|Behind the Scenes - Bob Richardson Interview
Bob Richardson returned to Marvel to serve as Supervising Producer
for both Ultimate Avengers movies. A veteran of animation for over 20
years, Richardson is perhaps best known for his role as Supervising
Producer on Spider-Man: The Animated Series in the 1990's. The
Marvel Animation Age caught up with Bob to talk about his work on the
did you come to work on "Ultimate Avengers" movies and what did your
When a previous producer left, apparently because of health reasons, I
was hired because of my track record working with Avi Arad on the
Spider-Man series (I think) - and probably because I happened to be
My duties were to supervise everything on the movie, while still
pleasing my bosses: Avi Arad, Eric Rollman and Craig Kyle. I could do
what I wanted as long as I got it done on schedule and budget and they
were all happy with it.
The movies are obviously heavily based upon The Ultimates
comic book. When deciding the roster, was there every any temptation to
add a member from the regular universe in there or was it decided
beforehand you would be using The Ultimates roster?
By the time I came to the first movie, it had been pretty much decided
who would be in that movie and there wasnít room to add any additional
characters with the amount of story we had to tell in about seventy
minutes. In the second movie, we had a lot of discussions about whom we
might add to that story, but as the screenplay developed it became
obvious that Black Panther was the appropriate character to join the
closely should a film follow the book it was based upon? Do you prefer
going with an original route or sticking to the books whenever possible?
Books are a different medium from films; however, some books are new and
unique stories and characters that should be told as much in the spirit
of the original book as possible. The Avenger films were inspired
by ďThe UltimatesĒ comic books done by Mark Millar and Bryan Hitch.
These books were fantastic and we did try to keep the contemporary
spirit of what they were doing with these classic Marvel characters, but
these characters have been around for more than forty years and have a
whole history behind them, which we didnít want to totally ignore,
either. The other aspect of translating a book to film is that they are
such different mediums of storytelling that you find you have to change
some things that are in the book to make the movie play out properly.
Also, we have to think about playing to a wider and younger audience,
which changes some aspects of what was in the original books.
Was there anything that you felt you couldíve done better in the
original "Ultimate Avengers" movie and then improved upon in it the
You are always trying to make the picture better throughout production,
but these two films overlapped in production, so there was no time to
sit back and analyze what went on in the first movie that could be
improved in the second. I think that more time would have helped both
these movies, but unfortunately, more time usually translates into more
Anything that you wanted to do in either movie but couldnít find time
to fit in?
There are always shots or sequences that you want to add or develop
further to make the film more interesting to watch, but again time is a
big issue and the movieís length is also a concern. Meanwhile, the clock
is ticking and movie must be finished on time. That said, however, I
knew that the alien battle in the first movie could have been bigger and
I tried to rectify that in UA 2.
What was it like working with four different directors over the
course of the two movies?
The bad part of this was that I had not worked with most of these
directors before and didnít know what their strengths and weaknesses
were. The good part was that these were all seasoned pros and very
talented, so they were able to deliver good material on a very tight
What thought went into casting the movies, especially considering a
lot of actors were relatively unknown in the voice acting world?
The main focus for casting the voices had to do with finding the actors
who best represented those characters in voice-over only. How they sound
and the acting that we can hear is what brings our characters to life,
not how they actually look in person. We also didnít want the audience
listening to a voice and picturing an actor they know rather than
connecting the voice to the character on screen. Most of the actors we
used are very well known by professionals in animation but less well
known to the public at large. There are some wonderful actors who are
quite well known to the public, who we might have used, but sometimes
budget and schedule get in the way of being able to use them.
The main benefit to these movies being PG-13 is that the fight scenes
can now be much more violent and dramatic. Is it liberating to be able
to cut loose when it comes to the fight scenes rather than having the
constant strain of having BS + P watching over you?
With todayís sophisticated audience, it is tougher to make these huge
powerful characters play out in a believable way, when you canít show
why they need the tremendous powers they have. They have to do battle
with very powerful and dangerous enemies and you lose the dramatic
impact of this, when you are limited too much in what you can show.
Weíre still conscious of going too far and exposing our younger audience
to unnecessary gratuitous violence. There needs to be a balanced use of
violence that keeps the edge to our storytelling without turning away a
lot of audience that we want to have enjoy seeing these movies.
Which do you prefer from a working standpoint Ė a feature length
production or a weekly animated series?
IĎve worked on both series and features and found projects in both that
were challenging and satisfying creatively, even though they are
completely different animals, each with their pros and cons.
I think the main thing with a feature is being able to work on a bigger
canvass to make a singular complex story more interesting and compelling
with generally a higher level of quality.
Series work (of the half-hour variety) at its best, lets you establish
familiar characters that can come into peoples houses by means of
television to entertain them in a way that makes the audience happy
enough to invite them back week after week and if youíre lucky, year
How long does a DTV take to complete, production wise?
Itís realistic to figure about a year from start to finish, but we were
able to reduce this amount of time by overlapping the two Avengers DTVs.
Youíve previously worked with some of these characters in
Spider-Man: The Animated Series, both Captain America and Iron Man
were featured in Secret Wars, for example. What was it like returning to
Secret Wars took place in our fifth (and last) season of Spider-Man
and was part of a very difficult period of production. This last season
was three months behind in script and the scripts, when they finally
arrived, were the most complicated of any we had dealt with thus far.
Every phase of production suffered because of it. In order to make up
the lost time, material was underdeveloped and mistakes were made, which
left everyone feeling less than delighted with the results. Being able
to go back to those characters now and give them a proper treatment
taking inspiration from Bryan and Markís work was an absolute pleasure.
Would you be interested in continuing "Ultimate Avengers" in an
animated series, or do you think DTVs are the only way to go with these
It would certainly be a challenge to have the "Ultimate Avengers" in a
series with all those characters and the immense villains they need to
fight, but nothing is impossible. After all, the X-Men had a
series with great success. But, of course we would have BS & P to deal
with, as usual.
What are you currently working on? When can we expect to see it?
Iím currently working on some development Iíve wanted to do, while
keeping an eye out for other interesting projects to work on.