Saturday, November 15, 2014


Seeing Big Hero 6 made for a perfectly enjoyable Saturday morning matinee with the girls— it is visually stunning and precociously imagined, and I was hooked by the first glimpses of San Fransokyo, the hybrid city where the movie takes place, which one-ups even Spike Jonze’s amalgam of Los Angeles and Shanghai in Her. The movie is also notably unafraid of at least approaching a somewhat serious consideration of loss and grief, unusual for a movie pitched at the younger kids' market-- that is until the superhero/supervillain plot mechanics begin to dominate the film’s second half.

The real surprise of the show, however, is not the extended “cameo” by a well-known and well-feted creative force of the comics world (remember, BH6 is a Disney/Marvel cohabitation, so stay for those end credits!), but instead the program’s first course—a short from the Walt Disney Animation Group, directed by veteran animator Patrick Osborne (who worked on Wreck-It Ralph, Tangled and Bolt) called Feast. This is a brilliantly compacted story of infatuation, romance, jealousy, heartbreak and love, all told from the unlikely point of view of the ravenous appetite of a Boston terrier puppy, whose relationship with the human who saved him from the streets is reflected in the meals that end up in his favorite doggie dish.
The undeniably adorable pooch, named Winston, starts off gorging on kibble, then kibble enhanced with bacon and eggs, followed by a heavenly menu of bachelor-sized treats, including pizza straight out of the box—pure heaven for the instant-gratification tummy grumblings of a dog and his footloose master. But when that master strikes up a relationship with a female human, the volume and content of those meals begins to change. Then something goes wrong in that relationship, and dinnertime for Winston becomes an even more joyless affair...

Feast is a marvel of visual storytelling, not least because of the ingenious way in which the filmmakers keep the human story important yet forever in the background, almost always literally. We understand the status of that human relationship, but the true focus is always on the way Winston interprets human feeling and reacts to the signals he’s being given by his master through the meals he’s served, which for him are the most eloquent expressions of love he’s capable of understanding. By the time this little dollop of a movie works its way through to its conclusion, any possible objections to sameness in the usual Disney affirmation of family values have been eroded by the sheer joy of the movie’s effortless invention and discipline, and then washed away in a flood of tears. Feast, at 1/17 the length of the main feature, Big Hero 6, is an unexpected appetizer that ends up overshadowing the rest of the meal, a six-minute movie miracle worthy of Winston’s most lavish epicurean indulgences.  

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