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NYCC2009: The "Wonder Woman" DTV Panel Report

(l to r) Lauren Montgomery, Michael Jelenic, Gregory Noveck, and Bruce TimmImmediately after the world premiere of the Wonder Woman direct-to-video animated movie, the New York Comic Con hosted a panel discussion with director Lauren Montgomery, producer Bruce Timm, and writer Michael Jelenic, led by DC Sr. VP of Creative Affairs Gregory Noveck. Noveck reminded the audience that Wonder Woman would be released on March 3, 2009, in one-disc, two-disc, and Blu-ray editions (read Toon Zone News’ earlier coverage here). Nathan Fillion (who voices Steve Trevor in the movie) appeared via video before the screening to apologize that he couldn’t make it to NY Comic Con, joking that he was “too busy shooting Serenity 2…just kidding.” He really is. It’s not happening. Sorry, Firefly fans.

Sound files of the panel are interspersed throughout the writeup. My sound-editor-fu is weak, so apologies in advance for the clicks, pops, and background noise (which are also why the generally soft-spoken Montgomery doesn’t get any sound files, unfortunately).

Timm began by noting that Batman and Superman are so well-defined by what’s gone on before, while Wonder Woman doesn’t have that same advantage despite being in print for just as long. Bruce Timm made a vain stab at modesty (“It’s not that we were trying to make the definitive Wonder Woman movie”) before the truth came out (“…well, OK, we were” — click here to listen), saying that he wanted to incorporate elements from the comics and the TV show, but that it made for a hard balancing act. “You don’t want to make her too tough, because then she’s Xena, and you don’t want to make her too soft, because then she’s not Wonder Woman.” Jelenic added that Wonder Woman was hard because she has so many inherent contradictions, but said that writing Amazons as man-haters was absolutely the last thing he wanted to do. Once he discovered that Wonder Woman’s journey was to bring Man’s World and the Amazons together, then he felt that the rest of the movie came together.

Noveck wanted to remind the audience at this point that Wonder Woman would be released on March 3, 2009, in multiple editions, and encouraged everyone in the audience to buy it multiple times.

Montgomery said that the hardest part of the design process was to walk the fine line of making Wonder Woman a powerful superhero without losing her femininity. However, she relished the challenge of working on Wonder Woman “after working on all the boy shows.” Timm interjected that Montgomery was “a phenomenally talented artist” and told the audience to check out her weblog (but open it in another tab and look at it later — there’s enough cool stuff on there that we’re afraid you’ll just stay there and forget about us).

Steve Trevor has been one of the longest lasting members of Wonder Woman’s supporting cast, but often gets thoroughly overshadowed by his leading lady, which presents different writing challenges. Timm said that “once we had Nathan [Fillion] playing him, he went on to take over the movie.” After joking that there was a lot of Michael Jelenic in the role, Jelenic said that Trevor had to really earn the right to be dating Wonder Woman by the end of the movie, so it was important that he got a compelling arc to his story as well.

Wonder Woman Panelists, l to r: Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery, and Michael JelenicWhen asked “Where does Wonder Woman go from here?” Timm admitted that they have so many projects in the works at this point that they had never really considered the idea of doing a sequel to any of the DTV movies. However, the question came up repeatedly during the roundtable interviews earlier in the day, so Timm said, “If you really, really like the movie, and you buy lots and lots and lots of copies of it and tell all your friends to buy lots and lots of copies of it, if we get the chance, we’ll do another one.” (click to listen)

This was the first time the crew had ever seen Wonder Woman with a large audience of people, and Montgomery said that biggest surprise was how often people laughed. During production, they’ve seen it so many times that the jokes aren’t fresh to them any more, but hearing the audience laugh at the jokes was a nice surprise and reinforcement of the work they’ve done.

Noveck also gave a shout-out again to voice director Andrea Romano, commenting that “if you buy the Blu-ray disc (March 3, 2009, along with the one-disc and two-disc DVDs, in case you didn’t know), you can slo-mo through the credits” to see Alfred Molina as Ares and Oliver Platt as Hades.

The panel then opened up for Q&A from the audience, with Timm interjecting that they can’t talk about any of the upcoming DTV projects, so don’t ask.

  • Noveck said that the casting of the DTV movies was at least partially driven by a desire to get the best, generally recognizable talent that is available. He also added that the goal of these movies is to do what the fans want to see, so if people want more of DC’s female superheroes headlining DTV’s, then let them know. (For the record: I’d like either a Black Canary movie directed by Montgomery or Joaquim Dos Santos or movies for Birds of Prey or Catwoman that show the live-action people how to do those properties right.)
  • The decision to set the movie in New York City other real-world cities rather than Gotham City or Metropolis wasn’t something that the crew gave much conscious thought to. Timm said, “If you’re going to go to Man’s World, what’s the best place to go? New York,” which drew big applause from the hometown crowd.
  • The biggest challenge Montgomery faced from moving from directing a third of Superman Doomsday to all of Wonder Woman was the added responsibility and workload. However, she did enjoy the challenge and felt that it allowed for a more consistent vision for the entirety of the movie.
  • Regarding the impact this film will have on a live-action Wonder Woman movie, Timm said that he had an answer, but he didn’t think it was one the audience really wanted to hear. He said that no matter how well the DTV sells, it probably will have little or no impact on getting a live-action movie made any faster.
  • The idea of a Wonder Woman animated series for TV has been bandied around, but Timm said that a really nasty part of the business is that much of the decisions are made based on merchandising and ancillary sales, and boys aren’t going to buy Wonder Woman toys. While it’s true that “girls can buy Wonder Woman toys” (and Jelenic joked that “older boys can buy Wonder Woman toys” to which Timm added “40-year old men can buy Wonder Woman toys”), Timm brought up the “ultra-girly” Wonder Woman series that was in production at one point, saying, “I don’t think it would have made anybody happy.”
  • Did we mention that the DVD and Blu-rays are being released in March 3, 2009? Gregory Noveck is a little worried that people might not know that.
  • One audience member thanked the panelists for not shying away from the S&M aspects of Wonder Woman. I’m not quite sure what movie he was watching, but whatever.
  • There won’t be deleted scenes on the DVD, since none of the cut stuff was worth seeing. Timm said that the crew had talked about explaining the Invisible Jet, but they all ultimately said, “Ah, forget it. Who cares? It’s the Invisible Jet. Deal with it.” (click to listen)
  • The movie is much more adult than earlier animated projects, with the questioner saying, “I don’t think I saw as many decapitations in the entire series run of Justice League,” and adding that the humor had a decidedly more adult cast. Timm jokingly asked, “So what’s your point?” before Noveck added that all the movies are PG-13, so they can go further than they can on TV. Montgomery expanded on the point, saying that she was frustrated at storyboarding many swordfights in earlier shows where she couldn’t cut anyone, so Wonder Woman was rather liberating in that regard.
  • Jelenic also said that this was a very pro-decapitation production.
  • Expanding on that point, Timm noted that the first cut of the movie was so bloody and gory that it got an R-rating, and “there’s maybe a slim posibility that they’ll release an unrated version some time in the future,” but the first cut was “crazy bloody.” (Click to listen to Timm describing why one particularly violent scene was cut.) Timm does like the PG-13 cut better, although the audience still wanted the big blood-and-guts version.
  • A woman in a Wonder Woman costume (right) asked about getting Lynda Carter involved in Wonder Woman movies, live-action and animated. Timm revealed that they did try to get Lynda Carter to play Hera in their movie, because, “it would be cool that every time Wonder Woman swore by Hera, she was actually swearing by Lynda Carter,” but the scheduling just didn’t work out (click to listen). Jelenic also wanted to end the movie with “a heavy metal version of the TV Wonder Woman theme,” but the composer Christopher Drake couldn’t wrap his brain around that one because all the other music for the movie was so operatic.
  • The panelists all agreed that it was a lot of fun to watch the movie with a large audience, but Timm said that he thinks that the movie works best on TV screens, saying that all the movies weren’t quite theatrical enough to work in movie theaters. He added that even when he saw Batman: Mask of the Phantasm in movie theaters, he said, “It looks like a TV show on a movie screen.” However, Noveck said, “It’s a testament to how good this movie is that Bruce produced it and doesn’t hate it.” (click to listen)
  • Responding to a question about the 70-75 minute run times of the DTVs, Timm said that this was the first movie they’ve done where he felt that it was the right length.
  • Timm doesn’t think that he’ll be doing any comic book work in the near future, and gave a “maybe” to doing comic book work in the farther future.
  • Noveck said that the movies are aimed at the core fanbase, but they are hoping that it will reach beyond that audience, especially since he thinks the movie delves into the male-female relationships intelligently, concluding with, “If we screw up the marketing, feel free to help.” (click to listen)
  • When an audience member asked about the hand-made quality of optically processed animation (as opposed to all modern animation, which is composited on computers instead of on film), Timm stated that nobody shoots animation on film any more, if only for the cost reasons, and that nobody can do it now even if they wanted to. He also added that there were so many things that can be done for so much less money using digital effects that it gives the movies so much more production value for the budget.
  • The obvious choice for doing a Marvel superheroes project would be “Squadron Supreme,” but Timm said that he’d probably pick “something weird, like Luke Cage: Hero for Hire,” with Noveck suggesting Dazzler.
  • It is definitely tempting to reuse the more familiar character designs than constantly re-inventing the same characters differently in each DTV, especially because each movie would be a lot of work even without trying to avoid repeating themselves stylistically. The same problem occurs in casting, with Timm joking, “Who hasn’t played Batman at this point?” However, Timm said that they do like the challenge of finding new things to do with the characters, and that they always try to avoid repeating themselves from the writing and storytelling, which is getting harder because of the number of hours they’ve racked up at this point.
  • Timm said, “We try not to do conscious homages to themselves,” and if you see a scene in Wonder Woman that’s similar to something that was done in Justice League, it was not intentional.
  • The DVD is coming out on March 3, 2009, and as a super special bonus, the Blu-ray disc is coming out on the same day.
  • Jelenic gratefully acknowledged the contributions of comic book scribe Gail Simone in creating the many well-defined supporting characters in her story work for the Wonder Woman movie, saying “she really set the voice for quite a few characters,” naming Hippolyta and Artemis specifically, so he didn’t find he had to add or embellish much in his final version.
  • Jelenic said that Gail Simone probably got a lot of the story cues from the George Perez relaunch of the Wonder Woman comic book in the 1980′s, but Timm credited the visual style to Montgomery. The movie doesn’t look much like Perez’s artwork because she said that, “When I try to draw like someone else, it doesn’t look as good, so I just try to draw the best way I can,” and “that’s ultimately where the style came from.” However, she said that if they get an opportunity to do another Wonder Woman movie, there are lots of artistic styles they could explore.
  • The element of the Wonder Woman mythos that Jelenic was happy Timm talked him into including was the Contest scene, since Jelenic originally felt that the time would have been spent better doing something else. Timm added that “I already got raked over the coals once for not doing the Contest in Justice League, so I knew damn well I was going to do it in this movie.” Jelenic did miss a throwaway scene in a strip joint in the middle of a big fight scene, which is in the novelization but which was cut from the movie.
  • Timm did say that when he said in an interview with Comic Book Resources that he’d like to do projects with characters like the Question, it was just an answer off the top of his head and that he didn’t think anybody would pay to see a Question movie.

The following answers from the Q&A section contain some spoilers for the movie, so if you don’t want to know, then bookmark us and come back after March 3, 2009 (when the DVD and Blu-ray discs come out, donchaknow?) after you and all your friends buy the movie.

Spoiler:
  • Yes that's the White HouseThe final scenes were set in Washington, DC (right), because of the Greco-Roman inspired architecture of the many buildings in the area, not out of any stronger sense of patriotism or symbolism. The panelists also joked about the blatant geographic impossibilities in the climactic scenes.
  • When asked about the phallic symbolism of the Washington Monument and the “breast-like” symbolism of the Capitol dome, Jelenic revealed the screenplay did say, “the Washington Monument in all its phallic glory,” but that there really wasn’t any other symbolism meant in the scene. Sometimes a cigar is just a cigar.
  • Jelenic claimed that the cameo appearance of the Cheetah at the end of the movie was mostly an accident, which Timm didn’t believe.
  • Plus, I gotta say that the barefoot thing is kinda hot.The reason why Wonder Woman is fighting Deimos barefooted, as seen in the screenshot to the right, was that she was dressed in civilian clothing earlier in the movie, and the first thing she did in the fight was kick off her high heels. Montgomery said she didn’t want Wonder Woman to fight in heels. There was even a scene in the script that was cut for time where Wonder Woman comments on the impracticality of heels, but Montgomery knew right up front that as soon as she went into battle, “those heels were going to come off.”
  • Hades’ huge, bloated character design came about because Montgomery wanted all the gods to look different. Hades is so corpulent because he’s the polar opposite of Ares, since all he has to do was sit in the underworld and rule over the dead, making his slaves bring him all his food. Timm added that they wanted to get farther away from the Disney Hades or the Hades in Justice League, with Montgomery adding that they really tried to avoid all other depictions of Hades to make one of their own.

Wonder Woman arrives on 1-disc and 2-disc DVD and Blu-ray disc on March 3, 2009. For more information, check out the following coverage on Toon Zone News:

Stay tuned for our roundtable interviews with Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery, and Michael Jelenic!

Return to Toon Zone News’ New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage Round-up

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