From the classic and courageous Spider-Man to Earth’s Mightiest Heroes and more, the recently established Marvel Animation Studios is sharing Marvel Universe’s most beloved characters with a new generation through high-action, humorous, and electrifying animated series. Since getting the green light less than one year ago on a new animation studio in Glendale, California, Marvel Animation Studios has been busy building from the ground up, even moving into new offices this past January.
Marvel Animation Studios recently invited D23 to check out their impressive new digs in Glendale, California, which are aptly decorated with colossal characters from the Marvel Universe—a massively muscular and hammer-wielding Thor guards one wall, a high-flying Spider-Man scales another. “It’s our gift to the building,” Eric Radomski, senior vice president, Animation Development and Production, Marvel Animation Studios, explains with a chuckle. In between developing new series and assembling a team of talented animation professionals, Eric took time out to tell us a little bit about the genesis of Marvel Animation Studios, what‛s on the horizon, and what he’s most proud of thus far.
D23: Can you tell us a little about the creation of Marvel Animation Studios?
Eric Radomski: It began as a development studio that subcontracted actual production work to smaller studios. It had the same goal as it does today: to showcase the iconic Marvel characters that everybody knows, through the art of animation.
Can you talk about your hit animated series Ultimate Spider-Man, which debuted this spring on Disney XD?
Eric: Spider-Man was my first project here. We were limited the first season by the amount of characters we had available to us to build stories around. The first season was really about introducing a new audience to Peter Parker and this new incarnation of the character. Pre-production plowed forward and we focused on developing the series’ unique 2D/3D hybrid production design, as it would set the standard for all of our animated series going forward.
And since then, you’ve continued to develop shows around these characters we all know and love.
Eric: Yes. There was a very specific request from Marvel to continue to develop the characters audiences have come to know and love from several of the recent successful Marvel movies. Iron Man is the best example of a Marvel character that struck a chord with a very broad audience. We’ll continue to develop animated versions of our most popular characters as long as the audience demands. Because there was a desire to develop a variety of properties, we really focused on strong storytelling and unique graphics in order to preserve the integrity of the characters.
What are the benefits to having your own studio?
Eric: It allows us a lot of creative control. That’s necessary, especially when you’re handling these iconic properties. The biggest goal for anyone working on these shows is not to screw it up [laughs]. It’s a matter of doing your job well, but you really want to preserve the integrity that’s been built into these properties. We thought a studio would be a really obvious and smart way of protecting all of the brands. Teaming up with Disney’s support and global reach was a perfect opportunity to really exploit the brand in a positive way.
So you’ve been building it from the ground up.
Eric: That’s pretty accurate. It came from that grain of an idea. It just makes sense for production. Television compared to long-form movies—it takes two or more years to make an hour-long movie, while we’re literally making 26 half-hour episodes in approximately nine months. The amount of content is overwhelming. Hopefully you’ve hired the right people so that production works well and everybody is happy.
And Ultimate Spider-Man is one example of this.
Eric: Correct. For Marvel Animation Studios, because we’re working with pre-existing content, the real effort is to try and build a better mousetrap. We try to preserve the real core values of all of the characters. In the case of Ultimate Spider-Man, it’s focusing on Peter Parker and Spider-Man, so the core concept of where the character came from was not going to change, but there was a very specific effort to change the time frame when we were going to portray Peter Parker. With animation, you can take some liberties with that time frame. Even though he’s in high school, it’s still a very contemporary time; it’s not a period piece.
What are you most proud of thus far?
Eric: All of these new series we’re developing fit perfectly into the Marvel Universe. They all will look similar in terms of design. But the storytelling, the individual directing and scripts, will be unique to each series. The main focus right now is getting the studio up and running, which we’ve done over the past six months. We’ve been adding staff for the past two months. Marvel Animation Studios is an opportunity for Marvel to shine. And what better support and partner to have than Disney?
By D23′s Sarah Smith