It’s no secret that I don’t care for the vast majority of Hollywood’s super hero films. And why should I? They take unique characters with long histories and unique characteristics, when well written, and reduce them to Hollywood’s usual action archetypes. It’s also no secret that one hero film I actually liked a lot was Disney’s Big Hero 6. Someday, I’ll do a full review of it and go in depth as to why. Now, when I heard there was going to be a cartoon based around the film, I was sceptical. Not because the film makes it an odd fit for a children’s cartoon like The Police Academy, Rambo, Mortal Kombat or The Toxic Avenger. But because I’ve learned that adaptations of good media frequently don’t go so well. Obviously, I was still going to watch it. So, let’s have a look at the first series of Big Hero 6, the cartoon.
The narrative picks up at the end of the film. Most of our heroes are ready to return to their normal lives, but they’re persuaded to continue as Big Hero 6 since there are plenty of people out there who still need help especially with a mysterious new villain, Obake, on the loose. A lot of the episodes are of the “connected but stand alone enough that it can be picked up at most points” variety. We see Obake’s machinations progress as things go on. We also see the team face a variety of threats. Some connected to him, others not.
Honestly, the stories we get throughout do suit the film fairly well. They’re well constructed, fun and just solid super hero stories.
The one exception, at least in the first series, is the episode Fan Friction. In this episode, we find out that one of the supporting cast, Karmi, is writing self-insert fan fiction about the team. Hiro correctly points out that it’s creepy and weird to write fiction about real people you don’t even know but the episode paints him as taking it too personally. Yeah, the stories quite literally have him as her love interest but he shouldn’t be creeped out by it because… Yeah, it’s just a lousy episode. The only good bit is seeing Fred get into it and come up with ship names for all of them. Which is pretty funny.
The cast is great. We see the characters develop a bit from their states in the film. The series does an excellent job of building their interactions and dynamics. We also get some new characters. Professor Granville is a very strong character. Mini Max is very enjoyable. Felony Carl may be one of my favourite incidental characters in anything. And you can’t leave out Fred’s father, Boss Awesome. He doesn’t appear all that much, but it’s great when he does.
The villains are really strong as well. Obake, Momakase, Globby, Baron Von Steamer even Noodle Burger Boy. They’re all great villains in their own ways. And one thing I appreciate is the way they can have villains, like Steamer, who are nods to the silver age of comics while maintaining a writing aesthetic that’s more like the bronze age in the way it can be more serious but also embrace the sillier, more light-hearted aspects of comics when it works.
The only character I actually don’t like is Karmi. At first, I just thought she was mildly annoying with her obsession with Hiro’s hero persona, but after she got an actual episode, and it was by far the worst episode in the series, I kind of got to the point where I found her pretty intolerable.
Clearly, the cartoon does not have the budget that the film did. And, as such, it uses a much more simplistic style. I don’t mind that and I think the animators did a great job on the artwork and animations. The one criticism I do have is that the style has a very toothy way of making the characters talk and it can be a bit off-putting.
Most of the film’s actors reprise their roles in the series and do a stellar job. The exceptions are Damon Wayans Jr as Wasabi and TJ Miller as Fred. The two of them are replaced by Khary Payton & Brooks Wheelan. Maybe Wayans & Miller didn’t want to do the cartoon, maybe they had other obligations at the time, maybe they wanted more money, maybe the controversies Miller got involved in had Disney decide to replace him. I honestly don’t know. But I do have to give both Payton & Wheelen credit, they did an excellent job of sounding enough like the film versions to fit the roles and they deliver their lines really well.
This series also gets some amazing performances in the side roles. The late Stan Lee voiced Boss Awesome. Gordon Ramsay voices a celebrity chef who challenges Aunt Cass in an underground cooking competition. Jennifer Lewis, John Michael Higgins, Andrew Scott, Naoko Mori & Diedrich Bader are all excellent as well. It’s just a very immaculately directed and performed series.
The music is well composed too. Adam Berry did an amazing job of capturing the aesthetic of the series in his compositions.
Areas of Improvement:
- Show fewer teeth when the characters talk.
- Outright lose the Fan Friction episode. You can find another way to introduce the new techniques from that episode without the cringe. It also makes Karmi a much worse character than she would be otherwise.
- A bit more Felony Carl. I would actually watch an entire spin off about this dude in spite of him having rare and short appearances. Because those appearances are so compelling and memorable.
This cartoon is pretty damn excellent. It features strong characterisation, a compelling narrative and solid fundamentals. The only major flaw is the Fan Friction episode. Aside from that, everything comes together very strongly. As such, I’m going with a 9/10 on this one.