Long-running Marvel characters Hulk and Thor had some of the most memorable scenes in 2012's massively successful Avengers feature film, culminating in Hulk punching Thor for no good reason (other than the fact that he's the Hulk) in the middle of the movie's fateful alien invasion of New York City.
The new animated series Avengers Assemble, debuting this Sunday on Disney XD, is all about trying to bring some of that Avengers movie magic to television, and with that comes the unique interplay between Thor, voiced by Travis Willingham, and Hulk, played by Fred Tatasciore — reprising the role from multiple past projects including The Avengers: Earth's Mightiest Heroes, Hulk Vs, the Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction video game and more. (He's also voicing the Hulk in the upcoming Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., also debuting on Disney XD this year.)
At a press junket in Burbank, Calif., Newsarama sat down with both Willingham and Tatasciore to discuss their roles on Avengers Assemble.
Newsarama: Fred, Travis, the voice actors are all recording together for Avengers Assemble, which is somewhat rare for a series like this, correct?
Fred Tatasciore: It can be rare.
Travis Willingham: There are times where it's [solo], and you kind of just play off of what's been recorded before. But I think the shows that really try to get that ensemble feel — because it definitely changes when everybody is in the same room — they try to have us all in there. And it's nice, because we go six to nine or 10 deep sometimes. Which makes it kind of a mad house
Tatasciore: That's true. I would say that it's rare that you have everybody. I'll do a show where group reads are pretty common, but to have nine, 10, 12-deep, that's rare. And it does feel like a play reading or radio.
Nrama: What do you think are the particular advantages doing things this way? What makes it distinct and unique?
Willingham: One thing I really like is that it's really trying to incorporate the relationships of the characters from the movie. So Thor and Hulk are always at odds — who's strongest, who can defeat the most enemies in battle. Thor looks at Hawkeye as kind of this [guy who] talks a lot. A lot of talk, less action. He admires Iron Man and his technology, but can refer to him as the "Man of Iron" still.
Tatasciore: That's my favorite thing, Thor getting the names wrong.
Willingham: "Son of Coul" for Coulson, all that stuff. "Man of Spiders."
He's still trying to acclimate himself to Midgard. He hasn't fully found a home there yet, and being that all the Avengers are sharing the Avengers Tower now. As you'll see in the episodes going forward, that's something unique that you haven't quite seen yet. You've seen it in comic books, but you haven't seen it in the movie, you haven't seen it in an animated series. They're out of the mansion, obviously, which has been demolished.
Tatasciore: It's the relationships. The way we're recording, it really is wonderful when I get to see Thor, and interact with my friend here. It's real acting, which is really just reacting. You get to discover things. Yes, we're at odds, but what comes out of the Thor and Hulk relationship is a brotherhood. It starts as one thing and sort of develops, because the characters start to evolve together, and it's great to do it in the room. It's like playing music.
Willingham: It's also fun to watch the actors take on their characters' personalities, because it physically materializes in the room. You see Roger putting his hands on hips during his line, and you see Adrian starting to get this cocky swagger going on. Fred just about attacks the microphone every time.
Tatasciore: It just brings more life to it when you do it in a group like that.
Nrama: Obviously the characters had such a fun dynamic in the movie, as likely best illustrated by Hulk punching Thor for pretty much no reason right in the midst of the climax. Should viewers look forward to more of that type of interaction?
Willingham: Absolutely. In the first two episodes they've already shown, it's there whenever there's a spare moment to kill. Who's going to get bragging rights?
Tatasciore: It's sparring for the next battle. And they're the only two people who can spar together, really.
Nrama: Since Avengers Assemble is obviously heavily influenced by the movie, what's the balance in terms of performance? Presumably you want to be reminiscent of the film actors, but it's a different thing, a different medium. What's the synthesis?
Willingham: It was very important for me to pay homage to Chris Hemsworth's vocal performance. There have been a lot of iterations where he's a lot grander, very royal, very, very British. We're pulling the British accent back just a little bit, but we're keeping that tone that Chris has — that really warm and commanding, future leader of Asgard-type sound. That was very important to us to establish.
Tatasciore: I would say it set the tone for me as well, because I've played Hulk in a different variety of forms. I'm a little less savage and a little more humorous than the movie. But definitely [Mark] Ruffalo set the tone for Banner for me. Fortunately, we're in the same vocal range and attitude.
In terms of Hulk, there's a little more interplay and relationship, and some things in the movie he wouldn't necessarily do now. He's just a hair evolved. But not much. He's now a real team player. That's a big thing for Hulk. Hulk has found a family. Normally [in Hulk voice] he'd be alone.