Brad Winderbaum (head of Marvel’s streaming and animation) and Ryan Meinerding (head of visual development) were on deck at SDCC to talk about several animated programs on the horizon from Marvel. Packed into Ballroom 20, the room was filled to the brim with Marvel fans of all stripes looking to get a closer look at future animated projects. Moderated by Paul F. Thomkins (who, coincidentally has a speaking role in an upcoming cartoon), this is Marvel’s first animation panel, which illustrates how much weight Marvel’s animated output has begun to receive within the company. Winderbaum noted that, like many fans in the room, his first introduction to Marvel comics was via the animated programs. For him, it eventually resulted in his career: “growing up watching cartoons was my gateway to cinema.”
First up, the upcoming I Am Groot series of shorts written and directed by Kirsten Lepore. Made up of comical all-ages shorts in young Groot’s life, the first five episode are complete and will be released August 10th on Disney+. Marvel is currently working on a second season.
Next, more information about the forthcoming Spider-Man: Freshman Year. For this animated series, Jeff Tramell discussed how they went back to the character’s roots with a Ditko-inspired design for the character. Nico Minoru, from the hit Runaways comic, will be Peter’s best friend, with additional appearances from Dr. Strange and Daredevil helping Peter along the way. The cast of characters are multiethnic, reflecting the reality of Marvel’s fanbase and reach. Additionally, the villain bench includes redesigned mainstays of the series, like Norman Osborn. He went on to note, “we are gonna see what happens when Peter’s greatest enemy becomes his mentor.” As Peter Parker is still coming into his own as a hero, he will wear many different suits as he fumbles through his freshman year.
Spider-Man: Freshman Year will drop in 2024.
Marvel Zombies had ample interesting character reveals with Kamala Khan being promised in the upcoming series. Bryan Andrews said “they are not shying away” from what made the comics a fan favorite, keeping the gore and tone of the series in its animated incarnation.
What if…? season 1 tipped its toe into the multiverse, and season 2 promises to cut deeper into corners of the Marvel mythos. In addition to the teased characters and designs, it is clear lesser-known narrative possibilities will be explored in the upcoming season. After playing season 2’s trailer, AC Bradley specified that careful viewers likely recognized Gaiman’s renowned 1602 series. Even though the second season has yet to hit Disney+, a third is already in production.
The show that had the biggest reaction from the audience came from X-Men ’97, the follow-up to the acclaimed animated series from the ’90s. Series writer Beau De Mayo noted the importance of the Fox program, arguing that “the MCU wouldn’t exist if this show wasn’t made.” After revealing the characters starring in this new series (with Magneto in classic purple costume leading the team), he promised that this new season will do the original justice. Reflecting on being a gay man and an adopted child, he connected to the ’90s program, stating that “this show is what really taught me to be who I am.” The show is still in production, so no finished animation was shown, but an animatic was presented to the audience. The program will premier in the Fall of 2023.
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