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Animated movies aren’t just for kids

By Sophia Hyder

Big Hero 6 struck a big win at the 87th Academy Awards, clinching the title of Best Animated Feature Film, edging out solid competitors like Song Of The Sea and How To Train Your Dragon 2.

The film featured unconventional characters and storylines but made its way into the hearts of audiences worldwide. Most of all, it had pushed the boundaries of animation with hybrid city San Fransokyo and lovable star of the show, Baymax.

The flamboyant and lively city of Big Hero 6’s San Fransokyo was a character all on its own. An extravagant mesh of East and West, the glitzy city brings to mind the boisterous expat uncle who drinks way too much and gives hefty ang paos at Chinese New Year. The city comes to life in a kaleidoscope of lights and colours, much like a great acid trip. Truly, the backdrop for Big Hero 6 is enough to blanket us in an all too-familiar childlike awe.

Even Duncan Rouleau, one of the creators of the original Big Hero 6 comic, praised the animators, saying the “San Fransokyo that they made up is a real, genuine character and it’s visually stunning”.

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Of course, the one who stole the limelight (and our hearts) is the squishy, non-evil version of the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man – Baymax. This inflatable nurse robot set our ‘aww’s loose with the amount of care and love he displayed for the protagonist despite being, well, a robot. Honestly, I felt assaulted by how cute Baymax is.

The question now is: how did we develop an emotional attachment to a parade balloon with a monotonous voice? Was it his large, squishy stature which reminded us of beloved childhood characters like Totoro and Barney? Or perhaps it’s because Baymax has pure, unadulterated love for Hiro, despite his inability to comprehend what love is? Maybe it’s just because he’s so damn cute?

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This is where we give credit to Baymax’s animators.

We’re living in a time when technology can give us almost anything we want. So, when it comes to films, we expect big. We want grand. We want epic. We want to be awed. Animators are the same. Almost every big animated film that’s been created in the past decade feature over-the-top character movement and sets. It’s almost as though animators are experimenting alongside the surge of CG technology.

Now, animators have realised the potential of CG technology and things have started to mellow down. This can also be seen in Baymax. His character design is simple; his face is just two black dots with one line and his body is completely white. His movements are minimal. Most of the time it’s just him tilting his head, blinking, or raising his hand. These actions are, surprisingly, way cuter than any exaggerated movement is. According to Animation Supervisor of Big Hero 6, Nathan Engelhardt, animating Baymax was an “exercise in restraint”.

On the other end of the spectrum, we have fellow Oscar nominee, How To Train Your Dragon 2. This movie was another exercise in the subtleties of animation, but in this case, the subtleties were used to make big actions look bigger.

DreamWorks pioneered a software called Apollo during the making of this movie. It was a leap in the animation world that allowed animators the flexibility in exploring their creative sides. Combining the simpler sides of stop motion and the recreated feel of pen on paper, Apollo lets animators work on very minute details in an animation sequence in no time at all. This software is truly revolutionary and is what allowed for the beautiful nuances in the film.

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How To Train Your Dragon 2 has been commended for the amount of detail work it possesses. From the strands of Hiccup’s hair, to the flight pattern that is unique to each dragon, not a single detail was missed. In dragon sanctuary scene, for example, the degree of subtle animation given to the background characters made the scene a masterpiece.

How To Train Your Dragon 2 and Big Hero 6’s animators are amongst others who have set the bar for animated movies to come. On that note, you probably should watch more animated films this year. Here are three to look out for:

1. Inside Out 

Inside Out

This is one I’m personally super excited for. The entire story is told from the perspectives of the emotions – Joy, Fear, Anger, Disgust and Sadness – inside a little girl’s head. It’s a fresh concept and to be honest, it’s unbelievably adorable. With big comedians like Amy Poehler, Mindy Kaling, and Bill Hader working on it, Inside Out is definitely one to keep an eye out for.

2. Home 

Home

Slightly reminiscent of Planet 51 (2009), Home is about an alien who lands on Earth while he’s on the run from his alien friends (or not friends). He meets a teenage girl called Tip and they go on all sorts of adventures together. It’s bound to be really heartwarming as the two learn the true meaning of the word ‘Home’. Cheesy. But Rihanna voices Tip, so set up to be pretty good. Also, they animated Tip’s curls really, really well.

3. Kahlil Gibran’s The Prophet

The Prophet

If anything, this is one that has the potential to blow minds. Based on Kahlil Gibran’s book, The Prophet, this film presents different “chapters” from animation directors from all over the world. Unlike many of its counterparts, this film relies on CGI and hand drawn art works, and the results are stunning. Quvenzhané Wallis, Liam Neeson and Salma Hayek provide voice work for this film, so stick around for it.

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