Spending the Holidays With Big Hero 6

Scene from “Big Hero 6” (CNS photo/Disney)
Scene from “Big Hero 6” (CNS photo/Disney)
Disney and Marvel’s Big Hero 6 lives up to its pedigree on both sides — it delivers on the high-action thrills one would expect from the average Marvel superhero flick of today, the emotion and heart that typically accompany Disney’s animated movies, and the quality associated with the two. It will certainly be a big hit at the box office Thanksgiving weekend, and I won’t be surprised when Big Hero 6 merchandise flies off the shelves this Christmas. But the confluence of Disney and Marvel isn’t the only reason for Big Hero 6’s prominence this holiday season. The film isn’t afraid to tackle some deeper themes that often come up around the holidays, like grief and the importance of family.

Big Hero 6 tells the story of Hiro Hamada, a 14-year-old robotics prodigy living in San Fransokyo (a fictional mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo.) At the outset of the film, Hiro is troubled, living with his brother Tadashi and his Aunt Cass after the death of his parents, and wasting his talent for building robots by participating in illegal “bot fights.” As his brother tries to persuade him to join the robotics team at his university, Hiro begins to see that perhaps he has more potential than even he realizes. But when Tadashi dies trying to save some of his colleagues from a burning building, Hiro loses hope.

It’s here that Big Hero 6 begins to delve into the topics mentioned earlier. Hiro goes through a rough period after Tadashi’s death, similar to superheroes like Spider-Man and Batman, and something that anyone who’s lost someone can relate to. Especially around the holidays, it’s difficult to deal with empty chairs at the table, and though we want to remember the happy times we’ve shared with our loved ones who have passed on, it’s sometimes hard to overcome how much we miss them in the present.

For Hiro, that’s where Baymax, the health care robot that Tadashi built, comes in. Baymax becomes obsessed with helping improve Hiro’s health, which means first and foremost helping him overcome the depression he’s slipped into after the loss of Tadashi. The robot’s top suggestion is to reach out to Hiro’s friends — the people who worked with Hiro and Tadashi at the university (a decision that eventually leads to the formation of the titular superhero team).

It is this dynamic that informs the core of Big Hero 6. When Hiro suffers loss in his life, though he initially retreats inward, he eventually finds solace in the friends and family who are there to comfort him. In a sense, Baymax, Wasabi, GoGo, Honey Lemon, and Fred become family to Hiro, and that’s an important lesson for all of us.

Family is, after all, a notion that stretches well beyond blood relatives. How many of us have an “aunt” or “uncle” (or a few!) that aren’t in any way actually related to us? I sure do; in fact, when I was little, I used to call my grandmother’s friends “Babcie” (Polish for “grandma”) before their names — Babcie Bernie, Babcie Helen, and so on — and treated them with all the love and care I gave to my family, just as they did for me. Even though they may not be genetically related to us, our close friends can often be just as much our “family” as our actual family members are.

The holiday season is a time to remember those we care about, and who care for us. It’s a time to reflect on and be thankful for all the love and support we receive from our families, whether they’re family by birth or “family” we’ve cultivated relationships with through the years. Though nothing and no one can replace the memory of the family members we’ve lost, like Hiro we mustn’t overlook the family — of whatever sort — who surround us today.