Starting today, the entertainment super squad of LEGO, Marvel, and Disney have joined forces to release a new series, streaming on Disney.com. LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Maximum Overload takes place over five short episodes and chronicles the attempts of the trickster Loki to possess famous Marvel villains and have them do his evil, destructive bidding. Loki does this by tossing enchanted snowballs called Norn Frost at them, overloading their powers and making them each especially menacing and dangerous. While under his influence, villains including Doctor Octopus, Venom, and the Mandarin all show down with their respective super hero rivals, from Spider Man to Iron Man, Thor, and even Wolverine, among others.
Maximum Overload references many of the events and plot lines from the contemporary Marvel universe, but does so from its own unique LEGO setting, complete with all of the humor and self-awareness that LEGO has become known for. We spoke to LEGO’s director of content development, Keith Malone, about the project that has been years in the making. “What makes LEGO content different,” Keith told us, “is that you’re in a LEGO environment, and there’s lots of humor, and lots of things that can only happen in a LEGO type world.” In this case, that means a healthy dose of wordplay, pop culture references, stap stick, and sight gags, often playing on what we think we already know about these famous characters.
It’s also a chance to break from the more dramatic treatment Marvel super heroes get in the movies and show off their lighter sides. “Seeing these films on the big screen, they’re treated in such a way, like they could be real people. They’re real individuals and the plots are portrayed to seem almost like it could actually take place in the real world. The thing with the LEGO world in Maximum Overload is that it’s one step removed and it’s very easy to take yourself not-so-seriously,” Keith pointed out. The creators were then able to be a little silly, and chase down ideas that could only work in this setting. Take Spider Man, for example, whose tendency in the comics toward snarky quips gets sent up in this series. “Spider Man is a great character in the piece and he’s a great character overall,” said Keith, who cites Peter Parker as not only a recognized LEGO fan favorite but Keith’s personal favorite as well. In Maximum Overload, the creators asked themselves “‘What if Spider Man were so angsty all the time that nobody really wanted to be around him?’ That kind of conversation is what ended up manifesting itself within the series, in that Spider Man became one of the best running jokes: although he is a super hero, he is still just a kid, and he’s never feeling up to par with everyone else.”
With the characters and tone set, the matter of bringing these iconic LEGO Marvel minifigures to life was no small matter. “We have a pretty well defined prescription of how an animated LEGO character moves and is rigged and is drawn,” Keith pointed out, referencing the growing library of LEGO video games and animation that currently exist. “At the same time you’re trying to create something that’s new and exciting for the viewer. And it is an action comedy so the super heroes have to fight and combat the bad guys, and we want to have all of that look like it should and be fun as well.” This meant a close collaboration between Marvel and Lego, to make sure the final animation was accurate not only to the characters, but also to the physics and logic of a playset toy world. According to Keith, this led to some one-of-a-kind moments you can only have behind the scenes on a project like Maximum Overload. “You get into all of these really interesting and fun and funny conversation about… it’s not just Thor, it’s LEGO Thor, so what would a LEGO Thor do in that particular situation?”
Watch the first episode of LEGO Marvel Super Heroes: Maximum Overload below, and scroll down for an exclusive look at some of the concept art, storyboards, and visual development that went into the series.