News Column

'Avengers Assemble' a Marvel of animation

July 6, 2013

YellowBrix

July 06--LOS ANGELES -- Jeph Loeb and the team with Marvel Television were handed a challenge that only a group of superheroes could accomplish. Their task was to come up with an animated series to pick up where the theatrical blockbuster, "The Avengers," left off. It took Iron Man, Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Hawkeye, Black Widow and Falcon to create the answer -- "Marvel's Avengers Assemble."

The new 30-minute animated tale of the superhero team, being produced by Man of Action Studios, officially debuts at 11 a.m. Sunday on Disney XD. It features the voice talents of Adrian Pasdar, Fred Tatasciore, Roger Craig Smith, Travis Willingham, Troy Baker, Bumper Robinson and Laura Bailey.

"This is the biggest show that Marvel Television has ever taken on in the animation world," Loeb says. "The movie showed that you can do a major motion picture from the books at Marvel that has multiple characters on an epic scale. It also showed us that one of the most important elements is a certain kind of levity. It's the interaction between the characters that really makes the movie as special as it is."

That was the framework. Then the team had to make sure they had the right story to tell, the best group of voice talent available and an entry point into the show for those who may have not see the feature film.

Steven Seagle of Man of Action Studios says that creating interesting stories for the show is easy because all the writers grew up as fans of the Marvel Comics Universe. They haven't pressured to make the stories bigger than what happened in the feature film but to just find the right mix of "the DNA of the Marvel Comics and the movie to create something new."

Loeb adds that the Marvel cinematic universe and the Marvel animation universe both try to stay true to the Marvel mythology without just retelling stories from the comic books.

"Our feeling (was) if this was going to be our show we had to be more adventurous with the characters," Loeb says. "When we approached the Man of Action Studios, we told them we really aren't interested in what has come before except in the way we want to make sure it feels like 'Marvel's Avengers Assemble.' "

"Avengers Assemble" is a huge project but not large enough to be able to afford the likes of Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans and the rest of the stars of the film to voice the animated series.

"What we wanted to be able to do was come up with a voice cast that can bring the fun, the excitement, the epic adventure while at the same time make it their own," Loeb says.

Pasdar was an obvious choice as he' has voiced Tony Stark/Iron Man in previous animation series such as "Ultimate Spider-Man" and "Iron Man." No actor has portrayed the Hulk more than veteran voice actor Tatasciore whose past work includes the animated TV shows "The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes" and "Ultimate Spider-Man" plus the video games "Marvel Heroes" and "Marvel Avengers: Battle for Earth."

"I have been with the Hulk for a long time but each project is different, what you're focusing on, what your tone is," Tatasciore says. He adds that the tone of the new TV series and the relationships are very close to what was done in the feature film.

The series creators wanted to give fans of the movie an entry point into the series, and that's provided by the addition of Falcon to the team.

Robinson has done voice work on other Marvel projects, but this is the first time he will be speaking for Falcon. He wants to be the avenue by which viewers will be able to understand a little more of what it's like to be an Avenger as the Falcon tries to fit in with the group.

Loeb promises Falcon won't be the only character from the long list of Marvel Comics characters that will be assembled for the new animated series.

Here's what the voice talent for the new Disney XD animated series "Marvel's Avengers Assemble" had to say about the show, working together and how the new cable series will be different from past efforts featuring the super heroes.

Laura Bailey (Black Widow) on the cast support: "It would be so easy to come in as the only female in the cast and feel like an outcast. To feel like it's 'boy time' and I'm standing on the outside. But, these guys are so much fun and such good friends to me so it's a joy to get to come in and boss them around."

Troy Baker (Hawkeye) on voicing a character with a secret identity: "Whenever they are showing that secret identity, you are showing more of the humanity and the vulnerability. Whenever you see Clint Barton, it is either A, him being more of a soldier or B, showing his more vulnerable side, especially in the episode when we learn more about his past.

Travis Willingham (Thor) on his character's bond with Hulk: "We might seem to be on opposite sides of the spectrum but in a way, we are part of the same division of The Avengers. We kind of consider ourselves 'The Bruisers' because that's the one commonality the two characters share. That brotherhood of pain and smash."

Fred Tatasciore (Hulk) on how this Hulk's different from others: "I'm a hermit and I like to help people but I don't trust anyone. It always turns bad when I get involved with stuff. Things get hurt and destroyed. This is the first time he has a family, friends, people he actually trusts."

Adrian Pasdar (Iron Man) on creating the voice for his character: "You go in with a preconception of what it's going to be -- all the things you are going to do and how you are going to make it sound. Once you get into the room and you have the script in front of you and the actors next to you, all of that falls away and you end up creating organically. The distance between the abstract and the literal, when you are creating a character that is so iconic, is very small."

Bumper Robinson (Falcon) on acting with only his voice: "It came pretty natural to me. I've been doing it since I was a little kid. My first experience was 'The Flintstones Kids.' I listened to radio shows and I was amazed how I could hear everything -- all the nuances of expression -- without seeing anyone. For me, as a kid, I marveled how that voice talent ability could transfer."

Roger Craig Smith (Captain America) on overcoming a bad audition: "I feel fortune to be here because my audition choice was exceptionally effeminate and British, which turned out to be the completely wrong direction to go with Cap. Thankfully, they gave me a chance to resurrect myself."

TV and movie critic Rick Bentley can be reached at (559) 441-6355, rbentley@fresnobee.com or @RickBentley1 on Twitter. Read his blog at fresnobeehive.com. -- Rick Bentley, The Fresno Bee

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(c)2013 The Fresno Bee (Fresno, Calif.)

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