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Frank Paur on Directing “Hulk Vs.”

by  in Movie News, TV News Comment
Frank Paur on Directing “Hulk Vs.”
“Hulk Vs.” on sale this week on DVD and Blu-Ray

Hulk Vs.” is an animated double-feature directed by Frank Paur, and hits stores this week on DVD and Blu-Ray from Lionsgate Entertainment. The release sees the Hulk smashing Wolverine in one film and Thor in the other, with a ferocity rarely seen in other Marvel Comics-based cartoons. CBR News spoke with Paur about “Hulk Vs.” and the relaxed restrictions of producing cartoons direct to DVD.

With a long career in animation that includes “G.I. Joe,” “Batman: The Animated Series,” “Gargoyles,” and, more recently, Marvel Studios features such as “The Invincible Iron Man” and “Dr. Strange,” Frank Paur brings a perspective gleaned from much experience to the “Hulk Vs.” movies. “The more you do, the more experience you get, the more confident you get in communicating your ideas to other people,” the director told CBR. “And the more confident you feel in your own stuff, surprisingly, that kind of imparts itself to the people you’re selling things to.”

This confidence brought Paur onto a project that would allow the animation veteran to do things his way. “Doing the DVD line for Lionsgate is a lot of fun because they’re less restrictive than what you’d normally deal with in, say, Saturday morning,” he explained. “Even if you’re working on a big feature, there’s even more people you have to deal with, because there’s so much money involved. These things aren’t cheap, don’t get me wrong, but there’s that kind of middle ground where they trust you enough to take the reins, kind of play around than they’d normally do. So it’s more fun to experiment and exercise things that you always wanted to do but for various reasons you couldn’t do.

Scene from “Hulk Vs.”

“Back in the ’80s when I first started working in animation, I was working on ‘G.I. Joe’ and on a lot of these old time shows, and we had a very strong vibe from the toy company–you can do this, you can’t do that, you’ve gotta show this, you can’t be too scary, because we don’t want to scare kids with this stuff. You’re always on, ‘Who am I going to offend?’ If you’re going to offend somebody, they say ‘Oh no, you can’t do that.’ And when you have those types of restrictions, yeah, you can still do a pretty cool show, because we always found roundabout ways to solve those problems, but it always kind of ties your hands.

“And [‘Hulk Vs.’ is] a case where we don’t have that. We’re not really beholden to a toy company. The show is what it is — it’s for pure entertainment. It’s not there to sell anything other than the disc that it’s on. And so the better we make the disc, the better we make the show, the more surprises we throw in there for the fans and all of that stuff, the more people are going to buy it.”

The looser restrictions of the DVD release allowed Paur and his team to create a cartoon that is more true to the comic book source material, letting them build the sort of animated story they had always wanted to make. “I think really, in ‘Hulk Vs.,’ the thing we really wanted to accomplish is that this is really a fan film,” he said. “Everybody on it, [writers] Craig Kyle and Chris Yost, me, all my directors, we’re all fanboys at heart when it comes to this stuff. And we’re basically unfettered. So we’re going to give people Wolverine and Hulk as they’ve never seen Wolverine and Hulk animated ever before: the way that we imagine it in the comic books. So that was a lot of fun.”

Scene from “Hulk Vs.”

This sense of staying true to comics also influenced the decision to release the two short animated films as a double-feature. “My own viewpoint of it was, let’s try something completely different. We’re going to break the normal rules of filmmaking. We’re going to go directly into this comic book and pull out chapters and animate them,” Paur explained. “There are filmmaking techniques involved in what we did, but it definitely breaks the rules of what you’d expect of a feature. That’s kind of how we wanted to play it. We wanted to make it very much for the fans, and make it feel as though these characters are exploding from the pages of a comic book. Doing the two of these gave us the chance to kind of play with that.”

Though paired in one package, “Hulk Vs. Wolverine” and “Hulk Vs. Thor” use compatible yet distinct visual styles. This was a result of matching the style to the story that is being told. “On ‘Hulk Vs. Wolverine,’ I presented it like a horror movie,” Paur said. “It was off in the north woods, secluded, so I wanted everything very dark, very cold, because Wolverine is a very cool and cold emotionless killer on the loose. He’s not that far removed from the monsters he fights. This is pre-X-Men Wolverine. He’s still exploring his conscience. But it had to have that feel of isolation, of aloneness. So all of those factors went in to the style we chose for the show, for the colors we chose for the show, for the artist who designed the characters. Jeff Matsuda, we wanted him to bring that kind of cartoon feel but we also wanted that edge to it. We were going to do a lot of different things with this, and we wanted something that wasn’t too realistic but was realistic enough so that we could pull a bunch of different stuff off it and still cause people to go Whoo!

Scene from “Hulk Vs.”

“Hulk Vs. Thor” is of course very different, because it depicts the story of of Ragnarok. “Which in this case is the Incredible Hulk,” Paur continued. “So it’s gods and monsters, everything is larger than life. The gods of Asgard look like they’re carved from granite, they look indestructible. Asgard is something you can barely imagine by the grandeur of the place, and we’re trying to show all that and then we bring in this monster that tears it all down. The monster has to match and actually surpass these gods whom he is fighting. So we did all that.”

The voice actors, too, can influence the shape of an animated project. “We put these things together we have kind of a very strong idea of how we want the actors to play out, and then you cast an actor that best fits what your perception is,” Paur explained. “Then you have your meetings with the actors, you let the actor do his take on things. Fred [Tatasciore, who plays the Hulk] is such a professional at what he does that even when he’s screaming and yelling, let me tell you, he’s still acting. How he’s doing these things, if you watch these guys, their whole body gets into the roles that they’re doing. When I get their recordings, they go directly to the artist to do the storyboards. So when you listen to these guys, they’re telling a story with their voices and it actually helps the artist choreograph the action on the storyboard pages, when they listen to these guys. So it’s very integral to animation, to work with professionals like Fred and Steve [Blum] and all these other guys that we’re working with.”

Scene from “Hulk Vs.”

Paur said Marvel and Lionsgate’s next animated release will be a Thor project directed by Gary Hartle, and that Paur himself has more features coming further down the line. “The one I’m working on right now is looking exceptionally grand. I can’t really tell you about it right now. The film series seems to get better with each release that we have, and it’s been a blast to be a part of all this.

“Any artist, any creator loves doing that because it forces you to experiment. The more you experiment, the better you become at what you do.”

“Hulk Vs.” is on sale this week on DVD and Blu-Ray from Lionsgate Home Entertainment.

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