As I said before I’m trying to write one post about all of the Big Hero 6 super hero team members before the new Big Hero 6: The Series cartoon show is released next fall. Today’, I’m featuring character design drawings for everyone’s favourite robot, Baymax. This particular piece of concept art is unique, as it was not created by any Disney animators. Instead, it was drawn by Japanese anime creator Shigeto Koyama, who was who asked by director Don Hall to provide drawings to help the animators design the robotic healthcare companion. He ended up having a huge influence on the characters design both in and outside of his armor. As you know from my previous articles, this was not the first time the Disney Animators asked an outside artist to help design a character, but it is always interesting to examine just how much influence these artists have on the final design.
How Koyama came to be asked to design Baymax is rather an interesting story. As I’ve said before, the directors were trying to add authentic elements of Japanese culture to the film. To help find inspiration, Don Hall traveled to Tokyo where he bought several Japanese toys to bring back to the studio and inspire the crew. One of these was of a character named Heroman, who was designed by Koyama. This lead Hall to meet with Koyama and ask him to help them design the look of Baymax. These sketches were some of the results of his work. Keeping in mind that Baymax was a health care companion, Koyama looked towards soft, round, white foods like mochi and pork buns for inspiration. Yet, he never fotgot he was designing a robot, and so many of his other drawings also show Baymax’s hard metal skeleton. He also designed Baymax’s armour, and really liked the idea of a soft squishy robot being hidden by imposing armour. Judging by the drawing in the upper right-hand corner, it seems he also liked the possibility of seeing Baymax try to disguise himself as a human. I personally wish this silly image of Baymax in a trenchcoat and beard had made it into the final film.
Of course, Koyama wasn’t the only one who contributed to Baymax’s design. The character designers at Disney also played a role in creating the character. They did a lot of research into new robotics technology and talked to researchers at the Carnegie Mellon institute of robotics. There they learned about “soft robotics” a new kind of robotics technology being developed using vinyl to create soft and flexible robots. They thought this new field of technology would be perfect for a health-care companion like Baymax, and so they designed him as an inflatable, huggable robot. But Baymax, couldn’t just be a piece of technology, he also had to be an appealing character. To do this they gave the robot cute but unusual features, like his waddle, which was inspired by a toddler. Baymax’s face carried on the film’s motif of Japanese inspired elements. It was based on the look of the bells at the Suzu Shinto shrine in Japan. Don Hall felt this design would give Baymax’s face a more serene appearance. Many of these design ideas were already in place when Koyama was asked to help create Baymax’s design.
Thanks to sketches like these by Shigeto Koyama and various pieces of concept art made by Disney character designers, Baymax’s design was eventually refined into the huggable robot we see in the final film. Baymax’s became a robot inspired a mix of Japanese culture and cutting edge technology.
Image Credit: https://akiba-souken.com/article/22338/