Wreck-It Ralph

Director: Rich Moore (2013)

Smashing its way through several levels of fun, this fun-filled blast of candy coloured, sugar flavoured confection from Disney is inspired by old video games.

Genial giant Wreck-It Ralph, voiced by John C. Reilly, is the unfairly maligned bad guy of an arcade game called Fix-It Felix Jr – a lot like the 80s gaming classic Donkey Kong.

At night after shut-down the other characters socialise in their penthouse. Ralph, left all alone, starts to ponder his lot in life and goes to a support group.

He confesses that after 30 years he doesn’t want to be the bad guy any more. Ralph decides to ‘turbo’ – arcade-speak for invading another game.

So he breaks into another machine – a violent and scary shoot-’em-up called Hero’s Duty, before landing in a racing adventure called Sugar Rush.

But Ralph going missing means Fix-It Felix Jr is considered broken – putting the lives of its other inhabitants under threat. What’s more, during his hopping around between games he inadvertently lets loose a computer virus which threatens the existence of every game in the arcade.

Teaming up with tiny, racing-obsessed Vanellope von Schweetz (Sarah Silverman), Ralph begins a digitised adventure with a quest.

Combining the insane world of arcade games with the upside-down logic of Alice in Wonderland, the film generates slapstick fun as it powers its way through its own levels.

The animation is mind-blowingly good, with tremendous amounts of invention, but it is all a bit too sickly sweet and garish.

Also, Vanellope’s rival King Candy (Alan Tudyk) is more fun than von Schweetz or Ralph. But Glee’s Jane Lynch is on great form as the tough-talking, space marine commander.

Oscar-nominated Wreck-it Ralph was made by people who obviously have a deep love of arcade games.

They have great fun dropping in cameos with Pac Man, Sonic, Q*bert, Frogger and old favourites from Street Fighter all turning up. But there’s more than enough to enjoy even if you don’t get the references.

Like the title character, this film is a digital hard-nut with a soft centre. Bright and cheerful, it will keep you entertained all the way through to Game Over.

Big Hero 6

Director: Don Hall, Chris Williams

Robots and superheroes collide in this dazzling dayglo delight from Disney.

Beautifully animated and pop bubblegum fabulous to look at, it’s hilarious, joyous and thrilling.

At heart a touching tale of friendship, it’s alive with loveable characters, great jokes, exciting battles and gizmos and gadgets galore.

In the futuristic fusion city of San Fransokyo 14 year old Hiro (Ryan Potter) is a self-taught robotics genius who lives with his older brother Tadashi (Daniel Henney) and their Aunt Cass (Maya Rudolph).

Hiro spends his time winning money in illegal backstreet robot bouts (think TV’s Robot Wars but far more exciting).

Meanwhile Tadashi’s developed an inflatable talking robot healthcare companion called Baymax (Scott Adsit).

Soft talking and slow moving, it looks like a walking marshmallow and the animators have great fun with his ungainly girth and relentlessly gentle manner.

Tadashi and the wily professor Callaghan (James Cromwell) use reverse psychology to persuade the contemptuous prodigy Hiro to apply to college.

When Hiro demonstrates his newly invented, hugely powerful microbots, smooth-talking tech-entrepreneur Alistair Krei (Alan Tudyk) wants to buy to them.

But after Hiro rejects the offer there’s a mysterious fire that kills Tadashi and Callaghan.

Obeying his programming to heal, a warm and humorous bond slowly develops between Baymax and Hiro.

Jokes are cleverly constructed with the audience laughing at the same time but for different reasons such as when Baymax’s low battery causes speech and mobility impairment. Hiro has to smuggle him home in the manner of drunk teenagers sneaking in.

As Hiro grieves, his remaining microbot mysteriously activates leading he and Baymax to discover a factory making thousands where they’re attacked by a Kabuki-wearing stranger, massively menacing in dynamic expressionless splendour.

Escaping with the help of his nerd-school friends, Hiro upgrades Baymax with fighting abilities, armour and powered flight. His sensors lead them to a quarantined island, where they find industrial espionage and military conspiracy.

With industrial espionage, military conspiracy and an epic battle, it embraces noble sacrifice, death, grief, puberty and err, fart jokes.

With Disney owning Marvel Studios it’s allowed to be all very meta.  There’s unmistakable Iron-Man references, a Stan Lee cameo and the final showdown nods at 2012’s Avengers Assemble.

Taking charge of Pixar and has given the venerable Disney Studio an insulin boost of creativity, producing a wonderfully fresh if unexpected high point. Pixar now are relegated to junior partner producing inferior sequels to the hits of yesteryear.

Mashing up East and West in the cultural melting point in the fictional San Fransokyo is not only a canny ploy aimed at capturing the important Asian market but is clearly creatively driven by a love of Japanese cinema.

Japan’s Studio Ghibli is a driving influence both in tone and style. There is more than one wink to the masterpiece My Neighbour Totoro, notably in the Fat Cat restaurant owned by Hiro’s Aunt Cass and in the end credits.

But Big Hero 6 also has sufficient strength of character and identity to be franchise in it’s own right which is certainly the aim.

Just as in a Marvel movie it’s worth staying until the very, very end – by which time I was so enamoured of the movie I wanted my own Baymax.

I guarantee your kids will too.

P.s. In the manner of Pixar the main feature is preceded by the short cartoon Feast, an enjoyable lightweight snack that will whet your appetite for the main course to follow.

★★★★★