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10 Animation Secrets from Marvel Animated Movies

ben marvazi 2020

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What Animators Can Learn From Marvel Animated Movies

In the ever-evolving landscape of animation, Marvel has carved out a significant place for itself, captivating audiences with visually stunning and narratively engaging animated movies. 

From "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" to "Big Hero 6," the Marvel animated movies have not only pushed the boundaries of storytelling but also set new standards in animation techniques. 

But what makes these movies stand out in the crowded field of animated films?

the Watcher from Marvel's What If series


In this blog post, we will dive into the world of Marvel animated movies, unveiling ten secrets behind their success. 

These insights are not just a peek into the creative process but also a source of inspiration for animators and studio owners who aspire to captivate audiences with their own animated masterpieces. 

1. Embracing the Comic Book Aesthetic

One of the defining elements of Marvel animated movies is their loyalty to the comic book aesthetic. This distinct style pays homage to the source material, connecting the animations to their graphic novel origins. 

Take, for instance, "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse." The movie revolutionized animation by incorporating techniques that mimic comic book panels, complete with thought bubbles and onomatopoeic words, bringing a unique dynamism to the screen. 

Wolverine bursting through a wall

GIF by Marvel via GIPHY

The use of halftone patterns and a vibrant color palette further accentuates this style, bridging the gap between the static pages of a comic book and the fluid motion of cinema.

Similarly, "Ultimate Avengers", released in 2006, reimagines the Avengers' origin story with a modern twist while keeping the essence of the comic books intact. 

By staying true to their roots, these movies offer a sense of familiarity to die-hard comic fans while introducing new audiences to the rich legacy of Marvel animated movies.

2. Innovative Animation Techniques

Marvel animated movies are not just about stunning visuals; they're also a testament to innovative animation techniques

A prime example is the groundbreaking animation style of "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse." The film stands out for its unique blend of computer-generated (CG) and hand-drawn animation, creating a visual experience that feels both modern and nostalgic. 

This technique, which involves layering traditional 2D animation over CG characters, gives the film a texture and depth rarely seen in other Marvel animated movies.

Another notable example is the 2014 co-production between Marvel and Disney, "Big Hero 6." This film seamlessly blends Marvel's storytelling prowess with Disney's renowned animation expertise. 

Video via YouTube

The result is a visually stunning film that pushes the boundaries of what can be achieved in animation, both in terms of character design and the creation of immersive, believable worlds.

3. Character Design and Development

Character design in Marvel animated movies goes beyond mere aesthetics; it plays a crucial role in storytelling. Each character is crafted to not only look distinctive but also to embody their personality and story arc. 

For instance, in "The Invincible Iron Man" (2007), Tony Stark/Iron Man is designed with sleek, futuristic armor, symbolizing his cutting-edge technology and billionaire inventor persona. 

This design contrasts with more traditional designs seen in other characters, reflecting Stark's role as a pioneer in the Marvel animated movies universe.

"Thor: Tales of Asgard" (2011) showcases another facet of character design. In this series, a young Thor is depicted differently from his more mature and battle-hardened appearances in later stories.

Video via YouTube

This visual distinction helps convey his journey from a brash young prince to the wise, powerful god of thunder known in the Marvel universe.

4. World-Building Through Animation

The ability to create entire worlds is one of the most enchanting aspects of animation, and Marvel animated movies excel in this domain. 

"Planet Hulk" (2010), for instance, transports viewers to a gladiator planet, Sakaar. The animation brings to life a world that is both alien and familiar, with its rich landscapes and diverse inhabitants. 

The attention to detail in the environment, from the grandeur of the gladiator arena to the desolation of the wastelands, immerses the audience in Hulk's journey on this alien planet.

movie poster for Planet Hulk

Image via IMDb

"Next Avengers: Heroes of Tomorrow" (2008) presents a futuristic world where the children of the Avengers battle a new threat. 

The animation creates a convincing post-apocalyptic setting, complete with advanced technology and new landscapes, setting the stage for a new generation of heroes. 

The visual storytelling in these environments not only supports the narrative but also enriches the viewer's experience, making these animated worlds feel tangible and real.

Through detailed and imaginative world-building, Marvel animated movies provide viewers with an immersive experience, showcasing the power of animation to create diverse and captivating environments.

5. Blending Existing Material with New Ideas: The 'What If...?' Approach

Marvel's animated series "What If...?" is a brilliant example of how animation can be used to explore and expand existing narratives. 

Following the establishment of the multiverse in "Loki," "What If...?" delves into various alternate timelines where key events in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) unfold differently. 

This concept not only allows for creative storytelling but also demonstrates the versatility of animation in bringing these unique Marvel animated movies to life.

For instance, the series reimagines scenarios like "What if T'Challa became Star-Lord?" or "What if Doctor Strange lost his heart instead of his hands?". 

Doctor Strange shooting beams from his hands

GIF by Marvel Studios via GIPHY

Each episode presents a distinct visual style that aligns with its narrative, showcasing the animation's ability to adapt and enhance the storytelling. 

The series' second season continues this trend, introducing new heroes and weaving intricate stories across the multiverse.

"What If...?" stands as a testament to how animation can merge existing material with fresh, imaginative ideas. It pushes the boundaries of traditional storytelling, offering viewers a glimpse into the endless possibilities within the Marvel universe. 

6. Sound Design and Its Synchronization with Animation

Sound design in Marvel animated movies is a critical component that goes hand in hand with the visual experience

It's not just about the music or voice acting; it's about how sound effects are meticulously synchronized with animation to create a more immersive and impactful viewing experience. 

In the "Hulk Vs." series (2009-2011), for example, the sound design plays a crucial role in bringing the intense action scenes to life. 

The roars of the Hulk, the clash of fists, and the destruction caused in battles are carefully crafted to match the animation, enhancing the visceral impact of each scene.

Similarly, in "Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher" (2014), the synchronization of sound with animation adds depth to the characters and their actions. 

movie poster for Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher

Image via Disney Plus

The distinct soundscapes for different environments, from quiet, tense espionage scenes to explosive battles, help in building the mood and setting the pace of the story.

Effective sound design in animation does more than just complement the visuals; it deepens the audience's emotional connection to the story and characters. 

Marvel animated movies showcase how sound and visuals can work together to create a more engaging and memorable experience.

7. Storyboarding and Pre-visualization Techniques

Storyboarding and pre-visualization are key steps in the animation process, particularly for complex movies like "Iron Man: Rise of Technovore" (2013) and "Iron Man & Hulk: Heroes United" (2013). 

These techniques allow animators to map out scenes, ensuring that the narrative flows seamlessly. They serve as a blueprint for the animation, guiding the visual style, camera angles, and character movements. 

By investing time in these early stages, Marvel ensures that the final animation aligns perfectly with the director's vision, resulting in a cohesive and engaging story.

8. The Use of Color Theory

Marvel animated movies like "Iron Man and Captain America: Heroes United" (2014) utilize color theory to convey mood and character traits.

For instance, warm colors might be used to signify action and energy, while cooler tones could indicate a more somber or mysterious scene. 

an alternating color pallette

GIF by Rodrigo Tello via GIPHY

This strategic use of color enhances the storytelling, allowing viewers to subconsciously pick up on narrative cues and character emotions.

9. Balancing Action with Storytelling

A hallmark of Marvel animated movies is the balance between high-octane action and in-depth storytelling. 

"The Invincible Iron Man" (2007) and "Doctor Strange" (2007) exemplify this balance, offering thrilling action sequences while also developing character arcs and advancing the plot. This balance ensures that the films are not only visually exciting but also emotionally engaging.

10. Collaboration Between Animators, Directors, and Writers

The success of films like "Big Hero 6" (2014) and "Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse" (2018) can be attributed to the collaborative efforts of animators, directors, and writers.

Spider-Man jumping off a building

GIF by Spider-Man: Across The Spider-Verse via GIPHY

This teamwork is essential in creating animations that are visually stunning and narratively compelling. The synergy between these creative roles results in films that resonate with audiences and leave a lasting impact.

Get Inspired By Marvel Animated Movies

Marvel animated movies stand as a testament to the power of animation in storytelling. From embracing the comic book aesthetic to innovative techniques, character design, and collaborative efforts, these films offer valuable insights for animators and studio owners. 

If you’re an animator who’s looking to start your own studio or grow your career, check out our blog on How to Start an Animation Studio and GET FREE TRAINING to kickstart your animation career today.

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