Planet HulkThe Marvel universe has been an important universe to the film world, as shown by the box office receipts to Marvel Studios' live-action summer blockbusters like Iron Man and many others. The studio is also making a dent in the animation field as well, with its successful brand of straight-to-DVD Marvel Animated Features and the latest to hit (or smash) onto the shelves is Planet Hulk, which will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 2.
To celebrate this latest release, a red-carpet premiere event was held at the Paley Center for Media, simultaneously at both Paley venues in Los Angeles and New York. I was able to hit the red carpet for this event to talk to some of the key players behind this release, and the first one down the line was supervising producer Joshua Fine, who started out by telling us how this project got off the ground.
"Way back when, we were coming off of doing a number of different Hulk projects and somebody suggested that it felt right to do another Hulk movie," Fine said. "To be perfectly honest, I was not excited to be getting back into Hulk's universe because I felt like we had explored him so much. Somebody said, 'No, you should do Planet Hulk. Trust me, once you open that book, you'll change your mind." I sure did, in a hurry. As soon as I started reading Planet Hulk, it blew my mind. It was the character the way he was always meant to be told. It was a story that I thought we needed to bring to life."
I also asked Fine about the freedom of using animation instead of live-action with a character like Hulk.
"I feel like, in a unique way, we are in a position to bring to life the best parts of the comic book, but also to fix story issues or to find ways to improve or take it to the next level or do things in animation that you just can't do in live-action," Fine said. "We can really push the action to the extreme and just unleash Hulk in a way that would just be cost-prohibitive in live-action."
Fine also addressed the issues of an animated sequel, and it seems that, if this DVD is successful, World War Hulk could be coming down the line next.
"The big question, of course, is are we going to do World War Hulk and, to be perfectly honest, it's up to the fans," Fine said. "If they love this DVD and they want more and they buy lots of copies, I will be right there ready to make a World War Hulk movie, because I would certainly love to continue this journey."
Fine was also an associate producer on the next Marvel Animated Feature, Thor: Tales of Asgard, and he talked a bit about the release plans for that new DVD.
"Work is complete on it," Fine said. "The current plan for release is sometime in 2011. The idea that we have is that 2011 is probably going to be the big year for Thor, obviously. When they set the live-action date, we wanted to be a part of it and we're going to try and put our animated movie right in the middle of it."
Screenwriter Greg Johnson was next on the red carpet line, who spoke about how this very different approach to Hulk - which sees the big green monster banished from Earth to a distant planet where he's not the biggest force around - was so appealing to work with.
"I love the whole gladiator thing anyway, and throwing Hulk into that arena, and he can get hurt here," Johnson said. "He can get killed here and that's not something that we traditionally have, at least in the Hulk's I've been involved with. He's still powerful, but what has to start happening is he has to start using his mind a little bit. To me that was a very big draw."
Johnson also addressed the nature of this character's fanbase and how they don't pander to viewers who are not so familiar with Hulk.
"We don't go back into the whole history of the Hulk and how he became, because it wasn't important to the story," Johnson said. "We're big fans as well and I think we've found a balance. The great thing about Greg Pak's comic book was it was from a fresh point of view."
Johnson was also able to give us a few details on this new animated film, Thor: Tales of Asgard as well.
"I can tell that it starts off when Thor and Loki are close friends as brothers and through the process of this film, you get to see what happens in their lives," Johnson said.
Next down the line was voice actor Rick Wasserman, a longtime voice actor who lends his voice to movie trailers and he is also the "voice" of the AMC cable network, who was more than happy to share his experiences in making this animated film, specifically how to create a voice for a character that is already so ingrained in popular culture.
"You know, it is tricky to find the right voice for Hulk," Wasserman said. "There are tons of people that have a deep voice and tons of people who can scream and it wasn't just one audition. I had to read and they asked me to come in and worked, me, which they should."
Wasserman also told us that we see some sides to Hulk that we haven't seen before in this new animated film.
"What makes this Hulk so different than other Hulk's is that he doesn't just scream," Wasserman added. "In fact, I don't think I said "Hulk smash" once." He added, "You get to see what happens when Hulk blows up, but you also get to see what happens afterwards, the recovery, the pain, the hurt, the regret, the sorrow, the loneliness. All of that comes out."
This Hulk was also said to be a more, dare I say, heady Hulk than the incarnations we've seen before, and that aspect was something Wasserman surely enjoyed about the film.
"That's what makes this thing so fascinating," Wasserman enthused. "For me, as an actor, that's something you can really get your hooks into. The fact is, he is sent to a place where he is no longer the biggest and strongest, so now he has to use that little Hulk brain. It's great."
When I asked him if he would return for a sequel, if they decide to make one, Wasserman coyly revealed he wants to be a part of it.
"I have plenty of anger inside," Wasserman said with a laugh. "I'm ready to let it out."
The last down the line for me was comic book legend Jeph Loeb, who was also on hand at the event, and even though he wasn't directing involved in this animated production. He was definitely there in support of the film, though, and said that films like this help shape the understanding of what comic book stories can really achieve.
"I think it really comes down to the quality of the story that Greg Pak told in the first place," Loeb said. "He came on to a franchise and really owned it and told a story that was so huge in its concept and delivered in so many ways and really made it a challenge for those of us who work in that particular character, myself included, to step up to what he was doing. To be able to see this animated is just thrilling. More people that can see that comic book stories aren't just "biff, bam boom" and they can be character driven and they can have the kind of pathos that this story has, is really terrific.
I also tried to get Loeb to talk about his upcoming NBC project Day One, which went from a 12-episode first-season order, down to a four-hour mini-series and has now been reduced to just a two-hour TV movie, but he wouldn't say much.
"You know, that's NBC, and I'd rather leave it at that," Loeb said.
That's all I have from the Planet Hulk event here in Los Angeles. The film stars the voices of Rick Wasserman, Kevin Michael Richardson, Mark Hildreth, Marc Worden, Liam O'Brien, Michael Kopsa, Lisa Ann Beley, Sam Vincent, Advah Soudack and will be released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 2. You can take a look at the synopsis of the film and the special features below.
He was a monster, impossible to control, too dangerous to ignore. So Earth's mightiest heroes exiled him into outer space. But now the Incredible Hulk crash lands on the distant planet Sakaar, ruled by the tyrannical Red King. Sold into slavery, Hulk becomes the planet's mightiest gladiator-but his new masters get more than they bargained for when he forges a bond of brotherhood with his fellow fighters: crafty insectoid Miek, ruthless rock-man Korg, ex-shadow priest Hiroim, and the noble-born rebel Elloe. Unlike Earth, the desperate people of Sakaar believe a monster is just what they need. But will the Hulk be the one to save their world... or destroy it?
- Opening Sequence: Thor: Tales of Asgard
- - Audio Commentary by Supervising Producer Joshua Fine and Screenwriter Writer Greg Johnson
- - "A Whole World of Hurt: The Making of Planet Hulk" featurette
- - Audio commentary by Director Sam Liu, Character Designer Philip Bourassa and Key Background Painter Steve Nicodemus (Blu-ray only)
- - "Let the Smashing Commence!: The Saga of Planet Hulk" featurette (Blu-ray only)
- - "Rise Up" Astonishing X-Men music video (Blu-ray only)
- - "Watch Your Step" Spider-Woman music video (Blu-ray only)
- - Wolverine and the X-Men: "Wolverine vs. Hulk" episode (Blu-ray only)
- - Spider-Woman: Agent of S.W.O.R.D motion comic (Blu-ray only)
- - Astonishing X-Men: Gifted motion comic (Blu-ray only)
- - Digital Copy