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In "Big Hero 6," new tech helps create movie magic

From the same people who brought us "Frozen," "Tangled" and "Wreck it Ralph," Disney's latest animated film "Big Hero 6" opens in theaters this week. The movie is packed with all sorts of futuristic technology like flying robots and telekinesis. But to create this fanciful world, producers say they had to develop brand new technologies and software programs.

When Hiro and his robot friend Baymax swoop onto the screen, moviegoers will enter their imaginary world, a futuristic and highly detailed mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo. The filmmakers did everything they could to make it look authentic and deeply dimensional.

"There are 83,000 unique buildings. There are a quarter million trees," Kyle Odermatt, the film's visual effects supervisor, told CNET's Kara Tsuboi.

Visual effects artists created more elements for this film than in their previous three films combined. They wanted to create a fanciful, imaginative, realistic-looking city and ended up building new software they called Denizen to keep catalogue all the different details.

Odermatt explains: "We really wanted to create hundreds and hundreds of unique characters so we could create a crowd without you seeing the same character over and over."

Another major challenge in an animated film is to make the light look realistic.

"In these virtual worlds, we have to do mathematical calculations for every bounce. For every ray sometimes there's 10 billion rays per frame," said Andy Hendrickson, chief technology officer of Walt Disney Animation.

A new software program producers call Hyperion did the heavy math for "Big Hero 6."

"There's a subtlety of how the light interplays with the objects and a richness in the film that I just, quite frankly, haven't seen in a lot of films," Hendrickson said.

Disney producers say this is the most tech-focused film they've ever made.

"In the film there's 3D printing, there's all kinds of advanced robotics. Neurotransmitters, being able to pick up peoples' thoughts," Hendrickson points out. Tech that helps Hiro and his friends beat the bad guys -- with a little help from some tech behind the scenes.