Monday, May 3, 2004
WONDERCON: JUSTICE LEAGUE
SAN FRANCISCO -- If Justic League Unlimited is his last hurrah with DC Comics characters in animation, producer Bruce Timm figures he might as well go out with a bang.
Timm appeared at WonderCon on Saturday, along with Alan Burnett, Paul Dini, Stan Berkowitz and Dwayne McDuffie, for a Warner Bros. Animation panel. The first part of the three-part second season finale, "Starcrossed," was shown, and then the panelists fielded questions.
Talk quickly turned to the third and fourth seasons of Justice League, now called Justice League Unlimited, with a new approach featuring many guest-stars from the DC Universe.
Timm talked about the whys and hows of the series' switch.
"When we finished Season 2, we honestly didn't know if it was going to be our last season or not," he said. "We thought it was a 50-50 chance it could be our last season of Justice League.
"But they did come to us and say, 'We would like to pick up Seasons 3 and 4 of Justice League.' They did have a couple of stipluations. One of them was that they didn't want two-part stories any more; they wanted us to do half-hour, self-contained stories. At first, we were like, 'Yeah, we really liked two-part, hour-long stories; we liked having that elbow room to stretch out.' But we did Batman and Superman and Batman Beyond as half-hour shows, so it would just take a little bit of a learning curve to go back and figure out how to tell Justice League stories in a half an hour. But we thought we could do it.
"The second thing is that they asked us to rebrand the show somehow. And they were very vague about that. They just wanted to do something to differentiate Season 3 from Seasons 1 and 2, to let the audience know it's a fresher show.
"And, honestly, in retrospect, I think they would have been happy if we just changed the title of the show. And maybe some kind of superficial change with the line-up of the show.
"And you can blame it all on me. Anybody who doesn't like what's going on with Season 3 with all the guest-stars, you can blame it all on me. It was my idea. We could have one rotating cast member, we could have easily just added Aquaman to the show. That would have been enough to rebrand the show.
"Instead, I had this crazy notion. Instead of having just one guest star, why don't we go whole hog and go crazy. Fortunately, everyone on staff liked the idea, even though it meant designing and writing and developing all these new characters.
"It's really been a blast. To me, every episode of Justice League Unlimited is really exciting because we get to play with new characters that we never got to play with before.
"Not to be pessimistic, but I have no idea how much longer the Dini/Timm/Burnett version of the DC Animated Universe is going to continue and this may be like my last chance to go play in the DC Comics back yard. So this is my chance to do a Mr. Miracle story, this is my last chance to do a WildCat story. So, it's going to be really fun."
Timm said that despite all the new characters, there's still room for character development.
"Even though every episode will feature new characters and some episodes will have almost no characters from Seasons 1 and 2 in it -- episode 4 prominently features Green Arrow and Supergirl and The Question and J'onn J'onzz is a supporting character and Batman's not in it, Superman's not in it and Wonder Woman's not in it -- and it's one of my favorite episodes of the season," he said.
"It's called having your cake and eat it, too. There's going to be some episodes that feel like the first two seasons, and there's going to be some episodes that feel radically different. And some episodes will feel half and half. So if we really play our cards right, it's going to be a really satisfying show."
Timm said when work began on the new season he thought it would be more of anthology show because of the self-contained format.
"We didn't think the shows were going to connect in a season-long story arc," Timm said. "And we got to Episode 4, and we realized we already had a story arc in place. We realized that there were all these plot threads that we had going quite a ways in the past that we could connect into a bigger, broader story arc. So now we're focusing all our energy on that. And by the time you get to Season 4, it's going to be quite the epic story arc."
In other Justice League notes from the Warner Bros. Animation panel:
* Season 3 and Season 4 will both have 13 episodes.
* Mongul returns in the second episode of the third season, an adaptation of the Alan Moore story, "For the Man Who Has Everything."
"It's a really intense episode," Timm said. "Mongul is definitely scary than in the episode 'War World.'"
* Wonder Woman characters Circe and Ares will be villains. Other villains include Chronos and the return of Amazo.
"The Amazo show is probably the biggest episode of Season 3," Timm said. "We went into this thinking we would have small groups of heroes, like three or four. And the Amazo returns show is so huge, it's got like an army of super-heroes going after Amazo. It's going to be something to see."
* Berkowitz noted that Dennis Farina is providing the voice of WildCat in an episode written by Bob Goodman.
* Black Canary won't be appearing in Season 3, but early on in Season 4.
* Timm confirmed that "Starcrossed" will debut on DVD (July 13) before airing on Cartoon Network, which has not announced a date yet. "It's a new release pattern that they're trying out," he said.
* Timm said that the Justice League: Starcrossed DVD will have special features.
"A camera crew came in and did a bunch of interviews, so there's talking heads featurettes," Timm said. "We talk a little about where the story came from and the background of the characters and why we chose this Hawkman over the exact Hawkman of the comics."
Timm said he pushed for full-screen and wide-screen releases for the DVD.
* Timm said that the vehicles in Justice League Unlimited, including a new Javelin, will be digitally created.
"The 3-D modeling that they do overseas is just so much better than they did even three or four years ago," Timm said.
* Timm said that the Batman Beyond world might be touched upon in Justice League. "Kind of like what they did with the Static Shock/Batman Beyond crossover episode this past season," he said. "We're talking about doing something similar with Batman Beyond and our show."
* Timm said there are no plans to use Nightwing.
"If they had done another direct-to-video, we probably would have dealt with Nightwing, or if they had done more episodes," Dini said. "It was always in the back of our minds."
* Dini said the episode featuring Zatanna is "pretty much a continuation of that storyline" from the Batman animated series.
* The Elongated Man will appear, as voiced by Jeremy Piven.
* Supergirl will be appearing at least twice.
* Timm said The Question turned out to be one of his favorite characters.
"When we recorded the episode with him, we got Jeffrey Combs, from the Re-Animator movies, to play The Question," Timm said. "And he's so creepy. He's like the creepiest hero character we've ever had in any of the shows. We were all totally jazzed when we recorded that show. He was awesome."
* According to Timm, Justice League Unlimited will air in Cartoon Network's Toonami block.
* Timm said a Justice League/Teen Titans crossover was discussed with creators of both shows.
"We couldn't even agree on the format of the show," Timm said. "Should it be a one-parter? Should the Teen Titans crew do it? Should both of us do one part of it? Should it be a serious story? Should we deal with the continuity or should we not deal with continuity? After about five minutes of that, it was like, 'Forget it, it's too hard.'"
Timm said that it's unlikely that the identity of Robin in Teen Titans will be revealed.
* McDuffie said he enjoys writing for both Justice League and Teen Titans.
"They're very different shows," he said. "Teen Titans is really fun to write because the characters are so extremely clear. They're very specific and very direct, and that's a lot of fun to do.
"With Justice League, the characters have a lot more size and a lot more colors. They're more rounded characters, so they can surprise you more, I think."
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