Baymax gets his own animated series — the first Disney+ series from Disney’s feature animation unit — and it’s a far cry from his superhero antics in the “Big Hero 6” feature and previous animated spin-off series. “Baymax!” (streaming Wednesday) finds the affable, inflatable robot (voiced by Scott Adsit) returning to his original programming as a healthcare companion in San Fransokyo. In the six short episodes, he helps people with physical ailments while also getting them over emotional hurdles as well.
“What I thought we could do with the series is actually just focus on Baymax and one patient at a time,” creator Don Hall said at a virtual press conference earlier this week. In search of a different perspective for “Baymax!,” the Oscar-winning director of “Big Hero 6,” “Moana,” and the upcoming “Strange World” reached back to television’s past. “I remembered back as a kid watching medical procedurals where [in each] episode there’s a patient who has a thing, and the compassionate doctors end up healing that patient,” he said.
Writer Cirocco Dunlap (“Russian Doll,” “Big Mouth,” and “Man Seeking Woman”) focused the seven- to eight-minute episodes on people who are initially resistant to Baymax’s help, but who get swayed by his wit and compassion. “He’s so fun to write because he just says exactly what’s happening,” she said in the production notes. “There’s no nuance or human-like reasoning behind it.”
The episodes range from Hiro’s (Ryan Potter) Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph) spraining her ankle but refusing to take a break from running the Lucky Cat Café to a crosstown caper involving a hungry cat and an earbud that culminates in a cliffhanger that makes Baymax the patient. Adsit said he was touched by the episode in which middle-school student Sofia (Lilimar Hernandez) has her first period while getting ready for a talent show, which leads her to hide in the bathroom while Baymax gets her an assortment of tampons. “[She] doesn’t know if she’s ready to make that leap into adulthood, and Baymax is there to help her understand that change is good and you don’t have to be afraid it,” he said.
“Baymax!” was three years in the making, its production wrapping around such features as “Raya and the Last Dragon” (which Hall co-directed with Carlos López Estrada) and “Encanto.” It also required some time getting used to Disney+: Although sets and characters from “Big Hero 6” could be re-used, many years had passed between the film’s completion and the start of work on “Baymax,” and the animation team had to make it work in their current pipeline. The Disney+ series moved away from the heightened reality of the feature in favor of a more grounded, simpler look in keeping with Baymax’s new role as a healthcare companion.
“It’s a [wonderful] opportunity for storytellers because we’re able to discover new formats,” said producer Roy Conli (“Big Hero 6,” “Strange World”). “This was new territory for a lot of us. We generally work on 90-minute films and we iterate and iterate and iterate for four to five years. And, in this, we did the same amount of iteration but because the structure is so small in comparison, and we also have six episodes going at one time, we were able to take each of these little gems and polish them.”
Meanwhile, Walt Disney Animation Studios has the following animated series coming to Disney+: “Zootopia+” (November 9), an anthology devoted to different characters and styles; “Iwájú” (2023), the studio’s first African series, co-produced by Kugali, takes place in a futuristic Lagos, Nigeria; Tiana,” based on the star of “The Princess and the Frog” (2023); and “Moana” (2024).