By Ani Bundel

When the average comic fan hears the words “Marvel Studios,” the first thing that comes to mind is big screen hits like Avengers: Endgame and Disney+ series like WandaVision. But the animation division of Marvel is just as active and staged its own panel in Ballroom 20, separate from the live-action presentation in Hall H. Led by host Paul F. Tompkins, Marvel Studios’ head of streaming, television, and animation Brad Winderbaum and the director of visual development Ryan Meinerding; the two ran down quite a few projects in the works with their various writers and showrunners.

In 2019 (the last time Marvel did an in-person panel), the animation offerings planned for Disney+ like What If…? were combined with the overall Phase 4 slate. (Not unlike Lucasfilm does not distinguish between live-action series like The Mandalorian and animated shows like The Bad Batch.) But with new animated titles like X-Men ’97 and Marvel Zombies, not to mention Season 2 of What If…?, plus other new up-and-coming shows, separating them to form an animated slate made sense.

Trailers for I Am Groot and What If…? Season 2 were introduced, and the panel showed an episode of each. Fans also saw the first stills of the What If…? spinoff, Marvel’s Zombies. What If…? introduced the idea of the zombie versions of Marvel stars, which were then canonized in Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Zombies are still some of the most popular genre shows (hello, The Walking Dead), and the combination of superheroes and zombies has been irresistible. Naturally, a zombie-focused spinoff was a no-brainer, announced even before the live action zombies of Dr. Strange in the Multiverse of Madness arrived.

The most extensive new project introduced for this panel was Spider-Man: Freshman Year. Though there were no trailers, the panel introduced the new cast of the animated series, including Ego, a Wakandan genius girl, and a couple of surprises, including the Sorcerer Supreme and Daredevil.

X-Men: The Animated Series originally debuted in 1992 and ran 78 episodes before it was canceled. Disney+’s new version is variously referred to as a revival, a reboot, and a continuation. Now known as X-Men ‘97, the animated series is the first promised return of the superhero mutants since the Disney-Fox merger in 2019. There’s no trailer for the series yet (they only just started filming), just stills and storyboards shown in the room of the updated characters and new ones joining them, but the audience greeted each one with rapturous applause.

I Am Groot arrives on Disney+ on Aug 10 with five episodes. Season 2 is already in the works.

What If…? Season 2 is expected out in early 2023 on Disney+. Season 3 has been greenlit.

Marvel Zombies will premiere in 2024.

Spider-Man: Freshman Year will drop in 2024. Spider-Man: Sophomore Year is already greenlit.

X-Men 97 does not have a premiere date as yet.

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