A few weeks ago, Disney’s Maleficent unseated their own Frozen from the top spot in Japan, a reign that lasted an impressive 16 weeks. While it’s apparent that Disney is flourishing in the Land of the Rising Sun, with sisters Elsa and Anna and now Jolie’s sorceress pulling in high figures, we must look ahead to the House of Mouse’s next “Big” success.
Big Hero 6
Marvel and Disney have been two separate identities until now. Though the latter owns the comic book film behemoth, they’ve operated on different planes: Disney dominating the animation while Marvel leads the live-action. Despite Disney’s failure to frontline a successful franchise with John Carter and Lone Ranger sinking hopelessly at the box office, Marvel has been their favorite franchise runner. Now, cashing in on the latest success from computer animated films like Frozen and Wreck It Ralph, Big Hero 6 is the ideal crossover between the two. To complement Disney’s outstanding computer animation and graphics and Marvel’s diverse heroes, the film draws heavily from manga inspired designs and concepts which are sure to fill in seats and reign as champion for some weeks to come. There are a few factors that will determine Disney’s future success in Japan with their next animated adventure.
With names like Hiro Hamada, Go Go Tomago, and Wasabi, Big Hero 6 delivers a full cast of anime influenced characters complete with Baymax, a lovably inflated balloon robot turned mech warrior. Opposing our band of first time superheroes is a mysterious Kabuki robot overlord set for world domination, which is my best guess.
What makes Disney’s new film a unique and potential blockbuster hit is the harmonious clash of American and Japanese culture. By combining several winning subcultures like manga, Marvel, and Disney, the film is set to draw from many demographics, from American and Japanese audiences and even split categories like male, female, family, and young adult; whereas Frozen and Maleficent is primarily targeted towards young female groups.
To add to the appeal are growing comedy favorites like Maya Rudolph, Damon Wayans Jr., and T.J. Miller voicing these characters, which I’m sure will rope in moviegoers from different age groups.
Though the film is probably set in a futuristic American society called San Fransokyo, a brilliant homage to the U.S.’s most Eastern influenced city and the grand tech capitol in Japan, the film encompasses that same worldliness that groups as many diversities as it can. Though initial speculation may suggest that the film will take place here along the Golden State, it can very well be interpreted as an Asian city or maybe even European.
Again, like previous animated films from Disney, Big Hero 6 contains a gloriously constructed city complete with technology at the core and popular references to Asian culture like architecture, soccer, and even use of inner city lighting which reflects not only Japan, but China as well. Disney is of course flexing an artistic muscle, defining their ability to produce beautifully crafted scenery without the Pixar’s name attached to the title, though I believe a Pixar/Marvel collaboration would be welcomed as much.
The decision to feature a lesser known Marvel team-up in a completely computer animated film rather than more mainstream demonstrates Disney’s and Marvel’s bold outlook on marketing. While Avengers and allies are more fit for live-action adventures and street level vigilantes like Daredevil and Luke Cage are fit for gritty television shows, Big Hero 6 represents the universal appeal of Marvel’s diversity to younger audiences.
Which other Marvel property to would you like to see treated with the Disney animated touch?