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Baymax!

Disney+’s ‘Baymax!’ Series Returns To Big Hero 6’s San Fransokyo, With Easter Eggs In Every Episode

It has been seven years since moviegoers were whisked away to the lively, bustling animated realm of San Fransokyo in Big Hero 6, but the legacy of Baymax, the inflatable, adorable healthcare provider robot that belongs to protagonist Hiro Hamada, continues to burn brightly. Over the years, the character has grown to become a beloved cultural icon, spawning all sorts of merchandise and branded offerings, as well as a small-screen return to Disney Channel’s Big Hero 6 series which aired from 2017 to 2021.

With the arrival of Baymax! to Disney+, the fan-favourite is thrust back into the limelight yet again, against the backdrop of a familiar-yet-different setting. San Fransokyo looks the same, but it isn’t really – this new series explores locales both fresh and old, with the environmental design born from the team’s excursions to San Francisco and Tokyo as part of the research process. 

“We sent teams out to Tokyo to sketch and study the details there,” producer Roy Conli shared in a production brief. “The same teams went to San Francisco to explore. What grew from that was a universal city that still blows me away today. The street pattern is San Francisco, but the design element is Tokyo. That world is vibrant and alive, and it still lives.”

It’s only apt, then, that Baymax! would pay proper tribute to the place that started it all. In a press conference that Geek Culture attended, producer Bradford Simonsen teased the deliberate addition of Easter eggs that fans of Big Hero 6 and the healthcare companion can look forward to. 

“There are so many easter eggs ‘cause the way we made this was we actually brought back lots and lots of San Fransokyo, and then we looked at other shows, and we even used pieces and parts of those shows and characters, actually, to bring this world to life,” said Simonsen with a laugh. “We had so much fun thinking about all the fun ways we could add Easter eggs.”

His comment was met with surprise by Scott Adsit, the voice of Baymax, who admitted his failure to notice these references despite having watched the series thrice. In response to the star’s request for a clue, Simonsen confirmed cheekily, “There’s one [Easter egg] in every episode, actually. You’re putting me on the spot!” 

Later, he cited the opening episode “Kiko” as an example, but continued to keep Adsit in the dark, saying only this: “We do take from different shows and add like pieces and parts. Like as simple as a chair or a table, we do that. So, all kinds of fun stuff in there.” 

This act of inserting mini references serves as a nod to the team’s effort to integrate Easter eggs during their Big Hero 6 days. Back then, Simonsen shared, little Mickey Mouses were every so often snuck into the movie, to the point that the team members themselves still aren’t able to locate them all – even after seven years. 

It’s a nice way to tie the past and the present, while also preserving Baymax’s status as a pop culture icon. The character, after all, was inspired by Totoro from Studio Ghibli’s My Neighbour Totoro, and had a flight sequence in Big Hero 6 that was reminiscent of Tony Stark’s takeoff scene in the first Iron Man movie. He would later go on to become the muse for Orisa, one of the heroes in Blizzard Entertainment’s shooter Overwatch, but despite Baymax’s superhero roots and influence, the Disney+ series will be shifting away from world-saving antics.

Instead, Baymax! is a six-episode, or rather, half a dozen eight-minute shorts that puts the healthcare companion in day-to-day situations, where he continues to extend a helping hand to normal citizens and individuals. One short, for instance, normalises the growing pains of the puberty process, whereas another touches on the hustle culture and the guilt that comes with missing out on days of work. Sprinkle into the mix a dash of humour and Baymax’s adorably clueless responses, and there’s a story waiting to be told. 

On the puberty-focused episode, Adsit thought that it was great that the topic was never treated as “something to be ashamed of or to be hidden, but talked about very openly and plainly.” Indeed, the series doesn’t shy away from sensitive or uncomfortable topics, which is why it needs to have a fine balance of lighthearted elements and narrative significance. 

It’s worth mentioning that Baymax! also features characters from minority groups – a thoughtful consideration that grounds it more to reality, especially with San Francisco’s melting pot of races and ethnicities. 

That’s a lot to translate into short-form episodes, and Conli agrees just as much. “This was new territory for a lot of us,” he expressed. “We generally work on 90-minute films, and we iterate and iterate for, you know, four to five years to make a film. And in this, we did the same amount of iteration, but because the structure is so small in comparison, we were able […] to take each of these gems and polish them to just perfection.

“I think each little episode tells a story that is complete. And then you take those episodes together, and there’s a big arc in the whole series, so it was a blast,” the man added. 

The new less-is-more approach doesn’t mean that the core essence of Baymax and Big Hero 6  has changed, however. The character’s greatest strength – despite being a robot with limited understanding of human emotions – has always been compassion, and the series does a conscious job to highlight that in every episode, which according to Conli, is dedicated to healthcare workers. “We’re living in a time where our healthcare providers are, in fact, heroes, so I would say that Baymax is, in his current form of being a healthcare provider, a hero [too],” he elaborated. 

The everyday setting helps to further push the understanding that it’s possible to be a superhero without powers in different communities, with Adsit noting that it’s a combination of just being available to lend aid, and recognise what is needed when it’s needed. 

“Baymax is not quite like us, because he has one purpose: going around the city, [and] looking to help people. We can’t all do that, but if we can be aware enough to find those moments where our specific skills or compassion is needed, we can put them to good use. And I think watching him do it constantly gives us maybe a little peek into how we can do it ourselves.”

In fact, it’s this exact sense of heart and warmth that prompted series creator Don Hall to pick up Big Hero 6 as a project back in 2011. “The unique nature of the team itself was this relationship that you could see at the onset between a young teenage super-genius and this robot that becomes essentially a surrogate big brother, he expressed. “And it just felt like, man, that is, you know, that’s got a beating heart right there, and that was something that we could build on.”

The team has never looked back since, and the rest is, as they say, history. 

Baymax! is now streaming on Disney+


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