SDCC '08, Marvel's Craig Kyle on Future of Animation, p2

Blog@: "Hulk Vs." Ani Movies Coming

In part one of our interview, VP of Marvel Animation Craig Kyle and I focused on the upcoming Next Avengers DVD, which will be released last September.

Of course, that isn’t all that’s coming. As mentioned in part one, there’s the second season of Spectacular Spider-Man, the upcoming Hulk Vs. D2D, the Wolverine & The X-Men, and Iron Man TV shows.

Did I mention that all of this is due out between September and January?

Well, read on fellow believers (as Stan the Man would say). Mr. Kyle has a lot to say:

NRAMA: Craig, one thing I’m sure you’ve noticed is there are all manner of new avenues for animation to be seen in. Are you and Marvel exploring those avenues as well?

CK: Yeah. At the end of the day Marvel wants to find every way to bring our characters to the fan. We are open to internet possibilities. That's why we started the Direct-to-DVD program, which was a way to bring adventures we couldn’t do for TV. Even though we are doing Saturday morning series, they are all kind of different projects. One is for older fans, another is for younger. We’re looking for every option. If the fans support us, we’ll be the first to make sure it happens.

That’s why Lionsgate is such a great partner. They have been very instrumental to getting stuff to the fans.

NRAMA: Well, the way I was thinking is with shows like Li’l Bush, which was originally delivered through cel phones. Then it went on to be a series. Are you exploring similar new delivery systems?

CK: Every success like that opens new roads to explore for us. That’s how we look at those things.

NRAMA: Getting back to Saturday mornings, congratulations on the success of Spectacular Spider-Man. The ratings sure made it a great debut.

CK: Thank you. Again, what really did it was a very, very talented creative team. Greg Weisman, Vic Cook and Cheeks Gonzalez, everybody over there, did a beautiful job. They turned over every comic book rock and page and storyline to really sweeten the series. It didn’t matter how small a detail was, they used everything they could to make a diverse yet Spider-Man-authentic series they could come up with. Obviously, we’ve been really thrilled with it. I would like to take some credit, but those guys really deserve all of it.

NRAMA: Anything on season two? I’m sure fans would like to know if you’re working on one.

CK: We certainly are. Production is well underway. As far as where you are going to see it next, that’s to be continued. Not to preempt your question, but we’re all very anxious to find out. Suffice it the fan support has been tremendous.

NRAMA: So it doesn’t sound like the Kids WB at this moment.

CK: Not at this moment.

NRAMA: On the other hand, I’m sure you’ve seen some of the scripts. How are the new episodes shaping up?

CK: They’re great. Understand we still have that 26-episode arc in mind. The new episodes will be broken up in chunks much like the first 13. Still, there’s definitely an overall thrust to all 26 that comes to a head in the end. It will be tremendous. Really great. Each arc really gives you a chance to enjoy the bigger threads while each individual episode doesn’t ignore the smaller ones. If you enjoy the first 13, you’ll definitely enjoy the back 13.

NRAMA: So when do you see an ETA for an announcement for the back 13? Maybe at Comic-Con?

CK: I’m the wrong guy to ask. I’m the guy who helps on the creative end of things. There are other guys who are working on that kind of stuff. I don’t have any kind of update on that. I’m as anxious as anyone else because I know what the fans are missing.

NRAMA: How about the DVDs shortly coming out?

CK: They are going to be fantastic. I think they will cement that this is a series people are going to look back on and enjoy.

NRAMA: Now moving on, how is Wolverine & the X-Men developing? Based on what I’ve seen so far it looks like serious eye candy.

CK: Very well. We are nearly finished with the first 26. I imagine in the next few weeks we will be completely wrapped on the entire show. I’m real proud of it.

NRAMA: Does it have a destination yet?

CK: Yes. It’s going to be on Nicktoons starting January, 2009. Internationally, it will actually be starting a few months ahead of us. It should be on the BBC as soon as August.

For me, that was a real work of passion. I’m an X-Fan first and foremost. I also got to work with two of my favorite people in the business; Greg Johnson, he and I developed that series; and Boyd Kirkland, who was brought in after about the sixth script was written.

Boyd really took charge of the series and came back with a truly beautiful piece of work. I mean Boyd was amazing. The show was struggling for a little while. Not from the story point of view, but we were trying to find that one who could connect where we left off in the 90s. When Boyd became available that’s when the visuals finally matched what the stories were. Then Adria, our designer, did a beautiful job of designing the series.

NRAMA: Didn’t Boyd also work on X-Men: Evolution?

CK: He did. He, Greg and I all worked on that series. We all got together starting with season two and on through the end of the show.

Now people who perceive this is a sequel to that show, I want to say that absolutely no way is it tied to X-Men: Evolution. This is a completely new series. We want you to consider it on its own. It really is trying to be the series the fans have been looking for since the last series went off air.

NRAMA: Now I understand Steve Blum is the voice of our man Logan, or whatever you call him these days.

CK: He sure is. You know we came across Steve when we were working on the Marvel Ultimate Alliance game. Now that he’s been cast in this role, he’s pretty much got the job and no one else. He IS the voice of Wolverine for us. After you hear him, anyone else in that role just doesn’t work. He was tremendous. He does the best fight reactions of anyone I’ve ever known.

I mean he’s worked for years on anime projects and still continues to. Yet he’s also an incredibly sweet guy. Hugely talented. From the moment he stepped in he owned it. He just elevated the whole series from the very first episode.

NRAMA: The next major project I wanted to talk to you about is Hulk Vs..

CK: If there’s a series I got into this business to do, it’s Wolverine & the X-Men. If there’s a movie, it’s Hulk Vs.. To some of the fans are probably saying ‘Eh! Next Avengers is kids stuff’ we say give us a chance and you’re going to be delighted with this. This project is saying we’re trying new things.

We’re actually doing two short films. They will go as far as we can push these. The concept was how do we get them to the incredible action and storytelling that the best comics have done. So to do this we asked ourselves, what are people dying to see? That’s the fights.

NRAMA: Well, let’s consider. The first fight between Hulk and Wolverine became so memorable it established a new superhero in your universe. That was also one very graphic fight. Did you have to tone it down?

CK: We do not have Wolverine get torn in half. That is probably the one thing we do not do. Other than that, we didn’t pull any punches. You want to see lots of adamantium claws carving deep through lots of green irradiated flesh, you get it. You want to see Hulk smash to death, you get it. This is the fight that was shown in the various comics shown throughout all the years. We did our homework to find all those beats that made them so spectacular.

At the same time, we wanted to bring a new version to life and laid them with a bunch of surprises that no one will see coming.

NRAMA: So how do you frame this whole thing? Is the Wolverine fight its own freestanding story?

CK: You bet. The story is definitely broader than just these two guys going at it for 33 minutes. I will not say why or how. I will say about 13 minutes in, the surprises will start hitting really hard, and I’ll leave it at that. In fact, I look forward to the surprised looks on people’s faces when they come in and see the thing. That can’t get here any sooner.

NRAMA: Now what’s this?

CK: We’re going to show the whole thing at San Diego Comic Con.

NRAMA: So are you doing this as one 33 minute film and releasing the Thor fight separately?

CK: Both films are finished. We are actually in the process of working on the extras and how we are going to release them. There are possibilities of doing another one after them, but that’s up to Lionsgate. But the Wolverine and Thor films will be packaged together.

Now the Thor tracks out at about 45 minutes, a tad longer. Yet I will also say that we never turned a tighter story than with Thor and Hulk. It really should be called ‘Hulk v. Asgard.’ Hulk will actually go face to face with every known entity in the Thor franchise.

NRAMA: Now is this the one that Frank Paur was working on?

CK: Frank was absolutely involved. He oversaw both of them. He and the lead director they boarded and directed everything. They went over everything to make sure the guys at Madhouse knew exactly what they wanted. Frank even came up with design styles. From soup to nuts he was there.

NRAMA: So you went to Madhouse, eh? They’re a pretty spectacular studio for action.

CK: Yeah, and the work they gave back is just exceptional. We have incredible respect for these guys.

NRAMA: So when is the target date for Hulk Vs.?

CK: It’s January, 2009. I don’t think we have an absolute date set yet, but it’s January ’09.

NRAMA: So it sounds like January is going to be a very critical month for you.

CK: Yeah. It’s great. I mean Steve has become identified as the voice of Wolverine for us, as has Fred Tatasciore for the Hulk. He’s also the Beast in the coming series.

NRAMA: What about the Iron Man animated series?

CK: This is a slight re-imagining of how his life started because of a lot of the things that worked so well in the live action film can be a little tough when you do them as a Saturday morning series. All we basically did is start his heroic life about 15 years earlier. He’s in his teen years.

There are no board rooms, no business meetings, no womanizing or alcohol. Tony is still a great hero who builds the armor and is kept grounded by Rhodey and Pepper. He also takes on classic villains like the Mandarin, Crimson Dynamo and others from his hall of rogues.

NRAMA: I understand his father is still involved.

CK: Initially. His dad is taken out, which kind of thrusts Tony into his situation. Part of it is figuring out what happened to his dad.

It’s an all-CGI series, which is the first time we’ve done that since the MTV version of Spider-Man. It’s being done by France’s Method Studios. They are a very talented studio. Again, I think the initial reaction from the older fans will be to try to get it off the air, but if they give it a chance they will see it’s a great one too. Aside some shifting of ages, the characters are very true to their originals.

NRAMA: Isn’t that going to Nicktoons also?

CK: It’s also going to Nicktoons. Chris Yost thankfully came on board and is the head writer of the series.

NRAMA: So overall, how do you feel about the state of Marvel Animation?

CK: You know, I’m real proud of where we’re at right now. It’s all really going to pay off with Next Avengers, but in 2009 it’s going to be a huge year for Marvel Animation.

Again, the last four films of the first eight have shown how far we have come. You’ll see how much further we’ve come with these latest two. I hope we continue to do more such stuff in the future. I also hope the fans embrace Wolverine & the X-Men and the new Iron Man the same way the took to Spectacular Spider-Man.

COMING SOON: Denys Cowan on the upcoming Black Panther series, as well as some Hannibal and Cypha news..

Related Stories:

Craig Kyle on the Future of Marvel Animation, Part 1

Twitter activity