Oscars 2015: ‘Big Hero 6' wins animated feature Oscar

A scene from "Big Hero 6."
(Walt Disney Pictures)

Marvel really can do no wrong, it appears.

In something of an upset, Disney’s far-removed adaptation of the comic “Big Hero 6” took home the Oscar over the more-heralded fellow blockbuster “How to Train Your Dragon 2.”

Accepting the trophy for best animated feature, co-director Don Hall said, “Congratulations to all our fellow nominees. This has been an amazing year for animated films and we are privileged to be in your company.”

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Largely lost in the glow of the love for Baymax (the cuddly “soft robot” that became the movie’s breakout character) and the slam-bang action scenes were the film’s two greatest innovations: the phenomenally detailed environment of San Fransokyo and the Asian American lead character.

The creative energy and logistical prowess that went into crafting an entire city that melded the geography of San Francisco with cultural hints of Tokyo may be the most impressive aspect of the movie. If “Blade Runner” presents a kind of Japangeles noir, “Big Hero” lives in a cleaner, happier future that trades omnipresent floating billboards in a constant blackened rain for colorful wind-turbine blimps decorating sunny skies.

The filmmakers used actual county assessor’s maps and a state-of-the-art city-building engine to exactly re-create the City by the Bay’s topography – and then warp it for its animated world.

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The cast didn’t boast the biggest names, but Scott Adsit (best known as Pete on “30 Rock”) stole the show as the automated but undeniably heartwarming voice of the balloon-like, soft-vinyl robot Baymax. In the comic, this character is slightly less squeezable – he is a “synthformer” that often appears as a massive, green “Battle-Dragon” with huge black claws and fangs. Gulp.

“To the cast ... right, baby!” Hall exclaimed as people exulted behind in the nosebleed seats of the Dolby Theatre, among them one who looked suspiciously like cast member T.J. Miller. “Thank you for your talent, thank you for your passion. You guys put your heart and soul into this movie and we are forever, eternally grateful.”

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Disney moved Marvel’s Tokyo-set heroes to the fictional mash-up city and made them multiethnic, but it is by far the biggest feature ever to center itself on an Asian American protagonist (Ryan Potter as young Hiro Hamada). Although studios have proved queasy about ethnically casting leads in big-budget productions, this reportedly $165-million movie has grossed more than half a billion dollars worldwide.