The action-packed epic space adventure following a ragtag group of misfits is getting animated, when Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy premieres on Disney XD on September 26th. Featuring the hugely popular characters introduced in the highly successful Marvel Studios film of the same name, this newly formed team made up of brash adventurer Peter Quill, aka Star-Lord (Will Friedle), expert fighter Gamora (Vanessa Marshall), rough-edged warrior Drax the Destroyer (David Sobolov), the always angry Rocket Raccoon (Trevor Devall), and the humanoid tree of few words known as Groot (Kevin Michael Richardson), are on a mission to track down a very powerful weapon that they must keep out of the hands of those who would abuse its great power.
Collider (along with a handful of other press outlets) was recently invited over to the Disney XD offices to screen the first two episodes of the show – “Road to Knowhere” and “Knowhere to Run” – and to chat with those responsible for bringing it to life in animated form. Although this is its own story and not a sequel to what was set up in the film, it definitely captures the spirit of the characters and promises to expand on the team’s space adventures, while they cross paths with both familiar and new characters. Here is a list of 16 things to know about Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy animated series and what it took to put this show together.
They’re approaching things a bit different with this animated series, essentially entering into Phase 2 of Marvel Animation. VP of Marvel Animation Development and Production Cort Lane said, “We’re upping our game, in terms of the way we approach animation. Obviously, tonally, this is a little different from the other shows. I think you’ll see some tremendous production value in the show, as well. It’s a real hybrid of character animation, lots of CG assets and a lot of visual effects composited together, so it’s a slightly different approach for us. We have a creative energy that’s coming across on this show, and with some of our shows in development.”
- These Guardians are different from the ones that we’ve gotten to know in the feature film, but it does capture that spirit and energy. They’re calling the characters feel-alikes. VP of Marvel Animation Stephen Wacker said, “We worked on our series before the movie was even out there. Once we saw the movie and saw the direction that James Gunn and everybody was going with it, we decided to change course and make our show match closer to the film. I do believe the way we’ve staged it with the other series, if you accept the fact that this is the beginning of the team, as it goes on, it will all line up.”
- When it comes to licensing the songs, Lane said, “We started development on this show, a year prior to the movie’s release, so the first thing they did was read the script, which already had pop songs noted in it. We listened to them while reading the script and we knew immediately that we had to find a way to bring that element to the show. It’s not only tonally important, but it’s an important character element to Peter Quill.” They had a library of thousands of songs from the ‘70s to comb through and decide which songs would suit the show and the stories they want to tell, and that have lyrics that are appropriate for their audience. From that, they came up with a list.
They cast the character voices before the movie was released. Lane and Wacker had seen rough cuts of the movie, so they knew what the performers sounded like, but they didn’t want people who sounded like them. They were just looking to represent the characters’ personalities, and they kept in mind that they were casting a team. Even though they work from a script, it feels very improvised because they have so much fun recording their voices together.
- While none of these actors are strangers to voice-over work, some of them have already voiced their characters in other Marvel projects. Will Friedle has previously voiced Star-Lord for his appearances in Marvel’s Avengers Assemble and Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. Trevor Devall has previously voiced Rocket Racoon for Marvel’s Avengers Assemble and Ultimate Spider-Man. David Sobolov has previously voiced Drax the Destroyer for Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Ultimate Spider-Man, Marvel’s Avengers Assemble and the Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes video game. Kevin Michael Richardson has previously voiced Groot for Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H., Marvel’s Avengers Assemble, Ultimate Spider-Man and the Disney Infinity: Marvel Super Heroes video game.
- Friedle expressed how challenging it was to follow Chris Pratt as Peter Quill/Star-Lord. “After watching that movie and knowing that I was going to be doing this, the only thing going through my head was, ‘You can’t be Chris Pratt.’ I just had to go in and do something completely different and just try to be myself, or it would have come off like a terrible Chris Pratt impression.”
Devall auditioned for this long before he knew about the movie, so all he knew about the job was that he’d be voicing a little angry raccoon. And then, he saw the movie and found out it was Bradley Cooper, and he got worried. Said the trick to it all was that the cast makes it their own thing.
- Marshall thought Zoe Saldana was amazing in the role of Gamora, and she wanted to pay homage to her performance by bringing out that same energy and her curiosity, as an alien. She believes that the characters are so strong and such cool archetypes that you can plug into that without just repeating the performances from the live-action movies.
- Richardson said that, even though he only says “I am Groot,” you’d be surprised by how many inflections he has to make with those three words. He just tries to stay as far away from the feature as possible, so that he’s not doing a Vin Diesel impersonation.
- Some of the actors also turned to the comics, in developing their characters. Marshall dug into the older ones, as well as the current ones, and really enjoyed reading them to get more of a flavor for the world.
- When it comes to approaching the humor, the line for Marvel comes in keeping the heroes heroic. Because these are anti-heroes who are a little weird, they can push that line a bit further, but they still have to do the right thing.
- Each of these individual characters have pasts that are very dark, and they’re broken people. That said, comedy is the texture you put on top of that. They’re all searching for something, but at this point in the story, they’re not sure if they are a team. They’re still feeling things out with each other.
They can dig very deeply into the Marvel cosmic universe on this show, but they draw from the same pool of characters as the films do. The show is a scavenger hunt through space, so you will get to meet other characters and alien races. They’ve also had discussions about some of the other Guardians members, from throughout the publishing history, because they are pulling from the comics.
- Wacker said that they used the film as a jumping off point for the animated series, and they’re going off in a different direction because they have to, as they’re doing a 26-episode season before the next film comes out. They’re in contact with the filmmakers and know what’s going on over there, but this is not a sequel.
- When asked if they’ll answer what exactly went on between The Collector and Howard the Duck, Wacker said, “Not quite. We’ve talked about Howard, but we have nothing to announce yet, on the Howard front.”
- The Marvel animated series generally have a theme that travels throughout the entire season. This show has more plot elements that travel throughout the entire season, with the chase and the scavenger hunt that they’re on. That said, the episodes do still stand alone with one-off adventures. By the end of the season, there will be a big dramatic change to the team that people have been demanding in the Guardians world, for a long time.
Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy animated series premieres on Disney XD on September 26th.