Want an example of how the Save the Cat Beat Sheet is used? Let’s go over one of my favorite movies of all time, Big Hero 6!
Opening Image: The film opens with the sprawling city of Sanfransokyo, a city that resembles San Francisco blended with Tokyo and other Japanese culture.
Set-Up: Hiro Hamada spends his time building homemade robots to fight in illegal underground rings. Not only is Hiro smart, he is clever. He tricks everyone into thinking that he is just a clueless kid, and he wins us over as he defeats the current champion in a robot fight. He is threatened for the win, but his older brother Tadashi comes to his rescue.
Theme Stated: Tadashi scolds Hiro for his actions, noting that while he is brilliant, he needs to use his brains to help people. Hiro appears to be content wasting his life and talents away. Unless Hiro decides to do something with his intelligence, he will never make the mark he is capable of. Hiro will have to learn how to use his intelligence to face impossible odds, relying on his friends to help him persevere.
Set-Up (continued): After arriving home, Hiro is greeted by his Aunt Cass, who has raised the two boys after their parents had died. Hiro asks Tadashi to take him to another illegal robot fight. To Hiro’s surprise, Tadashi agrees, but instead takes him to his university, which Hiro calls “Nerd School.” Honey Lemon spends her time concocting chemical combinations. Go Go Tomago experiments with speed, building a cycle that uses magnetic wheels to eliminate friction. Wasabi has designed lasers that can slice through anything, while Fred is simply a friend who hangs around due to his interest in science (and comic books).
Tadashi shows Hiro his project, an inflatable robotic healthcare nurse named Baymax. Baymax is guided by a chip Tadashi made, and he even seems to have a personality. Hiro meets the esteemed Professor Callaghan, Tadashi’s mentor. All of this intelligence in one room excites Hiro and invigorates him, and he wants to apply to the university.
Catalyst: To get into “Nerd School,” Hiro must invent something to show off at the university’s exhibition, his ticket to earning a personal invitation to attend as a student.
Debate: Hiro must decide what to invent. He struggles with creating something that will amaze Callaghan and those in attendance, and his brother encourages him to look at things from a different angle.
He works tirelessly, filling container after container with his inventions until his makeshift lab in his garage is full. On the day of the exhibition, he arrives, nervous, as he prepares to unveil his creation. But will it be enough to garner him an invitation?
As the time comes to present, Hiro takes to the stage. Using a headband that functions on his brainwaves, Hiro unveils his invention: microbots that swarm and can form whatever he thinks of. The invention clearly amazes the crowd, as well as Tadashi’s friends and Professor Callaghan. They quickly accept Hiro into their fold as one of them.
As the evening ends and Hiro heads home with Tadashi, the exhibition hall erupts into flames. Tadashi runs back in to save his mentor, but an explosion rips through the building, killing Tadashi.
Break into Two: After the funeral, Hiro sits in sadness. While getting up, he stubs his toe, and Baymax inflates and scans him, attending to his “injury.”
B Story: Hiro is at first annoyed by Baymax, especially when Baymax notes Hiro’s sad emotional state. However, it is through his relationship with Baymax and Tadashi’s friends that Hiro will learn the meaning of friendship, sacrifice, and perseverance.
Fun and Games: Hiro hears something under his bed and finds a stray microbot wiggling around. He assumes it is malfunctioning, but Baymax notes that it is probably trying to get somewhere. Nonchalantly, Hiro tells Baymax to find out why. Of course, Baymax obeys the command and walks out into the street. Realizing his mistake, Hiro hurries after him, fully entering the antithesis of his world. Now, he will encounter science being used for evil rather than for good, and he will truly need to put his intelligence to the test.
Baymax locates where the one microbot was leading: an abandoned factory. Hiro and Baymax enter, finding that someone has stolen his microbot design and has been reproducing them. He realizes that his microbot was just trying to join the swarm as it was programmed to do. No sooner does he figure this out than the swarm begins to attack him, guided by a mysterious man in a Kabuki mask.
Hiro and Baymax escape, and when the police do not take him seriously, Hiro decides to upgrade Baymax, using a 3D printer to make armor for him and uploading a chip of his design, one that gives Baymax fighting abilities. With the super strength provided by Baymax’s metal skeleton, Hiro is confident that he will be able to take down the man in the mask.
Baymax, however, is more concerned with Hiro’s emotional well-being at the loss of Tadashi. Referring to his programming, he notes that one method for overcoming sadness is spending time with others, and he calls Tadashi’s friends. Meanwhile, Hiro uses the lone microbot in his possession to find the man in the mask. The microbot leads him to a dock, and the Kabuki man emerges from the water, rising on a pillar formed by the swarm. Hiro tries to fight him using Baymax, but it is clear that he is out of his league. Just in time, his friends from the lab arrive, having been called by Baymax. They drive through the city, barely escaping the villain, until their van plunges into the river.
Midpoint: The man in the mask assumes they are dead and leaves. However, Baymax inflates and carries them to safety. Drenched and freezing, Hiro and his friends go to the only safe place they know: Fred’s house. Though he seems to be a bit odd, it turns out that Fred’s family is extremely wealthy. This wealth will come in handy for the team soon. Also, Baymax notes that he had scanned the villain, as his programming requires him to scan every individual he comes in contact with. This gives the team an advantage, as they can use the medical records to learn the individual’s identity. This appears to be a victory for the team, but it is a false victory, as the stakes have raised and evil is tightening its grip.
Bad Guys Close In: Hiro has a plan to determine the identity of the masked man. If he can upgrade Baymax to scan the whole city at once, they can learn the villain’s identity. Using the resources at his disposal, Hiro upgrades not only Baymax, but each member of the team. Focusing on the invention each team member has created as seen in the Set-Up, Hiro gives them their own super abilities. Honey Lemon now has a lot of chemicals at her disposal, allowing her to create whatever the moment calls for. Go Go is fitted with a suit and wheels that allow her to move and to attack quickly. Wasabi gears up with gloves that can project laser blades from his hands, and Fred gets his ultimate dream: a monster suit that allows him to leap high and breathe flames.
Baymax gets new armor along with the ability to fly. Hiro rides along with him, using super-powered magnets to hold on. After an initial test of their abilities, Hiro and Baymax fly high, resting on top of one of the city’s many balloons. Baymax scans everyone at once, ultimately finding the villain’s lair: an island off the coast.
The team arrives at the island and finds the remnants of what looks like a scientific experiment. Furthermore, a video screen shows an image of Alistair Krei, and the team rewinds it, surprised at what they see. In the video, Krei conducted an experiment using teleporters and a test pilot, but when he was warned of abnormal readings, he continued anyway. Something went wrong, and the pilot was lost. Hiro and the team believe that Krei is the one who stole the microbots after showing great interest in them.
When the man in the mask confronts them, the team uses their abilities to stop him, but it is not as easy as they had hoped. Eventually, they remove his mask and the neurotransmitter, and it is revealed that Professor Callaghan is the villain.
Enraged that his brother died trying to save Callaghan, Hiro takes Baymax’s nurse chip out, leaving only the one Hiro programmed. He tosses the nurse chip away, ordering Baymax to destroy Callaghan, and Baymax obeys, throwing everyone aside in his mad fury. Honey Lemon scrambles to find and insert the chip back into Baymax and does so, barely saving Callaghan’s life.
All Is Lost: Callaghan takes back the neurotransmitter and escapes. All Is Lost for Hiro as he is overcome by his anger and grief. The whiff of death is in the air as he realizes that his brother died for nothing, and now the villain has gotten away. Hiro also faces the whiff of death as he realizes that he almost allowed himself to cause the death of someone else, giving in to his anger rather than thinking rationally as his brother would have wanted.
Dark Night of the Soul: As Baymax, now back to normal, flies home with Hiro, Hiro attempts to remove the nurse chip again. He wants his revenge, but Baymax will not open the compartment, asking if killing Callaghan will make him feel better. Hiro realizes that it will not, and Baymax projects a set of videos Tadashi made. The videos show him programming Baymax despite the difficulties he initially had, yet he persevered. As Tadashi tells Baymax, “I’m not giving up on you,” it seems like he is speaking directly to Hiro.
Arriving to find Hiro, Honey Lemon and the team show him something they had found: the video reveals that the test pilot was Callaghan’s daughter, and he was present at the experiment. Just like Hiro, Callaghan wanted revenge. Hiro knows what he must do, taking what he has learned from both worlds: he must rely on his brains to stop Callaghan, not brawn and force, the synthesis of both worlds.
Break into Three: Realizing that Callaghan will try to get revenge on Krei, the team goes to stop him at a public event.
Finale: Callaghan uses the microbots to bring the teleporters to Krei’s company, trying to take away everything Krei has built. Hiro and his friends try to stop him, but the microbots are too powerful. Hiro notices that he can use the portal to break the microbots away from the swarm, rendering Callaghan powerless. He has used his intelligence to solve the problem, and the plan works, defeating Callaghan.
However, the portal is about to explode, and Baymax scans the portal, finding signs of life inside. Callaghan’s daughter is alive, but in a state of hypersleep. Hiro and Baymax enter it, finding her and rescuing her. Baymax is damaged, and he will not be able to leave with Hiro, but notes that his rocket-powered hand can propel them to safety. Digging down deep, Hiro learns to let go and tells Baymax that he is “satisfied with his service,” allowing Baymax to deactivate.
Back in Tadashi’s lab, Hiro stares sadly at Baymax’s gloved fist when something catches his eye. Inside his palm, Baymax has placed his personality chip. Finding another of Tadashi’s prototypes, Hiro inserts the chip, bringing Baymax back.
Final Image: Now complete, Hiro and his friends have become a superhero team, the Big Hero 6. Just as his brother had admonished him, Hiro has learned what it takes to persevere and to use his intelligence—and his heart—to serve and to help others.