Forget graphics—even comic films need good stories: Disney guru

Image from Big Hero 6 by Disney
Source: Disney
Image from Big Hero 6 by Disney

Nowadays, robot and superhero movies are proliferating rapidly, and moviegoers are flocking to see them in droves.

So in an age where computer generated image laden movies have become Hollywood's most reliable earners, is the most essential component of a good movie still the plot? Although high-technology is a large component of box office appeal, even technicians argue the secret sauce for a big budget movie still lies in a compelling story.

Just ask Hank Driskill, a technical supervisor at Disney whose primary job is spearheading research, development and the imagery that goes into generating animated movies. Although his responsibilities are steeped in technology, Driskill—who oversaw the creation of the urban landscape featured in Disney's box office hit "Big Hero 6"—told CNBC in an interview the essence of a movie lies in its narrative.

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'It all starts with the story'

Image from Big Hero 6 by Disney
Source: Disney
Image from Big Hero 6 by Disney

"We can make pretty pictures, but let's make a good movie," said Driskill, a Disney veteran who also worked on modern classics like "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King." Even in the age of CGI, characters and storytelling take precedence over technology, Driskill said.

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"To me, the big thing is it all starts with story, he said. "It's not about how we cash in on this, it's [whether] there's a good movie to be made."

In less than a month, "Big Hero 6" has pulled in more than $114 million in domestic receipts, more than half the way toward recouping its $165 million production budget, according to data from Box Office Mojo. It's a testament to the earning power of animated movies, and how people still expect to have their hearts and minds spoken to—even in a comic book movie.

The film was also a milestone for the powerhouse that birthed Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck into the public's consciousness. "Big Hero 6" represents the first joint venture with Marvel, the iconic comic publisher it acquired back in 2009.

Marvel, of course, is far better known for the coterie of ageless super humans that populate films like "The Avengers" and "Guardians of the Galaxy."

Set in the fictional city of San Fransokyo, a hybrid of tech havens Tokyo and San Francisco, "Big Hero 6" tells of a young prodigy who assembles a motley crew of heroes to counter a gathering threat to the city. The plot draws heavily on some of the tropes of a live-action superhero movie—dazzling fight scenes and blazing weapons battles—but imbues the script with a surprising amount of drama and family tension.

Thanks to brand new technology, "Big Hero 6" featured several characteristics that set the movie apart from its brethren in the Disney catalog. To generate the ambience of San Fransokyo, the studio used something called Hyperion, a cloud-based rendering tool that creates lifelike scenery and lighting.

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Creating the landscape and denizens of San Fransokyo "was a really ambitious project," Driskill explained. "It had Disney's heart and a strong emotional arc, but had the spectacle and…sense of scale and amazement of a Marvel cinematic film," he added. "We were really trying to do both on this."

Disney already has at least 5 more animated projects in the pipeline, Driskell said. Given Big Hero's success, however, will audiences see another installment, or will they be forced into an interminable wait along the lines of "The Incredibles," the 2004 Disney-Pixar smash hit that earned more than $600 million, but has yet to see a sequel?

Driskell was noncommittal. "Directors look for movies they can get excited about," he said. "We'll do a sequel if the folks involved think there's a good story."