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PowerCon/ThunderCon 2011: Interview with "He-Man" and "Avengers" Animation Director Gary Hartle

Gary HartleAnimation producer, director, and storyboard artist Gary Hartle was one of the many creative crew members from He-Man and the Masters of the Universe in attendance at this past weekend’s PowerCon/ThunderCon event. Hartle served as a director and storyboard artist for the 2002 Mike Young Productions He-Man and the Masters of the Universe series that aired on Cartoon Network. Most recently, Hartle was a supervising director and storyboard artist on the Disney XD series, The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. You can see his final work on the series in the season two premiere, which features an appearance by the original Fantastic Four and Doctor Doom. Hartle began his career as an artist for Marvel Comics, where he worked on such titles as Conan, Captain America, Daredevil, and Cloak and Dagger. At the convention, Toonzone News got the chance to catch up with Hartle:

TOONZONE NEWS: Gary how do you like coming to the first ever dedicated convention to Masters of the Universe and ThunderCats?

GARY HARTLE: It’s very exciting and terrifying. Terrifying in that I know I’m dedicated to fans and I want to be there for them. I already blew up at the panel when I was talking about Snakemen and stuff like that. I said “Lizardmen.” We had a blast working on this show and I think the thing about it is that we really wanted to try to do an adventure film that we would like. That’s what we tried to bring to it.

TZN: It’s been almost ten years since the show was on. Does having the show being re-released on DVD keep it fresher in your mind?

GARY HARTLE: Well, what was interesting was we all just got together and looked at this stuff and how much flooded back. When you look at a show, I remember every board artist at that night, I remember what day it was. It all comes back to you. And I think that was what we were all talking about, how much of that started coming back to us again.

TZN: After this show you did a lot of work with Marvel Animation. How did you like getting to work on animating the Marvel Comics Universe?

GARY HARTLE: I worked for Marvel Comics for a long time, so it was like a full circle thing to be doing animation for Marvel as well as the comics. I think in the animation you get to explore the characters a lot more.

TZN: Ultimate Avengers and Next Avengers were good movies, but I think fans had always wanted to see an adaptation like The Avengers: Earth’s Mightiest Heroes for years. Were you just as excited to present the more classic Avengers this way?

GARY HARTLE: Yes. That is what was fun about it. When I did Ultimate Avengers, I storyboarded the fight scene between the Avengers and the Hulk. What I tried to do was to make sure Captain America fights like Captain America and Iron Man [fights] like Iron Man, even though the costumes were different. Then when you get into [Earth's Mightiest Heroes], I got to draw them in their classic costumes. For an artist and a fan, that was a blast.

Gary Hartle and Michael Halperin
(l to r) Gary Hartle and Michael Halperin at PowerCon/ThunderCon 2011

TZN: And not just the Avengers, but also the Fantastic Four for the season two premiere you are credited as director on. You had the Avengers and the classic Fantastic Four members and Doctor Doom all in the same episode together.

GARY HARTLE: If you give me something Marvel, I’m going to have a blast. Especially when it’s old school Marvel, the original characters and stuff. I’m going to have a blast.

TZN: Can you give us any information on your next project with Hasbro Studios?

GARY HARTLE: I can’t yet. It’s really in the development stage right now. I can probably just tell you that it’s Kaijudo. And we are going to try and do as we did with the Masters of the Universe and make a whole lore out of it and try to show everybody that they are literally living in a Kaijudo world right now, they don’t even know it.

TZN: Will it be traditionally animated or CG?

GARY HARTLE: It will be traditional.

TZN: Who is your favorite He-Man character to work on?

GARY HARTLE: For me to draw there’s two. It comes down to Skeletor and He-Man because when it came down to a fight between those two, that would be one of the times I would grab [the scene] to storyboard. It’s fun because of my Conan years to draw He-Man. With Skeletor, I just love the kind of curvature to his spine and how everything works with his curves. So he’s a lot of fun to draw.

TZN: When you work on an animated episode how much do you typically storyboard?

GARY HARTLE: I don’t board most of it. If I draw that much, the whole show is in trouble. What I would do is I would take the juiciest scenes. Jay Oliva, he would say, “Gary you’re always taking the juiciest scenes.” Something that would be enjoyable for me to do. I would draw a lot of large sequences. The acts were done by storyboard artists that we hired.

TZN: Can you give us any more hints on what we have to look forward to on the second season for Avengers?

GARY HARTLE: I think the thing that you’re going to find is that a lot of Marvel Universe is going to be sampled in The Avengers.

Toonzone News would like to thank Gary Hartle for speaking to us, and for the drawing of Hordak, my favorite Masters of the Universe character, he gifted to me.

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