy in this film. Baymax is a soft, lovable, incredibly poignant character, perfect for a teenage sidekick going through a very tumultuous time in his life. The cast around Hiro rounds out around him as well, covering all types of personalities: the neatness of Wasabi, Fred’s laidback demeanor, Honey Lemon’s excitable nature, Go Go’s rough exterior. All of these tropes help to both uplift and highlight other characters, and help the audience connect to Hiro in a way that’s unexpected. There is grief, care, and triumph throughout the movie, and whether you’re on a first date or taking the kids out for the night, this is the best and most appropriate choice to make in theatres right now.
I’ve written reviews before condemning the representation of Asians in popular media, and on a personal note, I never thought I would see an Asian protagonist carry an “American” movie without knowing martial arts. A quick search on Metacritic stated that there were only three “mixed” reviews on the film, with the harshest one decrying the idea that these characters were designed specifically to sell Happy Meals and toys. Every other review was overwhelmingly positive, and as an Asian American, this gives my hope for our next generation to have stronger representation in the arts that they enjoy. Hiro isn’t just a fun protagonist with a fluffy sidekick; he’s a representation that a movie can be carried by an ethnicity without falling into harsh stereotypes, animated or not.
I would highly recommend seeing this film as soon as possible, and I will definitely be seeing it again in theatres. Big Hero 6 is an incredible blend of hero’s journey-type storytelling with a flashy technical twist, that have surprisingly touching and laugh out-loud moments for any personality. So, just like the yogurt, the film shows that you can mix any genre with any genre with an incredible result, as long as the pieces are individually delicious, which they most definitely are. As long as the mix isn’t citrus yogurt and mint chocolate chips; for the life of me, I can’t remember why I thought that would be okay to ingest.