Cort Lane on ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ Season 2 Finale & Season 3 Details
Spoiler alert for folks who haven’t caught up with the animated Guardians of the Galaxy series or want to go into the Season 2 finale cold this weekend.
Arriving this Sunday morning on Disney XD (and associated apps) is the Season 2 finale of Marvel Animation’s Guardians of the Galaxy. This season has taken the title team to some far-off and far-out destinations, putting them into conflict or cooperation with the likes of the Believers, the High Evolutionary, the Klyntar symbiotes, Asgardians, Nova Centurions, and many more, but the crux of Season 2 has been centered on Adam Warlock. Now, as the epic season comes to an awesome two-part conclusion, the Guardians will face their toughest challenge yet as the powerful Warlock has transformed into the deadly Magus.
To talk about the season’s thrilling conclusion, and to look ahead to the officially ordered Season 3 of the series, I had a chance to chat with co-executive producer and Senior Vice President, Animation & Family Entertainment, Cort Lane. A longtime Marvel fan, Lane has helped to bring the iconic comics to the small screen in a variety of ways, be it animated series, standalone web shorts, or unique cross-promotions; he’s even had a hand in the story for the Guardians of the Galaxy theme park ride, “Mission Breakout”! Lane and I looked back on Season 2 of the animated Guardians of the Galaxy series to see what worked and what’s ahead for the title team. We also talked about the future of Marvel Animation, which has a lot of upcoming content in store for new and veteran Marvel fans alike. [Again, spoilers follow.]
On bringing Guardians of the Galaxy onto the small screen:
Cort Lane: I think what’s especially exciting about bringing Guardians to kids’ animation is we get to play with more humor and some of the weirder elements of the Marvel universe. So it’s really a fun, creative stretch, being able to play more in wild and weird territory.
Why was Adam Warlock the perfect character for Season 2?
Lane: We needed something that would carry an arc through the season. We had a great storyline that led us back to Earth in Season 1, and now we wanted a story that would carry us to all kinds of places in the Marvel Cosmic Universe. The Adam Warlock story seemed like a great fit. We had a vision of how it would involve Thanos and J’son of Spartax on such an epic scale from the very beginning. Marty Isenberg, our story editor, and Harrison Wilcox, who is our supervising producer, they really wanted to play with Adam Warlock. They’re old-school Marvel fans like me, and they wanted to have fun with that character.
Let’s talk about Tiny Groot:
Lane: One of the creative challenges that we had in this season was marrying the publishing version, the classic version of the Nova Corps and the helmets that they were and the powers that they wield with the film version and finding a reason for that to work together. Once we made that plan, it became lots of fun to play with the helmets, the Guardians wearing them, becoming Nova Centurions, and involving Sam Alexander in the story. It just sort of had a life of its own.
To clarify, the animated series is a separate canon from the MCU, correct?
Lane: Yes. They’re very influenced and inspired by things in the films, across many of our shows.
Are there any restrictions as to which Marvel characters or stories you can use in the animated series?
Lane: Yes and no. We run things up the flagpole and if there’s something very special that Feature Film folks want to reserve as special for what they’re doing in the future, we hold off sometimes. Honestly, for the most part for Guardians, knowing that they were going in a different direction with the story of Peter Quill’s father. We still got to do a version based more on the story in the comics. We have not had that many restrictions; it’s been pretty free and easy, as you can see, with all the characters we’ve been able to explore.
The power of belief was a big part of Season 2, so what positive messages should viewers take away from this season overall?
Lane: That belonging to a family, of being part of something greater than just yourself is the thing that makes all of us better and allows us to accomplish more good in the world. Sounds hokey, but that’s really the story of the Guardians as a group. Individually, for the most part, they’re not the greatest characters as far as things they’ve done in the past and what they’re capable of, but together as a family, despite their differences, they accomplish extraordinary things and save the galaxy. And they bring that lesson to Adam Warlock this season when he feels he’s really failed in his mission, in the final episode. They remind him of what he was able to accomplish as a temporary member of the Guardians.
Favorite moments from Season 2:
Lane: I actually am particularly partial to Episode 2. For some reason, I’ve always been a big fan of the High Evolutionary, and seeing the Avengers and Guardians team up against the High Evolutionary, I don’t know, that was just a fan-boy dream come true for me. I would also say that the quality of the animation, how gorgeous, especially when you go inside Adam Warlock’s gem, just the beauty of the visuals in the last couple of episodes I was very pleased with.
Season 3 will return to Disney XD and tie into the “Mission Breakout” theme park ride, correct?
Lane: Correct, yes. I actually got to work a little bit on the ride, so I was privy to the story points and the concepts from the very beginning. I was able to work with our team to communicate what it’s all about. That is a jumping-off point for Season 3, sort of what happens once they get away from the Collector; it happens at the very beginning of the season. But there’s a big price to pay for that. The Collector has it in for him and works very hard to get his vengeance in Season 3, and without saying too much, I’ll say he does get his vengeance and there are consequences for the Guardians. This season, frankly, is even stranger in many ways. The team ends up separated in other dimensions at a certain point where there’s a lot of bizarre things and different storylines for each of the characters before they can be reunited.
On Tom Kenny returning to voice The Collector:
Lane: Yes! He does return. We love Tom. I’ve worked with Tom on my very first project with Marvel, he did the voice of Captain America for me. He’s awesome.
Solo stories for the Guardians and the varying animation styles:
Lane: Just to say that, without giving away too much, the opportunity for the Guardians to enter other dimensions and be separated allows our team to explore some weird animation styles because different dimensions look different. This show allows a lot of creative stretching as far as humor, and story, and character, and a lot of bizarre environments, so it’s a natural extension of that.
The previous synopsis mentioned a “Secret Invasion” … are we going to see Skrulls?
Lane: You are not going to see some Skrulls, but you are going to see a storyline that has a similar flavor. That’s all I can say. Season 3 is very creatively interesting and it explores a lot of themes and ideas, and we get to dive into individual characters. I’m very satisfied, very excited about Season 3.
Will we see more interesting team-ups or weird pairings for the Guardians in Season 3?
Lane: Not necessarily, but you are going to see them, at the very beginning of the season, team up with Spider-Man. The symbiote story in the Spider-Man series and in the Guardians series are connected, and we’re going to connect those dots immediately. [It will be] the Spider-Man in the current series [with Robbie Daymond voicing the character.]
Any other character crossovers or guest stars? I know Stan Lee will have a cameo…
Lane: I’ve worked with [Stan Lee] maybe a dozen times over the last several years. He is exactly who you think he is, he is that Stan Lee in person. He is so charming. He’s very excited to do the work. He’ll often talk about the fact that, if he hadn’t created comics, he would have loved to have been an actor. So the opportunity for him to do all these roles in film, and television, and animation, it’s sort of wish fulfillment for him. He’s always so excited to show up. It’s especially nice when we have the cast with him because they totally geek out. It’s always a really positive experience.
[As for other guest stars], I can’t say anything more; I wish I could. We’ll be announcing some more things as we get closer to the launch of that season. I will say, lots of surprises and bizarre twists.
The release date for the LEGO special, LEGO Marvel Super Heroes – Guardians of the Galaxy: The Thanos Threat?
Lane: I will say that it’s going to be pretty soon. It works as both a half-hour special and can also be broken out into five different shorts. It’s an absolute blast, with Thanos as the primary villain. It takes elements of both films but also new elements, too. It just sort of puts them in a blender and has a lot of fun with them. Kalia Cheng who works on that, day in and day out, has worked really hard to make sure that the comedy comes through and that the characters are reflective of the versions that we know but also amped up with that LEGO comedy flavor. She’s done a fantastic job.
On finding interesting opportunities for cross-promotions, like Marvel and LEGO or Marvel and Funko:
Lane: I’m very open to it, perhaps more than other folks in my position. I feel like, if there’s an opportunity to bring in new viewers by co-branding … we even did, with Ultimate Spider-Man, we did a crossover with the Disney show Jessie, and that’s something that I really championed. It was incredibly odd, but it was an opportunity for us to bring in a big audience from Disney Channel of kids who wouldn’t normally watch a Spider-Man show, so for me it’s all about reaching new viewers. And if LEGO fans can experience the Marvel characters in a way different than they normally would, all the better. Same for Funko. That allows us to do a lot with comedy and in a shorter format than we normally do, and that might bring in viewers who wouldn’t normally watch a 22-minute episode of an action-adventure show. For me, it’s about gateway experiences into these characters for all kinds of audiences. My job is to make anyone and everyone that I can find fall in love with these characters and connect with them the way that core fans do, as well.
What’s next for Marvel Animation?
Lane: Our Black Panther show, [Avengers Assemble: Season 5 – Black Panther’s Quest], is just coming along beautifully. We’re very excited. There will be some big casting news attached to that as well. It’s a serious sort of thrilling political [story] full of excitement and cliffhangers and espionage and incredible technology, almost sci-fi, but at the same time it’s grounded by this very sweet and relatable relationship between T’Challa and Shuri, a brother and a sister … an over-protective older brother, a sassy and ambitious younger sister who are both grieving the loss of their father who find themselves sometimes at odds but also watching each other’s backs at the same time. I’m very proud of the work that we’re doing with that show.
The two-part Season 2 finale of Guardians of the Galaxy arrives on Disney XD at 8am on Sunday, November 22nd!