Superhero Sundays: Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Frost Fight!
Matthew Turner | On 27, Sep 2020
Directors: Mitch Schauer
Cast: Mick Wingert, Matthew Mercer, Travis Willingham, Fred Tatasciore, Grey Griffin, Troy Baker
Watch Marvel Super Hero Adventures – Frost Fight! online in the UK: Disney+
On Sundays, we like to watch cartoons. So we’re working our way through animated superhero cartoons on Disney+. We call it Superhero Sundays.
Directed by Mitch Schauer (and supervised by Eric Radomski), Marvel Superheroes: Frost Fight! is the third feature from the Marvel Animation studio. Despite the misleading title, it’s not based on the Canadian Marvel Super Hero Adventures cartoons – instead it’s effectively a feature-length Christmas special episode of the Avengers Assemble series. As such, it’s very much aimed towards younger children, although there’s enough here to appeal to older audiences too.
The film begins with the Avengers – Iron Man (Mick Wingert), Captain America (Matthew Mercer), Hulk (Fred Tatasciore), Thor (Travis Willingham), Captain Marvel (Grey Griffin) and teenage trainee Reptil (Anthony Del Rio) – battling Frost Giant Ymir (Tatasciore again) on a desert island. After his solid trouncing, Ymir is approached by Loki (Troy Baker), who ropes him into a plan to rule the world by stealing Santa’s time-and-space manipulation powers. (Well, how else do you think he gets all those presents delivered?)
Initially preoccupied with Loki’s distraction technique of letting a dinosaur loose on the streets of New York, the Avengers quickly figure out Loki’s intentions. While Cap, Iron Man, Reptil and Captain Marvel race to stop Loki from acquiring the Casket of Ancient Powers (the magical device he’ll need to take Santa’s powers), Thor and Hulk stay behind in New York and attempt to figure out how to do Santa’s job for him if he falls victim to Loki.
Meanwhile, Rocket Raccoon (Trevor Devall) and Groot (Kevin Michael Richardson) are deceived by a fake bounty that Loki has placed on Santa’s head and set out to capture him to claim the reward. Along the way, they meet Mrs Claus (Jane Singer), who turns out to be full of surprises.
The main thing that Frost Fight! has going for it is the fact that, with the exception of Matthew Mercer (Cap), all the other voice actors have played their characters across multiple other animated properties. This means there’s an instant familiarity for fans of, say, the Guardians of the Galaxy cartoons, but also that the actors know the characters inside out and have fun with their performances as a result. This is particularly true in the case of Wingert (who very much models his Iron Man after the wise-cracking Downey Jr version), Tatasciore (Hulk singing his own Christmas song is one of several Hulk highlights) and Baker, whose Loki echoes the Tom Hiddleston version and indulges in some enjoyable wordplay, such as calling Ymir “cold friend”.
As for Reptil, he’s a relatively new addition to the Marvel Universe (he was created in 2009) and his powers are a bit weird (he can shape-shift his body into dinosaur parts), but he’s a likeable enough character and he serves a useful function here, giving younger audiences a surrogate figure closer to their own age, as well as being better placed to deliver the dialogue about believing in Santa Claus than certain other Avengers.
The animation style is relatively simplistic compared to some of the other cartoon series, but the characters are nicely rendered and the action is cleanly presented, even if some of it doesn’t seem entirely appropriate – there’s a bit where Captain America kicks an icicle into Ymir’s bottom, for example, which doesn’t seem like a very Cap thing to do.
There are a few other moments of silly physical humour (eg. Hulk getting somehow knocked into a suit by the dinosaur), but thankfully, they’re mostly kept to a minimum. The verbal jokes, by contrast, are a lot more successful, with several funny lines and amusing puns – for example, Hulk yelling, “Time to make some ice scream!” when he’s attacking Ymir or Rocket telling Groot, “You made the gingerbread rise!” when they’re attacked by the reanimated crumbs of the gingerbread men they’ve just broken.
The film is also notable for its treatment of Santa. Introduced via the Asgardian version of his legend (part-Frost Giant, part-Elf, known as Jolnir), the script keeps him off screen until close to the end of the film, but when he turns up, he’s like a proper superhero with a cape, cool powers and even a sleigh that seems like it’s secretly known as the Santamobile.
Perhaps surprisingly, the film doesn’t go too overboard on its Christmas messaging, restricting itself to some stuff about “believing” (Iron Man the sceptic being won over by Santa) and the Avengers telling stories of meaningful presents Santa brought them when they were young. There are some nice festive moments scattered throughout, though, from Hulk telling Thor why he loves Christmas to Hulk delivering presents, plus it ends with the festive (and surreal) sight of Groot turning himself into a Christmas tree. Happy holidays, everyone!
Marvel Super Hero Adventures: Frost Fight! is available on Disney+ UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription or a £79.99 yearly subscription.