Marvel’s Avengers Assemble brings the very popular and quirky superheroes to the Disney XD lineup this summer.
Die-hard Marvel animation fans who’ve been mourning the departure of the animated show The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes will have a new reason to turn to Disney XD this month. Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, Black Widow, Hawkeye and Thor are back in action in Avengers Assemble, which had a sneak peek in May and gets its official kick-off on the Mouse’s action-heavy cabler in July.
The new toon has a very impressive pedigree—it’s written and produced by the famous Man of Action team of Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau, Steven T. Seagle and Joe Casey (Ben 10, Ultimate Spider-Man), and has the same entertaining, breezy vibe that Joss Whedon’s blockbuster 2012 film displayed.
“We take our cue from the most successful live-action movie of all time,” says Man of Action’s Joe Kelly, “We set out to translate that to a show for younger audiences, and humor plays a big role in each episode, but it doesn’t have the same tone as Ultimate Spider-Man.”
Kelly points out that the show has a lot of fun depicting the superheroes as a team of brothers and a sister, who know how to push each other’s buttons.
“They do have a sense of camaraderie, but these are people who don’t necessarily hang out all the time,” he says. “There’s definitely this underlying competition between them, and just like any family, they have a long history together.”
Of course, the animation team has worked extra hard to bring lots of visual zing to the team’s theatrical crime-fighting adventures.
“It’s a high-octane show and we made sure that when they cut loose, when these guys go to town, the Earth really shakes,” notes Kelly. “We want you, the viewer, to really feel that they are the Earth’s mightiest heroes!”
According to Kelly, the characters’ features are more exaggerated and they look like classic Marvel comic-book heroes brought to animated life.
“The designs are nice and chunky and fans will be happy with overall look of the show,” says Kelly. “The CG effects that are laid on the 2D animation [for many of the vehicles, the exteriors of the Avengers' Tower, etc.] are solid and look like nothing that we’ve seen before, thanks to [director Eric] Radomski’s epic feel. It’s a kids’ show, but the kids have seen The Avengers, and they’re trained to expect quality animation.”
For Cort Lane, Marvel Animation’s VP of production and development who also oversaw XD’s Ultimate Spider-Man and Iron Man: Armored Adventures, the show has been a much-anticipated return to a favorite childhood memory.
“I’ve been a huge Avengers fan since I was 10,” says Lane during a recent interview. “That was my first comic book. We really wanted this show to be big and thrilling and touch on many of the themes and qualities that made the film great. We were lucky to have Joe Quesada and Eric Radomski, who brought in a new design team and wanted to create a big, cinematic look for the show.”
Obviously, writing an animated show for Disney XD is quite a different animal than a live-action summer movie.
“The storytelling is going to be very different when you are working on a 22-minute show, but we did want to capture the classic interaction between the characters—how they clash and collaborate,” notes Lane. “We tried to match the comedy, the dialogue, the snappiness and the snark that we all loved in the movie.”
When you have a large cast of superheroes tackling powerful villains and flying to space, it helps to have a rookie character that will act as the viewers’ guide to this wild universe. That’s why the show introduces a bright-eyed, younger character called Falcon.
“He will become very familiar to the fans in the upcoming Captain America movie sequel,” says Lane. “We wanted to introduce him through the show and have him be the relatable character through which we can experience these remarkable adventures.”
Avengers Assemble is also the first show that was produced within the Marvel Animation studio located in Glendale, Calif. The pre-production, the character design, the animatic, the post work all is done at the Marvel studio, with various Korean shops supplying principal animation and color. The producers of Avengers Assemble point out that that while the show’s style relates to the other toons in the recent Marvel canon such as Ultimate Spider-Man and next month’s Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., it has its own unique overall visuals.
When asked about the durability of the characters which were first created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, Kelly says it’s been a long time coming.
“It’s funny, people talk about the ‘overnight success’ of the Avengers films, but in reality, it took over 10 years,” he notes. “Marvel built that franchise one block at a time and built a deep trust with the audience. It’s obviously paid off with the pretty amazing results at the box office, and now we can’t wait for the next one. As far as the characters themselves, we’ve had a lot of training and experience in the films and the comic books. Here we have a team of rivals who might not want to be together, but their strengths complement each other. You want to root for each one of them individually, and once they come together, they are a major force to be reckoned with.”
If there’s a lesson to be learned here is that TV execs need to be more patient about building audience loyalty and less concerned with passing trends du jour.
“I think it’s a very interesting time in animation,” explains Kelly. “Many of the traditional boys’ action shows have faced a lot of challenges, and we’ve seen a lot of shows get pulled off the air shortsightedly. It’s nice to be working at a place that embraces this genre. We do a lot of cool superhero action shows. There are some great comedies and not-so-great comedies out there. People aren’t willing to give the action shows a chance like they used to. At Disney XD, we get to play with Spider-Man, The Avengers, Agents of S.M.A.S.H., and get to build upon what Marvel films have been able to do theatrically. It’s a real safe environment.”
Marvel’s Avengers Assemble premieres on Disney XD on Sunday, July 7.