Marvel and Funko have collaborated to create the first-ever Funko animated shorts, which are just so charming, cute and fun that you’ll want to watch them over and over again. Each of the three shorts – Spellbound, Bait N Switch and Chimichangas (that last premiering December 14th) – are 90 seconds in length and feature some of Marvel’s most popular superheroes and villains, including Spider-Man, Iron Man, Loki, Rocket, Groot, the Collector, Deadpool and Venom.
Of course, after viewing these shorts, we wanted to learn more about them and how they came about, so we got on the phone with Cort Lane, Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Animation & Family Entertainment. During the exclusive interview, we talked about how the idea for this collaboration evolved, how they decided on which characters to feature, which figures he’d like to see in future shorts, balancing the action and comedy, why they chose not to have any dialogue, and the future possibilities for these characters. He also talked about being a life-long Marvel fan, his journey to working at the company, and what’s it like to get to have a hand in developing and producing shows within the Marvel universe.
Collider: These shorts are just ridiculously cute and so much fun!
CORT LANE: Well, I’m glad you think so. Obviously, we feel the same. I do feel there’s really something special here.
Who came up with the idea for this partnership between Marvel and Funko, bringing to life the Marvel Funko Pop! figures?
LANE: This is going to sound very corporate, but I have these big summits, once or twice a year, for Marvel Animation, with all of the lines of business that we engage with and collaborate with, and we talk about what we’re doing with our franchises and our strategic plan, over the next five years. And the products people mentioned that they’re really excited about Funko, as a partner, and the aesthetic is really popular and has a huge fan base. As part of the creative conversation, we said, “Is there something that we could do there?” It brings in a broad range of Marvel fans and Funko fans, and it’s a really unique aesthetic. We’ve had a lot of luck with Marvel/Lego animated content. It drives a really huge audience because it’s special, it’s humorous, it’s different, and it’s got a unique aesthetic. We felt there was something similar, but really different here, too. Funko is even more stylized and cuter and funnier. That was earlier this year in the spring, and Funk was not only game, but they were very excited to do it, so we made it happen. Rarely do things go that well.
Anybody who has or gets one of these figures knows that you can’t just have one, as they become a bit of an addiction. Do you have a big collection of them, yourself?
LANE: I’ve just started because I’m collecting the figures in the shorts. But I have a much more expensive collective hobby, so I have to limit myself. I collect original comic art, and I have a lot of really expensive stuff from the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s. That limits me on starting new collections, or I’d be living in my mom’s basement.
At least they don’t take up a lot of room.
LANE: They don’t, but then you have to decide whether to leave them in the box or take them out of the box. I like to display them all together and create these scenes.
Is there criteria for deciding when to do a feature-length animated movie, a full animated series, shorts for Disney XD, or web shorts, and how did you decide how this project would be presented?
LANE: This was truly an experiment. The first one went live on November 30th, and so far, the reception is huge. It’s very timely because I have another one of those big animation summits, starting on December 7th, and I will tell all of the lines of business that we collaborate with how successful these are. And then, the conversation is really, what’s next? I think Funko is very open to it. I think there needs to be more, in some capacity. What that looks like, there’s a lot of work to do. The audience reception is phenomenal. If I’m ever having a bad day over the next several months, I’m just going to go back to the Facebook and read the comments because they’re so glowing. Fans love you, but they’re also your harshest critics, deservedly so. It’s rare when you work in a business where you create content for fans that the reception is so joyful, and that’s been kind of neat.
With so many characters to choose from, how did you decide which characters would be in these shorts?
LANE: It was really easy. It seems like it would be a hard choice, but we know the characters that are important to fans right now. As we were starting this, Deadpool had just hit really big. I love Venom and I know Venom is probably the favorite villain of most comic fans. We see that, in terms of the audience and the merchandise. Obviously, Iron Man and Spider-Man are really popular right now, and them teaming up seemed really organic because that’s a component of Civil War and everyone knows that Iron Man will appear in a new Spider-Man movie. So, those two connecting with each other and playing off of each other is important. And then, Rocket and Groot are so important for us. There’s the Guardians of the Galaxy sequel coming, and everybody loves those characters. Quite simply, it was very easy.
Are there any characters that you’re particularly looking forward to seeing or teaming up together, if you make more shorts?
LANE: That’s a really good question. I like the vibe between Hulk and Thor. That’s a big component of the next Thor film, so I think that’s one I’d like to see. I’m an old school Avengers fan, so I’m a big Hawkeye fan. I’d like to see Hawkeye playing off of either Captain America or Black Widow. I think Black Widow is the most kick-butt heroine out there, so I would like to see her, in some capacity. Those are some of my favorites, but obviously, I’m not the only decider. Funko has characters that they would like to elevate, and Marvel has characters that they would like to elevate, but there’s really no bad choices. It’s hard to pick, really. These first three shorts were the easiest to see opportunities. I think the next batch, if we do more, will be tougher choices.