These days, when you hear ‘Marvel Entertainment,’ you’re most likely to think of its long-spanning live-action cinematic universe or its one of its multiple animated cartoon series – both media that depend on layered storytelling and continuity. However, Marvel Animation is taking a big step in the opposite direction by launching a second season of its 90-second Funko Pop shorts, the first episode of which debuted Wednesday.
The goal of releasing these animated shorts is to explore new formats to connect with a larger audience beyond Marvel’s core comic book fans. And one way the company plans on doing that is through comedy.
Marvel’s Senior Vice President of Animation and Family Entertainment Cort Lane explained, “Our thinking was – by placing these comedy short form pieces across multiple platforms – we’d then be able to reach a broader audience. Getting all the eyeballs that we might not traditionally get through our animated series…By deliberately making these pieces only 90 seconds long, that then makes it possible for these comedy shorts to go on social media, to be put up on YouTube. Which then makes it possible for them to reach an exponentially larger audience” (Huffington Post).
These shorts are produced by a small animation studio in the UK, ironically called A Large Evil Corporation. The same studio previously produced one-minute animated promos for Marvel Funko Pop releases, which is where the idea for the series originated.
Last year Marvel Animation worked with A Large Evil Corporation to create a “trial” series: a trio of animated shorts that played out as expanded versions of those collectibles promos. The first short, “Spellbound,” debuted online last November and featured the characters of Iron Man and Spider-Man pitted against the mischievous Loki. This first installment reached over 600,000 views, and by the time the third short – featuring Venom, Deadpool, and some fiery hot chimichangas – came out that December, these animations were getting over 4 millions views.
The second season of shorts will feature eight humorous stories starring Marvel universe heroes and villains in adorable Funko Pop form. Like the collectible figures themselves, the animated characters don’t have mouths and aside from grunts and the like, the shorts have no real dialogue. Instead, they take a refreshing approach and rely on physical comedy and timing, much in the vein of classic Looney Tunes or Tom and Jerry cartoons.
The super-short nature of this animated format may mislead people to think these animations are very easy to make, but Lane assured audiences these shorts come with their own challenges. “Creating fully formed, independent little stories that can actually be told in 90 seconds requires a lot of discipline and some really tight storytelling,” he said (Huffington Post).
However, Marvel Animation fans need not worry that the company is abandoning more traditional storytelling formats, such as its Guardians of the Galaxy and Marvel’s Spider-Man shows on Disney XD.
“Moving into shorts is obviously a big shift for us,” said Lane, “but we’re still in the business of creating long form animation. That said, all of the diverse platform opportunities that you get with short form really open you up to new audiences…We’re committed to exploring short form as a format because the kind of audience that you can potentially get out of it is so significant” (Huffington Post).
The first episode in the second season of Marvel’s Funko Pop shorts, called “Cosmic Sleigh Ride,” can be viewed below.
The trio of 2016 shorts can be viewed here:
“Bait ‘N’ Switch”
What do you think of this new direction for Marvel Animation? What’s your opinion on the Funko Pop shorts released thus far, and are you interested in seeing more?
Amber is an imaginative storyteller and visual artist whose greatest ambition is to tell meaningful stories that resonate with people. Since she was young, Amber has enjoyed escaping to faraway worlds through animation, and has continued to follow animation into adulthood because of its limitless storytelling possibilities. Picking favorites is nearly impossible, but Amber would say her top animated films include The Little Mermaid, The Incredibles, The Emperor’s New Groove, and Frozen. She graduated with a B.A. in Interactive Media/Graphic Design and a minor in Journalism, and is currently working as an advertising designer. When she’s not at her day job, Amber can be found working on digital illustrations and photo edits, drafting a new fiction story, or crafting a new cosplay. Send her a tweet at @amber_ld.