Having bagged their first best animated feature Oscar last year with Frozen, Walt Disney Animation Studios are back in the ring with this visually dazzling and very enjoyable geek romp which may well triumph over the likes of How to Train Your Dragon 2 and The Boxtrollson 22 February.
Taking its lead from a lesser-known Marvel Comics title (Disney acquired parent company Marvel Entertainment in 2009), the action follows 14-year-old Hiro Hamada as he cuts an adolescent swath through the streets of “San Fransokyo”, a sublime mash-up of America and Japan with future-retro designs to make a Blade Runner replicant weep. Encouraged by older brother Tadashi to stop small-time bot-battling and enlist at a whizzo robotics lab, Hiro finds himself retooling huggable healthcare droid Baymax to do battle with a Kabuki-masked fiend, aided by a small but tightknit nerd army.
While Baymax’s transformation from inflatable-latex squishiness to body-armoured warrior is delightful, the real treats here are in the incidental detail of this beautifully designed world. A lovely thread of gentle slapstick runs through even the most explosive sequences, while Baymax’s Siri-like delivery provides deadpan counterpoint and Scott Adsit’s lyrical lilt lends delicious comedy to phrases like “hairy baby”. An origins story ripe with innocence and loss, this anime-inflected treat harks back to Disney’s big-hearted heritage even as it looks forward towards new worlds of innovation.
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