The great thing about Big Hero 6 as the first Marvel/Disney mash-up is that it’s an anti-superhero, superhero movie about compassion as opposed to violence. And Baymax provides not only comic relief but represents the emotional heartbeat. Scott Adsit, from Chicago’s Second City, 30 Rock, and Adult Swim’s Moral Orel,and Mary Shelley’s Frankenhole, discusses his experiences.
Bill Desowitz: So how did you got the part of Baymax?
I was doing a show in LA called “Celebrity Autobiography,” where celebrities read excerpts from other celebrities’ books and hang themselves with their own rope. And that night some of the Disney casting people happened to be in the audience, and I got a call asking me if I’d like to audition. I took my jaw off the floor and said, yeah. I had this wonderful audition that lasted an hour. They had me just read what Baymax would say in a given situation and we altered stuff and I played off director Don Hall
, who pretended to be Hiro.
BD: Did you have the soft, serene voice nailed?
SA: I think so: I have this non-threatening voice as it is. I played with the idea that Baymax has been programmed with things to say and within that there are variables, which can be slotted in. He would say, “I see that you’re endorphins are… HIGH.” I think they liked that and the benign manner.
BD: Were channeling HAL?
SA: No, I was thinking more along the lines of the cheerful, automatic phone voice when you call Sprint or something. “Your call is important to us. You will be talking to a representative in…SEVEN minutes.” And it evolved over the course of a year and a half. It’s really wonderful to be part of something so creative and welcoming.
BD: You’re the conscience of all of this. The emotional center.
SA: Which is ironic because he’s not programmed to show emotion and we tried to avoid showing emotion with Baymax and let the audience infer. It’s kind of like his face. It’s plain and the fact that he has no mouth and no real features except for eyes, let’s you interpret him as you will through your own emotions. And so that’s what the voice does as well.
BD: And such wonderful humor.
SA: That’s true: “Low battery.”
BD: So clever to make him sound like he’s drunk.
SA: They let me play and improvise some of that.
BD: It’s so interesting how similar Groot and Baymax are.
SA: Yeah, they would get along great.
BD: What did you enjoy most?
SA: My favorite scene is the first flight with Hiro and Baymax: that exhilaration and bonding that goes on between them. Because for me as an actor, the most important thing is serving Hiro and being his friend. Pleasing Hiro is great in that scene because Baymax wouldn’t have any motivation beyond making sure he’s healthy. And yet we wanted him to fly for the thrill of it. The story people hit upon the idea that Baymax would do this to keep his neurotransmitters elevated because of the joy he’s feeling from flying. So that is a great reason for Baymax.
BD: What did you think of the idea of San Fransokyo?
SA: I think it’s really cool that the city reflects Hiro and Tadashi so well because they are a mixed culture and so is the city: simple and metaphoric and beautiful. There’s a flying shot over the city at the top of the film and I think there are 5,000 individual characters in that shot.
BD: Any interesting changes?
SA: They were going to introduce Baymax in a public way at the science fair. But I think it was a pretty good move to change it to a much more intimate way between Tadashi and Hiro.
BD: And I like Hiro’s discovery of Tadashi’s struggle to make Baymax.
SA: Yeah, and it comes at a crucial point in the film. Hiro has a choice to make but knowing that Tadashi made Baymax for one purpose, which was to help people and to keep them healthy, is great. And the true art is in the details of what the artists were doing: an eye twitch, or just a breath. We provide, as voice actors, some of the emotions and rhythms, but every character is a collaboration, an ensemble, so it’s great to see what they did with my voice because little things happen that I had no idea would happen.
BD: Must be fun watching it with the rest of us. The scotch tape scene is hilarious, for instance.
SA: I was laughing with everyone else. I wish I could mend myself so easily because I’ve got big leaks. The long silent passages of Baymax just being Baymax are classic, truthful moments. That’s the thing about all the characters: They stay true to who they are and never betray that for a joke.