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Immersed in Movies: Going Into the ‘Big Hero 6’ Portal

Immersed in Movies: Going Into the 'Big Hero 6' Portal

Interstellar isn’t the only Oscar contender with a wormhole. Big Hero 6 has a pretty cool one, too, which is nominated for a VES award. In fact, BH6 has five VFX noms at Wednesday’s 13th annual VES Awards. We get the lowdown on “Into the Portal” for the first time with directors Don Hall and Chris Williams and producer Roy Conli. We also have four exclusive images as well. Disney’s lighting and effects team wanted to create a time portal unlike any seen before. They turned to nature and fractals for inspiration in their design, looking to push the complexity and color palette of the environment.
Bill Desowitz: This is not only visually stunning but it also represents the emotional climax. How did it come about?
Don Hall: We knew that goodbye should really be where your heart gets ripped out so we had to tweak the Tadashi video scene so that this scene had room to grow. We don’t delve into the science of the wormhole too much, obviously, but we were looking at that technology and we talked to particle physicists about it. What we were going for was between life and death. This person, Abigail, is poised between those two worlds, and so the rescue really was about a heroic gesture from our characters to go and save her. It was Michael Kaschalk, our head of effects, who pitched the idea using fractals, which is basically what the visuals are based on, specifically Mandelbrot fractals.

I’d never seen anything like it. They’re really cool and mesmerizing. And then the real work began. And that sequence sums up for me how close the collaboration is, between not only layout, as you could imagine, getting the look right with these moving, amorphous shapes, but lighting and effects. In fact, they were their own mini-team in a way that handled just this portal idea. And they did a great job crafting this world between life and death that’s unearthly and it’s one of the most saturated-looking parts of the film. That was really John [Lasseter] pushing us to push the color scope of it. 

Chris Williams: When I think about that scene, it’s about how much we relied on each other and how much we trusted each other because it was really challenging on a creative front on how to best represent this world and really challenging on the technology front. And they were really struggling, spending lots of late nights and lots of weekends trying to make this scene come to life. And it was really down to the wire on whether they were going to get this done. Meanwhile, we were merrily going along making this movie. I think on some level we always knew they would rise to the occasion. And when I watch the movie now, I realize that it would not have been as satisfying as it needed to be without this scene. It wasn’t until the scene in the portal and the exchange between Baymax and Hiro that Hiro understands in the deepest possible way that when you lose someone, they live on through you. It really speaks to what the movie’s about at that core level.
Roy Conli: What I’m so proud about is the amazing thematic content. There’s themes about revenge and forgiveness and friends and family. But it was this scene, I think, that had the key message that we wanted to deliver in terms of loss and they did it beautifully.

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