Marvel Animation Chief on Studio’s Pure-Comedy Play ‘Rocket & Groot’

Marvel has long been established as an action-adventure brand in television and film. But pure comedy is a genre that the studio rarely plays in. One of its few efforts in the space, the “Rocket & Groot” series of shorts produced for Disney XD, yielded an Emmy nomination for Marvel’s animation division. “Space Walk,” a 105-second short featuring the “Guardians of the Galaxy” duo, is up next month for an award in the outstanding short-form animation category.

Cort Lane, Marvel’s head of animation, spoke with Variety about the short.

How did this series of shorts come about?
The folks at Disney XD, in particular Jermaine Turner and Mark Buhaj, approached us about wanting to do some short-form with Marvel characters. We came back to them with a strong desire to do Ant-Man and Rocket and Groot. In particular, we liked the execution in publishing from the creator Skottie Young, who had been doing a book in a certain very cartoony style called “Rocket Raccoon and Groot.” We knew we were allowed to do something really comedic with these characters. We looked at a variety of studios and had them pitch.

How did you end up settling on Passion Pictures?
We met Passion about a year and a half before, and they were also suggested by the folks at XD. They’re a really creative studio. When they came to pitch, they actually had something really remarkable — they recommended that we work with Arnaud Delord, who directed the Gorillaz music videos. And they presented an animation test that just blew us away. It was actually a pretty easy decision.

Where did the idea for “Space Walk” come from?
We had these story summits with our writers, Kevin Burke and Chris Wyatt. Arnaud came out from France. So Jermaine Turner and I and one of our executives, Steve Wacker, sat in a room with them and we broke the stories. We settled on the 12 that felt strongest to us. It was one of our writers who suggested a simple episode where they’re just…

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