JLPT BC 154 | Big Hero 6 vs. Baymax

JLPT BC 154 | Big Hero 6 vs. Baymax post image

A couple of weeks back I had some free time to take my family to Baymax (US title: Big Hero 6).  It is a cute little movie about a boy, named Hiro, who befriends his brother’s robot and ultimately goes on to fight the bad guy and save the day with his trusty team of friends.  In general, the plot is pretty standard with only a few minor surprises.  But that doesn’t stop it from being a great movie.

There were plenty of moments where I laughed out loud and had a genuinely good time.  It was also the first time we took our 2 year old to the movie theater, and she performed beautifully.  No crying and breaking down in the middle of the movie, no fidgeting or yelling out.  It was great.

One thing that I noticed though was the mismatch of the titles.  In Japan (and apparently Germany?), the movie is known as ‘Baymax.’  But, the US title is ‘Big Hero 6.’  Now, generally speaking Hollywood movies usually don’t have the same title in Japan as they do in the US, and sometimes it seems like they have put little to no thought into making them, like ‘Karate Kid’ becoming ‘Besuto Kiddo’ in Japan, which still baffles me.

But, I thought it odd that they named the whole movie after the robot, when usually they would just make some more generic name like ‘Big Robot.’  Obviously, Disney had put a little more thought into it then simply slapping a generic moniker and hoping it flies, because, well, they’re Disney.

I started to wonder why they would have different names, when both seem to be pretty generic. I mean, what is big hero 6? Unless you happen to read the Marvel comic of the same name (but set in Marvel’s world, and with a very different Baymax), you wouldn’t really have any idea what that is about. Heck, I didn’t even know there was a comic until I saw the post-credits scene, a hallmark of pretty much every Marvel movie.

So, why would they have different names? Names don’t change anything about the movie’s content; they essentially just a change in packaging, which you might not think is so important but a change in packaging could persuade a few extra movie goers. More movie goers, more money. Essentially a movie title is used for marketing. After all, you would never go to a movie titled “Big Boring Bunch of Heros.” or maybe you would out of curiosity. Who knows?

Big Hero 6’s Marketing

Movies are marketed through trailers; those 2 minute action-packed clips they show before the movie you came to see. They tease you to come back at a later date to see another movie. They often times tease you with the most enticing bits of the movie to get you hooked. The Big Hero 6 trailer looked like this:

It really puts a lot of emphasis on the hero, named Hiro, his robot and his helpful friends. It presents you with your typical hero story. There is a good guy and a bad guy, they fight and good guy wins. Presumably along the way Hiro has to overcome some obstacles and this is sprinkled with some comedic moments to keep the pace of the movie manageable, and keep the whole thing from getting too serious. Your typical Hollywood flick.

You could almost say it is an animated version of a lot of Hollywood’s recent blockbusters that are essentially superheros fighting some world ending force, like “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” just to name a few.  In other words, Disney’s other movies.  They happen to make a lot of money, so I guess they have a pretty good formula going for them.  But this is very American, right?  Hero overcomes all odds to save the day, maybe falls in love on the way.  It makes millions, and will make millions for years to come.

Baymax’s Marketing

Baymax, as Big Hero 6 is called in Japan, has a slightly different trailer.  It still features some of the same clips, but there is a little difference in the focus of the main elements of the film.  Take a look at it:

Did you see the difference?  There is bigger focus on the relationship between Hiro and his big brother Tadashi.  As a matter of fact, the Japanese trailer was the first to reveal that Tadashi is ‘gone.’ And we see more of the relationship between Baymax and Hiro.  And just for good measure, the Japanese trailer adds Ai’s ‘Story’, the classic tear-jerker of a song played at weddings (including my own) across Japan.  The scene where Hiro equips his team with new outfits and gear is reduced to a short blip.  Even the volume on the first superhero anthem seems to be a little softer.

The Baymax trailer tries to play up the human relationships of the movie, and plays down the hero overcoming the bad guy side of the story.  It’s still there obviously, I mean that is the primary plot after all.  But, it isn’t what Disney choose to entice its movie goers with.

Why People Go to the Theater: US vs. Japan

I think a lot of people go to the theater to escape reality.  Yes, home theater equipment has advanced by leaps and bounds, but going to the theater still allows me to escape out of my humdrum house and jump into another world.  That’s why I think nothing will ever beat the movie going experience, no matter how good and cheap TVs and speakers get.

In the States, where cynicism has seen a strong revival, a lot of people want to escape to a place where people have super powers and anything seems possible.  I think a lot of people in the States are either looking for a hero or want to be that hero in the spotlight.  They want to overcome the bad guy.

In contrast in Japan, where relationships are more visible and sometimes strictly enforced, a lot of people find escape in experiencing other people’s relationships.  Not romantic relationships necessarily, but human relationships in general.  One of my Japanese friends commented that people in the States go to the movies to see a hero, but people in Japan go to the movie theater to cry.

I think either out of sheer dumb luck or marketing genius, Disney managed to create a film that could be highly marketable in two big markets – Japan and America.  As I mentioned earlier, Big Hero 6 is actually based on a Marvel comic with some very noticeable differences.  Disney basically made a whole new group inspired by the Marvel comic, going so far as to removing them from Marvel’s world (Earth-616) and putting them in the imaginary city of San Fransokyo, which is absolutely beautiful by the way.  I heard that Disney was trying to base the story in Japan without letting the setting overpower the story.  And by doing this, they made the city both American and Japanese in a way.

The characters have been removed from a lot of the traditional American superheros and placed in a very cool Pacific hybrid city.  I really hope that this is a start of a new world with some interesting new characters.  I would like to see the return of this setting and characters.

What do you think?

What do you think of the movie?  Do you think it is a good combination of two cultures?  A bomb?  Let me know in the comments.

{ 7 comments… add one }
  • Alex February 19, 2015, 1:58 pm

    Interesting! I spoke to a few Japanese friends and they told me that “Baymax” was not exactly what they expected. The same went for my girlfriend. While watching the movie, I noticed her smiles and laughter started to fade once the movie introduced the superhero aspect. Oddly enough, my Japanese friends also noted that they started to sort of lose interest once the movie started going into superheroes. Apparently, the marketing for the movie in Japan covered the superheroics of the movie so well, that apparently no one I knew actually thought it was a superhero prior to viewing it. I kind of figure that despite the Avengers and Spider-Man doing well in Japan, superheroes are still considered something entirely for kids(boys in particular) and otaku (which are socially looked down upon). So, in order to make Baymax as marketable as possible to Japan, they had to cover up as much of the superhero aspects as possible in the posters. Giant robots, kind of okay. But superheroes? Not so much.

    Ah well, it’s just a hunch.

    • Clayton MacKnight February 25, 2015, 2:58 pm

      Yeah, I kind of felt that too. I think, in general, the superhero movies haven’t been doing as well as they did in other countries. They don’t tend to stick around that much in theaters, and a lot of people I talk to haven’t seen them. A few people I talked to had never heard of Avengers, which isn’t too strange considering Japan isn’t very movie going.

  • Tim February 21, 2015, 10:04 am

    I never picked up on these points you made, Mac. But then, I barely went to the movies in Japan.

    I just watched Big Hero 6 today, for the first time (coincidentally). It is a fantastic movie; all the more so in that it blends both Japanese and Western elements, which my kids and I got a kick out of. But I’d have had no idea that the Japanese tend to lean more towards the playing out of relationships than superheroes. A very insightful point.

    • Clayton MacKnight February 25, 2015, 3:00 pm

      Thanks. I loved the movie, and I’m a bit of CG geek, so taking a look behind the scenes and seeing how they made the whole possible was pretty interesting to me as well. The city the created is truly a marvel of modern supercomputing. I know to the average movie-goer it doesn’t seem like it, but it was a huge step in what is possible with movies.

  • Brian February 23, 2015, 4:27 pm

    I really enjoyed BH6, so did the rest of the family. This article got me thinking, though… Guardians of the Galaxy had an unusual amount of “feels” for a superhero movie as well (Quill losing his mom at the beginning, Drax petting Rocket after the crash, etc). How did it do in Japan? Anyone know what the Japanese trailers for it looked like? I wonder if Disney has an intentional strategy going on here?

    • Clayton MacKnight February 25, 2015, 3:09 pm

      Well, we could have a whole discussion how relationships in movies have been drifting away from traditional romance and into more the power of friendship and ‘familial’ love (like in Frozen). One could argue that globally, most developed companies are beginning to reject the traditional man and woman, fall in love, get married, have little ones, and retire peacefully in some sleepy retirement home kind of life. And taking up the more Bohemian, friends are like family, experience life now, kind of culture. And that this is starting to be reflected in art (movies, music, etc…) but that is a whole nother blog post on a whole nother blog. 🙂

  • Bettina February 24, 2015, 11:30 pm

    Thanks for this great post, I enjoy your blog!

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