Lilo & Stitch: Big Wave Edition DVD in March
DVDActive shares the details on the upcoming Lilo & Stitch: 2 Disc Big Wave Edition dvd, due out on March 24th. Extras on this release will include an audio commentary by directors Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, an interactive behind the scenes featurette, 2 music videos (”Your ‘Ohana” featuring The Hawaiian Chorus, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” by A-Teens), 2 early versions of scenes, Lilo & Stitch Island Adventure Games, a DisneyPedia feature on Hawaii, and more.
Video Games Live Adds 45 Tour Dates
Video Games Live, the touring performance of music from top games, expanded its 2009 tour with the addition of 45 new dates.
The tour, founded in 2005, now will perform 60 shows this year. Current dates include cities across the United States and Canada, as well as Romania, Singapore and France. Dates will be announced soon for the full tour, which will visit China, Brazil, Germany, Japan, England, Portugal and Australia.
For a full list of tour dates, times and venues, visit www.videogameslive.com/index.php?s=dates.
Ex-Food Exec to Run Activision Blizzard’s Europe Arm
Thibaud De Saint-Quentin will take over as senior VP and managing director of Activision Blizzard’s European publishing effort, effective March 9, reports the U.K. website MCV.
De Saint-Quentin takes over for Joerg Trouvain. He will be responsible for overseeing the U.S.-based company’s strategy for Europe and will work out of the United Kingdom.
He comes to Activision Blizzard from the food giant Kraft, where he was VP of its coffee business.
“The European market is critical to our continued profitable growth plans and we’re delighted to have a talent of Thibaud’s caliber on board to guide the organization to even higher levels of success,” said Brian Hodous, chief customer officer and De Saint-Quentin’s direct supervisor.
Fantasporto Honors Plympton's Idiots
Bill Plympton's animated feature film Idiots and Angels won the grant prize in the fantasy competition at the 29th annual Fantasporto Oporto Film Festival.
Plympton's film also won the best screenplay award at the festival, which is the largest film festival in Portugal.
Other winners at the festival included Phil Sung-Yim's Hansel & Gretel, which won the special prize of the fantasy compettion and best film award in the Orient Express section; and Director's Week winner Moscow, Belgium, from Christophe Van Rompaey.
The festival saw attendance increase by about 25 percent, according to Variety, with about 50,000 attending the event.
Meet Michel Ocelot in San Francisco
French animator Michel Ocelot (Kirikou And The Sorceress) will be visiting the San Francisco Bay Area this week to attend the opening of his latest feature, Azur & Asmar. The film opens Friday, March 6th for one week at the Landmark Opera Plaza Cinema in San Francisco and Ocelot will attend Friday night and take questions.
Before that, on Wednesday night, The French American Cultural Society will present a free, public screening of his first feature Kirikou And The Sorceress, presented in French with English subtitles. Mr. Ocelot will introduce the film and do an after-film Q&A. That event will be Wednesday night, March 4th at the Landmark Opera Plaza Cinema, starting at 6:40pm. Anyone who is interested in attending needs to RSVP to contact-at-facs-sf.org with their name and expected number of guests. People are advised to arrive early for seats as RSVPing does not necessarily guarantee admission (like any promo screening).
Glen Keane Interview
The new-ish animation blog Lineboil offers up a fine interview with Glen Keane, in which he talks about his preference for pencil over Cintiq, who his greatest source of animation inspiration is (a surprise, at least to me), and suggests that he may one day become a full-time teacher. When asked if the amount of animation we’re seeing today constitutes a new Golden Age, Keane diplomatically shoots down the idea with a fantastic answer that I couldn’t agree with more:
“It seems to me that a ‘golden age’ starts with a movement to discover and learn. It worked that way when Walt turned Hyperion studios into a veritable animation university complete with animal pens to keep deer for study. The result was Snow White, Bambi and Fantasia. In the seventies, when Disney re-started its training program, there was an influx of new talent, new discoveries and wonderful new films like Little Mermaid, Beauty and the Beast and Lion King. Branching out from Disney, there are the films of John Lasseter, Brad Bird and Tim Burton.
“We need to be stretching out and learning, discovering, trying new things. We cannot rest on where we are. There is always a stronger, more convincing, more personal and expressive way to tell our stories and to animate our characters. If we do that then we can move into another ‘golden age.’”
(photo via O-meon)
NYCC2009: "Wonder Woman" Roundtable Interview with Producer Bruce Timm
Right before the debut of Wonder Woman at the 2009 New York Comic Con, Toon Zone News was able to participate in several roundtable interviews with Bruce Timm, Michael Jelenic, and Lauren Montgomery. On the eve of the release of Wonder Woman on DVD and Blu-ray disc, we are proud to present these roundtables with the talent behind the movie.
Bruce Timm needs virtually no introduction to the legions of animation fans. Timm's reputation would have been made simply for being one of the prime movers behind Batman the Animated Series, but shepherding that shared universe through Superman the Animated Series, Batman Beyond, and Justice League has made him a legend among fans of the animated DC universe. Now acting as a producer for the direct-to-video animated DC superhero movies, Timm sat down to talk with us about both the past, the present, and a little bit about the future of DC's animated projects.
Q: Is there an invisible airplane in Wonder Woman?
BRUCE TIMM: Yes, there is.
Q: Oh, really?
TIMM: Yes there is.
Q: I was expecting the answer to be "No." OK, cool...wait, this [his recorder] isn't even on?
TIMM: You mean I have to do that whole long answer again? Christ!
Q: OK, now, for the record, sir, is there an invisible airplane in this movie?
TIMM: No, there is not. (laughter) Yes there is. Semi-visible.
Q: For this version of Wonder Woman, what were the biggest influences for it from other pre-existing media? Was it a specific comics run or was it a particular origin story?
TIMM: No, it actually wasn't based on any specific comic. I know there was some misinformation about that early on. Some people were saying, "Oh, yeah, it's based on the George Perez version," and it really isn't. There are similarities, but it isn't specifically based on George's run. It's kind of like what we've always done with all of the characters. We look back at the entire history of the character and cherry-pick the things about those versions that we liked, and smoosh them all together and see if they work. So there's stuff in there from the Lynda Carter series, there's stuff in there from the Greg Rucka comics run, there's stuff in there from the George Perez run, there's even stuff from the Golden Age Wonder Woman comics, so it's kind of an amalgam of a lot of different things, but it's not specifically based on any one version.
Q: So you didn't stick in any of that great stuff that William Moulton Marston stuck into the original Wonder Woman comics?
Q: No Etta Candy?
Q: Well, I was thinking more about the bondage and the crazy submission to domination thing.
TIMM: You know, actually, in one of the earlier drafts, we were planning on playing up that up a little bit -- that if she gets bound, she loses her powers and stuff, which I actually don't have a problem with, even in terms of modern day feminism, because I think it's thematically very strong. But DC Comics specifically said, "We don't really like that part of her mythos any more. We don't play with that at all any more." So they're kind of shy about the whole bondage thing (laughs). Don't know why...(laughs again).
Q: Did you run into anything else? What notes did you get from DC that you can talk about?
TIMM: I can't think of anything major or a deal breaker or anything of any kind. It was all pretty amicable. I can't think of anything else, really.
Q: When you did Gotham Knight, you said that it felt like a lot of the time, you felt like your job was to not give notes because it was such a departure from the style you normally do. Did you get to be a little bit more hands-on with Wonder Woman?
TIMM: Yes, and no. It's weird. Sometimes, I feel like my job these days is to slowly make myself obsolete, because I'm giving more and more power and creative freedom to my directors. On this one, it was Lauren Montgomery. I'd worked with her on Justice League, and she'd directed a third of Doomsday, and on this film, I really felt that it was time for her to step up and take complete control as much as possible, in terms of character design and everything. I basically just piled as much work on her as she could take. She's young, fortunately, and strong, so she was able to take it. But I'm definitely involved creatively. I go to all the recordings and sit in the editing room with Lauren and do the post direction and all that stuff. For the most part, I just let her have her head, and basically just kind of let her go and do what she was going to do. So, it was kind of fun to not be doing all the heavy lifting.
Q: What's it like to work with Andrea Romano?
TIMM: Oh, it's a dream. I'm spoiled because I've been really lucky that I've only ever worked with her on every project I've ever done. I've never worked with anybody else, so I have nobody to compare her to, but she's awesome. She really knows her stuff, and she's really well-connected in the entertainment business, so she's able to call people up that you wouldn't think you'd even be able to get near, and she can make it happen. She's a super-talented director. I love her to pieces.
Q: How did you first start working with her?
TIMM: She was the voice director on Tiny Toons. Again, it wasn't really anything special. She was there, I was there, she was available, and she had a great reputation already at that point. I said, "Well, I've never worked with any voice director, so I'll try her out," and we've just been working together ever since.
Q: Can you talk a bit more about your collaboration with her? How does that work? Do you come to her with ideas? Does she come to you with ideas?
TIMM: It's both. We sit together, sometimes with the director and sometimes with other creative people like the writers or other producers or whoever, and we sit in a room and just brainstorm different ideas of who would be appropriate for certain parts. We usually make a big long list for each character and start narrowing it down -- "Ah, this guy's better than him" -- and we number it by preference. "Let's go after this guy first," 1, 2, and 3. If all those guys bail, then we move on to our next set. There's a lot of back-and-forth, but it's fun because she'll think of people I wouldn't think of, and vice versa.
Q: How does casting work for you? Do you draw Darkseid and then go, "Wow, Michael Ironside's perfect to play Darkseid?"
TIMM: In that case, that actually was kind of what happened. I think just in the back of my head, I just always thought he would be the perfect guy for that part. Whether before or after I drew the character, I don't remember.
Q: What does Ironside have that made you want to cast him?
TIMM: Uhh....he's just scary (laughs). He's really scary. Like, even in real life, he scares the crap out of you. So, you know, perfect casting for Darkseid.
Q: A lot of times, you'll change or adjust the character when an actor walks into the booth and starts doing stuff.
TIMM: Oh, yeah. Quite a bit.
Q: Did that happen at all with Wonder Woman?
TIMM: Yeah, to a degree. When we brought Keri in, there was a little bit of a fear that she may have sounded a little bit too contemporary to be Wonder Woman. It's not that she sounded young or too teenager-y or anything, but there was just something a little bit contemporary about her. Which, again, in hindsight, I think it kind of works for the particular story we're telling, because she is a little bit of an iconoclast. She is kind of like the one Amazon who breaks the Amazon paradigm. She's the one who defies the gods and defies her mother and kind of wants to get off the island, so it actually kind of works, but we did have to bring her back a little bit more towards the middle. She was a little bit too modern-day sounding at first, I thought, but she adjusted very well.
Q: The Wonder Woman movie, as well as New Frontier and and Gotham Knight, seem to be a big evolution from the work you were doing in the Justice League and the early DC Animated Universe. Are the characterizations totally different? Is this Wonder Woman also going to have the hots for Batman?
TIMM: (Click to hear Timm's response) ...As if that defined the Justice League Wonder Woman. I don't get that. I read that online a lot, it's like, "Oh, they totally ruined Wonder Woman because all she does is moon about Batman!" A) she didn't really moon about Batman...it was a flirtation! It was a brief flirtation, we didn't ...we never meant to make much out of it. It was just a thing, but no, Batman isn't even in this universe.
Personality-wise, it's quite a bit different than the way she was in Justice League. We start with her on Themyscira...actually, we start with before she's even born or created out of clay, back with Hippolyta on Paradise Island, so yeah, it's her origin, it's her first mission, seeing Man's cockeyed world through her eyes and dealing with male-female relationship issues and epic blood-curdling battles and stuff. It was a lot of fun.
Q: All the DTVs so far have been 75 minutes.
TIMM: Between 70 and 75, yeah.
Q: Is there a reason for that number?
TIMM: It's a budgetary thing. Seriously, we pay for our animation by the foot, and that's what we're budgeted at. I mean, we try to squeeze as much footage out of that as possible, but it's really a budgetary thing. If they went longer than that, we'd have to increase the budget, which we don't have.
Q: So there's no plans to try and go longer?
TIMM: Not really, no. And I'm comfortable with it. To me, some of the movies have felt rushed. I think that's a valid criticism that Doomsday and New Frontier were probably too big to actually try to tell in 70 minutes. Wonder Woman feels correct. You watch Wonder Woman, and it will not feel like there's pieces missing. It will not feel like, "Oh, God, if only they'd had another half-hour, they could have done A, B, and C." And, you know, people forget that a lot of the other movies that we've done before that people adore to this day, like Mask of the Phantasm or Return of the Joker, were the same length. So it's not a bad length for a movie, but sometimes we've bitten off a little bit more than we could chew in 70 minutes.
Q: Can you talk about what you wanted to carry over and what you wanted to avoid from doing Wonder Woman in Justice League and Wonder Woman in this movie?
TIMM: It's not that we wanted to avoid what we had done in Justice League, but it's just that it's such a completely different dynamic. When she's with the Justice League...it's the same with Batman. When Batman's on his own, the story on the face of it is going to be a completely different story than if Batman is going to be sole superhero in the movie. It's the same thing with Wonder Woman. if she's the only hero in the movie, it's going to be more about her, obviously, and you're going to have to dig deeper and give her a little bit more dimension than she has when she's in a group ensemble show. That's really it. And again, the nature of the story, it just evolved that it made sense to make her a little bit younger in this story than she was portrayed most of the time in Justice League. So, that really kind of informed pretty much everything about what we did with her.
Q: In some of the TV series, some of the characters had a striking resemblance to you. Will we see any cameos in Wonder Woman?
TIMM: Not if I can help it.
Q: I read online that you had planned on using Captain Marvel on an early episode of Justice League, and you couldn't because of issues or something, but then you used him later. What was the story behind that?
TIMM: I think that actually goes back to the Superman the Animated Series days. We wanted to do Captain Marvel vs. Superman back then, and at that time, there was a film option on Captain Marvel that made him off-limits to us at the time. But then when we did Justice League, he was available.
Q: If there was one non-DC Character that you could bring into your universe, who would that be?
TIMM: Oh, God. I don't know. There's a lot of them. Actually, I'm not sure bringing them into the DC Universe is necessarily something I'm dying to do, although I would like to do one DC/Marvel crossover movie. I think that would be fun. I'm sure it's, like, absolutely impossible how tricky the rights issues are, but that would be fun to do, like the JLA vs. the Avengers or something. But I don't have any one outside character that I would like to bring in.
Q: There's a lot of rumors around that there's going to be a live-action version of this character. If that does happen, what could you say that your film has that a live-action film could never have?
TIMM: ...I don't know. This movie has a huge scale. If this movie were a live-action movie, it would cost probably hundreds of millions of dollars, but that doesn't seem to be a problem in Hollywood these days. There's not really anything in this movie that they couldn't do. Sorry. Don't have a good answer for that.
Q: So how come they have so much trouble getting a script together, but you managed to get your movie done so soon?
TIMM: It's a different paradigm. I think for an animated feature, there's a lot less cost involved. When you're talking about a live-action theatrical film, you're talking about literally hundreds of millions of dollars and it's a much bigger gamble, whereas our film is made for, well, quite a bit less than that (laughs). So it's less of a roll of the dice. And, honestly, I think chances are that a live-action Wonder Woman movie will get made some day. Whether rightly or wrongly, I think there's a fear in Hollywood that female superheroes don't have the same box-office potential that male superheroes do. I've actually even heard executives say, "Yeah, well, look at that Catwoman movie." Well, it's like, "The Catwoman movie just sucked, basically." It had nothing to do with whether it was a female or not. But I do understand their reticence, because when you're gambling with that much money, you pretty much want to guarantee your returns.
Q: One of the things that a lot of people are talking about is that this is a pilot to a Wonder Woman animated series.
TIMM: Are they? I hadn't read that one.
Q: I think some people are hoping it will be. Is that something you've thought of? Is it something that's crossed your mind?
TIMM: Actually, it hasn't crossed my mind. Maybe because I understand how difficult it would be to sell it as an animated series, because for animated series for TV, even more so there's a boy-centric spin to them because TV cartoons, especially, are driven by toy sales, and you're just not going to sell a Wonder Woman action/adventure toy line to little boys. They're just not going to buy them. A big part of what finances these shows is ancillary merchandise and stuff. I know that would be a major uphill battle trying to sell it as a series, so I guess maybe that's why I hadn't thought about it. I think she certainly could hold her own animated series. I think she's an interesting enough character, but I think it would be a real longshot.
Q: What about series in general? Do you have any interest in going back to work on a series instead of one-shot films?
TIMM: Yeah, actually, I would. It works a completely different side of my brain to work on a series instead of a movie. On a movie, it's great because you can take a little bit more time and a little more care, but at the same time, when I'm doing a series, when things are really clicking, there's nothing more fun than banging out a bunch of episodes, getting in a room with the writers and going, "OK, now what do we do with these guys?" And, you know, it is almost like being a kid again, it's kind of like, "Then THIS happens, and then THIS happens...and then THIS happens! And then they can do THIS!" And then when the show comes back from overseas, we get into..it's kind of hectic, we're getting shows in every week, and editing them real quick and scoring them and putting them together, but to me, it's really kind of fun and exhilarating to do that. It's really exciting when the shows start coming back and you just start banging them out. So I enjoy doing them both. I enjoy doing both the films and the series stuff. I'm sure I'll end up doing something episodic, one of these days.
Q: I understand the episode "Far from Home" from Justice League was supposed to be some kind of a pilot for a Legion of Superheroes show?
TIMM: Not really. No...
Q: So the fanboys on the Internet have no idea what they're talking about?
TIMM: Imagine how THAT could happen! (laughs) No, we just wanted to do a Legion of Superheroes story, and again, going from the comics where Supergirl and Brainiac had a romance, we thought, "Oh, that would be an interesting thing to do with Supergirl that we hadn't done before." We hadn't really shown her as getting into more adult issues of romance and stuff, so it just seemed kind of like a fun thing to do. But it wasn't ever intended to be a backdoor pilot, no.
Q: Who were the biggest influences on your style?
Q: I guess, why did you want to draw when you were younger?
TIMM: That's an even tougher question (laughs). I just always drew. Ever since I was a little kid. Most kids draw when they're kids, whether they're good or bad, they always do. I always drew, and I was really into superheroes from watching TV. The Adam West show and Space Ghost and things like that, so I just naturally gravitated to drawing superheroes. It wasn't until I was in my teens when I started collecting comics regularly that I started really, really studying and analyzing the art and being overtly influenced by artists like John Buscema and Jack Kirby and Alex Toth and...basically anybody and everybody. I would copy the way they drew and kind of just by osmosis, it turned into my style.
Q: Since Batman the Animated Series debuted 20 years ago, what would you say has been the biggest change since then? What's really different now that you kind of wish you had back then when you were starting on Batman the Animated Series?
TIMM: Well, the biggest change, of course, is that we're not the only game in town any more. Back then, there really wasn't any superhero cartoons on TV. There was some adventure stuff...I think G.I. Joe was still plugging along, and things like that, but most of the stuff was, uh, not very well made, is what I'm going to say. Even the lowest-common denominator standard of any average cartoon show now is just so much higher now than it was when we started, so there's a lot more talented people in the business, both here in the States and overseas. Animation studios have just gotten better and better and better. So that's the biggest change that I can see. The bad side of that is that it's harder to make an impact these days. Back when we did Batman, that was pre-Buffy, that was pre-The Matrix, that was pre-the video game explosion. That was before all of this stuff vying for everybody's attention, so it was a lot easier to get noticed back then, whereas nowadays, there's just so much competition for a viewing audience that it's a lot tougher.
Q: From JLU season 3, after coming off the second season and a fantastic cap for the story arc, I guess how did you come up with the story, because originally season 2 was supposed to be the last season. How and why did you make the decision to bring back Darkseid for the final villain?
TIMM: Well, it was several things. We had just done the Cadmus story, and it was this big, dark, kind of adult-themed superhero show, and we said, "OK, we don't want to do that again." We've done it, we want to take a break from dark, heaviness stuff. And Dwayne McDuffie just literally said, "Hey, let's do the Legion of Doom. Let's just do Super Friends." And I went, "OK, fine, we haven't done that." And just in talking about it, and beating the story out, it just kind of turned into what it was. Luthor basically became the star of that season. It really became more about him than it was about superheroes, and we can't resist throwing in major left-hand twists towards the end, so you think the story is going one way, you think it's going to be all about the Legion of Doom vs. the Justice League in a big fistfight, and we couldn't resist throwing Darkseid in as a ringer to kind of kick the story off in a different direction. It was just something fun. That whole season was just fun. It was just like, "Let's just do crazy superhero stories. Let's not worry about getting dark and serious and dramatic. let's just do every crazy, nutty story we can think of." We had fun.
Q: Are there any thoughts of revisiting those characters?
Q: One of the things I really enjoyed about Justice League was the relationship between Green Lantern and Shayera. I guess it kind of was left hanging at the end of JLU...
TIMM: Well, we wanted to give it a resolution, but we also wanted to leave it open just in case we wanted to do more episodes, so that we didn't totally shut the door on what that was all about. As far as we were concerned, we thought we gave it a resolution. It may not have been the resolution that the shippers wanted. it didn't end with a big clinch with the two of them, but we did feel that it gave closure, but I guess a lot of people weren't satisfied with it. But, you know, hey, that's the way it goes. You can't please 'em all.
Q: I'm curious as to what you think of the new Batman: Brave and the Bold series.
TIMM: I like what I've seen of it. I have not...and again, this is not to disparage the show in any way, shape, or form. James Tucker is a very dear frend of mine. I just have not had the time to sit down and watch even a complete episode, yet. One of these days, I'm going to have to borrow a bunch of them from James just to sit down and watch it, but what I've seen of it, I think it looks really cool. I really like it a lot. I like the style, I like the color, I like the whole tone of it. I like the fact that it's kind of a goofy, old-school Batman show rather than the dark, dreary Batman. I like both. I've said this before, I like all different kinds of versions of Batman. I like Adam West's Batman as much as I like the dark, scary Frank Miller/Neal Adams/Christopher Nolan of Batman. I think they're valid. I think they're all completley valid, so that's one of the things about Batman as a character you can do so many different things with him and it's all cool. So I like it.
Q: Do you have a favorite Batman story?
TIMM: No. I don't! I could make something up, but I don't want to. (laughs)
Q: Are you planning any sequels to any of the DTVs?
TIMM: Well, we have so many different properties already on our slate that we hope to get to in the next year or two that the idea of doing a sequel really hasn't come up yet, but it may. Again, especially if any of these things sell really, especially well, then I think that would definitely lead the powers that be much more down that path. So hopefully Wonder Woman will do really well. Personally, I think it's our best movie yet. I think it's better than New Frontier and Doomsday and Gotham Knight. I just think it's solid. I think it's really super-solid, so if any movie really deserves to do well, it's definitely Wonder Woman. Hopefully, it will sell like gangbusters and then we'll see.
Q: Can you talk about how well the DTV's have done in terms of sales?
TIMM: As far as I know, they're doing REALLY really well. They've all done really well. Doomsday, I think, did great. New Frontier not quite as well, though it still did pretty well. I think Gotham Knight actually outsold both of the first two. Probably a lot of that had to do with the buzz around the movie coming out at the same time and everything, but hey...we'll take what we can get. They've all done extremely well so far, but I don't have exact figures for you.
Q: But they're certainly letting you make more of them, though.
TIMM: Absolutely. Actually they want us to do more a year than we've been able to do. We're trying to figure out how to do that and keep the quality up.
Q: Is that really an issue about the time crunch?
TIMM: Well, it's not so much the time crunch. It's just that literally there's a finite number of really, really good people in the business who can actually do this kind of stuff, and there's a lot of action/adventure programming that's already being done. There's Brave and the Bold, Ben 10, there's the Marvel shows, so it's just trying to find the great people to actually execute the work. That's the issue. It's not so much the time. We could actually, theoretically, do 2 of them at once, because you would have 2 different directors. I would be overseeing them. I wouldn't be, you know, I'd certainly be able to multitask if I had people of Lauren's caliber directing, but it's just literally finding the staff is really really hard, so that's what the issue is.
Q: I know Cartoon Network has the Cartoonstitute, and Disney founded CalArts all those years ago. Is that something Warners is thinking of doing, because you said you wanted Lauren to step up. Would you do something like that?
TIMM: We don't have the time or the resources to do something like that.
Q: Is that something that you would like to have happen?
TIMM: Oh, it'd be nice to have a farm. Sure, to grow our own, absolutely, it'd be great, but I wouldn't be interested in running it. I just don't have the time. Have too many other things to do. But if somebody else could do it, that'd be great.
Q: Will you be doing any more comics?
TIMM: I don't have anything scheduled. I would like to do some more comics eventually some day, but the older I get, the less energy I have. It doesn't look like anything long-form in the near future, but maybe one of these days. I do adore comics, and I like doing 'em, but it just takes a lot out of me.
Q: Maybe 4-panel comic strips?
TIMM: I could certainly make more money that way (laughs), but yeah, we'll see.
Q: If you were a member of the DC universe, who would you be?
TIMM: (laughs) Most like me? Well, Batman is probably the closest to me in terms of being grumpy, but I'm not nearly as smart as he is, or as cool. I don't know, I've never thought of it that way. Sorry.
Q: Any thoughts on a Crisis film?
TIMM: Um....maybe. That's all I can say about that.
Q: Can you give us any hints on what might be the next DTV project?
TIMM: Uh, no. Not today. I'm sworn to secrecy as of today.
Q: Can you talk about Green Lantern, or is that....
TIMM: ...I cannot even say those two words. I know nothing. (ed's note: of course, he can now.)
NYCC2009: "Wonder Woman" Roundtable Interview with Writer Michael Jelenic
Right before the debut of Wonder Woman at the 2009 New York Comic Con, Toon Zone News was able to participate in several roundtable interviews with Bruce Timm, Michael Jelenic, and Lauren Montgomery. On the eve of the release of Wonder Woman on DVD and Blu-ray disc, we are proud to present these roundtables with the talent behind the movie.
Michael Jelenic began his career at Warner Brothers Animation scripting for Jackie Chan Adventures, The Batman, and Ben 10. Currently acting as the story editor for Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Jelenic was also able to script the Wonder Woman DTV movie. Several journalists were able to pepper Jelenic with questions about his take on the Amazing Amazon.
Q: Why Wonder Woman?
JELENIC: Well, Wonder Woman is considered one of the big three, part of the Trinity. Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman. They just started off with Superman Doomsday, and then they did Batman Gotham Knight, with Justice League: New Frontier thrown in there, so it made a lot of sense for her to be the next movie and to explore her as a character.
Q: How familiar with Wonder Woman were you before you started?
JELENIC: I was not hugely familiar. My background is not necessarily comic books. Everybody I work around is the biggest comic book encyclopedia there is, so basically I learned a lot from them. I did some of my own research to bring me up to speed on stuff. It's like I knew the basic stuff about Wonder Woman -- the jet, the lasso. I had to educate myself on some of her villains and that sort of thing.
Q: Famously, the relaunch of the DCU in 86-87, brought about ....Did you guys pull in a lot of those comics as a starting point for this DTV?
JELENIC: You know, before I was on the project, Gail Simone had done some writing, and I think she gets a lot of her influence and takes a lot from the George Perez version, so I think you're going to see a lot of that in there. His run is probably considered The Run of the characters, so obviously he influenced us a lot.
Q: He brought it back to its mythological roots, even so far as to have Diana be created out of clay.
JELENIC: Yeah, and she's created out of clay in this story. We got the Greek gods to play a big part in it, so the film is heavily indebted to him.
Q: Did you get to work with Gail Simone at all?
JELENIC: No, I came to the project after the fact. One of the main reasons I was brought on was just that we were on a pretty tight production schedule and they needed a completed script, and I'm like an in-house writer, so it went to me and I put my take on what was already there.
Q: How much of the final script is yours and how much was what Gail had?
JELENIC: You know, it's hard to say, "this percentage is mine, this percentage is hers." I looked at the work she did and I basically tried to take my favorite elements of what she did so a lot of the character relationships that she set up, I put a little bit of my spin on it, but they're very much like what she had. The character voices, in particular for Hippolyta and Artemis, those characters, I sort of followed her lead on how to interpret them and their motivations. So, you know, she put down a pretty good blueprint that I was able to follow and she has just a great interpretation of Wonder Woman, so I found that made my job a lot easier.
Q: So were any of the characters in the movie particularly fun or particularly challenging to write?
JELENIC: I would say Wonder Woman is very challenging. She has to have a character arc, but at the same time, I know a lot of people have miswritten the character in the sense that she comes to Man's World and she sort of has to be tamed by man, and that was a pitfall I was aware of and I didn't want to sort of step in. But at the same time, she has to learn a lesson. You don't have a story unless a character goes from one spot to the next, so she has to learn something, but at the same time, not at the expense of her character. That was a bit challenging, deciding what is her arc, what does she learn.
On the flip side my favorite character is probably Steve Trevor. I enjoyed writing him just because in my mind, I'm a comedy writer (laughs), though maybe not in reality. He provides much of the humor, and that stuff is easy for me. He was pretty easy, and then Nathan Fillion is great in it. A flawed character who has to be worthy of the love of Diana.
Q: Did you know Nathan Fillion would be playing the role?
JELENIC: No, I had no idea! You know, Nathan Fillion did not even occur to me when I was writing, but once I think either Bruce Timm or Andrea Romano suggested him, and it was so obvious that that was the guy I had in my head when I was writing, even sub-consciously. That's who Steve Trevor is, and I didn't even know. It never occurred to me, but I was so pleased to hear the performance.
Q: You get a script into its final form, and then you hand it to the actors. Can you talk about what they bring to the performance?
JELENIC: Yeah, you know, I'm one of those people who, when they ask, "Who's the most important: actors, directors, writers?" In live-action, I always say it's the actors because that's what you see. You don't see the script page, you don't see the lights, and if you have a bad writer or a bad director, good actors can hide all of that. Same thing with voice actors. They bring a sort of subtlety or a nuance to the roles that aren't there, so Keri Russell, Nathan, Virginia Madsen, Oliver Platt, Alfred Molina, it's like the casting is really insane, how good these people are, and it makes me look 10 times better than I actually am. The script sucks (laughs), but the voice acting is awesome.
Q: I don't think Oliver Platt has done an animated feature before, has he? This is one of his first ones, if not his first.
JELENIC: Yeah, he might be new to it. He was in New York and we recorded him by telephone. At first, it sounded like he hadn't done it before, but at the same time, he was awesome. He plays a pretty creepy character, and so he's great. He's one of my favorite actors, too. He's a pretty funny guy. Someone asked me if I would have written things differently if I knew who was playing him, and I normally say no, but maybe for Oliver Platt. But maybe I'd have written Hades a little different.
Q: So you didn't actually write for any of the actors, then?
JELENIC: No, all the casting happens after the script was done.
Q: One of the things that Steve Trevor has trouble with as a character is that he's kind of like the male Lois Lane, in that his job is to scream and get rescued by Wonder Woman. Did you run into that?
JELENIC: You know, part of the take was that this was going to be like a romantic comedy, just because it seems like obvious territory to mine. You've got a woman who's been isolated from Man being introduced to Man's World, so I wanted Steve Trevor to be flawed, but at the same time worthy of the love of Wonder Woman. My earlier, earlier thoughts of the character, I almost wanted them to have like a competition throughout the script, where they were topping each other. I backed off that idea because it was a bad idea. Wonder Woman...well, she can't be topped. But in the final version, he proves competent, and at the end of the movie, he sort of saves part of the day in his own way, if Wonder Woman saves most of the day.
Q: Did you draw any kind of inspiration from His Girl Friday or any of the classic comedies where male and female characters were definitely equals to each other?
JELENIC: Yes. Well, the classic comedy that I drew heavily from is Ninotchka. I very much wanted the feel of that movie. It's so charming, and I wanted that charming feel to be in this one. I even quote the movie. There's a quote I have in the movie from there, so if you can find it, look for it. If you're familiar with the movie, you'll know what I'm talking about. But it's a great, great movie.
Q: Most of what you've done before in the DC animated world has been The Batman or Legion of Superheroes, where you had Broadcast Standards and Practices.
Q: You didn't have them here.
JELENIC: Well, we had ratings, though. I will say this: there was a version of the film that was even more violent than the one that is out, but, it's still pretty violent, and we do have to make it PG-13. I think the early script was probably rated "R." There's definitely some things we had to watch out for, but if we stay away from blood or cuss words or whatever, we can get pretty mature themes. Some of the stuff between Hippolyta and Ares is pretty mature, so that's fun. Also, when I do my Saturday morning stuff, you can't do beer or anything, so there's a big scene in the movie where Steve Trevor tries to get Wonder Woman drunk, and I can do that.
Q: This is something I actually asked Bruce Timm about, but the DTVs all run about 70 minutes. Did you ever find that was an issue for you, writing to that amount of time?
JELENIC: Yeah, I mean it's difficult writing something that's longer, because you've got act 2 to fill, and that's the hardest part of writing any script. You know how it's going to start, you know how it's going to end, but what's the interesting stuff that happens in the middle? That said, when I wrote everything, it was just a little bit long, so there were some scenes that had to go that I wish didn't have to go, or parts of scenes that left, but the biggest challenge in writing something that long is making sure everything tracks, and making sure you tie up any loose ends and subplots. It's a lot more challenging than a 22-minute episode.
Q: So, actually, you found it harder to go from 22-minutes to 70 than saying, "Oh, I wish I had more time?"
JELENIC: Well, the format for a 22-minute episode is a lot easier than a format for a movie. I'll often write a 22-mintue script that ends up being like it could have been 40- minutes, but it's just a different structure that goes into something that's longer, and has to have a different feel and a different pace. So, yeah, it's definitely harder to do something longer.
Q: The current Wonder Woman that most people know in the comics and the DC animated universe moved away from the Invisible Jet. Why did you bring it back for this one?
JELENIC: I realize that some people hate the invisible jet, and I can understand why. I'll say that up front, I understand why it's hate-able, but it's interesting. It really is. I mean, it's like, how do you define a character? How do you define Batman? Batman's the Batmobile, Batcave, Alfred...so what's the interesting things about Wonder Woman? It's the Invisible Jet, it's the lasso of truth. You may feel that it's corny or there's some weird explanation, but if you boil everything down, everything about superheroes is corny and weird, but that's why it's so great, because it's escapism. I think it's fun. I think it's fun to make a character like Batman as realistic as possible, but it's also fun to sort of embrace that other side. Yeah, Wonder Woman has an invisible jet. It's not supposed to be funny.
Q: The only thing is that if it's an Invisible Jet, it should make everything inside the jet invisible, too. That's the only problem I've ever had with the Invisible Jet.
JELENIC: I will tell you in my early drafts of the script, there were jokes to that effect, that Steve Trevor has to try to fly the invisible jet, but he can't see any of the instruments. (laughs) It's no longer there. I think just part of the staging just so you know, you can't have an invisible jet that's really invisible because the audience has to see something, even if it's just an outline. So that's a little challenging in production.
Q: You just mentioned that you had to cut some stuff. Can you talk about one of the things that, if you could go back, you'd really, really really want to get back in the movie?
JELENIC: I'm pretty happy how everything sort of turned out, but there is one scene. It's probably the best scene in the movie, which was a scene that was in Gail's early work that I sort of adjusted and added to. It has Wonder Woman teaching a little girl how to fight. About a third of that scene was cut, and I find that scene so charming that I wish that third was still there. But that's it. I'm used to writing lots of stuff and having lots of stuff cut out. That's just part of it.
Q: When we were talking with Bruce, he said that Wonder Woman is the best movie yet. How does it feel to get praise like that? It hasn't even premiered and people are saying best yet.
JELENIC: Well, he has to say that (laughs), because it's the most recent. I have a feeling the next movie to come out will be "the best yet." (laughs)
Q: Well, hopefully, that means the quality is improving with each one.
JELENIC: It feels very different from New Frontier, and obviously from Gotham Knight, which was an anthology, and Doomsday. And it's the first completely original story, so I think it's very good. Lauren's directing work is amazing, and the voice acting is also amazing. If anybody screws this up, it's me (laughs). It's the truth.
Q: One big thing that figures into all superhero stories are the fight scenes, the action scenes, the big punch-ups. How do you approach those? Do you beat them out? Or do you put in a page that says, "And then they fight for 10 minutes"?
JELENIC: Well, every writer is different on how they approach the fight scene. I literally will write "Director Embellished Fight Scene Ensues," which would make director Lauren Montgomery so, so angry (laughs). But the fact is that I could write something I think is so awesome, and it's not going to be awesome because I'm just a writer. I don't know how to see things. I can't visualize, but, you know, Lauren and her crew will do awesome stuff from the fight scenes, and stuff I could never think of. I'm really working with the best animators in the business, so why am I going to board it out when they could come up with something more interesting? And, plus, it's easier for me just to write "Director Embellished Fight Scene Ensues." (laughs)
Q: How many times have you seen the finished, fully-edited film now?
JELENIC: I don't even know if I've watched this latest version all the way through, yet. We had a previous cut, but it was cut a little bit more, but I saw that.
Q: Did they cut it down to a PG and then bring it back to a PG-13?
JELENIC: Well, it was probably an R that they had to bring down to a PG-13. People say, "I want to see the R, I want to see the R" version, but somebody told me that a lot of the violence sort of distracted them from the story.
Q: Was there anything in the more violent version that was really story-based, like the way they did Return of the Joker?
JELENIC: No, nothing story-based. Some of the fights are trimmed, but story-wise, nothing was affected. I will say that originally, there was going to be a PG version of the movie. There's a bar scene in this movie, but there is supposed to be another version of the bar scene for the PG where they're eating dinner. It's completely different, same sort of tone, but it's funny, so I would be curious to see if that ever comes out and see which people like better.
Q: Like sort of the Cartoon Network version of it.
JELENIC: Exactly. It'll probably be on Cartoon Network, that scene.
Q: Are there any superhero characters that you haven't had a chance to write yet that you're dying to write?
JELENIC: Well, I started off on Batman, so it's like (laughs) seriously, where do I go from there? Plus, I'm on Brave and the Bold now, so with that show, I pretty much have written every single character DC's ever come up with. I personally like when someone brings a character I've never heard of, and you find out why that character was popular, even if it was just for 2 years in the 50's. There's something interesting about discovering these characters.
Q: So no thoughts on what you want to do next, or what movie you want to sink your teeth into?
JELENIC: You know, I would love to get another opportunity to do another of these DTVs. I prefer to do an original story as opposed to adapting someone else's work. And I'm doing another season of The Brave and the Bold, and that really is fun. It's the most fun I've had working because it just has to be fun. It doesn't have to be logical or anything. And it's funny, and I like to laugh.
Q: Have you ever thought about doing a comic book?
JELENIC: I would love to do a comic book. I don't have that skill set, to be perfectly honest. I don't know what it takes to write a comic script. I'm respectful enough to what they do to know that the first 20 I do probably will suck, but storytelling is storytelling, and I would love the opportunity at some point. We'll see, if I have time and someone asks me, I'd love to do it.
NYCC2009: "Wonder Woman" Roundtable Interview with Director Lauren Montgomery
Right before the debut of Wonder Woman at the 2009 New York Comic Con, Toon Zone News was able to participate in several roundtable interviews with Bruce Timm, Michael Jelenic, and Lauren Montgomery. On the eve of the release of Wonder Woman on DVD and Blu-ray disc, we are proud to present these roundtables with the talent behind the movie.
Lauren Montgomery has been slowly working her way through the ranks at Warner Brothers Animation. Her resume includes work on Justice League and Justice League: The New Frontier, and cut her teeth directing episodes of Legion of Super-Heroes and a third of Superman Doomsday. On the eve of the Wonder Woman debut, Montgomery talked with all of us about her debut as an animated feature film director.
Q: First time in the full director's chair. What was the biggest surprise for you?
LAUREN MONTGOMERY: Well, the pleasant surprise was being more involved with the entirety of the film. Previously, in my directing positions, I would kind of oversee the storyboard, and that would pretty much be the extent of it. This time, I got much more say in design and overall look and of course, the storyboard (laughs). So I had a much larger attachment to the entire project.
Q: Some of the Warner Brothers/DC directors are known as drama directors, and some of them are action directors. If you had to pick one or the other, would you say that there was something that you brought that was definitely your strong suit?
MONTGOMERY: I think people tend to recognize me for the acting, which I guess would be more of the drama portion of it, but I also like to think that I'm slightly able to do action. Or at least I hope I can. Because otherwise, this movie is going to suck! (laughter)
Q: How closely did you work with the actors in terms of shaping their performances in the film?
MONTGOMERY: Well, Bruce and I sit in on all the voice acting sessions, but luckily, we have Andrea Romano, who is our voice director, and she pretty much does 99% of the work just on her own because she's just that good. She knows what she's doing, she does all her research and all her homework, and it makes my job on that portion of it very, very easy. Every once in a while, if I have a small note, like, "Oh, this person needs to be more angry when saying this," I just let her know and she's always able to get the exact performance that we want.
Q: Do you guys go and do you do a temp track when you're kind of getting the animation ready, or do you go ahead and cast, do a first pass with the voice actors, animate to that, and then do ADR after that?
MONTGOMERY: We cast everything, usually while the storyboard is being done. We are also voice recording while that's going on so we will have a finished voice track around the middle of the storyboard time. Then we hand it off to our board guys and they make sure that they match up all their character acting with the voice track, and when we get the animation back, if any of that doesn't match, then we'll bring the actors back in for the ADR session where they can tweak their performance to match the picture.
Q: Famously, when Robin Williams did the Genie in Aladdin, they videotaped him and used a lot of Robin Williams facial expressions and physical mannerisms. Do you guys do any of that with the actors?
MONTGOMERY: We do not. Sadly, we don't really have the schedule that allows us really the time to do any of that. We have to work mainly with the voice, and we just kind of have to leave it to the board artist to kind of get it right. On the other hand, also, we're not working with an in-house animation crew. We're working with an overseas animation studio. If we were to put in acting like the Genie, and we got that back, it would probably look pretty horrendous (laughs), so we try to keep a lot of the acting as minimalist as we can so know we'll get the best animation that we can.
Q: Who is the animation company that's doing services for you on this one?
MONTGOMERY: Our overseas animation crew was Moi, who I think was part of DR Movie. That studio has done a lot of work for the Justice League Unlimited series, and on some of the other videos as well.
Q: Did you work with them at all when you were on Avatar?
MONTGOMERY: I did not work with them on Avatar, because I didn't have any say in the animation. On Wonder Woman, we definitely had a back-and-forth. They would send us pencil tests and I would send them my notes, and we would just work together to try and get the best result we could.
Q: What was the most memorable moment in the process?
MONTGOMERY: Well, the whole process was just a very good experience for me. Just being able to do Wonder Woman's first venture into a feature film. Live-action or animation, this is the first feature film that she's got. And the fact that it's a woman in the main character role was just a huge treat for me. Being able to design it myself was just a huge opportunity, too. There were a lot of new opportunities for me at the same time, and I just hope that everyone's happy with it, because I really like it.
Q: This movie gives you an opportunity to possibly break into a different market, into a girl's market, as well as the superhero fan market. Do you have any thoughts on that?
MONTGOMERY: Well, I would love to see more girls being drawn to not only this character, but this genre, just because being a female working in action animation, I'm constantly working the majority of the time on shows where the main character is a boy. I've worked on so many superhero guys (laughs), I can't even remember all of them, so whenever an opportunity for a female character comes up, it's new and it's different and it's fun, and I really enjoy it. So if this does well, it just opens the door for more of that. And if more women get into it, and really enjoy it, then, it just makes it that much better for me if I get to work on it (laughs).
Q: There was an article about an animator on Coraline who said that when she started in the industry, she had to work twice as hard because none of the men would take her seriously. Did you encounter that at all in your career?
MONTGOMERY: I don't feel that I did. If I did, then I was probably so oblivious to it (laughs), because honestly, I just had nothing but positive people around me. Bruce has been a huge supporter of my work, and he basically gave me this opportunity on his own. So I really haven't ever felt personally that I've been discriminated against at all, or not taken seriously. I guess I just prefer to let my work speak for itself, and if people like it, then they'll like me, and if they don't like it, then they won't hire me! (laughs)
Q: You mentioned that you kind of like the idea that Wonder Woman could be an introduction point to bring more women. How does a female lead affect how you approach the story vs. a male lead?
MONTGOMERY: Well, of course, women and men are not exactly the same. You can treat a female character and just write her like you would write a man, but she's not going to be as believable as if she's actually written like a woman. So, I try to make any female character I work with believable or bring aspects of feminity to her without making her seem girly or weak in that aspect that the connotations of girliness carry with it.
Q: When the voice talent was released, there was a lot of positive feedback from the fan community. What was it like working with Keri Russell, Nathan Fillion, Oliver Platt...?
MONTGOMERY: Well, luckily, each and every one of them was very, very easy to work with. Some of them had done voice work before, and just came in and knew exactly what to do. Others had not, but the more that they got into it, the easier it became for them, and as soon as you become comfortable, they're just able to go and they did a great job, every single one of them. Voice casting and voice directing and the acting in just all of these DC films has been really, really good, and it's kind of what adds to the believability of the character and the prestige of the film.
Q: How much say do you have in the voice casting?
MONTGOMERY: Well, we're all out to give our say in it at the front of the casting process, but of course, it's not just me and Bruce and the people in the animation side. There's also the Warner Home Video people and there's also DC. So, it's an amalgamation of all of those groups, kind of putting their names into the hat, and eventually coming to a decision that pleases all 3.
Q: Keri Russell is not necessarily the first name that comes to mind when you're thinking of Wonder Woman. Was there a role that basically sold you guys on her, or was it her test?
MONTGOMERY: She did not do a voice test. Usually, when people throw names out, we'll just go to YouTube or whatever and pull up some way we can hear their voice. Even though you might not think of Keri to look the part, that's the greatest thing about voice acting is that you don't have to look the part (laughs). But she has a quality to her voice that has strength and presence, but youth as well, and that's what we needed for this Wonder Woman. We needed a young Wonder Woman that didn't sound small or high-pitched. She still needed to be six-feet tall, and we were able to get that with Keri's voice.
Q: There's an economy of line in the designs and the style of the DC Universe films. How much of a pressure does that put on writing and acting to make them more fully rounded characters?
MONTGOMERY: Well, the thing with animation is that you have to have a simple character design, because they've got to draw it God knows how many times to make the thing move (laughs), but also, with the lack of line, I guess dependent on the artist's ability...the ability to convey emotion through it can be good or bad. But I find that even with these simplest characters, the basic emotions are able to be conveyed in the most subtle of ways. Regardless of the design, as long as you have a good artist interpreting that design, it'll come out right, and sometimes when you have a not-so-good artist doing it, it comes out a little wonky. But I think the animation of this movie came out really well, and all the designs look pretty good and fairly consistent.
Q: How recently did this final cut come together?
MONTGOMERY: I think it's been assembled for probably a couple of months. It's not hot off the presses. We weren't in the cutting room yesterday. It's a complete piece, and luckily, we had enough time to make sure we were really happy with it, versus, "Hey, the due date's tomorrow! Make sure it's done!"
Q: You commented on the youth of this version of Wonder Woman. What else makes this Wonder Woman significantly different from other incarnations of Wonder Woman we've seen in the Justice League Unlimited, or Justice League: New Frontier?
MONTGOMERY: Well, her difference is mostly in her youth, and the fact that this is her developing into Wonder Woman, whereas the Wonder Woman of Justice League was a seasoned veteran. She's been fighting crime for who knows how long. She's been a superhero. She knows the beat. But our Wonder Woman was kind of finding herself, and learning about the world outside of Themyscira for the first time, so that's the primary difference. The other difference would primarily be in design. The reason why we changed her design between the Justice League Wonder Woman and this Wonder Woman was because this is a story outside of that continuity. It's a movie that's all its own, and it's not based in any of the Wonder Woman designs that have gone before, so we just felt it necessary to give it its own design style, to really make it quite clear that this is a different Wonder Woman, and this is a different story we're telling for her.
Q: If this is successful, are there any plans to possibly continue this? I mean, in the universe that you've created?
MONTGOMERY: I have no idea, but I definitely hope that it opens the door for that, because I'm jsut really happy with how it came out. If this parlays it into a sequel, I will be extremely happy if I get that opportunity. (laughs)
Q: You definitely feel that there are more stories to tell?
MONTGOMERY: Oh, absolutely. We've only just begun.
Q: One of the questions that I asked Michael Jelenic was how do you write an action scene, and he said, "I write, 'Director Embellished Action Scene.'" He said you get really, really mad about that.
MONTGOMERY: (laughing) The only problem that that brings up is when I hand out script sections to a storyboard artist, no one person does the whole movie. We need a crew of people to storyboard this thing. Usually, you hand it out by script pages, and one person will say, "I can do about 5 script pages." So I'll find 5 script pages for them to do. The thing with action is that it might be an action scene on one script page, but action always takes much longer to storyboard than to write. So when he puts one line of "Director Embellished Fight Scene," that one line is going to translate to what essentially would be 3 or 4 pages of script. And so I hand out this thing to this poor guy, and he just gets slammed with work (laughs), and so I have to notice that and just make note that there's action described here, so I have to make sure I only give this guy 2 pages, because I know it's going to end up being equivalent to about 5 or 6.
Q: Do you have an approach to the action scenes in this movie? Was there something you were trying to achieve in the action scenes to Wonder Woman?
MONTGOMERY: I just wanted it to feel more, I guess, adult or real in the violence. I didn't want to just make it gory for gore's sake, and I also didn't want to make it the typical Saturday morning cartoon action. Since we have a PG-13, we're able to go a little farther. If they have swords, they're going to use them (laughs), and people might get cut with them, and that's realistically what would happen in a sword battle. I just tried to plan the violence so that it was only in the necessary parts, vs. having a completely violenceless action scene or a completely, ridiculously violent action scene.
Q: Just to expound a little, you said when you give it to a storyboard artist, you try to adjust and say, "Oh, well, there's action here." But then do you plot out the action, or is that something more left to the storyboard artist? I mean, do you say, "Wonder Woman picks him up and throws him through the tank" or whatever?
MONTGOMERY: You know, it varies. There were certain action scenes that I felt certain things needed to happen. And so I would talk the storyboard artist through it and just make sure that they had a very clear idea of what they needed to do. Then there were other scenes where I would be giving it to a storyboard artist whose work I was familiar with, and I knew he could handle it, so I would just say, "You know what? Just go crazy." (laughs) Do what you want. If necessary things need to happen in that action scene to propel the story forward, I make sure I tell them to hit it. If it's just a beat-em-up scene, then you can let them do whatever they want.
Q: Are there any other heroes you want to direct films about?
MONTGOMERY: Well, I would be more than happy to direct any film with a female character in it, just because it's so rare that we get to deal with female characters in this animation and action genre. That being said, I'm also a big fan of Aquaman (laughs). I know he's pretty low on the totem pole, but he's been a favorite of mine, so I'd love to do a film with him.
Q: He's only low on the totem pole because nobody's told the right story with him.
MONTGOMERY: That's very true. I think there's a little untapped potential there. He's got the WHOLE OCEAN.
Q: We see in each one of these movies a slightly take on the characters from the TV series. But, with Aquaman particularly, there are two very different Aquamen with Brave and the Bold and Justice League. Which one would you lean more towards?
MONTGOMERY: I am a big fan of the original Aquaman design. I know he's dorky, but I like the orange shirt and I like blond hair. I don't want to explore the hokey Aquaman. I'd like to give him a serious story, just with his original design. If that's possible.
Q: There's you, there's Lauren MacMullan on The Simpsons, and there's Lauren Faust over at Cartoon Network. Is renaming ourselves Lauren the best thing we can do to break into the animation industry?
MONTGOMERY: That is very true, and a little strange. I had never thought about it that way (laughs). There's also Jen Coyle, who was directing on Spectacular Spider-Man.
Q: The serious question is what would your advice be to somebody who wants to get into animation?
MONTGOMERY: If they want to, I just tell them to work hard and keep at it, because it's a lot of hard work. I guess the more they immerse themselves in it and the more they study and just work hard at it, the better they'll become at storytelling. It's not just about drawing well, but it's about storytelling, and storytelling has a science. It's science and art at the same time. Art is very, very subjective, and anybody can say they like or hate something, but the science of storytelling is more broken down. And they need to be able to grasp both of that, when they're working in animation. So study up.
Q: In theatrical films, there's been a huge pressure to move away from traditionally drawn films to three-dimensional CG films. Have you guys been getting any pressure to kind of go in that direction?
MONTGOMERY: I think a lot of studios want to get into CG just because it's there, but I also feel that a lot of studios understand that there's an art to 2-D. It's not something just to be cast aside and upgraded like a better version of technology. There's an art to the hand-drawn animation that you just can't replicate with CG, and I hope it doesn't all go CG, because I will be very sad if it does, but I think most studios and definitely most artists know the difference between the two, and I'd like to keep them both around, if possible.
Q: Have you ever thought about moving into that third dimension? Do you see any kind of changing that would have to happen in your direction, or is it all about good storytelling?
MONTGOMERY: Well, it all comes down to good storytelling, but the freedom that you have with CG that you don't always have with 2-D is that you can move the camera a lot more. There's just a lot more places you can put it. Everything that you can do in CG, you can do in 2-D, but it just takes a ridiculous amount of work to do it (laughs). So we try to pick our shots in 2-D to make them so that we don't kill the animators, and with CG, you can do just about anything you want to. I'm not 100% familiar with CG. I know it has its own problems, or things that it can't do with the camera, but I know that the world of options is a little bit wider with CG.
Q: This is another question that I threw at Michael Jelenic, but Steve Trevor is kind of a tough character, just because he's kind of like male Lois Lane. His job is to scream and get rescued by Wonder Woman. How did you approach him? How did you make sure he didn't become just a mansel in distress?
MONTGOMERY: Luckily, Michael wrote him not being terribly in distress most of the time. He's actually pretty strong on his own, and he does a fair amount of action-type...action (laughs) on his own. And he also gave him a great deal of humor, so he's not just sticking around to be the foil that Wonder Woman has to save. He's a strong character on his own, and he helps in her character arc and her development as well as him developing in his own right. I just think the way Mike wrote him was very good for a movie, so he doesn't just seem like an unnecessary element thrown in there because you need there to be someone for Wonder Woman to save.
Q: Did Nathan Fillion bring anything to it after the writing that might have helped? You have the writing that's one thing, and then you have the acting. How did that change or impact it?
MONTGOMERY: Nathan is just a natural at comic timing. He's very, very good at it, so everything that Mike wrote was just magnificently amplified by Nathan's performance. Just him being himself immediately brought something extra to the role that someone with less comedic ability wouldn't have been able to get, and he kind of steals the show with his performance.
Q: Michael mentioned that Ninotchka was an influence while he was writing the script for the kind of relationship he wanted to have between Diana and Steve, and I was wondering if there were any influences in mind that you could cite while you were working on the movie.
MONTGOMERY: I had a little bit of The Little Mermaid coming through, with her venture into the new world and seeing everything for the first time. We didn't want to make her seem stupid, but she did have a bit of naievte coming into this new world.
Q: What are you working on next?
MONTGOMERY: We're not at liberty to talk about the next projects, but I can tell you guys that there are a lot more of these DC properties that we're making videos for, and so hopefully, you guys will be excited about some of the new titles we have coming.
Q: Can you at least tell us when we might hear?
MONTGOMERY: I think before Wondercon in San Francisco.
Q: Can you say that you are working on the next DTV?
MONTGOMERY: Yes, I am (now revealed to be Green Lantern: First Flight).
Q: Would you do a DC series? Would you do a TV series?
MONTGOMERY: Oh, yeah, absolutely. It's so easy to jump between the two because we have them both at Warner Brothers, so I work in the same studio as all the guys working on The Brave and the Bold. And so, yeah, if a new series came up and it was something I wanted to work on, I would absolutely take that opportunity.
How Ex-DisneyToon Animators Founded Tui Studios in Australia
The Australian has profiled Sydney-based Tui Animation Studios, founded by ex-DisneyToon Studios animators Jonathan Dower and Kelly Baigent. The studio was formed as a result of the shuttering of DisneyToon Studios, with Dower stating that, "Kelly and I wanted to explore ideas and concepts that were our own stuff rather than someone else's" as the reason to start a studio of their own. Tui has worked on the New Zealand comedy Bro'Town and is currently working on some PlayStation video games and several successful iPhone applications, and recently won "some pretty big jobs which we can't talk about yet."
Tony-Winning Writer Signs Development Deal with DreamWorks Animation
The Hollywood Reporter states that Tony-award winning playwright Lin-Manuel Miranda (In the Heights) has signed a development deal with DreamWorks Animation for an unnamed animated musical to be written with High School Musical's Peter Barsocchini. The film will be produced by Larry Mark.
MTV Posts First Look at "Street Angel" Animated Sequences
MTV's Splash Page weblog has posted two stills from animated sequences to be included in Street Angel, a live-action adaptation of Jim Rugg and Brian Maruca's indie comic book series. The artwork was created by Jim Rugg, and the film's director Lucas Testro stated that the animated sequences will finally reveal the origin story of the title character.
Around Walt Disney Animation Studios
Part of the afternoon was me toting my bag of unwanted 401(k) books from floor to floor at the Disney Hat Building. (Hmmm. Wonder why nobody wants to jump into the stock market just now? ...)
The long entry hall had pieces of animation from Princess and the Frog playing on monitors in the display cases: rough pencil tests, cleaned up pencil tests, color, the whole shebang. And know what? It looks like a Disney hand-drawn feature.
I'm still getting a few questions about the 45-hour workweek, but more people have (apparently) become resigned to it or more accepting. Probably some of both.
I got a quick gander of some visual development work happening on Rapunzel, about which one of the folks on the top floor said:
"We're digging into different European locales and castles, looking at what's been done before, deciding what we can use, creating new stuff. We show a lot of the work to John [Lasseter] soon to see what he likes.
The visual development has kicked into a higher gear, but animation is still a bit of a ways off. Character modelling that I saw for an upcoming featurette also looks like enticing.
The long and short of it is, the House of Mouse has its animated properties lined up on the runway, and each is lifting off in its turn.
(Thanks Animation Guild Blog)
‘Watchmen’ Easter Eggs: From Suggestive File-Folders To ‘300’ Call-Outs
FROM MTV.COM: Since VHS tapes gained popularity in the ’80s, filmmakers have delighted in hiding “Easter eggs” in their films for fans to discover during repeated viewings at home. It only seems appropriate, then, that Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen” is not only set during the decade of greed, but that it breathlessly captures Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons‘ pop-culture graphic novel by cramming more eggs into every frame than perhaps any movie before it.
Nowadays, we have Blu-ray, DVDs and Internet screen grabs to help us keep up with Snyder’s amazingly detailed, frantically faithful “Watchmen” world. But if you want to catch all the in-jokes, references and blink-and-you’ll-miss-’em moments the first time you see the movie, you can start here. Here are seven of our favorite “Watchmen” Easter eggs, as revealed by the stars themselves.
For the full list of MTV’s favorite “Watchmen” Easter Eggs, head over to MTV.com.
10 Reasons ‘Watchmen’ Could Be The Most Gutsy Movie Ever Made
FROM MTV.COM: Setting aside the end result, reviews and box-office performance, what is the gutsiest film ever made? Was it Gus Van Sant’s shot-by-shot remake of “Psycho”? George Lucas’ decision to risk the legacy of his “Star Wars” movies by making prequels? Mel Gibson courting religious controversy to film an incredibly graphic, subtitled film about Jesus Christ?
Or is it Zack Snyder’s “Watchmen”?
For more on why “Watchmen” could be the gutsiest movie ever made, head over to MTV.com.
New Terminator Salvation trailer is live; watch it here
The trailer is now live at Yahoo! Movies and here.
This is the trailer that debuted at WonderCon in San Francisco over the weekend and will be unveiled on Entertainment Weekly/The Insider tonight.
Green Lantern: First Flight Official Site with Featurette
On Saturday, Warner Home Video announced details about Green Lantern: First Flight, coming to DVD and Blu-ray Disc on July 28. Now, the official website has launched with a new featurette.
Be sure to check it out here!
The Wonder Woman animated feature home video release also includes a look at the next DC Universe Animated Original Movie title, Green Lantern: First Flight. Click on the thumbnails below to view a selection of images from the "Green Lantern: First Flight - First Look" featurette available on the Wonder Woman DVD and Blu-ray releases.
Toon Boom, iStockphoto Team Up
Software makers Toon Boom Animation Inc. have teamed up with iStockphoto, the world’s largest royalty-free stock image service, to offer its users access to free images and a discount on credits.
The deal will allow Toon Boom users to use iStockphoto to import digital images and vector illustrations directely into Storyboard Pro without drawing. It also allows users to quickly import iStock images into Toon Boom Studio, Animate and Digital Pro. Images can be use for backgrounds, sets, props, characters and poses, and stored for reuse later on.
"Partnering with iStock testifies to Toon Boom’s dedication to further facilitate the creative process of our users, as well as widen the horizon of possibilities if they want to combine different techniques," said Joan Vogelesang, President and Chief Executive Officer at Toon Boom.
DQ and Moonscoop Make Magical Plans for Tara Duncan
India’s DQ Entertainment and French studio Moonscoop announced today that they have partnered to produce a new 2D animated series titled Tara Duncan, which will have an estimated budget of 6.4 million euros and will begin production in June. M6 and Disney are the show’s broadcast partners.
Tara Duncan is based on a the best-selling book by Sophie Audouin-Mamikornian about a young girl who discovers that she has special powers—and can find fates as a sortceliere. Described as “Harry Potter’s little French sister,” Tara Duncan’s special mix of adventure, humor and magic, should lend itself quite well to animation.
The partnership between DQE and Moonscoop began a few years ago with the production of Casper’s Scare School and continued with The Fantastic Four, ToddWorld and the upcoming American Greetings series Twisted Whiskers.
“The functionality of our partnership with Moonscoop has been proven once again,” notes Tapaas Chakravarti, chairman and CEO of Hyderabad-based DQE Group. “Together we will produce world-class animation for television productions as well as feature films. We are also jointly exploring producing Indian content in live action as well as animation to further extend our relationship with Moonscoop.”
“This deal is in logical progression of our ongoing relationship with DQE,” adds Nicolas Atlan, CEO of Moonscoop. “We have successfully collaborated on Casper and the Fantastic Four TV series. We hope that Tara Duncan will be yet another successful partnership. Each of our companies brings something unique to this agreement which we think will ultimately benefit not only our companies, but our broadcast and licensing partners, as well.”
CBR at Wondercon 2009 "9" Panel
Comic Book Resources has posted a report of the 9 panel at last weekend's Wondercon. Representing the dark, moody animated movie were director of animation Joe Ksander and actor Elijah Wood, who plays the title character. The movie, about a group of mechanized rag dolls trying to save a shattered world from strange clockwork beasts. Ksander discussed how the movie evolved from director Shane Acker's (Wanted) student film thesis and caught the attention of Tim Burton, who will be producing the movie. Audience members also asked Wood if he ever planned to direct a feature film, what he thought of animated movies and 9 in particular, and what level of involvement he will have in the upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit.
Check out the trailer for 9 here. The movie will be released on September 9, 2009, and will also star John C. Reilly, Jennifer Connelly, Crispin Glover, Martin Landau, Christopher Plummer, and Fred Tatasciore.
Next Gen. Crew Not In "Star Trek"
Despite online reports over the weekend from WonderCon, Trek Movie confirms that no members of the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" TV or film series cast will appear in J.J. Abrams' upcoming reboot of the franchise "Star Trek" in May.
The initial speculation came from a panel with the writers of the movie prequel comic Tim Jones and Mike Johnson. The comic ties in the current state of the Trek universe where we last left it in 2379 with the most recent film "Star Trek: Nemesis", to the events in the upcoming movie which look to be set sometime in the 2250's.
One of the writers hinted that part of the movie will take place with some of Jean-Luc Picard's crew, but quickly followed up on that saying "I really cannot say anything about that". Sources connected with the project have since denied any cameos from any spin-off cast members.
Where confusion has come in is that it sounds like the film will start off with the film's villain Nero (Eric Bana) and the elderly Mr. Spock (Leonard Nimoy) in the post-Nemesis time of 2387 before traveling back in time to interact with the younger versions of the original crew.
The prequel comic, which hits trade paperback form next month, fleshes out the villain's backstory, his relationship with Spock, and what Spock has been up to since he was last seen. Nimoy's last appearance as Spock in canon was in the "Star Trek: The Next Generation" two-parter 'Unification' in which he was on Romulus and in charge of an underground movement to reunify the Vulcan and Romulan races.
In the comics he's now the Federation Ambassador on Romulus and tries to warn the empire of an impending natural disaster.