Leaving behind the crowd favourite, How to Train Your Dragon 2, by possibly more than a mile, Big Hero 6 took home the Best Animated Feature Film award at the Oscars this year. In this blog we take you behind the scene of this unconventional superhero film & look at what made it a winner at the Academy Awards.
Director duo Chris Williams & Don Hall wanted a whole new kind of robot when they thought of Baymax. The idea was to make a robot unlike any seen on screen before. They wanted his appearance to not only look like a cute, huggable robot but also be one that was original & grounded in scientific logic. For this purpose they visited Carnegie Mellon University’s Robotics Institute where they came across a research study called ‘soft robotics’. The non-threatening nature of the inflatable vinyl used in the research led to the creation of Robot Baymax.
Armed with a battalion of 120 crew members including scientists, engineers & technicians, Disney Studios built a physically plausible rendering system called Hyperion, especially for the film. This was a lighting simulation system based on the concept of global illumination.The directors visualised a very rich & dense world, and wanted a lot of details in the actual environment, and Hyperion proved essential in bringing that to life. According to Andy Hendrickson, the chief technology officer at Disney Studios, the complexity of this film was far above the complexity of earlier Disney productions, such as Tangled, Wreck-It Ralph & Frozen, combined.
The city shown in the movie, San Fransokyo, contained over seven hundred distinctive characters that populate the city. This was done with the help of software known as Denizen. In order to meet Hyperion’s huge processing demands, Disney installed a new supercomputing cluster that consisted of over two thousand Linux workstations, including a pair of 2.4 GHz Intel Xeon processors, which was backed up by a storage space of over five petabytes.
With this amount of detailing & efforts to bring alive a fictional city, it is no surprise that the story of unconditional friendship between a boy & his robot touched the hearts of the jury, leading to a consecutive second win for Disney. Have they hit upon a winning formula? With movies like Inside Out & Cinderella lined to release this year, we will have to wait till Oscar 2016 to find the answer.