Wednesday 22 April 2020

April 2020 update: 10 in 10

Just wanted to say thank you to all viewers and contributors for getting the archive to 10,000 views in 10 months. 

I haven't done an update post for a couple of months, but have been busy adding to the archive on a near-daily basis.  The additions include:

  • Various model sheets/cels, height charts and concept art from Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, G.I Joe, Muppet Babies and the Pryde Of The X-Men pilot.  Including work by John Romita Sr, Russ Heath, Rick Hoberg, Bruce Timm and Alex Toth.
  • Various one and two-page storyboards for Jem music videos
  • For Transformers, pages from the outline, and the unedited pages to Act I of the dialogue script for Chaos.  The first page of the outline and the handwritten "Beats" chart for Grimlock's New Brain
  • The official video for the first three miniseries of GI Joe
  • More official video of Defenders Of The Earth, including three of the four "movie" releases: The Story Begins, The Book Of Mysteries and the Prince Kro-tan arc.  The fourth, The Necklace Of Oros, will be linked once posted to YouTube by ComicsKingdom

As always, if anyone out there has access to any full scripts or storyboards and is willing to consider contributing scans to the archive.  Please get in touch via the "Contact" link.  For scanning from home, some contributions have already been made using Adobe Scan:
For one-page items, such as a voice actor call sheet or a memo, a flat photo will do the trick.

Here's to the next 10,000

Tuesday 14 April 2020

Unproduced projects

Doctor Strange And The Mystery Kids - 1981
In late 1981, Marvel Productions hired Martin Pasko to write the Preliminary Development document for a proposed Doctor Strange cartoon to be sold to NBC for the 1982 season.  Spinning off the Doctor's guest appearance in Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends.

According to Pasko when he sold the document in 2013, NBC rejected the pitch as they felt the mystical elements and the villains could be interpreted as "Satanic" and Marvel refused to water down the concepts any further.

The Mysterians - 1983

An early entry into the 1980s transforming robot craze.  New Jersey-based toy company Knickerbocker, after an unsatisfactory effort by DC Comics, approached Marvel Comics to develop a monthly comic, pack-in comics for the toys and an animated special.  Editor-In-Chief Jim Shooter developed the backstory and treatment for the first story, much to Knickerbocker's delight.

In December 1982, Shooter, publisher Mike Hodgson and other Marvel staff attended a meeting with Knickerbocker executives to discuss the planned launch of the franchise.  The meeting started three hours late, with the executives described by Shooter as "ashen-faced and nervous" and "going through the motions".  The meeting included a conference call with Dennis Marks, Marvel Productions' Head Of Development.  It transpired that Marks had ignored Shooter's treatment and come up with another one involving "cute, wacky, goofy kids and a dog".  Knickerbocker were aghast, stating they wanted what Shooter had developed.  Which in turn, left Marks stunned*.

Shooter and company headed home wondering about the meeting, speculating about a possible company shakeup at Knickerbocker.  The next day, they found out that the shakeup was that Knickerbocker had been bought out by Hasbro.  At that point, all plans for the Mysterians were dropped.  Though the toy designs would not go to waste, as they found their way first to Takara's Micro-Change line, then to Transformers as the Autobot mini-vehicles Huffer, Brawn, Gears and Windcharger.

* - The "kids and a dog" premise popularised by Scooby-Doo had been relentlessly copied during the 1970s.  Marvel Productions spent its first three years applying this tired formula to pitch after pitch.  Successfully selling it to networks on Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends and Meatballs & Spaghetti.  It was attempted on Dungeons & Dragons until D&D creator Gary Gygax intervened and insisted the dog be made a unicorn.  Even after Dennis Marks was fired from Marvel in 1983 - the executives of both NBC and CBS refused to deal with him - this formula would be attempted at least one more time on transforming robots.... 

For more details on the Mysterians' development, head to Jim Shooter's blog

The Incredible Hulk & The She-Hulk - 1983

Written by Misty Stewart (Later Misty Taggart) in early 1983 as a means of retooling the previous year's Incredible Hulk cartoon, presumably as a last-ditch effort to persuade NBC to renew the series.
Changes included rewriting the Hulk to be less like the comics incarnation and more like the live-action TV series which had ended the year before.  Also to bring back She-Hulk as a regular supporting character. (photos taken from ebay auction).

"Car And Cable" 1983/84
Originally appearing in an article about Marvel Productions, in the pages of Marvel Age magazine in 1985.  A pitch titled Car And Cable showed a transforming Volkswagen in a comedic setting with three kids and a dog.  Long assumed to be Marvel's attempt at producing a knockoff to their own success story in The Transformers...

That was until March 2020 when Instagram user consumercollectibles contacted this archive and others to show the original pitch artwork, revealing a previously unseen piece that shows this was in fact an early pitch for Transformers

It is unknown at time of writing exactly where this pitch falls in the development of The Transformers.  Whether it was conceived in summer 1983, when Hasbro first acquired the toy license and according to Buzz Dixon, were shopping the concept to every production studio in LA.  Or whether this came after the Jim Shooter treatment seen in the main Transformers section.  Marvel Productions head David DePatie was reported to be openly hostile to Marvel Comics.  As mentioned above, allowing his development team to outright ignore the treatments being sent over to them.

Air Raiders - 1987
Intended to be the next major Sunbow and Marvel co-production in 1987, promoting the new toyline.  Ron Friedman and Doug Booth worked on development of a potential cartoon through the summer of 1986, with Friedman writing a three-part pilot by January 1987.  Unfortunately, the dual slump in syndicated cartoon ratings and toy sales - due to oversaturation of both - led Hasbro to cancel the project and end all new funding for toy-promoting cartoons once the existing contracts for Jem and Visionaries were completed.

Ron Friedman material (Heritage Auction previews only).

Captain America and The Avengers - 1990
As he recently uncovered from his storage, Flint Dille worked with Stan Lee on developing an Avengers series to sell to ABC.  The network felt there wasn't a market for it and passed on the pitch.
Flint would work with Marvel Productions again in 1991, as story editor for season 2 of Attack Of The Killer Tomatoes.

Siegfried & Roy 
Pitch material created in 1992, intended for 65 episodes in 1993 season.  The plans fell through and Marvel Productions was reorganised into New World Animation that year, taking Biker Mice From Mars forward under the new banner.

Concept art (20 pieces)
Pilot storyboard (14 pages) Will Meugniot


The following pitches were revealed in an article covering Marvel Production in Comics Feature magazine issue 33, cover-dated January 1985.  Full scans can be found at:



Iron Man

The Monstress

Teen Hulk

Hulk Hound


Wacky Wacky West - year unknown

Wednesday 4 March 2020

David Wise 1955-2020

The Sunbow and Marvel Archive wishes to express it's condolences to the family and friends of David Wise, who passed away of lung cancer on March 3rd.

David Wise' Facebook page announcement

On a more personal note.  As a kid growing up in the UK in the 80's and 90's.  The thing that hooked me on Transformers were the Video Gems VHS tapes.  In particular, the three episode tape of The Key To Vector Sigma and War Dawn.  We had that tape from near it's release in 1986 until the turn of the century when we abandoned VHS for good.  By that point, the tape was so degraded that the sound effects often overrode the dialogue.  Even now, though the episodes are technically a two-parter and one standalone, it is hard not to think of them as a trilogy.

They are stories that have stuck with me for nearly 35 years of my life.  Even in later years when my interests were elsewhere, it was always something I would come back to eventually.  Leading to properly discovering the rest of the Sunbow/Marvel shows in the past two or three years, eventually leading to the creation of this website.

The full list of David's works within the scope of the archive. * - indicates that an item of production material is available to view at the archive.

MP  700 Transformers

19 Attack Of The Autobots *
24 Day Of The Machines *
33 Microbots *
42 Make Tracks *
45 The Secret Of Omega Supreme *
47 Kremzeek! *
51 Auto-Bop *
53 The Girl Who Loved Powerglide *
55 The Key To Vector Sigma, part 1 *
56 The Key To Vector Sigma, part 2 *
58 War Dawn *
59 Trans-Europe Express *
6701-01 The Rebirth, part 1
6701-02 The Rebirth, part 2
6701-03 The Rebirth, part 3

MP  900 Defenders Of The Earth

38 Audie And Tweak *
Flesh And Blood
The Mystery Of The Book
The Book Of Mysteries
The Gods Awake
The Starboy
Fury Of The Deep
The Ghost Walks Again
The Prince's Royal Hunt
The Prince Weds
The Prince Triumphant
The Prince Dethroned
Return Of The Skyband

MP 5201 My Little Pony

11 The Revolt Of Paradise Estate, part 1
12 The Revolt Of Paradise Estate, part 2
27 Through The Door, part 1
28 Through The Door, part 2
58 Somnambula, part 1
59 Somnambula, part 2
60 The Ice Cream Wars
61 The Prince And The Ponies

MP 5205 Jem

25 Culture Clash
48 Renaissance Woman

Conan And The Young Warriors

01 Isle Of The Lost
12 Once A Thief (with Bryce Malek)

Friday 21 February 2020

February 2020 update

This month the archived has brought together....

A selection of storyboard pages for MP 4064 Pryde Of The X-men.  Marvel Productions' attempt at an X-men pilot, produced in 1987 but not aired until 1989.

MP 6000 Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends

The last 27 pages of storyboards for VideoMan

MP 600 GI Joe

Storyboards for:
  • The commercial for Marvel Comics issue 14, which saw the debut of Destro
  • 17 pages from 31 Cobra Quake
  • All but five pages from the season 1 main title.  It appears that this title was created bespoke for the Pyramid Of Darkness miniseries.  However due to the miniseries being written and produced so late in the run (episodes 37-41), yet due to be aired first.  It seems this title was edited and used on the whole season.
  • The commercial for Battleforce 2000.  Part of the 1988 toyline and one of the last Marvel Productions' storyboards for GI Joe as full-length cartoons came to an end and Sunbow looked to TMS to produce commercials for the remaining toylines
MP 700 Transformers
  • The call sheets for Hoist Goes Hollywood, Chaos and Dark Awakening have been donated and attached to the respective dialogue scripts.
  • The Dark Awakening dialogue script has been replaced by an unedited version showing deleted lines
  • The 1st page of the outline for Cosmic Rust, revealing a starring role for Shockwave that was removed in the full script
  • The 1st page of the outline for Chaos, showing a flashback to Kup's time as a slave mining death crystals, which was originally intended to be a Quintesson operation
MP 900 Defenders Of The Earth

The main title storyboard, only parts of which were animated and edited together with footage from early episodes.  View the official video of the intro at the Defenders page for comparison.

MP 5205 Jem

Storyboards for:

  • Both the initial draft and revised version of the main title sequence
  • Roughs and final storyboards for the first four pages of the Glitter and Gold music video (The big reveal of Glitter and Gold Jem).
  • Roughs and final storyboards for Jem And The Holograms, The Misfits and The Stingers' music video: Now
In addition, the site has been supplemented by video links from the official Hasbro YouTube channels.

Thursday 30 January 2020

January 2020 update

Happy 2020 to all viewers!  The archive is kicking off the year strong with...

MP 4034 The Transformers The Movie

Thanks to contributor Avon - the archive now hosts all 31 storyboard sequences for the movie.  As such, the existing draft scripts and lists of cut scenes have been collected with the storyboards into a new dedicated page for the movie (accessed from the Productions link on the right).

MP 900 Defenders Of The Earth

The official YouTube channel for King Features Entertainment (owners of DoE and the newspaper strip characters that comprise it) is uploading the show for free, episode-by-episode.  For episodes that have scripts or storyboards available, the videos will be directly linked once they have been uploaded.  Root Of Evil and Escape From Mongo are currently linked and more will follow.


With permission from - and thanks to - Marvel Productions storyboard artist Michael Swanigan.  The archive now hosts several partial storyboards from various shows:

MP 6000 Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends

6018 A Firestar Is Born (5 pages)

MP 100 The Incredible Hulk

07 The Creature And The Cavegirl (9 pages)

MP 400 Dungeons & Dragons

01 The Night Of No Tomorrow (21 pages)

03 The Hall Of Bones (21 pages)

22 The Dragon's Graveyard (25 pages)

MP 600 G.I Joe

4007 The Worms Of Death (The MASS Device, part 3)  (10 pages)

21 The Greenhouse Effect (9 pages)

MP 6501 Fraggle Rock (Animated)

02A Big Trouble For A Little Fraggle (20 pages)

04A A Fraggle For All Seasons (20 pages)

10A Mokey's Flood Of Creativity (20 pages)

All of these storyboards can be found at the respective show pages.

Friday 24 January 2020

The dialogue recording

Once a script was marked as "final", it could then be made available to record the dialogue.  It would then fall to the production company to book a recording session and voice director, as well as contact the voice actors' respective agencies to book them for the session.

A voice actor would have a maximum number of three speaking roles for every session.  If there were one-off roles or incidental voices required in the script, these would be distributed among the actors who had not reached their three character limit.  On shows with large ensemble casts, there would sometimes be a small amount of dialogue lines from a character in the script that proved insufficient to justify booking that character's voice actor for the session.  In these instances, dialogue would be reassigned to a character whose voice actor was already booked.

If a voice actor was unavailable for a particular session due to prior bookings, a separate "pick-up" session would be booked to allow their dialogue to be recorded as soon as possible.
For shows intended to be broadcast on one of the three US networks (ABC, CBS and NBC), scripts were reviewed and approved by network executives and the approved dialogue had to be rigidly adhered to.  For syndication broadcast, a looser approach was permitted, with changes made in the recording session itself.  One notable instance of major change was to the opening scene of Transformers episode Five Faces Of Darkness, part 1.  The broadcast scenes of the Constructicons fighting over energon cubes had to be created on the spot, as the original dialogue scripts reveal that the miniseries was meant to open with a fight between the Insecticons (characters who were reformatted in Transformers The Movie and who effectively no longer existed) in a fight with Menasor.

Five Faces Of Darkness, part 1 dialogue script on the bottom left....

...and the broadcast version.

However, allowing changes during the session could lead to potential errors, as dialogue would sometimes be swapped between characters.  Or at other times, characters would read written on-screen text differently to what had been directed in the script and first-draft storyboards.  In both cases, due to the hectic production schedules, there was often no time to accommodate these changes in the final storyboard revisions that were sent to the overseas animators.

Where scheduling permitted, the dialogue scripts that every voice actor worked from would be drawn up using scene numbers from the first draft storyboards.  This has been confirmed as being the case on all of G.I Joe season 1, Inhumanoids and Transformers up to and including the episode The Insecticon Syndrome.

At the beginning of 1985, a change was made on Transformers starting with Dinobot Island, part 1.  From then until the end of the series, finalised scripts would have each line of dialogue numbered and transcribed to the dialogue scripts.  This enabled recording sessions to be booked and take place ahead of the completion of the first draft storyboards.  

 MP 700-28 The Insecticon Syndrome dialogue script, organised by storyboard scene numbers

MP 700-29 Dinobot Island, part 1 dialogue script.  Drawn up using dialogue lines numbered on the full script.

Script page from Bucky O'Hare episode MP 6610-12 Bye-Bye Berserker Baboon, with dialogue numbered, to be transcribed for the dialogue script.

Due to the manic production schedule of season 3, several episodes would have their scripts finalised on a Monday or Tuesday, then go into a dialogue session on the Thursday or Friday of that same week.  Among those episodes that were rushed to dialogue were Thief In The Night, The Big Broadcast of 2006, Only Human, Grimlock's New Brain and Call Of The Primitives (see the production timeline for dates):

To listen to a sampling of dialogue recording from this era, follow this link to a playlist of deleted dialogue from Transformers season 1 (Thanks to Transformers At The Moon).

For a lot of animal noises or human sounds known as "Body English", particularly ones that were strenuous for an actor to perform at every session.  Additional Dialogue Recording sessions would be booked to put these sounds on tape.  The tapes could then be re-used by the production company sound editors over and over again.  Some notable ADR tapes include:

  • The late Bob Holt recorded stock roaring sounds for The Incredible Hulk in 1982.  The recordings would be frequently used by Marvel Productions on multiple shows.  Including Juggernaut on Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends, various monsters in Dungeons and Dragons and the barbarian Ramar in the first G.I Joe miniseries.  As well as the final, posthumous use:  the roars of Unicron in Transformers The Movie
  • Shortly after production of Transformers season 1, director Wally Burr recorded Frank Welker to make a stock library of sounds for the Decepticon jaguar Ravage.  Excerpts from this session would be used for all of Ravage's appearances throughout the rest of the series.  The tape would see it's final use in 1986 on the final episode of G.I Joe: Into Your Tent I Will Silently Creep.  The tape can be listened to at this link:
  • Around a similar timeframe as the creation of the Ravage tape.  Chris Latta was brought in to record a stock library for Laserbeak, which again was used for all of Laserbeak's appearances throughout the series.  For over 30 years, it was assumed that the role of Laserbeak had been performed by Frank Welker, due to his long association with performing animal noises for animation.  However, when Transformers dialogue recordings surfaced in 2016, it was revealed to have been Latta's role all along.  The tape can be listened to here:

Friday 17 January 2020

The storyboard and slugging process

In the last article, we looked at the process of story editing a script.  Now we look at two of the key aspects of production: storyboards and slugging.

Here are some examples of storyboard cover pages from the archive

Once a script was passed to Marvel's storyboard department, first draft storyboards were normally expected to be completed within two to three weeks.  Ideally, each act of an episode would be assigned to a separate artist.  Some top artists, such as Will Meugniot on the G.I Joe episodes Cobra Quake and Worlds Without End part 1, had provision in their contracts to storyboard an episode on their own.  As the workload increased at Marvel during late 1985 and into 1986, there were instances of an artist having to storyboard an episode on their own in the same timescale normally given to three artists.  Such as Doug Lefler's incredibly rough boards for the Transformers episode Cosmic Rust.

At this time in the animation industry, the obligation to be on-model did not lie with the storyboard artists.  That was reserved for the layouts, a process which had been outsourced either to the animating studio, or to !XAM Productions in Utah.

Because of this, combined with the presence among Marvel's storyboard department of top comic book artists, storyboards had a variety of contrasting art styles.  From clean, simple lines to very rough to heavily stylised in a way that would never make it to the actual animation.

From Defenders Of The Earth episode 39: The Defense Never Rests

From the Dungeons & Dragons episode 16 The Girl Who Dreamed Tomorrow

From Jem episode 33 Trick Or Techrat.  The music video for We Can Change It, version 2

Once the first draft was completed, a copy would be sent to the animation directors (Or sequence directors, depending on how they were credited).  A number of them were veterans of the animation industry, who started their careers with either the original Walt Disney or Warner Bros. Studios in the 1930's and 1940's.
Their role was first to time out, or "slug", the non-dialogue portions of each scene.  The list of timings would then be handed to a producer to add to the storyboards.  As seen below in this page from Spider-Man And His Amazing Friends.

The numbers refer to the Feet and Frames of footage required for each scene.

Meanwhile, the animation directors would prepare the exposure sheets for each scene.  These would be detailed frame-by-frame instructions to the overseas' animators.  As shown at the link below in these examples from the later seasons of Muppet Babies (From the blog of warburtonlabs):

A quick key to the exposure sheets:

The top row would detail the production number, footage length, scene number and sequence number.
The horizontal bold lines, every eighth line down, represent half a foot of footage.

Then from left to right:

Column 1: Represents the path and flow of action
Column 2: Details dialogue, broken down into it's phonetic components
Column 3: Lists the levels of animation.  In other words, how many separate cels were required for an individual frame.  The maximum number of acetate cels allowed was always five, with the sixth column being the background
Columns 4 and 5: Notes for the Camera Operator including trucking, panning, field size and which background was to be used.

The raw "unslugged" recordings of the dialogue session, once they were available to the sound editors, would then be spaced out to the director's timings to create the full running length of the episode.  With the slugged recording available, producers would then know how many scenes would need to be cut in final storyboard revisions.

Once the final storyboard revisions had been decided upon, the storyboards would be packed up. Along with the exposure sheets, model sheets/cels, colour keys, background keys, background layouts and a whole host of other production material and shipped out for animation.