Wow! A movie about the thrill of learning, and the thrill of achievement from using what you’ve learned. An animated film that makes you not just identify with the characters, but sort of be absorbed into them, so much that you are completely invested in their successes and setbacks, their determination and their foibles.
The film takes place in San Fransokyo, so – the future. But not the future of Blade Runner, with the mashup of American and Japanese cultures providing dirt and crowding and squalor and a place where all good neon goes to die, but a future mashup of the two cultures where problems are solved: for instance, the city relies on wind power for electricity, but instead of windmills they have big fat pods with open ends and the fan blades inside. They float over the city like balloons and are tethered to the ground, and the city is beautiful. Hiro, a 14-year-old whose brother Tadashi is enrolled in the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology, working at the Ito Ishioka Robotics Lab, has a great deal of natural talent, but dismisses his brother’s attempts to get him to enroll in what he considers “Nerd School”. Then he gets tricked into coming in, and when he sees what’s going on there is so inspired that he enters the annual fair held by the school and wins a scholarship. The excitement of being a student in the company of the other kids is palpable. Of course there’s a villain to defeat and a lot of action and excitement along the way. There’s also sadness and loss, so it’s a fully human experience. Toward the end I was appealing out-loud to the screenwriters (whose decisions of course had been made perhaps years before), “Don’t let Baymax die!”
If you stick around to read credits, and I always do, you’ll see this one, which I love: “Caffeination – Carlos Benavides”. And then at the end of the credits there’s a Special Guest Star. Wow!