Iron Man, Hulk team for animated 'Heroes United' movie

05:00 AM, Dec 01, 2013

Iron Man (voiced by Adrian Pasdar) and the Hulk (Fred Tatasciore) pair up to defeat the energy creature Zzzax in "Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United." Marvel/


Written By by Brian Truitt, USA TODAY

Iron Man’s playboy personality and the Hulk’s irascible behavior are great on their own, but for Jeph Loeb, putting them together is truly marvelous.

The two Avengers team up for Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United, Marvel Entertainment’s first foray into long-form animated storytelling after fostering a popular Disney XD cartoon block. The movie premieres on Blu-ray and DVD Tuesday.

Marvel’s Avengers Assemble voice actor Adrian Pasdar plays inventor Tony Stark and his armored alter ego, and his co-star Fred Tatasciore is the Hulk (and puny human Bruce Banner). The new all-ages adventure sees the pair battle the monstrous Abomination, a fleet of Mandroids, the evil organization Hydra and the energy creature Zzzax.

And like with the live-action Marvel movies, you’ll probably want to stay tuned till after the end credits.

DC Entertainment has been focusing on getting Batman, Superman and its heroes in direct-to-home-video animated features in recent years. Marvel, too, wanted to get into the space by expanding the work it’s been doing in its animation group, says Loeb, executive producer of Heroes United and head of Marvel Television.

To find the right characters for a feature-length project, they looked to a key demographic: children.

Youngsters like Iron Man because Tony is able to solve problems with his brains and his armor, Loeb says, and to counterbalance that elegance, kids dig Hulk because he takes care of things through smashing. “You have a guy who is all tech-based and a guy who is completely not tech-based — he’s just wearing a pair of pants. But that’s what they really wanted to see.”

The voice actors from the current cartoons were enlisted to maintain consistency, but also because they’re just really good, Loeb says.

He doesn’t think anybody has played the Hulk more in the animated medium than Tatasciore, who also stars as the character in Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. The actor brings versatility to a big green guy who’s much chattier than the one in The Avengers movie.

He can play smart Hulk, Bruce Hulk and angry Hulk. There’s certain depth to his performance, and some of that just simply has to do with the fact that Fred himself has such a big heart, and that comes across with the Hulk,” Loeb says.

For so many years, the world saw the Hulk as a monster, and now we’re really trying to make an effort to show the world that the Hulk is a hero, so that when kids are running around their own houses and they want to smash, parents aren’t so frightened by that.”

And Pasdar is fearless in having to live in the shadow of Robert Downey Jr., “who has so defined who Tony is in the live-action movies,” Loeb adds. “He’s brought to his version of Iron Man the snark that we love, brilliance that we love and arrogance we chuckle at, and at the same time, he’s a hero.”

With the two voice actors together, “you get a good cocktail of fun and funny.”

The characters might sound the same, but the animation is definitely different than the Disney XD cartoons. Loeb employed Eric Radomski (Batman: The Animated Series), head of production and “a mad scientist of animation,” to design a look that didn’t seem like three episodes of Avengers Assemble strung together.

So they invented a technique called a “2-D wrap,” taking traditional animation, feeding it into the computer and wrapping it around the characters to give texture and weight to backgrounds and strongly emphasize facial expressions.

It captures the uniqueness of the way the Hulk looks and gives a crispness to the tech Tony uses,” Loeb says. “We do see an opportunity to break down new barriers and really show people what action-adventure can look like without it being highly stylized.”

The Marvel movies have spent time and energy making Tony’s suit and Hulk’s massive body appear photorealistic, and Heroes United aims to capture that same grounded feeling.

Even though there’s a high-tech Helicarrier or a Stark lab that doesn’t look like anything that exists currently, it looks like it could,” Loeb says. “You already have a fantastic element to what’s going on, but what makes Marvel so amazing is it’s about an extraordinary thing happening in a very ordinary world.”

Marvel also wanted to throw in a little something deeper in the story than just smashing and iron suits. Zzzax is born out of Hydra’s desire to try to harness power in a way maybe it shouldn’t be, and Loeb’s wish is it teaches children a little something about energy conservation.

Nothing would make me smile greater than if a group of kids were watching the HD TV, and at the end of it, they remembered to turn off the television and the lights when they left the room,” he says.

However, “that’s just a tiny drop of what we’re hoping is, for the most part, a really fun romp with these two characters who go up against an impressive array of villains to win the day.”