Bruce Timm offers New Insights
Executive producer Bruce Timm offers new perspective on the creation of Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths, the latest entry in the ongoing series of DC Universe animated original movies, and The Spectre, the inaugural DC Showcase animated short, in an all-new Q&A with the guru of super hero animation provided to ComicMix by Warner Home Video.
The full-length animated Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths on February 23 as a Special Edition 2-disc version on DVD and Blu-ray, as well as single disc DVD, and On Demand and Download. We will be reviewing this on Sunday.
Timm, the executive producer has been the creative force behind many of Warner Bros. Animation’s modern-day successes, elevating DC Comics’ canon of super heroes to new heights of animated popularity and introducing generations of new fans to the characters via landmark television series and made-for-DVD films. The latter task includes the creation of the current series of DC Universe animated original movies, which have drawn critical acclaim and further whetted the public’s appetite for comic book entertainment.
Question: What excites you about Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths?
Bruce Timm: In a weird kind of way, this is a return to my favorite show Justice League Unlimited. The original script was intended to be the bridge story between Justice League and Justice League Unlimited to explain how we went from seven heroes to more than 50 super heroes. We loved the story and the script, and it floated around here for years while we tried to figure out what to do with it – it was considered for a comic, but fortunately that got shot down. Then we took a look at it and, with just a few slight tweaks, we jumped at the chance to make it a DC Universe movie.
Question: What sets it apart from the TV version of Justice League?
Bruce Timm: It’s a very satisfying, grand scale adventure movie with a big cast of interesting, quirky characters. It’s amazing how much it feels like a great episode of Justice League Unlimited as a big, epic film with slightly different visual stylings. That’s a good thing.
Question: Did this film present challenges that the first six DC
Universe movies did not?
Bruce Timm: The biggest
challenge, and this is kind of esoteric, was that we had to find the
line between the original source material and making it feel like a
stand-alone movie so anyone that didn’t watch JLU could follow it. We
really didn’t have to tweak the script too much – I think about 95
percent remains untouched. In terms of visual styling, we also wanted it
to stand on its own and not necessarily as a continuation of the old
show. We have this brilliant character designer – Phil Bourassa – who
draws in a style similar to my own in terms of simplicity, but slightly
different. So it doesn’t look 180 degrees away from the old show, but it
definitely feels unique.
Question: What are the benefits
of having two directors on the same film?
Bruce Timm: The
positive for Sam and Lauren is that having two directors lightens the
workload, because it’s a big movie. They have similar strengths, and
they’re both very good at what they do. They’re both all around talented
in terms of understanding story, acting, the emotional core of the
story, and they’re both really good at directing big crazy action
scenes. But they’re methodology is different. Sam thinks a lot, he’s
very analytical. Lauren is more intuitive about everything. I just kind
of stayed out of it when they had disagreements – fortunately I never
had to be the tiebreaker, They just worked things out between the two of
Question: What are Dwayne McDuffie’s strengths?
Timm: Dwayne is really well-rounded as a writer – he knows comics
inside and out, he understands the lore, he knows what makes a good
super hero story, and at the same time he’s really good with character
dynamics and conflict. Plus he’s one of the best dialogue writers in the
Question:Of this fairly huge casdt, do you have
a favorite character?
Bruce Timm: In this story, it’s probably Owlman. He’s a
fascinating character himself, but the dynamic with Superwoman is so
messed up as a couple, and yet really appealing in a weird kind of way.
It’s a little similar to JLU’s relationship between The Question and
Huntress. Superwoman is this badass hot chick, and he’s the quiet,
brainy, nerd guy. They’re an interesting, odd couple. Plus I loved both
James’ (Woods) and Gina’s (Torres) performances – they were spot-on.
The amazing thing is we like to get all the actors to record as an
ensemble, but in this case it wasn’t feasible, So they never met or
performed together, but they totally mesh. It’s such an interesting
chemistry considering they’ve never even met.
Question:You’ve brought another all-star cast to this film.
Anything fans don’t know about the casting choices this time around?
Timm: There’s an interesting side note in that Vanessa Marshall,
who plays Wonder Woman, came this close to playing the role in Justice
League. We were down to the final two choices, and they were neck
and neck. The thing about Vanessa is that she sounded perfect for Wonder
Woman – exactly what she should sound like. But Susan Eisenberg had
this vulnerability. We thought it would be interesting to not play her
to type, which ultimately played really well. When it came to casting
for this movie, we thought, “What if we go down the road not taken?” So
we opted for Vanessa in a full-length movie and she is great.
Justice League: Crisis on Two Earths includes the premiere of
the first DC Showcase animation short, The Spectre. How have the
DC Showcase shorts changed your work day?
Bruce Timm: The
DC Showcase is fun because it gives us an opportunity to play with
characters that maybe don’t have a broad enough marquee value to support
their own movie. As much as I like Batman, Superman, etc., the more
lower tier, offbeat characters are really fascinating to me. It’s fun to
mess around with others characters in the DC Universe. Super heroes are
great, but it’s nice to do a change of pace, and that’s a lot of what
we’ve done here. The Spectre is a supernatural thriller, Jonah
Hex is a western, and so on. So the Showcase is giving us a chance
to stretch different muscles.
Question: After taking a
break from episodic TV for the past several years, are you enjoying a
return to the short-form with the DC Showcase?
The interesting thing is these are really short form – they’re half as
long as a half-hour TV episode. So the story has to be really tight and
condensed – you have to cut away the fat, but it can’t be just
wall-to-wall action. It still has to be a story. Fortunately we’re
working with some really great writers, and because of that, every time
we roll tape on these shorts, they feel like you’ve watched a whole
episode of something. There’s a clear beginning, middle and end – a full
story. So mission accomplished.
Question:What made Steve
Niles the right guy to write The Spectre, and how did you lure
him into writing an animated short?
Bruce Timm: I’ve
admired Steve Niles’ work for a long time and, honestly, it would have
never occurred to me to approach him. That was Todd Casey’s suggestion.
He contacted Steve, and Steve was thrilled to get the assignment. He’s a
big Michael Fleisher/Jim Aparo fan, and a big fan of “The Spectre” –
especially that 1970s era of the character. Steve is very into crime
fiction and horror, so he was the perfect writer for it.
Does The Spectre hold any special significance for you?
Timm: The Spectre was one of my favorite characters back in
the 70s. Even by today’s standards, those comics are pretty hard core,
and they were written in 1974, I don’t know how they got some of that
stuff past the comic code. It was so different from any other comic on
the stands. It’s really dark, really nasty. The character is pretty easy
to understand – he’s the dark avenger of the night, even more so than
Batman. He punishes bad guys in horrible, horrible ways. He’s like the
benign Freddie Krueger. I’ve wanted to use The Spectre for a
long, long time and we never had a opportunity to do it, and this was
our chance to go hog wild with him.