San Diego Comic-Con 2009: "Green Lantern: First Flight" Roundtable Interviews
Following the sneak preview of Green Lantern: First Flight on Thursday at Comic-Con, the following day, members of the press were given access to select members of the cast and crew in attendance at the convention including the movie’s director Lauren Montgomery, voice over director Andrea Romano, voice actress , and producer Bruce Timm. Please note that not all the questions asked on these sessions are ours. The Toon Zone questions will be marked by TOON ZONE or TZ. Also be forewarned, that some of the questions in these questions go at length into discussion on events that occur in the animated movie, so please note the spoiler warning.
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Lauren Montgomery (Director)
Director Lauren Montgomery previously directed episodes of the TV series, Legion of Super Heroes, after starting as a storyboard artist for such shows as Justice League and Ben 10. Lauren then went on to direct the animated features Superman/Doomsday and Wonder Woman before Green Lantern: First Flight.
Toon Zone: So how did you get the job?
Lauren Montgomery: I just finished Wonder Woman and Green Lantern was coming up and I was there. It was pretty much the rule. “You want Green Lantern?” And I said OK. And that was pretty much how it happened. Nothing fancy.
TZ: Were you a fan of Green Lantern before the movie or was it more daunting to take this project on?
LM: I do a fair amount because I worked on Justice League. I was more familiar with the John Stewart Green Lantern, so I had to get a little bit familiar with the Hal Jordan version but I knew the general what makes Green Lantern, Green Lantern. So it wasn’t a complete “Oh my God, what does this hero do?” I was familiar.
The Green Lantern comic is better than ever. Why do you think this character is pretty much everywhere?
LM: I don’t know why but I think it’s about time because I definitely see his appeal to people, just because he is an every man but he gains these powers and he’s in space. There’s not a whole lot of super heroes out in space, policing space. And there’s a lot of different territories you can explore with him. He goes to all these different planets. So I’m so glad he’s just finally getting his time in the spotlight because I guess he’s never really been as popular as Superman and Batman who already are everywhere. I’m hoping he gets there because he’s a really fun character and there’s so much you can do with it.
What inspired you about Green Lantern?
LM: Just the variety of what you can do with him and all the planets and the aliens and the vastness of the universe you can explore with him. That’s what excites me. You can have a completely different adventure with him every time.
What were the things you took away from Wonder Woman that helped Green Lantern work?
LM: Well, definitely one of the biggest differences is that they are so different as far as the movies themselves, like the settings and what they do. Wonder Woman was much more grounded in our movie. It all took place on Earth and had historic tools and all the things you’ve seen before aside from the Invisible Jet. But with Green Lantern we had to come up a completely new universe. Completely new alien characters, completely new alien environments. We couldn’t draw anything from an existing reference. The biggest similarity is the humanity of the characters. It’s another story, you have to treat it the same way you treat every story and just approach it. But they are definitely two completely different stories.
TZ: I liked seeing new characters like Arisia who we hadn’t seen animated before. Arisia herself is a character in the comics that is hot for Hal. Was there anything more you wanted to do with Arisia in the story you didn’t get around to?
LM: I have no idea. I know that in the script she was always a second-tier character and I think they even kind of boosted her role a little bit just because they needed to bring some extra characters for the purpose of Hal’s character development. But, honestly after doing this experience I think she animated the best and so she’s my favorite from all the characters. She just looked great through the whole movie. So I’m now a big fan of Arisia. And Ch’p too. Ch’p actually had his own action beat against the Yellow Lantern in the original storyboard, but he ended up getting taken out by the Yellow Lantern in a way that would’ve actually killed him. So we kind of had to for continuity take it out, so I was kind of sad to see him not get his action bit after all.
TZ: I would’ve been OK with seeing Ch’p get killed.
LM: Awww. I thought he was cute.
TZ: You can bring in G’Nort instead. So for the DC animated movie model, is the door open to make sequels to some of these stories, or will they stay sort of self-contained stories for now?
LM: You know, I think there is opportunity for them to continue. We have not yet seen a direct sequel to any of these, but I don’t think anyone is going to completely throw that out the door. I’m certain that they will make more Green Lantern films. I guess by direct sequel I mean will they be using the same characters, same style, and I think there’s opportunity for that. But I also think there’s opportunity to make a Green Lantern film in a different style. So it can go both ways. I think there’s opportunity for both. New takes on Green Lantern, and continuations on existing takes.
TZ: Who is your favorite character in this movie?
LM: Just visually, Arisia, because she was cute. Substance wise? I just really like Sinestro. I think he was an awesome villain. He was a layered villain. You kind of saw that he thought he was being right. He actually thought he was doing right things, and that’s what draws him to me even moreso than Ares, the villain in Wonder Woman. He’s cool, but his controlling motivation is “I’m the God of War. I have to be.” Sinestro, he had motivation, and that makes him a deeper character for me.
TZ: Victor Garber played him with such delicious calculated intent.
LM: Yeah and he also made him sophisticated in a way. He wasn’t just some little guy. He was intelligent and educated. And that makes him more dangerous to me.
How do you approach the alien characters since there were so little human characters in the movie?
LM: The vast majority of it was all done by an artist named Jose Lopez. And he just has a crazy imagination. And a lot of those, he looked at the Green Lantern reference and tried to interpret as many Green Lanterns as he could, but anything else he just pulled it out of his head. Because God knows I wouldn’t be able to design that many crazy aliens. I just don’t have that imagination. But he does, and that’s why its really good to have an artist like that working for you and making your universe so vast and different and give it another level of believability project.
TZ: Where was the main portion of the animation done for the movie?
LM: It was done in Japan by TMS, who did the Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker movie. I think that was the last time Warner Bros. worked with them, so it had been like a big gap of working with Japan, and we decided to re-open the door with them and work with TMS again.
TZ: What is your next animated project?
LM: I don’t think we are allowed to say. I know that next is Public Enemies ,but beyond that we aren’t really allowed to talk about it.
Was there any good surprises with the actors where they brought something unexpected to the roles?
LM: Well, the actors are always bring surprises because there are so many of them whether I am familiar with their work or not, I will go in expecting a regular line read, but they’ll always give it something more and they’ll always make the characters so much more impressive and so much deeper than I ever expect because I’m not an actor.
TZ: So from a lady’s perspective, Hal Jordan: charming ladies man or chauvinist misogynist?
LM: A little bit of both I guess. There’s charm in his humor, but when the humor goes a little too far you just want to slap him.
Lauren Montgomery hopes to work on an animated Aquaman feature at some point.
Juliet Landau (Voice Actor – Labella)
You might previously remember Ms. Landau as Drusilla from Buffy: The Vampire Slayer and Angel. As a voice over actor, Landau has also put time in as Helen on Ben 10: Alien Force and Tala in Justice League. In Green Lantern: First Flight, Landau portrayed the sultry alien informant, Labella. Labella has only one sequence in the movie, but it’s definitely one of the most tense and memorable ones in the flick for sure.
Toon Zone: How did you get your role in the movie?
Juliet Landau: Basically I worked with Bruce Timm and Andrea Romano a lot. I worked with them both on Justice League Unlimited and with Andrea on Ben 10: Alien Force, so they sent me the script and I loved the character immediately so I said, yeah I’m in . The script is written very beautifully, and the character is very colorful. Immediately, between the text and the drawing they sent, this voice sort of came to me and I said that’s how she has to sound. And usually if I come up with a voice that’s sort of bold and I have to come up with something that’s not necessarily on the page, I come up with a back-up in case I go into session and they are like, “We don’t want that.” But I could not think of a second [voice], I was just like this is how she has to sound. So I went and figured if they didn’t like it, I’ll play in the moment and come up with something else, but they really liked it.
TZ: Is that orb like having too much of a good thing?
JL: Yeah, exactly.
TZ: That was disturbing. It freaked me out.
JL: It is. It’s disturbing, right? It’s dark. It’s got an edge to it, which I thought was interesting.
When you are doing a scene like that, there’s a lot of energy and the other actors are not recording anywhere near, right?
JL: No, we did actually, but in this only some of the actors. We didn’t have all of the actors, but some of the actors we were working with directly because it makes it so much easier because you are directly playing off of another actor. It depends. Also on Ben 10, we do do that, and it’s so fun because you basically sit in a semi-circle with actors and you play and bounce off each other, and its completely a sort of fluid, creative experience. But often you are in a booth by yourself and doing that as well.
What do you think when you finally sat down and watched this movie?
JL: Its so fun to actually see the end product because you are in the process and you have a sort of vision of what you think its going to be and then you see your work and it coming together and being married. It’s actually a really fun thing to see in a really full blown way that you didn’t anticipate.
TZ: Do you go to conventions or Comic Con a lot?
JL: I’ve never been to Comic Con before. This is my first experience here. I’m loving it. I’m actually having a really good time, but its a little bit daunting in terms of the size. I mean its just so incredibly massive.
Were you into comics and super heroes before you started doing this work?
JL: Not so much comics, which is weird because I just wrote two issues of the Angel comic book which continued the Angel and Buffy series in comic book form after they left the air. Basically they approached me, “Will you co-write two issues about your character?” And it’s been really fun and creative. And so when they asked me to do that, I had read all the Angel and Buffy comic books but I hadn’t read that many other comic books prior. But I really got peaked by writing this. So now I’m interested in this whole thing.
TZ: Even though Labella was an alien, I dunno, I thought she had something going on. What did you think of Labella’s look?
JL: She had something . . . I thought it was great. It was funny because at the same time I was doing Ben 10, it’s a character that’s actually an alien, lizard sort of looking character too. It was the same week I was recording that, and then I got this and I was like, what am I, getting typecast? And it didn’t sound at all alike, but when you look at the drawings, I was like I’m Lizard Alien Woman. It was really funny. All I’m getting offered is lizard aliens. But they were really both incredible parts. I thought the look was great. It almost has an alien version, light Amy Winehouse kind of feel. It was really cool.
TZ: I thought Labella was hot.
JL: Yeah, she’s got a little seductiveness going on.
What do you think of the talk of Buffy becoming a movie again without Joss Whedon?
JL: Its strange because Buffy is Joss in terms of, basically he did the whole series because he did the film and wasn’t so happy with that and said I want to do with it what I really saw with my vision and his stamp is so completely him its hard to imagine it without him.
Bruce Timm (Producer)
Bruce Timm is a man that needs no introduction. After having wrapped the Justice League series, Timm moved onto spearheading the DC Animated direct to DVD productions and has had a hand in all of them thus far.
Toon Zone: I was asking Lauren Montgomery earlier, but I also wanted to ask you. Do you see this model of the DC animated movies having sequels or will they stay as one-off movies for now?
Bruce Timm: Eventually. In fact, one of the scripts that we’re working on right now is actually a sequel to one of our prior projects which I can’t talk about.
Did the film live up to everything you wanted it to be?
BT: They always fall a little bit short in my eyes. Like you never get exactly what you want because there’s not enough time — literally not enough time. If we had enough time we could make everything just right, but you know, so I mean yeah there’s all minor stuff. But its all 90% there but I wanted it to be.
TZ: When did you decide you wanted everyone in the room to do the Green Lantern Oath at the sneak preview?
BT: A couple days ago. We had four thousand people reciting the Green Lantern Oath last night, it was awesome.
Would you prefer to be doing these movies or a linear television series?
BT: Its apples and oranges. When doing a TV series, you have a chance to kind of get better at the show as it moves along. With the characters you have more time to develop the relationships and what not and you can get into a groove where it gets comfortable and you get excited about taking the storyline some place else whereas these are all very compact, one story, you’re done, move on to something else. Also each one of these has a unique look to it. So it’s not like you can re-use standing sets or characters. Its literally like every time you have to draw everything over from scratch. That’s fun, but there’s also sometimes not enough time to do that properly. So its apples and oranges. I enjoy doing both.
TZ: One of the subtle things I really liked about the character designs in the movie. I really liked the costumes; they looked more like armor than the typical spandex costumes. Was that an intentional art decision?
BT: Right. That was definitely a deliberate decision. What we really wanted to do was embrace the sci-fi of it all. So starting with the Green Lanterns, we really wanted to make their uniforms look less like spandex and more like futuristic body armor — and still skin tight, but we wanted to segment it a little bit to give it a little bit more pizzazz so it wasn’t just tights because why would intergalactic space cops be wearing tights? And we did that all across the board. In the comics, the Guardians are basically short, little blue guys. And even Abin Sur is just a pink human with pointy ears. So we wanted to make sure all the aliens looked genuinely alien, and we wanted to embrace the whole science fiction aspect of it.
TZ: With Warner Bros. developing a live action feature for the movie, was there any internal pressure to hold back on this one?
BT: No. We started this one probably a year and a half ago before the live action one. We knew the live action movie was in development but nowhere near being green lit yet. Of course we had to clear it with the feature people, is it cool just to go ahead and do this, not going to be stepping on your toes? They said no, it’s fine, we’re not going to be doing it for a while. So its not a problem.
I just have one quick silly fanboy, obsessive question.
BT: Maybe. You can ask it. I may not answer it.
Is the red warp that the Green Lanterns go through in the movie meant to be The Bleed?
BT: Oh, no. I haven’t thought of that because when we do a movie like this, literally we’re trying to figure out the color designs; it can’t be green because the Green Lanterns are green. It can’t be yellow because we have the Yellow Element in it. So it leaves you with blue and red and purple. And you’re like which one is going to look best? Red. That’s all it was. But that’s a pretty good question.
TZ: Would Hell have to freeze over before we see a Justice League vs. Avengers animated movie?
BT: Probably. Probably.
And now that you’ve given Hal his moment, do you really now owe it to Guy Gardner too?
BT: I don’t owe Guy Gardner ****.
TZ: What about G’Nort?
BT: I dunno. Maybe someday.
TZ: Is there any movement on the Teen Titans project right now?
BT: No, not at the moment, but we hope someday.
Green Lantern: First Flight is now out on DVD and Blu-ray.