By Marc Strom
This week on “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble” the world met its (Dr.) Doom as the villain rewrote history to get rid of all the pesky super heroes that stood between him and world domination!
With only Thor left to remind the heroes of who they once were, this episode packed in tons of surprises including a guest appearance from Spider-Man, voice acting legend Frank Welker’s debut as Odin, and even a cameo from the Punisher!
With all that going on, we spoke with the series Supervising Producer Cort Lane and Casting and Voice Director Collette Sunderman about Doom, bringing the show’s voice cast together on a weekly basis and much more!
|Doctor Doom conquers the Earth in "Marvel's Avengers Assemble"|
Marvel.com: In all of our animated series, you’ve been building Dr. Doom up as a big bad for the Marvel Animated Universe. What led you to give him such a prominent role?
Cort Lane: First, he’s iconic. Second, in “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble,” the Cabal represents a central storyline to the series. But Doom creates this really fascinating counterpart because his ego is so tremendous that he will not join the Cabal. That means he has to step up his game to take over the world before [they do], or he needs to take over the Cabal. You see that in the series as [he employs] various [schemes]--more desperate plans, time travel, magical objects--as if he’s been lying in wait for many years, but now he realizes there’s a ticking clock thanks to Red Skull and the various members of the Cabal. It created an interesting opportunity with our storyline for the season to see the repercussions of that throughout the Marvel Universe thanks to Dr. Doom.
Marvel.com: Collette, with Doom, how do you find the right balance between making him sound iconic and threatening without having him tip over into a more hammy villain, particularly with his more exaggerated accent?
Collette Sunderman: That has been a problem, but with Maurice LaMarche you [can] pretty much count on his focus on the character, and you just let Maurice go. There’ve been times, I have to admit, and Cort can probably agree with me, where we’ve had to rein him back in because Maurice is such a great theatrical actor that sometimes he’s gotten too grandiose. But he does a pretty great job of it.
|Thor enters Planet Doom in "Marvel's Avengers Assemble"|
Marvel.com: Speaking of the room when you’re recording, I had a question about this episode in particular--was that Fred Tatasciore voicing Bruce Banner as well as the Hulk?
Collette Sunderman: That’s correct, it was Fred. We all discussed it and we thought that made the most sense.
Marvel.com: So how’d you go about refining the Hulk’s very big, gruff speech to Banner’s more refined tone?
Collette Sunderman: I don’t know that it was much of a formula other than talking to Fred about the character. And of course Fred already is Hulk on so many different levels that he’s researched Bruce Banner before. And I think he’s actually voiced Banner before, am I not right on that, Cort?
Cort Lane: Yeah, but very rarely, and not in quite a long time. We wanted him to go full on scientist/nerd for this version. But Fred is remarkably versatile, which people don’t realize because he plays the Hulk so much. He plays cops and nerds and monsters, he has a tremendous range. Collette gave him the direction to get him there because it’s so different from what we normally expect from him.
Collette Sunderman: Fred was more than happy to jump in and do something other than the Hulk. Again, he’s an amazing actor, as versatile as any of them. So being able to do this, he was actually a little giddy about it.
Marvel.com: On the more visual side of things, Cort, I noticed the character designs in the “Doom World” for Falcon and Hakweye were very reminiscent of their costumes from the Ultimate Universe, and with Spider-Man there was a hint of Spider-Man Noir. What drove those choices?
Cort Lane: The wonderful thing about the Marvel Universe is yes, there are the classic versions of the characters, but then there are so many iterations through the last several decades that we can look at as inspiration for any variations we need to create in the series, rather than start from scratch. So yes, [there’s] a little bit of Spider-Man Noir, but even moreso with Falcon and Hawkeye we were influenced by the Ultimates versions. The Ultimate Universe is fairly dystopian and this is as well, so it made a lot of sense.
|Hawkeye makes his way through Planet Doom in "Marvel's Avengers Assemble"|
Marvel.com: Collette, given that this entire episode takes place in a sort of “alternate present” where all the characters are different versions of themselves, were you and the actors very conscious of changing the heroes’ voices and personalities?
Collette Sunderman: Actually, since we were about halfway into the season, by this time everybody pretty much knew their characters inside and out, including Drake Bell who came over from “Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man” [and] had more than half a season already. They actually were having more fun on this particular episode because they were able to relax their characters a little bit. [They weren’t] so much the super heroes with hands on hips as a little bit more lax.
Cort Lane: I would just add [that] we record our cast together, which not every show does, so that there’s a great character dynamic. They’re really wonderful, dynamic personalities in real life as well as when they play these characters, and Collette is amazing at getting through a four hour session and getting everything we need in an episode from this group. She does such a great job of leading them and leading that room. It’s not really Iron Man who leads the Avengers, secretly it’s Collette Sunderman. And it’s a bigger challenge than it is in the show!
Collette Sunderman: (laughs)
Marvel.com: That actually leads into something I wanted to ask you about, Collette, since we do talk a lot about how we record this series with the entire cast at once. What’s it like for you to have the entire cast in the room for a record?
Collette Sunderman: I prefer the radio show [style], where I have the entire cast in the recording booth at the same time. The reads [and] the energy are so much more dynamic, and I think [the actors] also prefer it. I at times become somewhat of the kindergarten school teacher and have to keep everyone in line, because they’ll just go off. It becomes almost a one-up [contest], and as Cort pointed out a lot of them are great friends. There’s such a great camaraderie amongst them all.
It’s actually quite fun when someone is missing from a recording and we have to have some scratch tracks laid down, so we’ll have one of the other actors do their character. They have become so used to each other’s mannerisms, not only vocally but physically when they’re standing in front of the recording booth, that it almost becomes too much of a show that you want to just sit and watch. But they sound alike as well, we’ve fooled our editors a couple times with scratch tracks and it’s become a little irritating to them. But the reads are great! It’s very fun.
Cort Lane: Yeah, there’ve been a couple times where, even though we were finished with the episode and far into the process, we hear a line and we’re like, “We don’t actually think that’s Roger [Craig Smith, voice of Captain America], we think that’s Troy [Baker, voice of Thor] pretending to be Roger from the scratch track and we’ve got to fix that!”
|Spider-Man gets a new look and tech after Doom conquers the Earth in "Marvel's Avengers Assemble"|
Marvel.com: Do each of you have a favorite moment from this particular episode?
Collette Sunderman: I would have to say one of my favorite parts of this particular episode was I [persuaded] Frank Welker to come play with us a little bit. I had approached him a couple times to do the voice of Odin, [because] he was the only person I could think of that could do it. Initially he declined [because] he was busy. So I stayed on it and he finally agreed to come and do it. I’m an absolute fan of Frank Welker’s, and I’ve been blessed enough to work with this man for many years, so having him a part of this world and watching him watch that room--we actually just did [additional dialogue recording] with him on another one of the episodes recently and he came up and thanked me again for pursuing him and not giving up because he finds this to be so much fun and so interesting. And I know he’s done Megatron and a billion other voices, but he’s loving being Odin.
Cort Lane: Frank Welker is a real get, and that’s entirely on Collette that that happened. And there is more Odin coming, so look forward to that. [As for] my favorite moments, there are really two. I really got a kick out of this Planet Doom reality. [Dr. Doom] didn’t allow any of these characters, including Peter Parker, to become super heroes. So it was very fun to me to see what Peter Parker becomes, and that he creates these mechanical spider legs that come out of his back. Having worked so long on “Marvel’s Ultimate Spider-Man” [and] as a Spidey fan, that was just really cool. And then there’s that moment where Frank Castle leaps out and shouts “Punishment!,” which as a fanboy is just a hoot and something you don’t expect in “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble.” It’s always nice to throw a fun curveball to our adult fans and something fresh for our kid viewers.
Marvel.com: Looking forward to the future then, once “Marvel’s Avengers Assemble” returns what can fans look forward to seeing?
Cort Lane: When we come back, [it’s] really the beginning of the third act of the season where things heat up with the Cabal. We do something interesting in [the next episode], where we’ve told these stories from the Avengers’ POV and really focused on their relationships and how they get along, or specifically how they don’t get along, and how that creates conflict and humor. [But] what if we told an episode from the other side, from the Cabal’s POV, to see how they get along or don’t get along and how that creates conflict and humor. And then from there, the whole Cabal story is really just pretty intense [through] the end of the season. As I mentioned, expect Odin again, [and] you’re going to see Mojo like you’ve never seen him before. There’s a lot of exciting Marvel Universe adventures through the last part of the season.