The press event was held high above the Nippon capital at the Park Hyatt Hotel, previous setting for Sofia Coppola’s “Lost In Translation.”
The well-attended event was carefully stage-managed and, aside from a little spontaneity, there was little chance of anything being lost.
Photographers snapped when they were told to and halted exactly when directed. A coterie of black-clad assistants proffered microphones on bended knees, and a pair of on-stage interpreters never fluffed a line.
“Big Hero 6” is set in a fictional San Fransokyo – a mash up of San Francisco and Tokyo – and co-directors Don Hall and Chris Williams fell over themselves to pay repeated tribute to their long-standing appreciation of Japanese animation icon Hayao Miyazaki, of Japanese culture and particularly its urban design.
“When we were here three years ago we so many photographs of everything from the buildings, the bridges, the landscape, but also the storefronts, vending machines and manhole covers. Because everything here in Japan, from our perspective is beautifully designed, and we wanted to get that in the film,” said Hall.
“Early on one of the design choices was to have complex backgrounds and then relatively simpler character designs. Baymax is a character we are proud of. There’s a Japanese aesthetic and ability to boil things down to their essence and be very appealing. Baymax has only two eyes and no mouth, and yet he expresses so much,” said Williams.
Some of those choices were enabled by new technology within the Walt Disney Animation Studios.
“We were very fortunate that we had just developed a brand new software package, called Hyperion, that allowed us to do very realistic lighting and actually do really complex backgrounds, more so than we had been able to render before. That coincided with our art direction. We wanted very dense and detailed backgrounds. Hyperion allowed us a very cinematic look,” said Hall.
“Hyperion allows the Razor Light to bounce many more times and for light to behave more realistically, which was specifically important in this movie because we have this big inflatable robot character and light actually passes through him,” said Williams. “The story telling is always pushing the technology, and then the technology is allowing more story-telling possibilities. We have great synchronicity between the creative side and the technology side at Disney.”
The picture also made extensive use of crowd-sourcing software Denizen, which made the city look alive by populating it with lots of different-looking individuals.
“I’ve always wanted to have a film at the Tokyo Film Festival. It just so happened that this film really is a love letter in many senses to Japanese culture and possibly in a bigger sense to the Pacific Rim. The possibility to launch the film here is a true honor,” said producer Roy Conli.
Following its festival premiere on Thursday, “Big Hero 6” will make a round of appearances at other festivals including Austin, Savannah, Abu Dhabi and Hawaii. It is set for U.S. release on Nov. 7 and will have its commercial debut in Japan in the prime pre-Christmas slot on Dec. 20.