Heroes come in many forms — even round, squishy, inflatable robots that specialize in healthcare. Now streaming exclusively on Disney+, audiences get to see more of this special hero in action in Baymax!, a Disney+ Original series created by Oscar winner and Director of Big Hero 6, Don Hall. Directed by Dan Abraham, Dean Wellins, Lissa Treiman, and Mark Kennedy and written by Cirocco Dunlap, audiences will travel through San Fransokyo in six short episodes with Baymax, the large and loveable healthcare companion created by a young genius named Hiro Hamada (voiced by Ryan Potter) and voiced by Scott Adsit.
In most cases where superheroes are involved, there’s often devastation or a cry that launches them into action — whether it’s to stop a meteor from pummeling into Earth or to protect the town from the attack of an evil villain. Baymax is instead programmed to focus on one thing and one thing only, the sound of someone in distress to care for the person in need. He then assists without hesitation — whether it’s wanted or not. As this loveable robot brings the necessity of healthcare workers to life in a captivating way, Baymax! shows the complicated nature of one simple word: help.
As the first original animated series by Walt Disney Animation Studios, the team was in a position to break new ground. The episodic format allowed them to bring in new directors and open the door for new storytellers. Although the development process for the series was different for the studio, it didn’t hold the story back in any way. In the collection of six shorter standalone episodes, audiences get a complete story in each one while they all connect in a larger story arc. Conli said, “It really blew me away just from a storytelling standpoint how much you could actually [do]. Beginning, middle, and end — it's all there. And you go through an emotional arc. You go through a beautiful comedy arc. And there's even a little bit of action.”
The team wanted to zoom in on life in the fantastical city of San Fransokyo in Baymax!, to give audiences a way to ground themselves in it and to help connect to each story. So in each episode, the eponymous character travels through the bustling city tending to citizens in need of medical assistance — and audiences get to see the journey from needing help to accepting help unfold. Creator Don Hall shared, “even though the city is sort of fictional, the people that live there are us. They’re our relatives, our friends, our coworkers, our family. It represents the world as we see it.” And it was the perfect way to show Baymax in action.
Through an emotional journey as well as a comedic one, audiences are taken down a path to healing with each story. When someone is in need, Baymax hears, appears, inflates, and helps — no questions asked, showing audiences that compassion is always an appropriate response. “If you see somebody who needs help, just reach out,” Conli stated. On what it means to accept help, Simonsen shared, “We all have challenges in our lives that we need help with. And there's nothing to be ashamed of in that. And it's only through help that sometimes we get through these things.” Baymax! shows that there are challenges in both offering and accepting help, but that there is strength in doing both.
Hall’s main focus in the show was to highlight what Baymax was created to do. He explains, “What I thought we could do with the series is actually just focus on Baymax and one patient at a time. I thought it would lend itself to just some short, kinda fun stories where we just get to meet a patient and get to have the fun of Baymax helping them.” The team also went back to Big Hero 6 to put a spotlight on background characters that were used and brought them to the foreground, building a story around who they might be. Producer Bradford Simonsen details: “The way we elevated these characters is we brought [the crowd from the movie] back, and looked at them and talked to the directors. When [building] a character in the script, we’d then say, ‘Here are all the background characters we had in the original that [could] fit this.’”
From the release of Big Hero 6 in 2014 to starting the process of getting Baymax! off the ground, there were significant changes in animation technology. Producer Roy Conli shared that one of the main challenges was, “going back from a technological standpoint and recreating San Fransokyo.” Conli continued, “We had to go back and when we could, we would use the elements that were there. When we needed to, we went back in and restructured and built new elements.”
It’s no accident that the more dramatic super-heroic elements aren’t present in the series. Baymax! was in production during a time when the world was facing unprecedented challenges, so embracing his primary programming was a timely and intentional decision. “We’re living in a time where our healthcare providers are in fact heroes,” Hall shared. “It’s about Baymax trying to, you know, help somebody. And by design, it kind of left out the superhero thing and just let him be a more kind of grounded, on-the-street type of superhero, like our real healthcare workers.” Hall hopes this series will encourage audiences to feel empowered to help others and to also embrace the healthcare workers in their lives, saying, “They've just helped us through a very tough time in the world. And, you know, I think if we could show a little love and support for their efforts, I think that would be a good thing.”