Going to Comic-Con International: San Diego with a love of animation in mind, a fan might be overwhelmed by the volume of content available during the convention. From several screenings of Teen Titans GO! to the Movies to retrospectives on Batman: The Animated Series and LEGO Ninjago, there may have been too much animated content to consume at Comic-Con.
Luckily, we caught some of the highlights to give you an idea of just how varied the animation offerings can be and how much of it comes to Comic-Con in a given year.
Perhaps the biggest news to come out of Comic-Con was the return of Star Wars: The Clone Wars for a seventh season on Disney’s upcoming streaming service.
Though the series started rough with a critically reviled pilot film (18% on the Tomatometer) released in theaters, the series eventually found its footing under the creative direction of executive producer Dave Filoni. After five seasons on Cartoon Network, the series was cancelled following Disney’s purchase of Lucasfilm. Episodes already in production ended up becoming an abbreviated sixth season on Netflix. Filoni remained on staff to develop Star Wars Rebels, but he always regretted the way Clone Wars was cut short just as it was nearing its climax.
And to the delight of fans assembled at Comic-Con for a panel looking back on the series, Filoni surprised everyone with a trailer showing off brand-new scenes from the upcoming 12-episode season. It will focus on one of the final battles of the Clone Wars and resolve some of the lingering story threads. The executive producer is known for playing his cards very close to his chest, but this was his most surprising hand yet.
Since the Fleischer Studio Superman animated shorts of the 1940s and the first Marvel Comics television show in the 1960s, the natural crossover between comics and cartoons continues to be a very happy relationship. But the current pack of animated series might be the most diverse in terms of characters, faces, and sources. The cast and crew of the rebooted DuckTales series were excited to present a special preview of upcoming episodes, while voice actors Danny Pudi, Ben Schwartz, and Bobby Moynihan discussed the strange thrill of playing Donald Duck’s nephews and pronouncing the word “aero-planes.” Disney’s recently debuted Big Hero 6: The Series and Nickelodeon’s Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles also previewed upcoming episodes.
After a number of animated shorts, direct-to-video movies, novels, and comics, DC Super Hero Girls will finally be an animated series under the supervision of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic’s Lauren Faust. As she explained during the Comic-Con Panel, the series will be aesthetically different from the established Super Hero Girls line, but honor what the range has built.
It recasts Batgirl, Zatanna, Bumblebee, Supergirl, and Wonder Woman as high school students facing the reality that they all moonlight as superheroes. In a rough animatic from the first episode, Wonder Woman’s inability to maintain a secret identity brings to light the abilities of others when they all end up in detention.
A finished preview short revealed the new look to be poppy and colorful. Faust added she wanted to go for a Looney Tunes style of action in the series: “No pun intended, we’re not pulling any punches. You saw Wonder Woman and Supergirl fighting [in the animatic].”
The show will also use the superpowers to reframe teen experiences like sneaking out of the house, put Faust said a good shorthand for the show is “jokes and fights, jokes and fights.”
Across two panels, Marvel Animation unveiled its plans for the rest of 2018: Marvel Rising, a creative overhaul on Avengers Assemble and a villain-focused season of Marvel’s Spider-Man.
Squirrel Girl, Ms. Marvel, Spider-Gwen – now dubbed Ghost Spider – Quake, and Patriot are poised to make their animated team-up debut in Marvel Rising: Initiation, a series of shorts debuting in August on Disney XD ahead of Marvel Rising: Secret Warriors, an animated film set to debut on the Disney Channel later this year.
The voice cast of the series, which includes Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.’s Chloe Bennet and Dove Cameron, perennial Ms. Marvel voice actor Kathreen Khavari, Kamil McFadden, and the eventual live-action Squirrel Girl Milana Vayntrub, all gushed about playing the characters, while premiering four of the six four-minute shorts. All agreed, jokingly under duress, that it is great to be part of the Marvel Universe. Fans in attendance also received giant foam hands with Kamala’s shout of “Embiggen!” emblazoned upon them.
Meanwhile, the fifth season of Avengers Assemble will shift focus to Black Panther (voiced by James Mathis III) and Shuri (Daisy Lightfoot) as they face off against Killmonger, Klaw, and M’Baku and unravel the disappearance of Wakanda’s Vibranium. To reflect the change, the producers redesigned all the characters and gave the program a new name: Marvel’s Avengers: Black Panther’s Quest.
“It’s really a show about two siblings and the comedy and conflict in between them,” explained Cort Lane, senior vice president of Marvel Animation and Family Entertainment.
With executive producer Greg Weisman thanking fans for their unending support, the cast and crew of Young Justice: Outsiders celebrated their return by detailing some of the issues facing Earth-16 in the new season. Metahuman trafficking will be at the forefront as the fallout from Darkseid’s invasion continues. Executive Producer Brandon Vietti also revealed why the season is called “Outsiders.”
“We wanted to bring in some different characters you didn’t necessarily know growing up,” he explained. “After fleshing out our world with some really crazy powers, it became a scary place, and we wanted to focus on character who were growing up in this world and see how they are affected. They’re not insiders of this world — they’re outsiders.”
Netflix’s redux of the 1980s animated series Voltron includes the pedigree of former Avatar: The Last Airbender talent — like executive producers Lauren Montgomery and Joaquim Dos Santos — and a surprisingly well-executed expansion of ideas from the original series. It also rehabilitated the ill-conceived Blue Lion pilot Sven of the ’80s series into the Black Paladin Shiro. He’s nearly died twice, he has been cloned, and his consciousness was stuck inside the Black Lion for a time.
A lot happens in a season of Voltron: Legendary Defender.
But some of the biggest surprises are yet to come as the Paladins head back to Earth, and Shiro’s ex-boyfriend returns to deal with some unresolved issues. As Montgomery announced at the panel last week, the other Paladins will meet Adam, a man Shiro almost married before choosing to go into space and become part of Voltron.
According to reports, Adam’s appearance was met with cheers when the first episode of the seventh season screened during the panel. The season, debuting August 10, will be Voltron’s penultimate run, with a final 13-episode season scheduled for release later this year.
Besides comic book and sci-fi heroes, mainstays like The Simpsons, Bob’s Burgers, Family Guy, Steven Universe, Archer, and American Dad! stopped by the convention for their annual presentations while Adult Swim brought around the creative teams of Dream Corp LLC, The Venture Brothers, and Robot Chicken. They also took a look at the new season FLCL.
New series making their Comic-Con debut included The Dragon Prince from Avatar: The Last Airbender head writer Aaron Ehasz and The Simpsons creator Matt Groening’s new fantasy themed series Disenchantment. And Unikitty, a spin-off from The LEGO Movie, debuted its first episode.
Outside of series, direct-to-video features like DC Super Hero Girls: Legends of Atlantis, LEGO DC Comics Super Heroes: Aquaman: Rage of Atlantis, and Scooby-Doo and the Gourmet Ghost all premiered at Comic-Con on Sunday, the designated “Kids’ Day.” The most recent DC Universe animated film, The Death of Superman premiered on Friday and delivered a new take on the classic story. (The film is available at FandangoNow in 4K Ultra HD, HD, and SD.)
The four days’ worth of animation previews, presentations, and couple of retrospectives could fill a festival of its own, but it is just one part of the annual Comic-Con experience.