Start with a robot. An unusual robot. A robot named Baymax who shares a shape and a texture with the Pillsbury Doughboy: all white and soft and squishy.
With a voice a little like HAL 9000 from “2001: A Space Odyssey”: eerily calm, and in this case kindly (voice courtesy of Scott Adsit, “30 Rock”). Kindly, because this robot seems to be hardwired with Isaac Asimov’s famed First Law of Robotics: “A robot may not injure a human being or, through inaction, allow a human being to come to harm.”
Stuff him into a reddish-orange armored rocket-propelled costume and send him zooming across the sky. It’s like the second coming of Iron Man!
It’s a mashup!
It’s “Big Hero 6.”
But wait. There’s yet more mashing in this mix. Japanese anime and state-of-the-art Disney CGI animation (see accompanying story) meet and merge in this cross-cultural adaptation of a Marvel comic book series inspired by Japanese manga.
It all takes place in San Fransokyo, a — yep — mashup of the City by the Bay and Tokyo, with architectural features of each metropolis imaginatively blended together.
And over all of it hovers one more element: the thematic DNA of “Bambi.”
The hero of “Hero,” Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter, “Supah Ninjas”), a whip-smart 14-year-old computer geek, is left grieving early on by the sudden death of his beloved older brother Tadashi (voiced by Daniel Henney). Tadashi’s abrupt departure hits Hiro as hard as the death of Bambi’s mother affected the famed fawn. (Disney has a history of doing this sort of thing.) To help cope with that sorrow, a hug-dispensing, potbellied robot, designed and built by Hiro’s late brother as a health care provider, is just the cure for the psychological ills that ail the kid.
Buoyed by his ’bot buddy, Hiro then recruits a group of four fellow science geeks who become super-smart costumed superheroes intent on saving San Fransokyo from a powerful masked menace.
Clever, colorful, fast on its feet, frequently very funny and sweet (but not excessively so), “Big Hero 6” mixes its myriad influences into a final product that, while in no way original, is immensely entertaining.