Magazine article Screen International

Don Hall & Chris Williams, Big Hero 6

Magazine article Screen International

Don Hall & Chris Williams, Big Hero 6

Article excerpt

Big Hero 6 co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams tell Jean Noh about building the world of San Fransokyo for their Marvel comic superhero adaptation

Between them, Big Hero 6 co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams have close to 40 years' experience at Walt Disney Animation Studios, working on films including Winnie The Pooh, Frozen, The Princess And The Frog, Bolt and Mulan.

For their latest, they searched the Marvel comic vaults and found Big Hero 6, about a Japanese superhero team, creating a hybrid of San Francisco and Tokyo -- San Fransokyo -- in which to set the story.

"That's the first thing we do before we go into story. We create worlds. And we like them to be fantasy worlds, because we deal in fantasy," says Hall, speaking to Screen at the film's world premiere at Tokyo International Film Festival in October. "We took an existing city like San Francisco because it's very iconic. Then we took a Japanese aesthetic and applied it to the whole city to create something new and hopefully fresh."

Williams says they were following Walt Disney chief creative officer John Lasseter's mandate of creating worlds where hopefully the audience will want to go. "We've heard again and again -- San Fransokyo has a feeling of authenticity, even though it's a mythical place..."

"It feels grounded in reality," adds Hall, finishing his co-director's thought. "It comes out of the sketching, the photos and the observation. We'd like to take all the credit but Scott Watanabe and Paul Felix, our art director and production designer, did an amazing job of creating a synthesis."

The tasks of lighting and peopling the world were aided by new in-house tech-nology: Hyperion and Denizen. "We had a strong desire to push ourselves for the look of the movie to make it very cinematic and push the lighting in directions we hadn't really gone before and it coincided with the development of this new software, Hyperion," says Hall. "Our desire was to make the backgrounds, or the world, very dense and detailed, and our characters by contrast would be very simple."

Sim cities

Disney worked with Denizen to create the hustle and bustle of San Fransokyo.

"The software allowed for many different body types and ethnicities, but not only that, the animators were smart because while the story was still taking shape, and the main characters were still getting rigged and designed, they started doing animation cycles that could be used.

"They did people on the street talking on the cellphone -- you know, just slices-of-life kinds of things -- people walking up stairs, a hill. …

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