“It’s just the funniest thing. I think people think when you do movies this, they just throw a bunch of action figures your way,” explains actor Daniel Henney with a smile. Casually chatting at the W Hotel in Los Angeles, Henney is with fellow actor Ryan Potter doing press for this week’s in-home release of the Academy Award-winning BIG HERO 6 on Blu-ray and DVD. Funny enough, we’re talking about action figures… while I sit with a Funko Pop! Vinyl Baymax peeking out of my North Face Surge Backpack – though neither Henney, nor Potter seems to notice as the voice of BH6’s Tadashi continues his tale…
“The coolest thing – let’s be honest, when you do movies like this is to get your action figure,” he explains as the whole room erupts with laughter. “It took me a long time to find my Wolverine action figure [Henney played Agent Zero in X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE] because I wasn’t a huge part, but I found it [part of a Minimates set from Diamond Select Toys]. This one, Tadashi’s not a huge part of it, but he did get a figure.”
“I was at an airport, and up in the lounge these two kids were playing with BIG HERO 6 figures and they had Tadashi. They were six-year-olds and I got to walk up as the ‘weird older dude’ and say ‘Hey, where did you get that, kid?’ It’s so surreal to have that moment, but it’s very satisfying and fun.”
This time around, Henney’s Tadashi comes as part of a nine-character BIG HERO 6 Figure Play Set that’s being sold exclusively through the Disney Store. For Ryan Potter, his Hiro Hamada is a little bit more readily-available – he and Baymax being the stars of the show, and already having been released in several scales by Bandai, along with Funko and others.
While in most films the actors are simply playing or voicing a role, both Henney and Potter feel a deeper connection to their animated characters in BIG HERO 6. Whether partially crafted in that way, or simply excellent casting, filmmakers Don Hall and Chris Williams (interviewed here) wound up with the perfect guys for both – so much so that Potter declares on several occasions, “I am Hiro.” – taking complete ownership in the unlikely hero whose love of science and robotics opens up a larger world.
“I had the LEGO Robotics kit [Mindstorms],” he recalls, with Henney adding that he had one, too. “I just loved piecing it together, and while it wasn’t necessarily a love for robotics and science, [it was] just wanting to be able to kind of put out there things that were almost trapped in my mind — to just bring them out and create. It was awesome being able to voice Hiro because that’s literally who I was four years ago – that kid. I think I still am.”
“I dress just like Tadashi. I always have,” says Henney with a smile. “I don’t usually wear suits, so like there’ll be days when I, like, I walk out of my house and I’ll take a look in the mirror, and I, I look just like Tadashi. I wear a cardigan and a baseball cap.” Visual similarities aside, Henney reveals that playing the elder brother has had a huge impact on him. “[Playing Tadashi] made me a better person. He really has. Living in this world, we get caught up in things and, sometimes it’s hard to appreciate every moment like everyone preaches, you know?”
Thanks to a little-known MARVEL Comic, BIG HERO 6, with it’s big themes and multiple layers, is also another step toward bringing diversity to Disney’s on-screen canon. “It was a huge honor being able to be part of the first multi-cultural, multi-ethnic Disney characters, ever,” said Potter. “It’s something with a Disney film, it’s like wish fulfillment. It’s every kid’s dream-come-true to be a part of a film like this, and this one is really special because of how diverse it is, and it breaks the mold.”
“I grew up in Michigan, and when I was growing up, there was no one on TV that looked like me,” recalls Henney. “If there was, they were, a martial artist, so they had very heavy accents and I couldn’t understand what they were saying. It was a weird thing — watching TV, and my father’s Caucasian, so I had that connection, but yet, I was very much Asian. It’s very satisfying to know that we can do projects like this now that can give children that little moment, and say, Oh, I can do that because, you know, they can do that.”
Walt Disney Animation Studios’ 54th feature, BIG HERO 6 took home the Oscar for “Best Animated Feature” at the 87th Academy Awards this past Sunday. BIG HERO 6 is available TODAY on Blu-ray, DVD, Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere.
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Top “Toyography” image of Hiro and Baymax from the Big Hero 6 Facebook Page ©Disney.