By ANGELA DAWSON
Front Row Features
HOLLYWOOD— Daniel Henney and Ryan Potter are excited to be part of Disney’s “Big Hero 6” cast, not only because being part of a major Hollywood studio film has bolstered their resumes, but also because the family film’s message about brotherhood, teamwork and friendship is resonating around the world.
The animated adventure film has become a worldwide blockbuster, earning more than $500 million in ticket sales. On Sunday, “Big Hero 6” took home the Oscar for Best Animated Feature. It is available Tuesday, Feb. 24 in a Blu-ray Combo Pack, that includes the Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD versions. Bonus features include an exploration of the comic book that influenced the movie, a behind-the-scenes making of featurette with Disney animators and deleted scenes.
Potter, 19, voices the lead character Hiro, a 14-year-old robotics prodigy, who, like many boys his age, would rather play videogames than focus on his schoolwork.
Hiro’s older brother, an inventor named Tadashi, voiced by Henney, urges Hiro to put his mechanical skills to positive use by applying to the San Fransokyo Institute of Technology (located in a city that is a mash up of Japan’s capital and the America’s scenic city by the Bay). There, he meets other smart kids, who are using their scientific skills to make useful inventions.
When a personal tragedy strikes, Hiro turns to an inflatable robot named Baymax for companionship that his beloved brother invented as a health caregiver. They soon form an unbreakable bond. Together, with kids at the Institute, they form into a band of superheroes to track down a masked man responsible for a terrible catastrophe that San Fransokyo.
Before “Big Hero 6,” Portland, Ore.-born Potter made his feature film debut in the independent comedy, “Senior Project.” He previously starred in the Nickelodeon series “Supah Ninjas” playing a high school student who learns he is descended from a line of warriors.
Henney, 35, previously played Agent Zero in “X-Men Origins: Wolverine.” He also had a supporting role in “The Last Stand,” opposite Arnold Schwarzenegger. He has a recurring role on the new “Hawaii-Five-O,” and is slated to star in the ABC detective series “Agatha,” later this year.
Adopted by a Korean mother and Irish father, Henney was raised an only child in Michigan. Though mechanically inclined like his onscreen character, he also was drawn to the arts. In his early 20s, he traveled to South Korea to explore his roots. While there, the tall and handsome actor modeled and appeared on a popular Korean TV series. He learned to speak Korean on the job.
Potter and Henney are part of large multiethnic voice cast on “Big Hero 6” that includes Jamie Chung, Damon Wayans Jr., Genesis Rodriguez, Maya Rudolph, Scott Adsit and T.J. Miller.
Neither grew up with siblings, but they have formed a brotherly bond since working together on the film. They recently sat down for an interview to discuss the “Big Hero 6” phenomenon, playing brothers and what’s ahead.[private]
Q: Who do you think is the real hero of the film, Hiro or Tadashi?
Potter: Tadashi. Hiro wouldn’t be who he is without Tadashi and the continued guidance that came from Baymax and that’s all attributed to Tadashi.
Q: Daniel, do you prefer play the evil brother on “Hawaii 5-0” or the nicer brother in this?
Henney: To be honest with you, the evil brother’s easier because he’s got no rules. That’s what’s fun about playing bad guys is there’s no rules, so it’s more fun. I never had a brother before so I had to learn how to speak as a brother would. Plus, you have to stay within the guidelines of who he is. He’s a great guy, a pure person so you’ve got to watch yourself sometimes, but it was a lot of fun.
Q: Since you each recorded your dialogue separately in the recording booth, when did you actually meet?
Potter: The first time we met was the first time we saw the film at the cast screening. The only person I had worked with was Maya Rudolph (voice of Cass) very briefly. So, finding that tone is difficult especially when we don’t have brothers in real life. That’s really attributed to the directors of the film. Don (Hall) and Chris (Williams) did a phenomenal job of setting the tone matching the performance that the other person gave.
Henney: Don can do a pretty spot-on impression of Ryan too. (He laughs.)
Q: Did you guys have any idea that the film would be as popular as it is?
Henney: When I first went in and saw the concept art at Disney, I had an idea of what it could be. Their films have been pretty hot lately and I saw how different it was, how risky it was and who they were casting for it. It felt different to me from the start so I thought if it was done well, it would have a lot of potential and luckily they did that and it’s reaching all its expectations.
Potter: I haven’t been in the film world long enough to really understand the gravity of “Big Hero’s” success. I’m just happy that it is translating well internationally and that audiences around the world love the story and the characters. Everything that’s come after that has been secondary to the initial response.
Q: Is it rewarding to be in a cast with diverse characters from many races?
Potter: This film is a perfect example of that the United States looks like. I don’t see the same face over and over or the same hair color or the same eyes. We need more films and television programs that represent that. This film is groundbreaking. It’s one of the first Disney films has a multicultural character in it. It’s one of the first blockbuster films to have an Asian-American lead at the head of it. It’s very important not only to the Asian community, but also other mixed-race communities in the U.S. and around the world.
Henney: There have been films before where we’ve been represented but there are very strong male and female leads in this. As an Asian-American actor, I’ve felt as though we’ve been marginalized at times. The male characters cannot seem charismatic or capable or intelligent as we could be or seem too intelligent or seem one note. It’s nice to see Tadashi and Hiro—strong, smart and doing good things.
Q: How important is it to you that “Big Hero 6” celebrates learning and science and robotics and technology?
Henney: I think it’s super-important because nowadays we are so advanced with our phones and tablets. I also think it’s good to celebrate the idea of using your hands, going out and working on something. When I was a kid, that was what it was all about; going out into the garage and taking apart the lawnmower and putting it back together and figuring out what all that meant. I fear that we have strayed from that sometimes and movies like this will help us get back on that track.
Q: What do you think this movie tells kids today about loss?
Potter: In Baymax, Hiro finds someone he can talk to and heal and talk about his emotions in a healthy way. Over the course of the film, Hiro kind of realizes that what he is doing is fueled by the wrong emotions. If someone loses a sibling they’re not going to go try to stop a supervillain but dealing with their everyday life, going to school, finding that best friend at school that you can talk about your emotions or baseball with, finding that one person like Baymax that you trust wholeheartedly and talk to them honestly (is important).
Henney: I think all of us, especially as men, we tend to turn inward when faced with tragedy like that, and that’s what Hiro does, initially. This film tells us that it’s not only your immediate family but also your friends who become that support system for you. I can’t remember that being showcased in an animated film like this before. You can love your friends as much as your immediate family. It speaks to that very well.
Q: What are you doing next?
Potter: Trying to get into school. I’m kind of in limbo; I’m waiting to hear back. Fingers crossed with that. Other than that, I’m taking photos, working on videography, designing clothes—just trying to take over the world in every aspect that I can.
Henney: (to Potter) I told you what you should do—you should move to Japan for a little bit. You should boost your language skills and go over there and try that. It’s a great market; the quality’s very high. Korea and Japan they shoot amazing stuff.
Henney: For me, I’ll probably be starting a TV show this fall (called “Agatha”). We start shooting next week.
Q: What do you play?
Henney I can’t say too much about it, but the character is not what you typically see for an Asian-American actor, so I’m very proud of that.[/private]