‘What if…?’ Marvel’s voice cast details and animated future – the Hollywood reporter
Brad Winderbaum spent much of 2007 sitting in a hot trailer in Playa Vista, Calif., Listening to Kevin Feige, Jon Favreau and Robert Downey Jr. tell the story for Iron Man. Winderbaum, then assistant to Marvel’s CEO Louis D’Esposito, often heard the team ask a fundamental question about storytelling: “What ifâ¦ this happens?” Now Winderbaum, recently promoted to Head of Streaming, Television and Animation at Marvel Studios, is set to ask that question again with What if â¦? (starting August 11), the studio’s first foray into animation on Disney +.
While Marvel comic book animated series have been made since the 1960s, this is the first animated show under the direction of Marvel Studios boss Feige, who was overseen in late 2019 with a promotion that took him on. Seen taking the reins of television from former television boss Jeph Loeb. . As a result of Feige’s promotion, Marvel shelved most of its list of four animated series planned for Hulu (only MODOK, along with Patton Oswalt, survived).
Like a lot of Marvel things, What if â¦? in some ways, aims bigger than other animated franchise expansions. The show borrows its name from classic comics that take Marvel’s famous storylines to knock them down. He asks questions such as, and if the leader of the Guardians of the Galaxy, Star-Lord, was Black Panther protagonist T’Challa?
The series has recruited renowned vocal talents such as Samuel L. Jackson, Jeremy Renner and the late Chadwick Boseman and already has a second season in the works. Winderbaum estimates that around 85% of voice actors are those who have performed the roles in live action projects. (Scarlett Johansson, who recently sued Disney for Black Widow box office profits, Downey and Captain America actor Chris Evans are among those that have been recast.)
âWe favored performances with similar sounds,â explains Winderbaum. “We were trying to find people who could bring real depth to the voice beyond just the sound of emulation.”
Animation has proven to have a learning curve for the company and Winderbaum. Marvel’s live-action projects are surprisingly nimble, with on-set writers polishing the dialogue on the fly. âAnimation requires so much more forethought. You have to lock in a lot of things from the start, âsays Winderbaum. “It was a whole different muscle that we were flexing.” Marvel is now joining a growing stable of franchises using animation to extend payouts between live releases, such as Fast and furious spy runners and Jurassic World: Crustacean Camp for Netflix and Star Trek: Prodigy for Paramount +.
Creatives and executives also see these series as a way to bolster streaming services or expand their brands to younger audiences. âWe are doing something that will allow children who may not be quite ready for jurassic park, which is a scary movie, to be able to get their dinosaur fix, âsays Jurassic World filmmaker Colin Trevorrow, who executive produces Crustacean Camp.
Comic book artist-author Todd McFarlane has spent years getting a Spawn film (1997) but found that his’ 90s HBO animated series kicked off a longer-term relationship with fans. âThe movie came out, lasted two or three weeks, and then the question is, ‘What now?’ McFarlane recalls. “For the next three years, they managed to find their solution with animation.”
But unlike Universal Jurassic World or Quick, which could go years between installments, Marvel has grown into a year-round provider of shows and movies. The studio is such a well-oiled machine that animation is in some ways more of a challenge than live releases, which now have around four movies and five TV shows a year. âIt takes a long time to produce animation. Every image has to be rendered with a certain quality, âexplains Winderbaum. âWhen you shoot something, you capture so much animation much faster in live action. “
Marvel is betting on animated shows like What if â¦? could provide entry points for fans who were not born when Iron Man have come out or attract an audience that may not have seen Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) and are encouraged to watch it after seeing the first episode, which imagines Peggy Carter (Hayley Atwell) as the Captain America-esque figure Captain Carter.
For the time being, What if â¦? focuses on characters who have already appeared in live-action. But the history of animation has notable examples of popular characters who first appeared in animation before becoming famous in live-action. Harley Quinn made her debut in the 1990s Batman animated series decades before she debuted in Suicide Squad, while fan-favorite Ahsoka Tano appeared in animation in 2008 before Rosario Dawson made the leap into live-action in The Mandalorian season two. Now Dawson is leading a live action Ahsoka spin-off for Disney +, with sources saying Lucasfilm is looking for an actress to star opposite Dawson as Mandalorian warrior Sabine Wren.
But perhaps the closest analogue of What if â¦? it’s the 60s Star Trek: The Animated Series, which featured the voices of the live cast. âIt wasn’t canon and then it kind of got canon because so much was done on this show that became a part of the universe,â notes Michael Niederman, television professor at Columbia College. Chicago.
While other shows have yet to be made public, Marvel is also stepping up its animation efforts for Disney +. Winderbaum confirms that there are opportunities for the live-action and the animated series to intersect. âAll of Marvel Studios’ projects are kind of linked,â he says. âThere is always potential. “
A version of this story appeared in the August 11 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. Click here to subscribe.