Marvel Studios Animation Panel Recap: X-Men, What If...?, and More

The panel began at 11:45am PT in Hall H. The Watcher narrated the opening. "The boundaries of the multiverse have opened and now you are all Watchers, just like me, and I can't wait for you to see the brand new worlds on the horizon." The Marvel Studios logo takes the screen. Paul F. Duncan takes the stage to moderate the panel. Brad Winderbaum joins him on the stage. Winderbaum starts the panel by discussing how Kevin Feige and his ideas for What If...? lead to an entire animation department because they "realized they wanted to make more."

A sizzle reel highlighting the work of Ryan Meinerding plays, disaplaying comic images and footage from films like Avengers: Endgame, Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, and Iron Man. Winderbaum, Feige, Joe Russo, and more discuss the work Meinerding brings to the films, crediting his work for allowing them to visualize and realize the characters and environments. Meinerding says working on animation is one of his favorite parts of working at Marvel Studios.

"The amazing part about working at Marvel Studios is we're usually in charge of taking those icons at Marvel Comics and make them realistic for the films," Meinerding points out. Now, in animation, they get to use "brighter colors," and "stronger silhouettes," as has been seen in the comics and it can be "more powerful than the films." He says it is "not really that much different" of a process compared to live-action projects, as they still draw from the books for inspiration.

Bryan Andrews, A.C. Bradley, Kirsten Lepore, Beau DeMayo, and Jeff Tramell join the panel. The first project discussed is I Am Groot.

"What are the most universal activities we do as kids that we can relate to?" was the core question in developing I Am Groot. ""I have a three-year-old son so there's a lot of inspiration I can take. Groot is like him," Lepore said."We did get to record Vin Diesel for the voice of Groot and I will say we also had a fantastic performance of Bradley Cooper. There's gonna be some familiar places and faces." The panel decidse to show the entire first episode of I Am Groot, titled, "Groot Takes A Bath." In the episode, Groot bathes himself in mud, covers himself in leaves, gives himself a haircut for those leaves, shapes his own head in leaves, continues going back to the water to grow new leaves with each time it touches him, and a bird is constantly annoyed with his enthusiasm for life. 

I Am Groot will get five additional episodes later. 

Trammel begins speaking about Spider-Man: Freshman Year, discussing it as a "dream" project for him. He watched Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Spectacular Spider-Man, and more to get ready for the series. He promises all the "fun, and heart, and charm of Peter Parker to this series." They are going to show first look images. 

Supporting characters include Lonnie Lincoln, Amadeus Cho, Harry Osborn, and more. The villains include The Unicorn, Chameleon, Scorpio, speed Demon, Tarantula, Butane, Carmella Black, and Otto Octavius. Norman Osborn will be waiting for Peter Parker at his house with his greatest enemy as his mentor. "This is Peter before Civil War," Trammel explained. "Can't do the show without Peter's friends, obviously." Bentley Wittman, a new character voiced by Duncan who is moderating the panel. There will be a Season 2 called Spider-Man: Sophomore Year. Freshman Year will debut in 2024. The series will also feature Charlie Cox as Daredevil. Norman Osborn will be Peter's mentor in the series.

What If...? Season 2 is coming early in 2023. A preview rolls. Andrews promises it's a "crazier," than Season 1. The footage sees Widow, Captain Carter, and Hydra Stomper Steve in a smaller seat walking through a town filled with robots looking like they are modeled after humans from the 60s. Hela appears. Yondu, young Peter Parker, Ego, Shang-Chi, Valkyrie, Korg, Tony Stark, Gamora... There is a race scene on Sakaar with Valkyrie and others fighting the other pods. The Grandmaster appears with a wink at a statue of himself. Iron Man is ried through the multiverse. Red Guardian appears. Wenwu fights Odin. Thanos fights Cap. Bucky saves Red Guardian. Odin fights off the Ten Rings. Steve Rogers comes up with a plan with other Avengers, it is set in 1602.

Andrews says it was "pretty awesome" to see Captain Carter in live-action. He goes on to compliment Hayley Atwell's dedication to the character. "I think it's important to point out, that's not our Captain Carter," Andrews said. "That's some variant version." Winderbaum says, "Our Captain Carter wouldn't have gone down like that."

Next up is Marvel Zombies. Andrews describes how this series is an opportunity to further explore the universe from the What If...? episode. Hawkeye, Abomination, Ghost, Captain America, Captain Marvel, Scarlet Witch, and Okoye will be zombies. The heroes will feature Yelena, Katy, Kate Bishop, Jimmy Woo, Death Dealer, Shang-Chi, and Kamala Khan are featured in the series. "There is much Kamala love," in the series. The heroes also have to deal with post-apocalyptic Widows and a Skrull biker gang. Ikaris is also going to be a factor, though an Eternals cannot fully become a zombie. "We are not shying away from the things that made the comic book great," and this includes, "the gore," according to Winderbaum.

A sizzle reel of X-Men: The Animated Series plays as the panel transitions to the next series, X-Men '97. The voice cast is back in the booth recording lines as their characters from the original show. "This is gonna be their first project since acquiring the rights back," DeMayo said. DeMayo calls out the original creatives from the series who stand up for a round of applause. Rogue, Beast, Gambit, Jean Gray, Wolverine, Storm, Jubilee, and Cyclops are all returning. DeMayo discusses growing up a gay, adopted, black kid in Florida and credits the X-Men series for helping him grow up.

Rogue, Gambit, Wolverine, Cyclops, Jean Gray, Beast, Cable, Bishop, Forge, Morph, are back, joiend by Nightcrawler, and Roberto Da Costa as Sunspot. Magneto is going to be leading the X-Men in Xavier's absence, as Sinister is opposing the group. "Sinister is back in a big way," DeMayo said. "He is going to be holding the X-Men's fate in the fire and telling face the future."

A clip of early versions of an episode play. The X-Men are fighting against Trask who is sending Sentinels to attack them. Wolverine climbs one, Beast tosses one, and they take down Sentinels while quipping at them throughout. The Newton Brothers are composing the score for X-Men '97 which is "bringing back that classic 90s sound with a little bit of a modern edge." X-Men '97 will debut in Fall of 2023 and there will be a Season 2.

The panel concludes with a screening of a What If...? Season 2 episode. The credits reveal Rachel Weisz will join What If...? for the first time after debuting with Marvel in Black Widow.