In an exclusive with USA Today‘s Brian Truitt, the directors of the upcoming animated Disney/Marvel film Big Hero 6 reveals their voice cast, which includes Damon Wayans, Jr., T.J. Miller, Jamie Chung and Maya Rudolph.
Co-director Don Hall, whose last film was Disney’s Winnie the Pooh, said of the cast, “We’ve got a lot of characters in this movie, so the voices had to all be really distinctive. At the same time, we had to have really great actors who could ground the characters so they wouldn’t sound too one-note.”
Disney has a reputation of casting based on ability, not fame. Its most recent movies, the critically and commercially acclaimed Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen, starred John C. Reilly and Idina Menzel respectively. Despite her years of fame on Broadway, the latter was still the victim of a much-maligned flub by John Travolta at this year’s Oscars ceremony.
So it is no surprise that the likes of Wayans, Miller and Rudolph have been cast. All three have made their mark in television comedy, with Wayans officially becoming a regular on Fox’s latest season of New Girl, Miller crushing it on HBO’s new sitcom Silicon Valley, and Rudolph is a household name thanks to NBC’s Saturday Night Live and is currently in talks with the network to turn her variety special The Maya Rudolph Show, which aired in the middle of May, into a regular format.
But who are the other eclectic voice cast members announced? And what is so surprising about a certain character that he stands out in an animated film geared towards a younger audience?
The half-Japanese, half-Caucasian protagonist Hiro Hamada is, in a stroke of casting genius, voiced by Ryan Potter who is also half-Japanese and half-Caucasian. Potter is fluent in both Japanese and English, and has a significant fan-following from his Nickelodeon show Supah Ninjas. Hiro’s nursing robot turned superhero, Baymax, will be voiced by Scott Adsit, who is most well-known for playing Pete Hornberger, Liz Lemon’s confidant on 30 Rock. Adsit is described as “bringing both comedy and humanity” to his character, whom, based on the first trailer, seems destined to become a fan favourite.
Miller plays Fred, a sci-fi and comic book geek who pilots a huge kaiju-inspired suit dubbed “Fredzilla”. Chung plays GoGo Tomago, a “daredevil adrenaline junkie”. Relative newcomer Génesis Rodríguez voices Honey Lemon, a sweet, empathetic science whiz that is “the glue that holds the group together”.
Rudolph plays Hiro’s guardian Aunt Cass, a “neo-hippie” who runs a coffee shop and café out of a remodeled Victorian house in the fictional city San Fransokyo. She leads a supporting cast voiced by some very impressive industry veterans including James Cromwell as Professor Callaghan and Alan Tudyk as Alistair Krei. Korean-American actor Daniel Henney rounds up the cast as Hiro’s elder brother Tadashi Hamada.
Despite it being an animated film targeted for Disney’s traditionally younger audience, there’s a certain grounded-ness in their characters. For example, Wayans plays Wasabi, a “nerd” who likes order, would rather choose safety over saving the world, and for whom “the idea of turning into a superhero” seems absurd. (Yes, I acknowledge the irony of calling a character named “Wasabi” grounded, but it could’ve been worse – the original character’s name from the comic miniseries was Wasabi-No-Ginger!)
Wasabi is described by Wayans as a “reluctant hero” who “doesn’t like being cool”, but “because he also loves his buddies”, joins the team. A character that’s loyal, reasonable and errs on the side of caution, in a movie about superheroes and robots and kaiju? Now that’s something novel that I can appreciate.
The characters of the movie team are loosely based on a group of obscure but delightful characters from Marvel Comics created by Duncan Rouleau and Steven T. Seagle in the pages of Alpha Flight back in 1997, with further development by longtime X-Men scribes Scott Lobdell and Chris Claremont in 2004 and 2008 respectively. Meant to represent a mixture of Japanese pop culture tropes as a super sentai team, the concept was picked after Marvel’s acquisition by Disney in 2009 to be the first Marvel animation film from Walt Disney Animation Studios.
Big Hero 6 opens in the US on November 7 this year, and in Singapore the following week.