Animated Shorts: The Voices of the Next Avengers

The cover to the Marvel Animation direct-to-DVD feature 'Next Avengers'

One of the key concepts of the recently released direct-to-DVD Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow was to introduce a new generation of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. One could say the same for the movie’s voice cast. Yes, it has some of animation’s top veterans but also its share of v.o. rookies.

Among the vets are Tom Kane, Fred Tatasciore, (who Marvel’s Craig Kyle calls “the Hulk for life.”). and anime veteran Brenna O’Brien, who’s past work includes Elemental Gelade and Inu Yasha.

“I was really lucky to get into the business,” Kane recalls. “I just happened to come in during the tail-end of the careers of some amazing icons when they were still working such as Mel Blanc and Daws Butler. I started 22 years ago, and that was just at the time of the animation renaissance, too.

Actually, how Kane broke in to the business is a story in itself.

“I was doing voice over work when I was 15,” he recalls. I started by doing commercials, locally, in Kansas City. I knew I wanted to do cartoons. Now one thing that happened is I have a brother who is ten years younger than I am. One day I was watching cartoons with him and I got really pissed off at the poor quality of the cartoons that were on, especially the Hanna-Barbera stuff.

“Anyway, there was a TV clip on the news about the sad state of TV animation and how something should be done about the state of children’s animation. So I was bored and wrote a letter to the TV station agreeing with that, including saying how horrible the toons I watched with my brother were. Even then I could tell they were using about the same voices over and over again.

“A few days later my phone rang and it was a radio station in the state of Washington. They said they wanted to interview me about that letter. It seems it went all the way over to the FCC. So I was interviewed.

“Apparently it got back to Hanna-Barbera,” says Kane. “They sent me a letter saying that if I was so upset maybe I should call them. So I picked up the phone and called them. So they hooked me up with this woman who they told me was one of their producers. So I talked to her for a few minutes. She was understandably kind of hostile. I mean here was this punk kid from Kansas criticizing the quality of her work, especially the show Jabberjaws, especially the voices. I even went so far as to say that I could do better than them. Mind you I didn’t know who Casey Kasem or Daws Butler were. So she said if I thought I was so good at it, maybe I should come out to Hollywood and do cartoons. I said ‘OK I will.’

“Now fast forward about 15 years, and I’m doing a Scooby Doo episode at Hanna-Barbera. I was sitting next to Frank Welker recounting the story. When I then mentioned an example of what I thought was an absolutely brain dead cartoon I said Jabberjaws. I called it the stupidest thing I ever saw. That got Frank to just laughing. Finally, he looked at me and went (in Jabberjaws voice) ‘Jabberjaws, eh?’ Then he told me I was absolutely right.

“Then he asked me if I knew who was probably the producer I talked to?” Kane concludes. “He explained to me that at that time, there was only one woman producer at Hanna-Barbera. It was Jayne Barbera, Joe’s daughter. I guess I was fortunate that she had a good sense of humor or I wouldn’t be here today.”

A conversation with Kane that while the man has a thorough knowledge of those who preceded him, he also has equal respect for contemporaries like Tatasciore.

“I love him,” Kane admits. “He’s a big teddy bear of a guy. He’s done Hulk for a while now, and the fans just freaking love him. Let’s face it, there’s not a whole lot of range in that role. How many different ways can you say ‘Hulk Smash!’? But he does, and he manages to imbue it with a little bit of flavor each time. And this time in particular he had to do it old, which was a twist on everything. Fred and I have read with recently, on the upcoming Wolverine & The X-Men. He is the Beast there.”

“Playing Hulk is really one of the most physically demanding roles I play,” says Tatasciore, who’s career goes as far back as looping for Jackie Chan in the movie Project A (1985). “It really wears me down because I have to physical-ize everything I do. Playing him is just extreme.”

”I’m a real fan of the work. When I was growing up reading comics I loved the Hulk as a character. So it’s so funny to get a part that you’ve been into all your life. The thing about the Hulk is he’s really a pretty blunt character. He’s very to the point. If you don’t do it right it can end up being a very comic role. It’s a real work out though.

“What I really like is they let me take everything I know about the Hulk and try to make sense out of it.,” says Tatasciore. “It doesn’t hurt that Craig Kyle also has a great understanding of it. He’s also such a joy to work with. As an actor that really helps me do my work. That really helps get all the inside feelings of the Hulk out.”

The rookies include Noah Crawford (James Rogers, Young Earl in My Name Is Earl), Aidan Dummond (Pym, Gabriel in The Collector), Dempsey Pappion (Azari, lots of supporting roles on TV) and Adrian Petriw (Hawkeye, Mitch in Edgemont High).

“I have just gotten into it. I had done a few auditions and this is my first major job,” says Petriw. “My agent gave me a call. I was on the set of another thing I was doing. It was then a top secret project. My agent didn’t even know what it was, all he know was my character’s name was Hawkeye. Being a comic book fan, I immediately knew that it had something to do with the Avengers. The Avengers wasn’t one of my mainstay titles. I really read Batman or X-Men, a lot of Spider-Man, too. You read them, you run into the Avengers eventually.”

“I will say all the kids did a bang up job,” says Tatasciore. “We were all in different places. It was amazing Gary (Hartle, the director—ED) managed to put it all together.”

It was also a leaning experience for the newbies, as Petriw would readily admit. He admits having Hartle around was important.

“He was really cool,” said Petriw. “He’s this big guy in a cowboy hat and I’m this little guy. I loved that he really could talk about comics. He really helped guide me. When it comes to acting, I have a lot of experience and at its core it’s really the same thing, even if the technical stuff is different. The goal is always to play the character as accurately as possible. The Marvel guys helped me fine tune it and made sure it was appropriate.

“The one thing I did learn when I started was I was being too subtle. I forgot people could see what I was doing with my hands and such. At the same time, it really helps to get as physical as possible. When we were doing the fight scenes, I had them show me the sketches so I could do the same gestures in the booth. It helped me get the authentic sound and feel.”

Petriw also admits one thing he had as opposed to Kane and Tatasciore was he wasn’t in complete isolation.

“I’m in Vancouver,” he stated. “Most of the veterans like Tom Kane and Fred Tatasciore work out of Los Angeles. I did have some of the younger cast with me, like Brenna O’Brien, who played Torunn, and Aidan Drummond, who played Pym. So we got to play off each other there.

“It was incredible. Craig, Gary, Chris and everyone from Marvel were really passionate about their work. They also really know their stuff. Even though it was my first animation project, they were there the whole way to make me feel at home. Even if I had to do a line 20 times, they made me understand they were doing it to make sure it was absolutely perfect.”

How well did it work out? A critical scene in the film is when Tony Stark (Kane) finally has an opportunity to sit down and talk about the original Hawkeye, Clint Barton, with the new one, Francis (Petriw). Stark states that there would have been a moment where Barton Sr. would have punched him in the face and then went on with the mission as Stark planned. Barton Jr. turns around and says “So you DID know my father!” What matters is one can’t tell if the interplay between Stark and Barton is radio style or, as it really was, isolation. That’s the it should be.

“Yes. Obviously I wasn’t there when Andrew recorded his part of the scene,” says Kane. “I’ll give you a dirty little secret. Most of the time, when we record a project like this, we don’t read the script, we just read our lines. A script for a direct-to-DVD movie is usually an 1 ½” thick and we just don’t have time for it. I don’t. That’s why they have a director. He knows the entire script.”



Showing just how international animation has become, the Stuttgart Film Festival has just put a call-out for animated submissions for its next exhibition, which is set for May, 2009.

Submission Deadlines are:

• December 01, 2008 for the categories: International Competition/Young Animation/Tricks For Kids Animated Series/Animovie

• January 15, 2009 For The Categories: Under Commission/German Animation Screenplay Award

Attendance at the fest includes 50,000 viewers, 1,500 professional visitors and over 500 films. Together with FMX – a conference for experts and interested people dealing with animation, visual effects and digital post production – and its 6,000 accredited guests, the Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film has emerged as one of the most important events and meeting platforms for animated film around the globe.

Thus the Stuttgart Festival of Animated Film offers an ideal forum for filmmakers and producers to present their work to a wide audience.

The Festival awards more than 52,500 Euros in total for cash prizes in the altogether six competition categories, which, in 2009 will again be accompanied by an exciting and comprehensive supporting program. The now established business platform Animation Production Day (APD) - held in cooperation with Michael Schmetz Mediaconsult – will be entering its fourth round. The Animation Coproduction Forum Eastern Europe – held in cooperation with the Robert Bosch Foundation – will take place for the second time.

You are invited to submit films produced after October 1, 2007, for one of the following competition categories. Please make sure to adhere to the above mentioned submission deadlines as well as the rules and regulations for entries

You can download all submission forms, rules & regulations as well as the call for entries for the German Animation Screenplay Award at

For further information please contact Ms. Andrea Bauer:

Online submissions can be made at as of October 1, 2008.


Film- und Medienfestival gGmbh

Schlossstrasse 84

70176 Stuttgart


Phone: +49-711-92546-0

Fax: +49-711-92546-150

For more information.

Next Column: Kane, Petriw and Tatasciore talk more about Next Avengers and some other upcoming Marvel projects.

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