Someday Disney’s gonna whiff. Someday kids (and parents) across the country will flock to a movie theater, and they’ll be met with an average Disney movie. It has to happen at some point, right?

The Mouse House’s latest offering is Big Hero 6, loosely based on the Marvel comic, and it’s easily the most inventive, smart, and heartfelt animated movie of the year. (Forget the fact that it’s been a particularly blah year for animated movies and just hear those superlatives.)

The star of the show is Baymax, a robotic hybrid of a pillow, a balloon, and a first aid kit. No, he’s not as marketable as, say, Lightning McQueen or Despicable Me‘s Minions, but he’s got more heart and character than most of his colleagues, and he’s certainly more memorable.

Baymax (Scott Adsit) is the work of engineering student Tadashi Hamada (Daniel Henney), who designed him as “healthcare companion”, but when Tadashi dies unexpectedly (offscreen), his younger and equally STEM-minded brother Hiro (Ryan Potter) inherits the robot. As with most Disney movies, there are of course nefarious things at play, and soon Hiro and Baymax find themselves, along with Tadashi’s old school buddies, fighting to save the day.

It’s a simple enough story, but the creativity with which co-directors Don Hall (2011’s Winne the Pooh) and Chris Williams (Bolt) tell it is just this side of astounding. There hasn’t been a script this simultaneously clever and hilarious in a good long while. Sight gags and crisp jokes abound, but refreshingly none lower to the level of potty-humor, and even something as simple as Baymax’s version of a fist bump is so perfectly executed that its fourth or fifth go-round still had the audience in stitches.

The script by Monsters U. co-writers Robert L. Baird and Dan Gerson (with help from Jordan Roberts) also takes the right amount of time to slow things down and let some real emotion shine through, from Hiro’s struggle with his brother’s passing to a third-act revelation that had me this close to tearing up a little. This close.

From start to finish, Big Hero 6 is yet another (yawn) testimony to Disney’s decades-long winning streak in the world of animated goodness. Frankly, though, it even goes beyond the start and finish. The pre-show animated short Feast is Disney’s best since Paperman, and the post-show stinger is well-worth sitting though five minutes of credits for.

Someday, Disney. Someday.

4.5/5 stars