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Filmmakers Create New Technology for 'Big Hero 6'

Characters from Disney's latest animated film 'Big Hero 6.'
Characters from Disney's latest animated film 'Big Hero 6.'
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The latest animated film from Disney, “Big Hero 6,” is a mix of science, technology and art. High-level technology was used in the making of the movie. One of its main characters is a robot based on real world science.

The action-adventure movie is about an extremely intelligent boy, his robot and his friends. The story began in a little known comic book. Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams kept the name of the series and the characters' names. But Don Hall says much was changed as well.

“We don’t have any super-powered people in this movie. It’s all super technology.”

Director Williams says they wanted the movie to be believable.

“You’re always walking the line. You want to push it so it feels fun and fantastic, but at the same time you want it to be based on an actual science because people feel -- just makes it feel more plausible.”

Don Hall says one real world example in the film is Baymax, a robotic nurse made of soft plastic material filled with air.

“Our robot had to be something unique. It couldn’t be something that we’ve seen before.”

They found their robot in a robotics laboratory at Carnegie Mellon University. Chris Atkeson supervises the lab.

“Most people think of robots either as tools for industry or military things. When you say a robot is going to help you, be your servant, or take care of you, that’s a stretch for most people.”

In fact, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have built inflatable robotic arms to assist older adults and people with disabilities. Those robotic parts are similar to the robot in “Big Hero 6.” The character works to heal the sick and injured.

New computer software was used to create the setting for the movie. The imaginary city, San Fransokyo, and its people are more complex than anything in the last three Disney animations combined.

The great detail in the film required a more complex lighting method. The filmmakers created Hyperion, a computer program that copies the effect of global illumination. That means it more closely reproduces on film the way light works in reality.

Another piece of software created for this movie permits hundreds of thousands of characters to be created for crowd scenes. Andy Hendrickson is the chief technology officer at Walt Disney Animation Studios. He says no two people are the same in “Big Hero 6.”.

“It’s not like before in computer graphics films where we had several different body types, several different head types and you made 100 different people and they’re repeated. There are no repeats in this film.”

“Big Hero 6” with its high technology production is having big box office results. The movie has earned more than $240 million in ticket sales since its opened five weeks ago. And, on Thursday, the Hollywood Foreign Press Association honored "Big Hero 6" with a nomination for a Golden Globe award for best animated film.

I'm Caty Weaver.


Words in This Story

animated adj. produced by the creation of a series of drawings, pictures, etc., that are shown quickly one after another

character n. a person who appears in a story, book, play, movie, or television show

adventuren. an exciting or dangerous experience

comic bookn. a magazine that is made up of a series of comic strips

globaladj. involving the entire world