Bringing Voices to Life:
Behind the Scenes of BIG HERO 6
By Ben Kayser and Rachal Marquez
Disney’s BIG HERO 6 is an extremely entertaining animated movie that many families will like. Movieguide® sat down with the actors and actresses who lent their voices to bring the characters to life.
The story in BIG HERO 6 is about a 14-year-old boy who turns a huggable healthcare robot into a fighting machine and enlists the help of four friends to catch a villain in the city of San Fransokyo.
Ryan Potter and Scott Adsit are the voices of Hiro and his robot friend, Baymax. Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans, Jr., T.J. Miller, and Genesis Rodriguez play the roles of Hiro’s four engineer friends who Hiro enlists into his team of heroes.
Question: Do you see yourselves in the animated characters?
Scott Adsit: Well, I see Ryan in Hiro. My girlfriend says that Baymax is based on my look, but I think they had the look well before I got there. I think everybody sees themselves in Baymax, because he’s so nondescript in his face. He’s got no real features, and that means we can all relate, because we all project.
Ryan Potter: I feel like when any character meets Baymax, it’s almost this instant connection. Baymax is so easy to get along with because he cares for everybody, and he’s not bringing anything into it. When I met Scott for the first time, it was easy to talk to him, and he was very warm. Obviously, we had worked with each other for a year and a half, but still I feel like he’s this way with everybody, and he’s just able to get along with people, and that’s how he’s similar with Baymax.
Question: Were you both familiar with the comic books before this?
Scott: I read a lot of comic books and I had never heard of it. But I think the creators of the movie were given a list of Marvel comics, and Don hit upon BIG HERO 6 in that list, [but] he didn’t know what it was, so they looked that up. He liked the concept of this relationship, and the rest of it as well. So they contacted Marvel and said, “What about BIG HERO 6?” It was such an obscure title that Marvel was happy to say, “Do whatever you want with it.”
Ryan: Actually a buddy of mine, his dad, gave me a box of comic books, and Issue 1, 3, and 4 of the original BIG HERO 6 comic books were actually in the box. So I knew about it, and I had skimmed through it. I knew about BIG HERO 6, [so] when I went on the first audition, I was like, “Oh! BIG HERO 6!” It was Disney, so it didn’t feel like I had known the title before, if that makes sense.
Question: What makes a good hero? Who is your biggest hero away from Disney?
Jamie: A great hero would be humble, charismatic, honest, a great problem solver, and one that takes actions and doesn’t just let things happen. They need to be activists. My biggest hero? It’s so clichéd, but it’s definitely my mom, in terms of sacrifices and selflessness.
Question: What is your favorite characteristic of each other’s character?
Ryan: I love Baymax’s personality, that things go over his head until someone teaches it to him, like a fist bump, but, Baymax starts to catch on and learns fairly quickly. I also love his walk. The creators of the film came up with three different walks: toddler, toddler with a full diaper, and penguin. They went with the penguin waddle.
Scott: I love Hiro’s intelligence, and the fact he doesn’t realize what a gift he has until it’s pointed out to him. I love that aspect of the film, that it’s about intelligent kids. I also love just the tiny little quirks that you have facially in the film, that are based on what Ryan has done. Because the result is that Hiro seems very real to me when I watch him – he seems like a real kid, with real problems and real joy. So, the combination of Ryan and the animators is pretty special.
Question: [To Genesis Rodriquez] I heard you have an actual background in fighting robots?
Genesis Rodriquez: That was in high school. We had an all-girls robotics team. I was a welder and I was also part of. . . figuring out how the robot moves and what actions it’s going to take. They [the filmmakers] were happy once they found out that that’s what I used to do.
Question: Which was the most challenging scene for you to do, and how did you train to voice your character?
Jamie Chung: Trial and error. The hardest thing to do, in any kind of action film, are the efforts [the incidental action sounds of jumping, running, falling, punching, getting punched, etc.]. It’s even harder to do when both of your feet are planted on the floor. You can’t jump, but you have to make it sound like you’re landing, or you’re falling, or take a hit in the stomach. It’s just the strangest thing, and I’m sure you look like a crazy person from beyond the glass, but I think that was the hardest thing. It’s just very different.
Question: Do you have a favorite Disney hero?
Genesis: I have so many. . .
Jamie: Is Nemo a hero? Because he’s one of my favorites.
Genesis: It’s just really special that I had my favorite Disney princesses and characters, and that we have really positive and beautiful female characters in this movie that we’re leaving for another generation of girls. It’s just a wonderful blessing.
Question: I was going to ask you about the characters, because so often in animated films the female characters are princesses. So how is the design of them being very different?
Jamie: I think the great thing about this movie is that everyone’s equal, and they’re all very smart characters – they’re all robotics engineers – and they all come together for a common cause. It’s a very politically correct answer, but it’s true. They’re all equals, and they’re all at this university together. It’s a nice story to tell of an unconventional family coming together to solve a mystery versus one person rescuing the other.
Question: It comes down to your character even saying, “Woman up.”
Genesis: Yeah, isn’t that cool? That’s one of my favorite lines in the movie. That’s a beautiful thing, if we can inspire girls to not be afraid to be the one answering the question first in class, “Use your brains; that makes you more powerful and strong.” Those are beautiful messages that you can give to a woman, that you can accomplish anything, and that girls can accomplish anything they want to do.
Question: Do you think in the future we’ll have a lot of robots?
Genesis: I think so. I just hope we get enough kids to dream about those things. What scares me is this selfie world, where everything is on social media. I hope we can inspire kids to hit the books more and get those brains to good use again.
Question: Do you guys see yourselves in your animated characters?
T.J. Miller: This is not a joke. I think it was either coincidence, or I had mentioned it, but when I first moved to Los Angeles I had worked as a sign spinner. So I can sign spin. That’s real. In the booth, it’s a lot of effort, because this is an action film. It’s got all the superhero action that you would expect from a Marvel film, but in a Disney movie, so it’s a lot. They’ll make you fall, and you have to do it ten different ways, and Fred has to jump a lot. So you do a lot of different effects, and they call it walla, or efforts. And, it is an effort.
Question: What is your favorite characteristic of each other’s characters?
TJ: I do like how OCD he is. That’s such a funny thing, where everything’s in its place, and then Go Go knocks into it and he’s like, “Ahh!” He has this great throwaway line, “I spilled Wasabi on my shirt one time, people!” The biggest laughs for me are in the car chase scene, where he uses his blinker and stops at the red light – that is so hilarious and so pitch-perfect to his character, so that’s my favorite.
Question: Being around the Disney studios, I get the feeling of intense professionalism and a lot of fun. Did you get that feeling working for Disney?
Damon: Absolutely. That’s them.
TJ: That’s very well put. I would just add to that, that there’s a reason that the company brings families together when they go and see the films, that when you watch these characters on screen you feel like you know them, and you’re a part of their family or their group of friends. That’s another thing working here. There’s so much about “you’re a part of the Disney family” and they’ve helped me with auctions and charity stuff, and the same heart that’s in their movies comes from the company and the studio. It’s pretty amazing.