Three years after Big Hero 6’s extraordinary movie launch, our heroes return for an animated Disney Channel TV series with new and familiar faces. The talent behind the TV show hosted a panel at San Diego Comic Con 2018 to talk to fans and announce their cutest new hero: Mini-Max. Although he’s much smaller, he’s just as heart-warming as the Baymax we know and love.
In an exclusive clip shown at the panel, Hiro has an awkward encounter with a rival genius, who’s madly in love with his hero side, but doesn’t know they’re the same person. Reprising their original roles, the Big Hero gang of Wasabi (Khary Payton), Honey Lemon (Genesis Rodriguez), Go Go (Jamie Chung), Fred (Brooks Wheelan), Hiro (Ryan Potter), and Baymax (Scott Adsit) promise a new, exciting series for new and fans alike. Below are some highlights from the panel and fan Q&A.
Q: For the producers, Mark, Bob and Nick, we were all so excited to hear that Big Hero 6 was becoming a TV show. I think that was big news for any fan of that movie. What were the first big conversations that you had when you found out you were adapting this movie into a show? What were the biggest things that you wanted to hammer out?
Mark: I think our first conversation was “Boy, I hope we don’t mess this up.” We were invited to the screening early on and that last image of the team leaping off the camera was a promise that there was more to tell. More stories, more adventures.
Bob: But the other thing that really fueled us was we were really impressed by the movie and how it treated science as a good thing. That’s in rare supply these days. We really wanted to have this positive attitude about science and the idea of learning and how being smart was its own superpower. It was very geek empowering, which was good for us.
Mark: Then we had the challenge of translating these characters into a fresh new look. We wanted to take the characters that everybody knew, but we wanted something fresh and something that we could do with the schedules and resources available to us.
Q: Ryan, you’ve spent about a quarter of your life playing the character of Hiro. What has it meant to you? Tell me a little bit about what playing Hiro has meant over the course of your life and how you’ve been surprised by the role Big Hero 6 has played in your life?
Ryan: I’ve done many roles, but out of all the roles I’ve done, this one is the most personal. Because it allows for a genuine Asian American voice to come through. The other ones you have to play up “Oh, I’m the Asian. We like certain things and this is our culture.” In this series, it’s so colorblind to the point where I can be myself and not have to play into being part Japanese. I’ve grown up with this kid, you know? I am Hiro and Hiro is me. It’s really very surreal.
Q: Scott, how has Baymax changed you? Are you a kinder, more helpful…
Scott: Uh, no no. I think it puts my evil side in sharp relief. I think I really relate to the people who come up and say how it’s affected their lives or made them happy. That gives me a great deal of joy. And I think it makes me happier and friendlier and therefore, more loveable and huggable.
Q: Jamie, where were you when you got the call that you’d be getting another opportunity to play Go Go? Had you secretly been hoping that you’d get another shot at this adventure?
Jamie: Oh yeah! Absolutely! We found out a couple years ago. I feel like we’ve been working on this project for years now and it’s finally airing. But I can’t even tell you where I got the news. But it was a couple…
Scott: It wasn’t long after we premiered that they told us that they want you in the series and then we were right in there. And we’ve been working on it since… We haven’t stopped. It’s not like we took a break.
Q: Genesis, did you hope that this show would come alive? Or did it come as a total surprise that Honey Lemon would get another shot?
Genesis: First off, playing Honey Lemon was probably the best job I could ever ask for. So, all in all, I’m very happy with this character. And going back to how we started, it’s an attainable superpower. I think it’s the most attainable superheroes we can see on TV. It’s just applying yourself in school and you can be a superhero as well. And to that, robotics, look into it, especially girls. They’re doing really exciting things in robotics! I was on a robotics team! So, come on!
Scott: Baymax was based on real technology that they researched at MIT and other places. And all of that inflatable caregiver stuff is real! They’ve got prototypes.
Q: For any of the other returning cast members from the film, what was the most surprising thing you learned about your character after getting all this new story and new time to spend with these people? What did you learn that you didn’t know before?
Jamie: I feel like Go Go is a grump and that’s nothing new, but she has interesting hobbies that you wouldn’t think she would have. She bird watches, that’s her thing. That’s new!
Genesis: Yeah, Honey Lemon is a snorer. I didn’t know that one. And she loves wrestling apparently.
Scott: And Baymax kind of dreams. Not true dreaming but there is a dream state. That’s very weird.
Ryan: It’s not something that I didn’t know before, but Hiro has absolutely no game whatsoever. So I can play into that pretty well.
Jamie: So real life imitating art?
Scott: I love Ryan pretending he has no game.
Q: Nick, what can you tell me about the episode, “Fan Friction”?
Nick: We get to see what the superhero team looks like through one of their biggest fan’s eyes. And the way she sees them is not the typical way that you would think you’d see them. Not the way that we’ve translated them into our series, but it’s more of a fun side to them.
Mark: This episode was written by Jenny Jaffe and directed by Ben Juwono. A lot of the TV vision is his and her vision.
Nick: So Ben Juwono did the original concepts of our TV characters and then they were finished off by Jose Lopez and Phillip Light.
Q: I want to throw this to Khary and Brooks. This is such a unique and fun show to be a part of and such an unexpected world to join. Where did Big Hero 6 sit for you guys before joining and what have you loved most about your time working on this series?
Brooks: I remember I saw this with my nephews and I loved the movie so much I hoped they’d make another one. The fact that I get to be a part of it in any way is amazing.
Khary: It was kind of the same way with me. I went with my kids and I blubbered and cried like everyone else. It was an amazing experience. And I always felt that it was a shame that we were not going to see those characters again. It’s not a story in the movie, to me, that was lending itself to a sequel. And then they came out with the series and said I was doing it. I can’t believe how dynamic the relationships are. Each of the episodes, you’re able to answer all those questions that they movie didn’t have time for. And also we have Jennifer Lewis and I have the great time of walking in or out of the booth before or after Jennifer Lewis goes into it and it’s an experience every time.
Q: Given what you guys know about how deeply passionate we geeks can be, what makes Big Hero 6 so special? What sort of rarified air does this show breathe that you maybe don’t get elsewhere here at Comic-con?
Khary: Honestly, I love the fact that they built a family in an unlikely place. Because it starts off so tragically with Hiro losing Tadashi and it was about this group not letting this kid be alone, not letting him fall. And that was just for me watching from afar. That really got to me, just as a fan, let alone being a part of it all.
Scott: Also, it’s one of the only family adventure comedies about grief. So it’s nice to have that niche.
Bob: It was tricky to get that aspect into a TV series.
Scott: And if you haven’t seen the series yet, it is not all about grief.
Bob: Tadashi does appear, occasionally, in various ways.
Mark: Tadashi is such a big part of Hiro’s life in the movie, we felt we couldn’t just let him go away. We had to figure out potent ways to let his presence be known.
Q: Mark and Bob, have we seen the depth of Baymax’s powers?
Bob: No, as a matter of fact. In “Fan Friction”, part of the plot is that Karmi keeps coming up with these new things for Hiro to invent. At first he’s resistant, then late in Act 3, he kind of comes around.
Mark: Now the one thing we did say, we wanted overnight mode for him to be really powerful, but we had him drain the battery faster. Because Baymax with his battery drained…
Bob:Is always fun.
Mark: Is always such a delight to watch Scott perform.
Q: Scott, do you find that jokes or any given line is inherently funnier when it’s said in the Baymax voice?
Scott: Well, yeah. He’s very deadpan mostly, but then, occasionally he gets incapacitated. Then anything he says is, well, I’ll say truthful. Hopefully, they’ll say funny.
Q: With Scott and with Brooks, do you guys (Mark and Bob) find that it’s interesting when they get in the booth?
Bob: When we’re going through the script with the finished episode, it’s amazing how with Scott and Brooks, there’s always “we didn’t write that,” but it’s all great.
Mark: Jamie comes up with a lot of ad-libs too. One of the things that we find in recordings is that having people stick to the script is a silly rule to have. I know some people do it and I think it’s ridiculous. Sometimes there’s just a more natural phrasing that an actor would prefer that gives a better performance. It’s definitely a relation to a relationship when we do our records that it’s important that the lines feel right to an actor.
Brooks: And you guys come up with a lot of alts that you throw at us consistently. You guys are rewriting the whole time.
Mark: We try.
Q: Brooks, I want to ask you a question about Fred. He’s always been a mascot for the team, but there is a storyline coming up where we’re going to meet a character who Fred not only has to spend time with and be, sort of, babysat by. But he gives him a run for his money as Big Hero 6’s most spirited member. Brooks, what can you tell me about something called Mini-Max?
Brooks: Hiro builds him to guard Fred, to help keep Fred safe. But Fred sees him as his sidekick.
Brooks: He has this babysitter, but in Fred’s life, it’s his new best friend who helps him go on adventures.
Q: I want to talk for a moment about toys. Mark, Bob, Nick, what kind of awesome things can we expect from Big Hero 6?
Mark: The action figures look amazing. They took the 2d art style that our talented artists created and the Bandai folks brought it to life in a wonderful way. Not only that, but the chibis are so adorable. And this is just the first wave of many waves of chibis.
Bob: I think they’re up to designing wave five of chibis
Brooks: I got a Fred one. And I love it so much, but I lost it last night which was very Fred of me.
Ryan: Method acting.
Q: When is your next Big Hero 6 movie coming out?
Mark: Well, we have not heard of one, but I think it’s always possible when the characters and stories are so great that someday there will be another one.
Scott: Well, from what I’ve been told by the creators at Disney is that they’re waiting for an absolute best script. They may be working on it, but they’re not going to put out something they’re not really really happy with. And that may take years like the Incredibles did.
Ryan: They want to make sure the second story is as good, if not better than the first.
Q: Ryan, if you had any superpower, what would it be?
Ryan: As a real comic book fan, you have to weigh the logistics of what each power would benefit and not benefit. I’ve thought about this. Being able to multiply myself would be the ultimate for me, personally. My double can be at work, while I can be at the beach.
Q: How many episodes are going to be in the next season in Big Hero 6?
Bob: I think we’re about halfway through this season.
Mark: Yes, 25 episodes.
Bob: We’re almost finished making the second season which is another 25 episodes. And also, we made 12 shorts in that chibi style that are a lot of fun. There’s 50 episodes total in various stages of production. And this season will end in a three-part movie that sort of wraps up the season 1 arc.
Q: For the whole team, but Genesis in particular. I remember seeing the movie and loving it and I saw your last name was Rodriguez and you could be Hispanic or not. And it had a big impact on me because representation matters so much. Thank you to everybody for hiring this amazing cast. I was wondering, are more characters going to be added in the TV show?
Brooks: There’s a lot of characters. There’s so many more characters into the TV show. We have Professor Granville and the villains making a lot of comebacks. It’s such a huge world that gets developed and everybody comes back quite often.
Genesis: To your point, I do want to say that yes, representation does matter. I remember when we were walking through the Oscars and seeing our group together, just the most diverse cast there. We know that it’s important and we’re happy that we were one of the few in the beginning and we’re glad you noticed.
Q: How long does it take to produce a single episode of the series?
Nick: It takes a little over a year from the development of the script, the design, the storyboard, and animation, then post. Each step takes a big chunk of time, but they’re all not being done separately. So, we are able to get them done right after one another. Totally, a whole season takes about two years.
Bob: We did start working on the series almost right after the movie came out so it gives you some idea of how long we’ve been working on this and the kind of lag time there.
Q: Genesis, you mentioned you were on a robotics team. What kind of events did you participate in?
Genesis: We were in competitions in school where our bots would try to destroy each other. And we were an all-girls robotics team and I was mainly a welder and figuring out the pneumatics of the robot. It was the best, because for a group of girls to show up, no one thought we were going to be as competitive. But we got third place one year and second place another year nationally. It’s just really cool to see girls excel at robotics. People think women don’t do beautiful and strong welds, so I would just practice and practice and it was really cool to think something and make it happen.
Q: When will we see more of Fred’s parents?
Brooks: You find out there’s a whole episode in season 2 about Fred’s family. I didn’t even know until I read it, and it’s pretty cool! You just find out stuff about Fred’s history. So, they’ll be back.