Marvel Studios Visual Development Supervisor Andy Park has shed some light on the development of concept art for the Marvel Cinematic Universe, specifically the popular unused character designs. Park and his team are an essential part of Marvel movie development, overseeing the art process from the very early stages – often contributing essential designs to a project before a director or star is attached.
He’s well known in fan circles thanks to his active social media presence, with the release of each new movie bringing with it Instagram posts from Park showing alternate versions of characters (such as a recent caped T’Chaka), on top of his work being showcased in the various “Art of the Film” books. Many of these designs feature more comic accurate versions of fan favorites, often raising the question of whether these alternate designs would have been better.
Screen Rant recently talked with Park to discuss his work on Thor: Ragnarok, during which we covered the development process at Marvel – one that is now so hectic it can see Park “touch five films in a day“, including Ragnarok, Ant-Man And The Wasp, Captain Marvel, and other projects he couldn’t disclose – and those unused designs. When we asked if there was any specific art he most wished had been used, Park couldn’t think of any prime example, admitting everything was in service of the finished product:
“It gets so hard because there are so many films [laughs]. It is hard to say because it’s very subjective. Of course, as an artist, you get attached to your own designs. At the end of the day… for example, I did a whole bunch of designs for Yellowjacket that I was quite proud of, but at the end of the day I feel like they picked the right one – the one that Jackson Sze did was amazing and I don’t disagree with them. The people at Marvel, and the directors that we get – they all have great eyes, and there’s a reason why things get approved, you know? It’s not always “What is the best design” – so often it is “What is the best design?” – but it’s thinking what’s the best design for the story we’re trying to tell, and particularly for the sensibility of the particular director, you know? My job is so subjective. You to hold your own designs loosely. It’s to serve a bigger purpose than just, ‘What is the coolest thing?'”
As seen on his own website, Park’s Yellowjacket designs were rather different from what we ended up getting, with a more angular, insectoid design with a greater focus on deep blues alongside the yellow. And, indeed, while cool, they perhaps wouldn’t have worked as much of a mirror of Ant-Man.
Naturally, one of the biggest influences on the type of designs comes from the director. As Park can start before a filmmaker comes on, he sees the level of influence they have over a project in terms of diverging style first hand. This was most definitely felt with Taika Waititi on Ragnarok, who even in the return of Thor in his non-Sakaaran status quo had a clear vision, with Park emphasizing that “his whole mission was to bring a whole new fresh take on Thor.”
He went on to say the road worn look from the start of the film was Waititi’s first request, with everything rolling from there. Almost proving the point about unused designs, Park did do “a cleaner or newer version, more Asgardian, but after Chris Hemsworth was wearing the road worn look, eventually people were like, ‘I like this road worn look, maybe he could just kinda keep that look throughout the film’“. This all grew until the development got to Sakaar and Waititi said, “let’s chop off his hair“.
This is a side of design development that isn’t usually elaborated on, and goes to show that while key frame art may be more immediately grabbing, even from the incredibly early stages, Marvel is thinking about their story and character faithfulness above all else.
Thor: Ragnarok is available on digital, Blu-Ray and DVD now.
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