FX Civil – Big Hero 6

I have always been fascinated by the incredible visual effects in blockbuster movies and video games. FX Civil is where I break down a movie or video game that implemented civil engineering and architecture in a believable and incredible way. I hope that we can learn from case studies of amazing special effects such as these but, let’s be honest, these types of visuals are just awesome and should be appreciated. While Civil FX is the art of approaching special effects from a civil engineering point of view, FX Civil is where we approach civil engineering from a special effects point of view.

It feels as if every time you watch the latest 3D animated adventure by Pixar, Disney, Dreamworks or anyone else, that you leave with the assurance that the visual effects you just experienced cannot be topped. It seems as if the worlds can’t get any more realistic and amazing.

And yet they always do.

If you haven’t yet seen Big Hero 6, you probably should. I have the excuse of ‘hey, the kids want to watch it’, but I’m sure most anyone interested in movies, superheros, science, technology or engineering will find something to love in this recent work by Disney. It is an incredible blend of art, entertainment and storytelling.


But FX Civil isn’t about praising the latest great movie just because it is great. No, this is where we approach these multimedia adventures from a civil engineering perspective. As we at Civil FX strive every day to make transportation, construction and other proposed civil projects as realistic and attractive as possible, it is a treat to see how the professionals (with a seemingly endless budget, I suppose) make infrastructure features come to life.

The uniqueness about BH6 is that it is set in a city that is a blend of fiction and reality. It is the city of ‘San FranSokyo’ and is a blend of San Francisco and Tokyo. You can clearly see that this city was created entirely in 3D so that the animators and storytellers could explore it as part of the script as necessary.


San FranSokyo is a work of art all in itself. The artists obviously didn’t have to be constrained by design or reality like we do with raised freeways and mega skyscrapers that would break any municipal budget, but there are still moments where you realize that the city is still grounded in reality. The most prominent of these examples is what is obviously supposed to be a likeness of the Golden Gate Bridge. The bridge is obvious to anyone familiar with San Francisco yet the artists still managed to add some Japanese features so that you know you aren’t exactly in San Fran.

The first flight of Hiro and Baymax is the best opportunity to explore this vast and incredibly detailed city. During this clip you see that there are almost every type of infrastructure feature you can imagine from detailed roads and intersections to raised rail with futureistic trains and even a blast of renewable energy with huge, floating wind generating apparatuses that become a focal point of the end of this scene.

I doubt that anyone reading this has access to the kind of budget used to create such an incredible 3D world, but there is much to be learned from this animated adventure and if history is any indication, the technology will continue to become more affordable and available to the rest of us as time goes on.