After a sneak preview over Memorial Day weekend, the Avengers are back on duty for the official debut of the new animated series Marvel's Avengers Assemble (Sunday, July 7, 11am/10c, Disney XD). In May's teaser two-parter, Iron Man, Captain America and Co. discovered a growing threat from a gang of villains who are teaming up to defeat them. To better deal with this menace, the Avengers decide that shacking up will improve unity and training. "They don't always get along in action, so you can imagine how they get along living together," says Cort Lane, Marvel's vice president of animation development and production.
Iron Man becomes the team leader, with Captain America, the Hulk, Thor and Hawkeye his key teammates. "Black Widow is there, too, but she is mysterious and a bit opaque," Lane says. "The boys have trouble understanding what her agenda and motivations are." The roster also expands beyond last year's Avengers movie with the addition of Falcon, a former S.H.I.E.L.D. agent trained by Tony Stark (aka Iron Man). "As a rookie character, he brings a sense of wonder and awe that viewers, particularly kids, have in watching the Avengers," Lane says. "He's the guy who brings his mother's cookies to an Avengers meeting."
Snack time will probably be short-lived, given what's coming. "The Cabal — that's what we call our group of villains — are a formidable threat," Lane teases. "They include Red Skull, MODOK, Dracula, Attuma and some others that I will not give away just yet. And a very major Marvel villains does not join, but is involved and becomes a wild card in our ongoing story."
Avengers Assemble is part of Marvel's big push in animation, and is using the movie as a template for success. "We worked really hard to find the right balance between human proportions and heroic proportions and a really dynamic cinematic look on the show," Lane says of the art direction, which was led by animation vet Eric Radomski (Batman: The Animated Series). "We wanted an epic look in terms of how we fill up the screen and how we stage the action. Even the sound effects and music are meant to have a huge movie feel."
Lane promises the series has the same "snarky humor, epic action and interesting character dynamics" that made last year's film a blockbuster. "For a fan of the movie, this could feel like a sequel."
Here's an exclusive sneak preview from Sunday's episode, "Ghost of a Chance," with the team facing off against Space Phantoms.