The Marvel movie and TV universe has been the most expansive of its kind ever since it began in 2008, with Jon Favreau’s Iron Man. In the years following, we’ve seen sequels, multiple TV series, and a lot more planned for the future. These ambitious plans haven’t stopped them from continuing to push forward into different arenas, with the most recent of forays being their upcoming Guardians of the Galaxy animated series. It began airing last fall on Disney XD, and will seek to capitalize on the surprise popularity of James Gunn’s movie by the same name.
It’s interesting to look back on the history of the comic to understand just how we got here. Before the Guardians were a box office sensation, they were an obscure comic book with a following that paled in comparison to that of larger heroes like Iron Man and Thor. In many ways, they were the deep space equivalent of the Avengers, only with even less marketable characters. And yet somehow, after it was all said it done, Guardians of the Galaxy scored the fourth highest box office numbers for any movie in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Now, Marvel is doubling down with more Guardians to keep audiences tided over until the film sequel in May of 2017. Their parent company Disney already saw the potential of animated television, already having aired the wildly popular Star Wars: Rebels series. It only made sense to roll forward with the same for Marvel Studios, utilizing their least fleshed-out movie universe for their trial run. In many ways though, it’s not exactly what you’d expect from Marvel’s newest venture into cartoons.
Most prominently, the Guardians animated series isn’t a part of the Marvel Cinematic canon, meaning anything that happens won’t actually be true for the movie universe. It’s a choice that makes sense when you think about it: Marvel isn’t going to willingly hamstring their films with cartoon canon directed at a smaller audience. Not to mention, many people likely won’t want to be forced watch the series in order to understand the Guardians of the Galaxy film sequel. In addition, it allows the animated series to expand well beyond the limits of the MCU, and pretty much tell whatever story they want.
So what exactly will get people to actually tune in? It wouldn’t be ridiculous to assume adults will feel talked down to by a cartoon airing on Disney XD. At the same time though, the network managed to balance Star Wars: Rebels between their younger and older audiences. Crossover appeal is not something new to either Disney or Marvel, and we imagine Guardians won’t be much different in that regard. Comic books have appealed to a wide swathe of age ranges for generations now, and it follows logically that an animated version would take the best elements of what we loved about James Gunn’s movie and translate it over to a more condensed format.
It’s always difficult to see how the studio will expand, having already conquered both movie theaters and TV. Making a push for animated content seems like the next logical step for their expansive empire of superheroes, and in the end could kick the door wide open for the next tidal wave of popularity for Marvel Studios.
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