It all began in a cave, with a box of scraps. Actually, it all began in a small office above a Mercedes-Benz dealership in Beverly Hills with a group of “B-list” heroes that a brand new studio believed were “A-list.” Marvel Studios has come so far since releasing Iron Man that many forget the studio’s humble beginnings.
Before the studio earned $17.5B in global receipts, Marvel was making an indie with director Jon Favreau and star Robert Downey, Jr. Head of Visual Development Ryan Meinerding was there as well and he remembers what it was like when Marvel Studios was an unknown commodity and not the box office behemoth they are today.
“When I started on Iron Man, I just felt lucky to have a job in the film business,” Meinerding tells Marvel Studios News. “As my first big movie, I was excited to be working with such talented people. There was such an energy around the studio at that time. Startup movie studios don’t happen every day and the idea of participating in that at a very early stage, I think everyone that was there was just energized.”
Meinerding may have been the most energetic of the group. He went above and beyond to be at work as much as he could. “It was very easy to come to work every day,” he says. “I actually rented a second apartment closer to work so I get in at like 5:00am, which is really stupid to admit, but that’s who I was at 29.”
Meinerding leads Marvel Studios’ secret weapon, the visual development department, an in-house team of remarkably-talented artists that design the characters and worlds of the MCU. The secret is getting out with the team profiled in a fantastic digital-exclusive featurette on the home release of Ant-Man and the Wasp. They are at the center of faithfully adapting Marvel’s iconic characters from two-dimensional comic book panels to live-action on the big screen.
“The Vis Dev team, it was an honor to start it with Charlie Wen when we were asked to do it for The Avengers,” Meinerding says. “To see all the artists, how they’ve blossomed into the incredible talents that they are, not that they weren’t that when they started, but how everyone has grown in multiple ways is amazing and it’s one of the best parts of my job to see it happen again and again and again on every show.”
Marvel Studios’ successes extend across every department. For Meinerding, that’s all part of the fun as everyone is inspired to up their game for every film. “To see the team within Marvel Studios grow so efficient at making amazing films, I think one of the challenges for us is to try and keep up because the movies seem to keep getting better, consistently. The visuals need to live up to that.”
The visuals absolutely live up to the work across all other departments. What’s more is that the Vis Dev team is such an integral part of what allows other departments, like costume design and visual effects, to flourish. It’s a team effort within an even bigger team effort, with everyone doing their part and getting better at their job each time out.
The only journey more impressive than Marvel Studios’ first ten years might be the next ten years.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is available now digitally and on 4K UHD Blu-ray tomorrow, October 16. The Art of Iron Man tenth anniversary edition, featuring a stunning new cover by Ryan Meinerding, is also available now.