Big Hero 6 Costume Design: High Fashion meets Animation

By Joe Kucharski - February 23, 2015

Danny Flynn is a fashion stylist who has worked extensively in music videos, commercials, and editorials. Flynn owns a high-end fashion shop, Replika Vintage, in Los Angeles’ Little Tokyo that specializes in Japanese and avant-garde designer clothing from the 1960s to present. His stock is a go-to for costume designers and stylists looking for unique or unusual pieces. So, when Disney Animation began work on Big Hero 6, which takes place in San Fransokyo (a futuristic highbred of San Francisco and Tokyo), Danny seemed like the most logical fit for costume designer.

Big Hero 6 - Costume Designer Danny Flynn 

As computer animation technology has grown in the last five years, the industry has seen the need for more detailed and realistically portrayed clothing and costume design for lead characters. Disney has worked with character designers that have specialties in costume research and construction, most notably on Brave and Frozen, but until now they have been buried in the Art Department credits with titles such as “Visual Development Artist.” Big Hero 6 marks the first Disney animated film to list a “Costume Designer” in their credits, an exciting leap for the field!

Big Hero 6 - Animation Concept Art - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

 

Like most costume design positions, this was a freelance gig for Flynn. He was called in for multiple interviews with Disney, responding to visual directives and presenting inspiration and mood boards along the way. After landing the job, Flynn met with John Lasseter and the team to start to sartorially inform animators and aid in creating characters. “They gave

me a brief rundown of the characters and I just kind of put together what I thought was interesting and cool,” Flynn explains. “They would call me in just as needed. And I would bring in things I would pull off of every blog, out of my own stock. I brought in lots of pieces from Comme [des Garçons] and Issey Miyake and Yohji [Yamamoto].”

Big Hero 6 - Animation Concept Art - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

 

They began by envisioning the world of the production, and then walked Flynn through the look and feel of the city. “They were showing me here’s the city. Here’s what’s going on. Here’s these bot fights. They basically gave me the city. And then I came back to them- it was very gradual,” Flynn explains. He would bring in images and watch as they interpreted what he brought to the table. Currently living in Little Tokyo in Downtown Los Angeles, and having lived in San Francisco and traveled many times to Tokyo, Flynn was able to quickly process the visual cues of the city and translate them into clothing inspiration.

 

Hiro


“I brought in images for Hiro’s hair and they used that. John Lasseter was like ‘that’s his hair.” And that picture was taken off a kid in Harajuku. It went down to stuff like that.” Inspired by Hiro’s creativity in bot-fighting, Flynn gravitating images of found object fashion. “I brought them a lot of things that kids were making, instead of going to the store and just buying an outfit- an idea of what a kid Hiro’s age would have had access to make. I am a huge fan of Martin Margiela. So, you would have a waistcoat made out of huarache sandals.”

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Images - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Images - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

 

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Image - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

Go-Go

Flynn mixed time periods and genres to bring together dynamic visual references that would inspire both the everyday looks and the Big Hero 6 super-suits. For Go Go’s look, Flynn explains, “I feel like she’s a tomboy. And I brought in a lot of ‘80s boys motocross uniforms, because they’re very graphic. But I also mixed that with Pierre Cardin from the 1960s. He had a lot of these circular pieces at the bottom of pants. So it was things like that.”

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Images - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Image - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Images - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

 

Honey Lemon

Platform shoes and vintage bags inspired him for the more fashionable Honey Lemon, bringing in many samples of each. “I brought in a bunch of platform shoes, particularly those by Giuseppe Zanotti. I had a lot of those. Just crazy. Bright color. Just these crazy types of shoes. And then the bags, most of which were vintage that I sourced online. Kitschy almost. I would find stuff everywhere- from Etsy, eBay, all over the place and just mixed it all together. I brought in everything from [Alexander] McQueen, but they didn’t want her that sophisticated. A little more flirty, cheeky. A little Lolita-ish.”

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Images - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Images - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Images - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

 

Wasabi

For this playful character, Flynn was most excited about how the animator’s used the mix of traditional Asian and street clothing elements he provided. “He was wearing the drop-crotch pants. He was wearing tabi toes too!”

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Images - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Image - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

Yokai

For the intimidating villain, Flynn pulled inspiration from multiple designers and periods, including an array of masks, helmets, and goggles. “Issey Miyake in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s did a lot of pieces that were traditional Japanese- sort of Samurai-esque that I brought to their attention. Very sort of sinister looking. There was also a Pierre Cardin pieces- a man’s suit, I want to say mid ‘70s that had the real strong shoulder and that collar that is really sinister and says bad guy.”

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Image - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Images - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Images - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

 

Baymax

High-fashion meets loveable, cuddly sidekick! When you first see the inflatable health-care companion, you may not think avant-garde fashion, but that is just where Flynn drew inspiration. “For Baymax, I brought in a bunch of fabric swatches- from plastics to even shower curtains. Really random things that I thought could work. There was a Comme de Garçons show called ‘White Drama’ that was super crazy, and everything was kind of that vibe. And I brought in images of that. I had a few skirts that had air pockets inside of them. Plastic air pockets- so they kind of floated in a white semi-sheer nylon. So that is kind of what he was based on. And I know that sounds bizarre, but that’s kind of how I saw him in my head.”

Big Hero 6 - Inspirational Images - Costume Designer Danny Flynn

 

Flynn also provided the animation team an array of neoprene, plastics, zippers, zipper pulls, and buckles to help bring to life believable, futuristic feeling superhero suits. It is exciting to see the world of animation recognize the value of a costume designer in helping to build more realistic characters and clothing for storytelling. Let’s hope other animation studios follow Disney’s innovative lead.

 

A huge thanks to Danny Flynn for sharing his experience and inspirational images with us! Check out Replika Vintage in Los Angeles.

 

Big Hero 6 out now on DVD!

 

Also check out The Art of Big Hero 6 book out now!