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Interview with Ryan Potter, Hiro in ‘Big Hero 6’

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Big Hero 6 is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital HD. Fresh off its Oscar win of Best Animated Feature, the film marks another achievement in the ongoing revival from Walt Disney Animation Studios. I chatted this week with Ryan Potter, voice actor of Hiro, to talk inspiration, Disney legacy, and more. Here’s what he (and Hiro) had to say.

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Ryan Potter: Hey, Blake!

Blake Taylor: Hey, Ryan. Thanks for being with us.

RP: Absolutely, man.

BT: And congratulations on your Oscar win.

RP: Oh, man. Thank you.

BT: I bet that’s pretty exciting. So starting off with basic questions here, how did you first get this role?

RP: Well, [Disney was] looking to cast Hiro for quite some time. They were calling after school programs, they were calling church groups, they were calling everybody and anybody, really, to find a Japanese-American actor, or just a Japanese-American teenager, that could play Hiro. I kind of got involved when a director I had worked with in the past contacted [Disney] because he knew the part was out there. He asked, “Have you guys read Ryan yet?” and they said they hadn’t and he said, “Please bring him in, he fits your description perfectly.” So, I went in. And it was funny because it wasn’t like your average audition. It wasn’t like I went in there, I did a whole song-and-dance, and then I went, “How did I do?” I went in there and I got to kind of work on the character and build the character with Don [Hall, the co-director]. Don and I both grew up on Japanese animation and comic books, so we got along very well. We just… the best way to describe it is we just vibed. You know?

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BT: That’s awesome. So, we are an animation website, Rotoscopers. A lot of our readers really feel a personal connection with these characters. Hiro especially is a really relatable personality. What do you feel makes Hiro relatable as a character?

RP: Well, I’m glad that people can relate to Hiro, but I didn’t necessarily bring anything… I wasn’t necessarily trying to make him relatable. I was just trying to honestly be myself. I was just, like… I wasn’t… I felt like I wasn’t acting at any one point. His character is very similar to me when I was thirteen/fourteen. We didn’t have a great sense of style, we had long, shaggy hair, our mouths got us into a little bit more trouble than we probably should have been in. But we’re very, like I said, we are very similar, and I… yeah, I think not acting can kind of bring that sense of relatability, I guess, to the character.

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BT: Yeah, and I feel like that authenticity comes across very well. What does a typical recording day look like for you?

RP: I show up to Disney Animation, which is kind of the greatest feeling ever. You get to drive through the gates of one of the greatest companies in the world. You just think about how many people have gone through those gates… You show up, you get some hot tea, you get a little bit of breakfast, and then you get to work. My sessions were about six hours long. With voiceover, by the time those six hours are done, you are mentally and physically exhausted. I’ve done twelve-, fourteen-, sixteen-hour days on live-action stuff, and it just does not compare to, kind of, the drain of voiceover. Because it really is all your voice, and it really is… it’s just kind of your imagination. By the time you go home, every single thought and every single kind of idea you’ve put down onto the page into the mic. You go home and you just collapse. It’s just like, “Wow, that was a long day!”

BT: Dang.

RP: But in reality it was only a half workday, you know?

BT: Right, yeah. I bet. And you mentioned how special it was to walk into the Disney Animation building. I feel like Big Hero 6 is part of this fresh, new creative era for this studio, following behind Wreck-It Ralph and Frozen. How does it feel to be part of a legacy that will be remembered for generations like that?

RP: You know, the fact that one of the easiest ways to describe Big Hero 6 is by saying it’s the 54th animated Disney film of all time is just remarkable. You gotta think about who, you know… we’re among good company. We’re among very good company. We’re among some of my favorite films of all time: Treasure PlanetPeter PanThe Lion King. The fact that people who have all 53 or all 54 lined up on a shelf… the fact that a film that I was able to be a part of is gonna sit alongside all these other titles… it’s… I just… I don’t have words for it. It’s so special and it’s so personal that I really don’t know how else to describe it other than the fact that it’s very surreal.

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BT: That’s awesome. That’s a really great answer. That’s just great that you feel that way, that you feel that connection with this character and with the film. And it’s a very emotional film. It takes you on ups and downs with how you’re feeling, to a new level of depth Disney hasn’t gone to in a long time. What emotion do you feel that Hiro and the story as a whole best brings out to you as an audience member?

RP: I think everybody can relate. Everybody has that moment of, “Oh, I’ve been there.” And Hiro is just that. He’s the visual representation of every person’s hard time, or, I don’t want to say awkward phase, but just that moment where… everybody going through middle school or high school had a moment when they weren’t emotionally stable. You know? This film is really about healing and Hiro’s process of coping with loss. It’s a very personal subject, so it makes it a very personal connection.

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BT: Right. Sweet. All right, last question. What would Hiro say about his Oscar win?

RP: [Laughs.] He’d probably comment on the design of the statue, of it being an outdated form of an award. He’d probably say it needs some new, techy, holographic, you know, I don’t know… Hiro would come up with something that could replace the statue. He’d probably get up there for his acceptance speech and thank his mind, and then thank Tadashi, and then thank Baymax, and then Aunt Cass and his friends.

BT: That’s great. Well, thank you so much, Ryan. I am giving you a virtual fist bump through the phone.

RP: Oh. Ba-la-la-la-la.

 BT: Ba-la-la-la-la. All right. Thank you so much, Ryan.

RP: No worries. Thank you so much, man.

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Big Hero 6 is now available on Blu-ray, DVD, and digital HD.
Collector’s Edition Review
Animation Addicts Podcast, Episode 80: Big Hero 6 – Don’t Even Compare It to Frozen!

 

All right, now that you’ve heard Ryan’s Potter’s perspective, what do you think makes Hiro relatable? What makes him endearing?

Edited by: Hannah Wilkes

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About Blake Taylor

Blake is a scriptwriter at Elevation Church, where he develops documentary shorts and creative elements as part of the film team. He graduated Appalachian State University studying Electronic Media Production and is an alumni of the Disney College Program. Blake’s favorite films are Mary Poppins, The Lion King, and Toy Story 3. You can find him on Twitter (@blake_242) and visit his blog at blakeonline.com.