As the pictures of our Big Hero 6 cosplay went viral and spread rapidly online, my friends and I would observe comments from people doubting whether we are actually real human beings in the photos, or merely images generated on someone’s computer. Allow me assure you that we are quite real!
We don’t always get the opportunity to hear from the people who are actually in the viral content as it gets passed around. Who are these people? Why did they go through all this trouble? How did they do this? Often, these questions go unanswered. For our photos, I would like to change that!
Meet The Team
Hiro is a character I deeply identify with for many reasons, so it meant a lot to me do to this cosplay. (I have this post on my blog that elaborates on this, if you want me to get really mushy.)
Hiro's big brother Tadashi is cosplayed by Miguel (merkymerx). The two of them are shown to have a very close bond in the movie, which is something the two of us could relate to. The same way that I was drawn to Hiro, Miguel found himself with great admiration for Tadashi's character.
Kero is a vital part of our Big Hero 6 team, cosplaying the lovable Baymax!
A common misconception was that we used an inflatable Baymax standee, but it's actually a moving suit!
Kat cosplays the feisty but loving Aunt Cass to complete our little family! Kat does not see herself in in the character, but instead is reminded of someone very dear to her. Aunt Cass to her felt like an animated version of her own mom, so she took a lot of inspiration from that. She even wore her mom's clothes as part of her method acting, and channeled her mom when figuring out how to be in character as Aunt Cass!
Here's an after-shoot group photo showing our friends who are usually behind the cameras, capturing the shots or directing our expressions and poses. One of them is Reskiy, who takes most of our photos! While the rest of us are coming up with all sorts of concepts for photos, Reskiy figures out the technical things that would make those ideas look good not just in our heads, but on film. He is as immersed in our fandoms as the rest of us, so he really understands how to capture a specific scene with the right kind of lighting and equipment, and that plays a huge part in the magic behind our shoots!
Why We Do What We Do
Our team enjoys cosplaying during our free time, because it’s an activity that allows us to develop our skills in costume crafting, production design, and photography, while bonding with each other as friends. We always just have a great time together as we learn.
Big Hero 6 definitely spoke to us in a big way. We went in to watch the film expecting to be entertained by a team of nerdy friends-turned-superheroes and their adorable robot companion. What we did not anticipate is that we would also leave the theater with eyes full of tears, and hearts overflowing with love and hope. This movie gave us characters we could see ourselves in, and addressed things that deeply resonated with us.
We expressed those feelings by making live action recreations of scenes from the film, or illustrating our own little made-up scenarios through our photos. Some people draw fanart, we produce cosplay photos. It's a way of paying tribute to something that made you feel things, which also allows you to add your own personal spin to it.
Many of us in our group studied art or currently work in the field of visual arts, so we appreciate how much care goes into the development of these characters and surroundings. We did our best to pour in as much love and effort into our own images so that if anyone who worked on Big Hero 6 happened to see our photos, they might get a kick out of seeing their work translated from animation into real life.
We enjoy making our viewers do a double-take when seeing our photos, and wondering even for a second if they were looking at a screencap from the movie.
Simple Outfits Don't Necessarily Equate to Lazy Cosplays
Some people look down on cosplays that look like everyday clothes. I believe that there's a lot you can do to make even the simplest designs look more compelling!
Hiro's hair is a factor that some people take for granted. It was a challenge because his hair isn't just plain spiky, it's wavy in places and a little curled in some ends. There's a shape to it but it also has to look characteristically messy. The artists usually talk about it because it's such an important part of Hiro's look. I had to sew in additional wefts for fluffier tufts on the top of his head, to get the puffy silhouette of the back part. While styling the spikes and curls, I also tried my best to copy the individual tufts as closely as I could, based on my reference images.
Hiro's hoodie is a key piece on his casual outfit, so I wanted to make sure mine would have the right colour, fabric weight, and texture. I observed the way it would drape and fold in the movie, then took notice of the subtle texture and fade marks. I happened to already own a hoodie in the very specific shade of blue I had in mind — a dark, desaturated, speckled navy blue — that made for a good base, so I modified it by changing the zipper from blue to silver, adding weathering for the faded bits, and then sewing in a textured light grey lining to match Hiro's. It took me a while to be able to do the lining (which is why it's not in all of the photos) because I really wanted to find fabric that would match the weight of the jacket so as to look like it belongs together, yet have a contrasting but equally interesting texture.
Why this fixation on fabric contrast? You know how if you buy a budget Halloween costume, it's usually made with all the same flimsy fabric but in different colors? I wanted to steer clear from that as much as possible, because it feels very artificial and didn't align with what I want for my cosplay. The outfit I was replicating was Hiro's everyday attire. When I look at my own everyday clothes, they come in so many fabric types and textures. I wanted to incorporate that contrast into my cosplay because I felt it would make my Hiro outfit look more natural and believable as a person's everyday attire, rather than a bunch of things put together as a costume.
After I pored over the production notes about the movie, I noticed it seemed vital for the artists to establish this "lived in" quality for Hiro's environment, and I wanted my clothes to reflect that as well. That sense of messiness and mild chaos is part of what makes Hiro who he is, so it was important for me to try and achieve that.
I handpainted the robot print on his shirt so that I could fully control the colors and how faded it would look. I even tried to match the shapes and positions of the faded bits as closely as I could with the reference image. I used acrylic paint and did some freehand masking to keep the selected edges neat. I used a similar technique to modify a pair of my old sneakers to look like Hiro's, along with having custom labels heatpressed, and finding laces in just the right shade of yellow.
These are just some of the modifications I worked into the simple garments that make up my Hiro outfit. The gist of it is to find ways to to make things look visually appealing in real life, while giving special attention to the aspects that offer insight about your character. Am I overthinking it? Maybe. But that's how I like to do things and I personally find it enjoyable!
One of the important elements of Tadashi's look is his San Fransokyo Ninjas cap. To replicate this, Miguel made a vector graphic of the SF Ninjas logo after studying screencaps and official art. Then we got the logo stitched on a plain black cap through computerized embroidery.
If you look at it closely in the movie, Tadashi's cap has some signs of wear. Miguel weathered his cap by adding scuffs and fade marks, though exaggerated it a bit for it to register on camera better. This makes it look like something that’s been used a lot (and survived robotics mishaps) since Tadashi always has his cap on. In addition to making a brand new plain black cap look more interesting because the weathering brought out more of its shape and texture, it also tells a story. It gives the feeling of a beloved old thing that Tadashi has kept all this time because it means something to him.
The Process Behind Our Shoots
It's a little funny to think about how Disney artists and engineers made Hyperion — a supercomputing light rendering software that enabled them to immerse us in the intensely realistic environment of Big Hero 6 — and here we are translating those images back into the real world!
We do as much as we can to try to get the essence of the scenes we depict, though not recreating everything 100% since we acknowledge that we don't have access to sets and props that look exactly the way they do in the movie.
One of the locations in the movie that felt familiar to us was Aunt Cass's Lucky Cat Cafe.
It has big windows that let lots of sunshine in, and cozy wooden decor. It creates a warm atmosphere.
One of our favorite places to hang out also has some of those elements, so it has a very similar vibe to the location in the film.
It made for a great backdrop for pictures with Aunt Cass.
Being someplace we felt at home in helped us feel relaxed and lends to the illusion that this could be our family's cafe. (Even if the truth is we are all just regular customers.)
People ask us how others react when we're out in public. When our group is out doing location shoots in cosplay, people are actually very nice toward us. I believe it’s because we always make it a point to behave properly and not disrupt anyone else’s business. Sometimes, if our characters get recognised, parents would approach us to ask if they could snap a photo of us with their kids, and that’s really sweet and we always happily oblige!
For scene recreations, we usually begin by selecting a screencap to serve as reference.
Sometimes it takes a little method acting or mouthing out the lines from the scene to get the expression right. Kat and Miguel are coaching me as I try it out. They step out of the frame when it looks like I'm getting it.
And here is the final photo captured by Reskiy!
Using screencaps as reference helps us a lot! They guide the way we do expressions for photos, so even if it's not physically possible for us look exactly like the characters, capturing their facial tics can get us a little closer. Screencaps also serve as great references for us to observe the color script of the scenes, which then helps us with the color grading of our photos.
On Negative Feedback
When content gets passed around the internet, people are compelled to leave comments. Sometimes
While the reaction to our Big Hero 6 cosplay has been mostly positive, there are of course some people who think our treatment for this cosplay looks creepy — because we're people who seem to look like computer graphics in our photos. As some put it, like a "reverse uncanny valley." It’s oddly flattering when people who aren’t familiar with us or haven’t seen our video clips or animated GIFs think that we are merely elaborate photomanipulations or realistic 3D renders.
Some are put off by the way that our makeup, facial expressions, and photography aesthetic are made to look close to the animation style. That was our goal though — to be somewhere in between looking like the real people that we are, and the 3D-rendered cartoon characters we are emulating.
We’re happy that a lot of people appreciated our aesthetic, but it’s also completely normal if others don’t. Because hey, everyone has their own preferences. What some people love about it is exactly what others didn’t like, and that’s just how it is and that's totally okay!
The Good Outweighs the Bad
A common positive reaction from viewers is that they initially mistook our photos for actual screencaps from the movie, or that they thought that a Big Hero 6 live action film was actually being produced. My friends and I are a bunch of nerds who have great appreciation for film adaptations, so it was amazing to read that something we just did for fun gave that kind of feeling!
Even I find this crazy, but a couple of weeks ago, an entire convention hall cooperated to recreate the SFIT Showcase scene with me!
Everyone was so supportive and they looked so happy cheering, I'm pretty sure I could feel what Hiro felt that that moment!
It’s also very entertaining hearing from people who are bewildered by the way our shoot seemed to have brought the Big Hero 6 universe into our reality. It’s like being able to give other people the sense of wonder and magic that Disney gives us, and that is above and beyond our expectations for something we did purely as an expression of our love for Big Hero 6.
I had no idea that our Big Hero 6 cosplay would get the kind of reaction that it’s getting. My friends and I just really loved the movie; it stirred us emotionally and inspired us artistically. Producing these photos and expressing our feelings through them is our way of sharing our love for the film’s message, and the characters that captured our hearts. We’re thrilled that so many people told us that they watched Big Hero 6 because of us and that they understood why we felt so strongly about it.
Sometimes I gather up the guts to share some of these photos with people who had worked on Big Hero 6. It's enough for me to hope that they saw it and to think that perhaps it brightened their day a bit; I don't expect them to reply but they do. Honestly, it really just makes me happy to do my part to show them how much their work is loved, and to let them know that the messages they expressed through the film were definitely heard and cherished.
I am satisfied with my care.
If you'd like to see our complete Big Hero 6 photo series so far, feel free to view it here! (●—●)
Teaming up with two talented friends to make the supersuit is another story for another time!
Until next time! Fistbump!