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Monday, February 4, 2002
MTV'S SPIDER-MAN ANIMATED SERIES
By Rob Allstetter/The Comics Continuum
VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Spider-Man has been animated in many different ways over the past 35 years, but it's safe to say there hasn't been anything like his newest incarnation.
As word officially came out last month, MTV will be airing a prime-time Spider-Man animated series, tentatively set to air in a 10 p.m. time period beginning next October.
The show is following Sony's Spider-Man movie. It has contemporariness to it unmatched in Spider-Man history. Sony is working with Mainframe Entertainment, the cutting-edge computer animation company, on producing the animation. The series has a main writer, Brian Michael Bendis, who is currently writing a Spider-Man comic. And it is being geared for an audience demographic more closely resembling that of readers of the comic books.
Recently, The Continuum was given a tour of Mainframe Entertainment In Vancouver, British Columbia. Animation veteran Audu Paden, who is producing the series for Columbia TriStar, and Steven Wendland, who is producing for Mainframe, gave The Continuum an exclusive first look of the early goings on with Spider-Man.
"This is a dream show," Paden told The Continuum. "We will not disappoint."
Look for many stories in the future on Spider-Man, both here in The Continuum web site and in the Comics Continuum magazine, which launches In May.
For now, though, the following is a primer on the show:
Thirteen episodes are being created for the first season. Spider-Man Will be produced with 3-D animation, but the show won't look like a Reboot because it is being animated with a computer program called Toon Shader.
"It's a cartoon-like way of rendering a model," Wendland told The Continuum.
"This is one of things that makes this series really unique to what's been on television before," Paden said. "Just like a traditional 3-D show, everything is sculptural, everything is being thoroughly modeled, but what we're doing in our final render process, we're processing it, not as fully sculptural 3-D like you'd see in Max Steel or Starship Troopers, but we're having the computer assign colors that are like paint colors.
"So the ultimate look will be a prohibitively expensive 2-D feature film - on a TV budget. The characters will always be on model. The range of performance will be something that we can tap into things that worked before, and play them forward again. There is exquisite control over lighting and mood.
"Of course the most significant issue is perspective. We can have Spider-Man swinging through the city, and our camera can be moving around him. It's going to be cinematic. All the things that they can do in a live-action feature film, we can do with the disciplines of our model domain."
Paden said that the look of the show will be influenced by current comics artists John Romita Jr. (Amazing Spider-Man) and Mark Bagley (Ultimate Spider-Man).
"This is the current draft; this is the place we jump off from," Paden said. "I love Romita Jr.'s character drawings. He just does great design. And Bagley's attitudes, and his Spider-Man in motion - you have him poised in mid-air in extreme posed and limbs stretched to the point where real human ligaments would be under great strain - so we're really going to Bagley for the way we're moving our Spider-Man. We're looking to them for the way the characters are crafted."
Paden and Wendland have worked together before, including the recent Heavy Gear.
Mainframe won a stiff competition to animate the show; more than 10 studios were vying for Spider-Man.
Final designs, including the show's logo, currently are being wrapped up.
Bendis, writer of the Ultimate Spider-Man comic book, is an executive producer of the series.
"We've had him down to our studios in Los Angeles," Paden said. "He's just foaming-at-the-mouth happy about what he's seen. If we can please him, we must be doing something good."
Bendis is writing the pilot, will be writing several episodes and will be overseeing the writing of others. Other writers include Marty Isenberg, who wrote several episodes of Fox Kids' Spider-Man, and Kevin Hopps, who has written for various Warner Bros. Animation series.
"There are many aspects of the feature film that we're honoring, and there are some things we're sort of making our own," Paden said.
The first six episodes are currently being written.
You can expect Peter Parker's personal life to be as important in the TV show as it is in the comics.
"It's very much stressing relationships between the principal characters, the love affairs, the soap operas, the sort of thing you'd find in Buffy the Vampire Slayer or Dawson's Creek," Paden said. "And in that sense, it's permitting us to aim for an older audience than the typical Y7 kids' shows."
Peter Parker and Mary Jane Watson will be in the show, but other supporting characters are not being revealed yet.
The producers are keeping the villains under wraps for now, but expect to see classic Spider-Man villains, some perhaps with new twists, and maybe even a new foe or two.
Spider-Man will be recorded in Los Angeles.
"We're already deep in the casting process. We've sent our picks of the strongest choices," Paden said. "We had about 150 actors audition last week, and in fact I got another 50 unsolicited from agents today. MTV has the final say, and they're very interested in bringing in people who are prominent in the music business as our guest-stars. They're working right now in bringing some potentially really interesting people to play some of the more interesting villain roles."
Susan Blu will be the voice director. "She and I have done 160-plus episodes of television together," Paden said. "She's the best voice director in the world."
Casting should be announced very soon, and Paden said recording will follow shortly thereafter.
Obviously, music will play a large role in Spider-Man.
"It's a music television station," Paden said. "There's a lot of things that we're playing with and experimenting with in terms of drawing in some really famous talent to participate in the scoring process. I can't really say more because we're still experimenting and exploring relationships."
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