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'Big Hero 6' Comes to TV and Brings Science Along With It
November 20, 2017  | By David Hinckley

The Big Hero 6 team will add a seventh hero, in a way, when it moves from theaters to television.

That seventh hero, say executive producers Mark McCorkle and Bob Schooley, would be science.

Big Hero 6, the TV series, launches Monday at 8 p.m. ET on the Disney Channel and Disney XD with a one-hour animated movie appropriately titled Baymax Returns.

Baymax, for anyone who missed the 2014 movie – and that wasn’t many people since it grossed $657 million worldwide – is an inflatable robot who’s part hi-tech healthcare wizard and part manny.

He was created in the movie by Tadashi Hamada, a tech-savvy teenager in the city of San Fransokyo.

Meanwhile, Tadashi’s equally smart and less focused younger brother Hiro (voiced by Ryan Potter) was building microbots for illegal robot fights. Tadashi encouraged him instead to use his skills to create robots that could do good, and he was starting to do that when Tadashi was apparently killed in an explosion that also destroyed most of Hiro’s microbots.

As the real story started to become clearer, and a villain emerged, Hiro regrouped with four of Tadashi’s friends: GoGo (Jamie Chung), Wasabi (Damon Wayans Jr. in the movie, Khary Payton in the TV series), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez) and Fred (T.J. Miller in the movie, Brooks Wheelan in the TV show).

With Baymax they formed The Big Hero 6 and fought evil.

Baymax was an apparent casualty, however, and as the TV series begins, the team must get him back.

Toward that end, and to save the world, Hiro and company turn to science, wherein lie the hi-tech solutions for a highly technical world.

At a time when science has become a political whipping boy on critical issues like climate change, Big Hero 6 strongly suggests we need to recognize its value and importance.

“The show is a very positive portrayal of science,” says McCorkle. “It’s not just robots running amok. We show Hiro and his team figuring out how to solve problems – how you can use science to create a better future.”

“Everything they do is rooted in something real,” says Schooley. “Most of what they come up with are things that realistically could be created within our lifetimes.

“Unlike some superhero shows, we’re showing real science. Most kids take science for granted, but we’re hoping that maybe some of them will see what Hiro and his friends are doing and start looking things up.

“The idea that kids can become scientists themselves, and that science is how we create better lives, is a good message to send right now.”

McCorkle and Schooley have also tried to differentiate Big Hero 6 from other superhero shows in other ways – if only because it’s a necessary strategy these days.

“Our biggest challenge is staying ahead of the fans,” says McCorkle. “Our audience really does want surprises. With all they can experience today, they recognize familiar patterns. If all you’re giving them is something they’ve already seen, they’re going away.”

The new twists start, he says, with Hiro and the characters.

“One of the things we liked most about Hiro is that he’s flawed and makes mistakes,” says McCorkle. “Even though he grows, as do the other characters, he’s still stubborn and impetuous.”

Nor are the grownups wise all the time. Hiro and Tadashi were raised by their Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph), who McCorkle says “doesn’t feel like a perfect parent. She feels real.”

One adult who will catch everyone’s attention is Fred’s father, a former superhero voiced by Stan Lee of Marvel Comics. The Big Hero 6 team first appeared in Marvel, though the movie and TV show are linked only loosely to the comic.

“The movie and the series are not part of the Marvel universe,” says Schooley. “Although Stan Lee is an obvious link.”

While the TV series doesn’t have quite the $165 million production budget of the movie, Schooley says he’s not concerned that it will look different, or that viewers will see it on smaller screens.

“We shot it in 2-D instead of CG, and one reason was to keep the scope similar,” says Schooley. “We drew on a variety of techniques and inspirations, from old Japanese woodblock prints to 101 Dalmations.

“It has such a unique look, with such vivid colors, that I think it works just as well on an iPhone as on a big screen.”

The first season of Big Hero 6 will include 21 episodes, and the first two will be sneak-previewed right after Baymax Returns on the DisneyNOW app and Disney XD VOD.

Regular episodes will begin airing early next year on Disney XD, and the show has already been renewed for a second season.

“We have a strong backbone for where the first season will go,” says McCorkle, with Big Hero 6 pitted against archvillain Obake (Andrew Scott). “We look at who Obake is, where he came from, what he wants to do. It builds to a three-part finale.”

“When we decided on Obake as our Big Bad,” says Schooley, “our ideal was Andrew, who did Moriarty in Sherlock. We never thought we’d get him, so we’re thrilled we did. He gives us a different kind of villain experience.”

How scientific.

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