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'Big Hero 6' Fuses Science, Technology and Artistry

Disney’s latest animated film, Big Hero 6, is a blend of science, technology and art. Cutting-edge technology was used in the making of the movie, and one of its key characters, a robot, is based on real world science.

The action adventure movie about a boy genius, his robot and his friends started out as an obscure comic book. Directors Don Hall and Chris Williams kept the title and the characters' names, but transformed Big Hero 6 into something uniquely Disney.

“We don’t have any super-powered people in this movie. It’s all super technology," said Hall.

“You’re always walking the line. You want to push it so it feels fun and fantastic, but at the same time you want it to be based on an actual science because people feel - just makes it feel more plausible," said Williams.

One real world example in the film, says Don Hall, is Baymax, a huggable inflatable robotic nurse made of vinyl.

“Our robot had to be something unique. It couldn’t be something that we’ve seen before," he said.

They found their robot in Chris Atkeson’s robotics lab at Carnegie Mellon University.

“Most people think of robots either as tools for industry or military things. When you say a robot is going to help you, be your servant, or take care of you, that’s a stretch for most people," said Atkeson.

In fact, scientists at Carnegie Mellon University have built inflatable robotic arms to assist older adults and people with disabilities... kind of like the movie robot, which works to heal the sick and injured.

Cutting-edge technology is featured in Big Hero 6, and groundbreaking computer technology also was used to create the movie.

New software was used to build a city called San Fransokyo, where the movie is set. From the buildings, to the characters and the geometry, this world is more complex than anything in the last three Disney films combined.

With a more detailed world, the film needed a more complex lighting method. The studio created Hyperion, a computer program that simulates the technique of global illumination.

“Global illumination is basically what you see around you in the world," said Andy Hendrickson of the Walt Disney Animation Studios.

Hyperion harnesses the physics of how light works in the real world and applies that to this virtual world.

Another piece of software created for this movie allows hundreds of thousands of people to be created in crowd scenes.

“No two people are the same in this film. It’s not like before in computer graphics films where we had several different body types, several different head types and you made 100 different people and they’re repeated. There are no repeats in this film," said Hendrickson.

The directors say the new technologies developed for this movie remove technological limitations for filmmakers in Big Hero 6 and future animated features.