Disney's 3-D Big Hero 6 to the rescue at the new-look Tokyo film festival

Actors clad in body suits of Ultrman series characters pose on the red carpet for the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival opening ceremony in Tokyo on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Actors clad in body suits of Ultrman series characters pose on the red carpet for the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival opening ceremony in Tokyo on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
American 3D computer-animated film Big Hero 6 executive producer John Lasseter (centre), director Chris Williams (right), and Japanese actress Miho Kanno (left) pose on the red carpet for the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival opening ceremony in
American 3D computer-animated film Big Hero 6 executive producer John Lasseter (centre), director Chris Williams (right), and Japanese actress Miho Kanno (left) pose on the red carpet for the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival opening ceremony in Tokyo on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Japanese actress Rie Miyazawa (left), who performed in the film Pale Moon, is greeted by fans on the red carpet for the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival opening ceremony in Tokyo on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
Japanese actress Rie Miyazawa (left), who performed in the film Pale Moon, is greeted by fans on the red carpet for the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival opening ceremony in Tokyo on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP
South Korean actor Kim Soo Hyun waves to the press as he walks on the red carpet for the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival opening ceremony in Tokyo on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
South Korean actor Kim Soo Hyun waves to the press as he walks on the red carpet for the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival opening ceremony in Tokyo on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Japan's animation character Doraemon (centre) arrives with children on the red carpet for the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival opening ceremony in Tokyo on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 
Japan's animation character Doraemon (centre) arrives with children on the red carpet for the 27th Tokyo International Film Festival opening ceremony in Tokyo on Oct 23, 2014. -- PHOTO: AFP 

Tokyo (Reuters) - Hello Kitty and Doraemon anime characters strutted their stuff on the red carpet on Thursday, as Disney's Big Hero 6 kicked off a new-look Tokyo film festival that taps into Japan's love of animation.

The 27th Tokyo International Film Festival, which runs from Oct 23 to 31, will hold special events alongside the main festival, including a "cosplay summit" and a Japanese food fair aimed at promoting Japan's cultural and content industries. Big Hero 6, Disney Animation's next big feature after last year's hit, Frozen, centres on the bond between 14-year-old Hiro Hamada and inflatable robot Baymax, as they and their friends battle a Kabuki-masked villain who has stolen Hiro's microbot technology.

The 3-D comedy-adventure, which screened out of competition, takes place in the futuristic city of San Fransokyo, a mash-up of San Francisco and Tokyo, and Japanese viewers will easily recognise the influence of Tokyo life and landmarks in the film. "The film has such a strong Japanese influence. It really is a love letter to Japan," Don Hall, co-director of Big Hero 6, said on the red carpet at Tokyo's Roppongi Hills. "So to have it coincide with the Tokyo film festival, it's probably the perfect place to debut it," he said, explaining why the Tokyo festival was picked for the world premiere.

Big Hero 6 is only the second animated film to open the Tokyo festival, and is the first Walt Disney animation movie to do so.

Other anime highlights include a section on the works of Evangelion animator Hideaki Anno. Super Mario creator Shigeru Miyamoto will premiere in 3-D his Pikmin Short Movies, based on Nintendo's Pikmin game characters.

Japan is keen to boost its cultural exports and tourism by promoting its entertainment, fashion and other creative content under the government's Cool Japan Initiative. This year's festival will host a World Cosplay Summit for fans who dress up as their favourite anime and manga characters, and leading Japanese chefs will work the kitchen in Tokyo Cinema Cuisine trucks.

John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Disney Animation and Pixar, will hold a talk on Cool Japan.

Fifteen films will vie in the main competition section for the festival's top Sakura prize. Five are world premieres, including the lone Japanese entry Pale Moon. Many others are making their Asian premieres after screening at Toronto and other festivals, including French-Belgian crime thriller The Connection, starring Jean Dujardin (The Artist, 2011), and drama 1001 Grams, Norway's Oscar submission for Best Foreign Language Film. Guardians Of The Galaxy director James Gunn heads the competition jury.

Reflecting the greater emphasis on anime and superheroes, costumed characters mingled with movie stars on the red carpet. "I managed to see some actors in person, but I also got to see Ultraman and anime like Doraemon, as there were a lot of them, so I was really surprised," said 20-year-old Chinami Kaneko.