Light and Color Symbolism in “Big Hero 6”

Disney is well known for its use of color symbolism in their animated movies. In Aladdin, the color blue represents good, red represents evil, and yellow represents neutrality. In Beauty and the Beast, Belle wears blue to show that she stands out from her village and that she is good and pure, whereas Gaston wears bright red to show he is evil; the Beast at first wears red but eventually switches to blue costumes to show him getting closer to his humanity.

I think a recent Disney film that stands out in its color symbolism (as well as light symbolism) is their 2014 hit Big Hero 6.

Let’s take a look at the main characters in their costumed form:

Everyone is bright and colorful; their colors really pop. And they all have some meaning behind them.

Baymax is white, a color associated with purity, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, innocence, and humility. In other words, extremely appropriate for Baymax’s character. In his superhero form, he wears bright red, which is associated with power and strength and is sometimes used as a heroic color. However, red can also be associated with rage and evil, which is illustrated clearly when Baymax loses his healthcare chip and attacks the villain. His suit also has a little purple, which corresponds to Hiro’s suit (which also has a little bit of red).

Hiro’s predominant colors are purple and red. Purple has traditionally been used to denote royalty and high status, which shows his position as the team leader. Purple is also associated with mourning (his grief over Tadashi), transformation (his character development), and arrogance (his more cocky and impulsive side as seen at the beginning of the movie). Red can show both his status as a hero as well as his anger towards those who wronged him.

Gogo also wears a little bit of purple (both in her hair and in her civilian form). In her case, the purple can mean temperance and wisdom. Her yellow costume was chosen because it is associated with eggs (in the comics, her last name was tomago, a corruption of tamago, the Japanese word for egg) but can also represent energy and friendship.

Honey Lemon’s color coding is more blatant. In her civilian form she wears bright yellow, representing friendship, happiness, optimism, and other positive emotions. Her hero costume is pink, a very feminine color.

Wasabi wears green mostly because of his name, but green can also be associated with youth and growth, health, service, and generosity.

Fred wears blue and orange. Blue is a more masculine color (and a color common in a lot of amphibians and reptiles), and orange represents energy and enthusiasm.

All their colors allow them to stand out and denote that they are heroic, positive characters, in contrast to the villain, Yokai:

File:Yokai Full Body.png

He wears all black, a color traditionally associated with death, darkness, despair, evil, detachment, anger, mourning, and other negative emotions. His mask has the colors white (coldness, and can also represent death in Eastern cultures), red (anger), and yellow (dishonesty, betrayal).

All the super characters wear bright, bold colors while the civilian characters (including Aunt Cass and Tadashi) wear more muted colors. Tadashi is usually seen wearing more down to earth neutral colors of brown, white, and black (notice how he wears a black shirt on the night he dies), but when he successfully builds Baymax, he is seen wearing a bright red shirt, similar to the reds Hiro and Baymax wear.

There are also some instances of light symbolism. A great example would be whenever Hiro is mourning over Tadashi. When we first see him after Tadashi’s death, his room is darkened:

Aunt Cass comes in to try to shine a little light, but Hiro immediately pulls the blinds. But then, as soon as Baymax wakes up, the room instantly brightens up:

Later, when Hiro and Baymax are alone after the confrontation with Yokai, the scene is very dark:

But gets brighter when Baymax comforts Hiro with how Tadashi is always with them.

In the more intense moments (Hiro and Baymax escaping the warehouse, the car chase scene, and the villain’s reveal), the scenes are all low lit to show the gravity of the situation. For the final fight, once the heroes have a better grip on their powers and teamwork and are able to successfully defeat Yokai, the scene is brighter lit.

And of course, when Hiro and Baymax are reunited and share a loving hug, the scene is very bright, light, and warm:

There’s probably more, so if you know any other examples, let me know. But all this symbolism shows some of the amazing detail that went into this movie to make a stunningly beautiful and meaningful film.

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Author: Laura Alexander

My name is Laura, I use they/them pronouns, and I'm an autistic college student currently enrolled at the Social Service Worker Program at Sheridan College. I have a passion for film and animation, social issues, and helping others, all of which will be featured on The Flying Red Robot blog. Please read the about page before commenting or following. "Big Hero 6" is my favourite movie.