“We really hope that the characters are inspiring, that Baymax is inspiring, that people take a moment to think about and care about each other,” said Baymax! producer Bradford Simonson during a press conference to promote Walt Disney Animation Studios’ first short-form series for streaming. With all six shorts now available on Disney+, the culmination of three years worth of work is now being embraced by the world. “It’s really fun to see people watch it and then see that it actually all connects. It’s very fulfilling.”
The idea to return to San Fransokyo came from the city’s creator Don Hall, who adapted the Marvel Comic Big Hero 6 into Disney’s Oscar-winning animated feature. His additions to the premise included not only its setting but the creation of Hiro’s personal healthcare companion. “I pitched a very general Baymax procedural where he travels around and that was kind of it,” the series creator shared about its origins. “The first thing we did is we had a meeting with a bunch of folks that worked on the original Big Hero. And we just sat around for an hour or two pitching thoughts on what would be a fun episode.” From that list, passed on to screenwriter Cirocco Dunlap, Baymax! began to take shape. “Through Cirocco's writing and Scott's performance and all the directors that worked on the show, it became something much more than what I'd envisioned at the beginning. The beating heart of the show is something that is real and it elevated it beyond what I ever imagined.”
“The first one that really touched me very deeply was the one that takes place in the school with Sofia,” revealed Scott Adsit, the voice of Baymax, when asked about his favorite episode. “Sofia is experiencing her first period at school right before a big performance in the talent show, and she is a bit panicked by this change that’s happening to her life and doesn’t know if she’s ready to make that leap into adulthood. And Baymax is there to help her understand that change is good and you don’t have to be afraid of it. And the great thing about it I thought was that it was never treated as something that was to be ashamed of or to be hidden or to be anything but talked about very openly and plainly. That’s when I knew this was a very special series, and I’m very proud to be part of it.”
“Even though it’s a fictional city, the people that live in that fictional city are us,” Don Hall said about the real-world inspirations behind each story. “They’re our relatives, our friends, our coworkers, our family. It represents the world as we see it. To be able to express that through the lens of my favorite character, Baymax, it’s really been a pretty special endeavor.” Another highlight of production on Baymax! is that it opened doors for several talented artists at Walt Disney Animation Studios to try their hand at directing. “That was part of the original intent actually, was to create something that could give opportunities to new directors in a short-form version. It allowed us to give more directing opportunities, and I’m so proud of everybody who directed on this. They did such great work.”
“This was new territory for a lot of us,” revealed producer Roy Conli on tackling a streaming series at Disney Animation. “We generally work on 90-minute films and we iterate and iterate and iterate for 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, and we also have six episodes going at one time, we were able to take each of these little gems and polish them to just perfection. And we had so much. I think each little episode really tells a story that is complete. And then you take those episodes together, and there’s a big arc in the whole series.”
Technologically speaking, the team was able to save some time and budget by repurposing extras from the original Big Hero 6. “When we’d find a character in the script, we’d say, ‘Here are all the background characters we had in the original that kind of fit this,’” Bradford Simonsen explained. “They would give us direction and say, ‘Well, I’d like that hat and that cloak and that…’ And then we’d put a new character together from that and then bring that character to life.” The team also had to break away from the studio’s typical iterative story development process to something a little more traditional for TV. “We knew going into this that the paradigm in which we were gonna plan was gonna be, let's try to get all the scripts upfront, and we'll put things into production in a very kind of strategic, planned fashion. And we actually held to that. With a few exceptions where we agreed, oh, that'll make the story better if we change that and do this. But we kept moving.” Production also had to be handled between work on feature films, including Raya and the Last Dragon, Encanto, and the forthcoming Strange World, with Bradford and Roy sharing producing responsibilities to help get the shorts completed.
In the seven years since Big Hero 6 was released, Baymax has remained in the hearts of Disney fans around the world. For actor Scott Adsit, speaking for the personal healthcare companion is a role he doesn’t take lightly. “Knowing that the character will go on after I'm gone, that's astounding to me,” Scott shared. “Knowing that one day, probably, someone else will officially take over the role, that's pretty cool to be at the beginning of a legacy. And that's the magic of the success and creativity of Disney. Because Disney goes on, if we're lucky. And to know that I was at the beginning of something and helped define it, that just speaks of something larger than just my little life. That's huge to me and it's quite an honor.”
Experience all six new stories from the world of Big Hero 6 with the new streaming series Baymax! on Disney+.