Toon Zone News http://www.toonzone.net Animation news and discussion. toonzone provides cartoon, comic book, movie and video game news, information and community to enthusiasts. Fri, 31 Jul 2015 12:54:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.2 Review: "Adventure Time" Season 5 Grows Up And Stays Funhttp://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/review-adventure-time-season-5-grows-stays-fun/ http://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/review-adventure-time-season-5-grows-stays-fun/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 12:00:26 +0000 http://www.toonzone.net/?p=492202 AdventureTimeLittleDude

Adventure Time has never been a show afraid to push its limits, and season 5 is arguably where Cartoon Network’s landmark series experiments with narratives the most. The substantial 52-episode season more takes more opportunities than ever before to wade into serious territory and explore the background of its characters and its world, while our central […]

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Adventure Time Complete Season 5 Blu-ray ArtAdventure Time has never been a show afraid to push its limits, and season 5 is arguably where Cartoon Network’s landmark series experiments with narratives the most. The substantial 52-episode season more takes more opportunities than ever before to wade into serious territory and explore the background of its characters and its world, while our central characters Finn and Jake are left facing some of the challenges of growing up for better and for worse.

For me the season’s tone is set by its two part opening “Finn the Human” and “Jake the Dog,” which are themselves following up on the fourth season’s dire cliffhanger involving the return of the malevolent Lich. The villain makes his way through a dimensional portal to the domain of Prismo, a seemingly omniscient (and two-dimensional) being that will grant any wish to his visitors – albeit with an “ironic twist” for the careless. Being the evil creature he is, the Lich makes a doomsday wish before Finn and Jake can stop him, leaving them no other option but to make a wish to undo the damage. Finn responds by wishing the Lich out of existence completely, resulting in an alternate reality where the apocalypse that creates Ooo happens in a different way that goes very badly for the normalized Finn. The peril of unintended consequences is played thoroughly seriously, lightened mostly by the contrasting humor of Jake being slow to see the situation for what it is from the safety of Prismo’s chamber. The theme of being careful for what you wish for was well used a generation before Adventure Time came along, but as with nearly everything else the show does, its execution is flawless here.

Adventure TimeThis fifth season certainly has its share of standalone quirky adventures, and they’re as entertaining as they’ve ever been. “Shh!” is a highlight episode that largely eschews dialogue as Finn and Jake compete to see who can go the longest without saying a word. In addition to freaking out the unaware BMO, it’s a great exercise in telling a story through action on screen. “Mystery Dungeon” is the rare episode that puts aside Finn and Jake in favor of spotlighting the Ice King and a ragtag group of secondary characters as they work together to escape a perilous labyrinth in one piece, while “Sky Witch” does it again in favor of exploring the bond of friendship between Marceline and Princess Bubblegum. Also memorable is “James Baxter the Horse”, a tribute to the titular British animator that went the extra mile by having the man himself voice and animate the joy-bringing, beach ball-riding horse at the center of the adventure. My personal favorite of the goofier episodes would have to be “Time Sandwich,” where the trickster Magic Man returns to torment Jake by swiping his “perfect sandwich, ultimately receiving his deserved comeuppance thanks to Jake’s circle of friends. It’s a basic and absurd episode to be sure, but the satisfying payoff to it all never gets old.

Adventure Time LemonhopeIn addition to the oddball fare we’ve come to expect though, this is also a season where Adventure Time carries out a number of smaller story arcs. “Mystery Dungeon,” “All Your Fault,” “Too Old,” and the two-part “Lemonhope” form the core of a bizarre saga involving the unhinged Earl Lemongrab as he and his clone mismanage their domain to the breaking point, after which one of the pair becomes dominant and rules the whole place with an iron fist. Enter “Lemonhope,” starring a seemingly docile Lemon Kingdom citizen rescued by Finn and Bubblegum who then undertakes a classic hero’s journey, going from an immature and disinterested youth to someone with empathy for those he left behind during his time adventuring on his own. In addition to addressing the trouble with Lemongrab, the show also remembers the Ice King with the standout episodes “Simon and Marcy” and “Betty,” which offer further looks at Ooo’s postapocalyptic past and the Ice King’s inexorable descent into insanity as Simon Petrokov looking out for a very young Marceline. “Betty” also takes the bold step of revealing just what becomes of the love of his life and connects the truth of that revelation to the present day, hopefully setting the stage for more resonant adventures for this subject down the line.

Adventure Time Jake the DadOf course Finn and Jake are the main stars of Adventure Time, and both get plenty of narrative focus themselves. Jake is served one of the finest episodes of the season in “Jake the Dad,” which manages to simultaneously poke fun at and pay tribute to concerned parenthood as Jake runs himself ragged caring for the five newborn children he sired with Lady Rainicorn. With a little help from dubious notes left by his mother, Jake is driven by love and ever-escalating paranoia to shield his children from anything potentially harmful, up to and including an innocuous picture book over a “bad word.” Jake’s protectiveness is taken farcical extremes, and yet there’s something relatable and admirable in his actions that I think parents and those who appreciate them can recognize. “One Last Job” is a worthy follow up to the episode that comes off as Adventure Time crossed over with Ocean’s Eleven, as Jake is blackmailed into reuniting with an unsavory bunch from his past to pull off a heist for the sake of his supposedly kidnapped daughter. It’s a good episode just to see Jake take the lead in navigating dungeon-like perils instead of Finn, and the ending twist is an amusing surprise.

Adventure Time Billy's Bucket List

As for Finn, for better and for worse our boy spends the season with growing pains that culminate in the season finale “Billy’s Bucket List,” where an earnest attempt to pay tribute to the fallen hero leads to a major revelation that Finn’s father is alive and out there waiting to be found. But that pales compared to the angst Finn brings on himself when his relationship with Flame Princess is botched in “Fire and Ice,” where Finn manipulates her into fighting the Ice King in part because he enjoys it and in part because he thinks this event is the trigger for a prophetic dream from the Cosmic Owl. Naturally the truth gets out, and while the resulting rift between the two is healed in subsequent adventures, there’s no easy fix to go back to the way things were. For some fans, I know this resembles a frustrating commitment to keeping Finn troubled or at least moving him away from the rambunctious personality of the earlier seasons. However, while I admit preference for a happier Finn, I don’t think the program is out of line or choosing to get into this area carelessly. The fact of the matter is that Finn is a teenager after all, and not exactly at an ideal age to settle into a relationship. I also approve of the implicit message that there are problems that can’t be quickly and easily fixed even with an apology. Adventure Time may be a comedy, but it’s not one to use its genre as an excuse to deny that actions have consequences we have to live with.

Adventure Time Rattleballs

Season 5 of Adventure Time is a shift from the prior Blu-ray releases in a mostly good way. The season is double the length of the prior four and its 52 episodes are evenly distributed across two discs, but with an asking price of just a few dollars more, this release delivers unrivaled value. Regrettably this is also the first time audio commentaries are entirely absent, which is a surprising shift from the practice of including them for every episode on prior sets. This is no bare bones release though, as they’ve compensated by including animatic clips for a specific scene from every episode. Meanwhile those looking for commentary get something with the featurette “Adventure Time Forever,” a fifteen minute retrospective of the show’s conception and creative development with remarks from the series’ many creative staff.

The only caveat I’ll give to season 5 of Adventure Time is that this season is a poor starting place; at the least an interested viewer should begin by picking up the fourth season and seeing that first in order to best appreciate it. All in all, in relative terms season 5 gets my vote for the most serious season so far and the one most interested in sustaining a measure of continuity to hold the interest of long-time fans. However if the program is less innocent these days, it’s nonetheless still one of the most imaginative and fun cartoons around and leaves an impression that its most interesting days are likely still to come.

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Review: "Turbo FAST" Season Two - Fast, Loose, and Funnyhttp://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/review-turbo-fast-season-two-fast-loose-and-funny/ http://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/review-turbo-fast-season-two-fast-loose-and-funny/#comments Fri, 31 Jul 2015 10:00:26 +0000 http://www.toonzone.net/?p=492451 Turbo FAST

DreamWorks Animation’s Turbo was a disappointment critically and commercially, but fortunately the animated spin-off series Turbo FAST is more successful. The series centers on racing champion snail Turbo (voiced by Reid Scott) and his supporting Fast Action Stunt Team: his brother Chet (Eric Bauza), hard-core mentor Whiplash (John Eric Bentley, doing a dead-on Samuel L. Jackson), […]

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Turbo FAST

Chris Prynoski Turbo FASTDreamWorks Animation’s Turbo was a disappointment critically and commercially, but fortunately the animated spin-off series Turbo FAST is more successful. The series centers on racing champion snail Turbo (voiced by Reid Scott) and his supporting Fast Action Stunt Team: his brother Chet (Eric Bauza), hard-core mentor Whiplash (John Eric Bentley, doing a dead-on Samuel L. Jackson), hyperactive inventor Skidmark (Amir Talai), laid-back Smoove Move (Phil LaMarr), sarcastic Burn (Grey DeLisle), and designated idiot White Shadow (Michael Patrick Bell). However, the show (or perhaps more this season) ends up being less about racing and more about whatever the producers at Titmouse thought would be funny. If nothing else, this gives plenty of opportunity for fast-paced comic mayhem in bite-sized chunks.

Netflix provided two episodes for review. In “Home on their Own” Skidmark and White Shadow skip out on a training excursion so they can stay home and binge watch their favorite TV show. Unfortunately, the team’s headquarters gets targeted by two dimbulb crustacean robbers, who become the target of Skid and Shadow’s slapstick violence. The Rube Goldberg contrivances that the pair jury-rig to deter the thieves are what you’d get if Wile E. Coyote’s inventions actually worked, leading to lots of good old-fashioned, fast-paced cartoon hyper-violence. It turns out Home Alone works a lot better when it’s 1) an actual cartoon instead of humans pretending to be cartoon characters, and 2) only 11 minutes long. I was also healthily amused by Brendon Small’s exaggerated Boston accents for the crab thieves, whose names Clip and Clap also reveal them to be a tribute to Ray and (the late, great) Tom Magliozzi, NPR’s Car Talk guys.

Turbo FAST“The Sting of Injustice” has Turbo playing sidekick to the Stinger, a masked crimefighter seeking to bring his own brand of justice to Starlight City. It’s mostly an excuse for Tick-flavored superhero idiocy, made much funnier by the fact that it’s Kevin Conroy playing the Stinger as a slightly more unhinged Batman. The episode mines humor out of the Stinger’s peculiar choices for enforcement and happily parodies multiple flavors of Batman, ranging from the 1966 TV show to the more modern takes on the character, all voiced with unhinged seriousness by Mr. Conroy.

Turbo FAST is unapologetic TV animated junk food, having no pretensions and fairly low and simple aspirations. However, it scores dead-center hits on just about everything it’s aiming at, yielding bright blasts of color and comedic mayhem. The animation is sharp and good looking, the voice work is terrific (to be expected with veteran Andrea Romano at the helm), and if you’re not feeling an episode, they’re short enough not to overstay their welcome. It nicely distills the anarchic spirit of vintage Looney Tunes cartoons for its own purposes, and if that may make the series feel a bit derivative, it still does better than actual Looney Tunes cartoons have done recently. Welcome back to Starlight City, racing fans. Hope you survive the experience!

New episodes of Turbo FAST are available on Netflix starting July 31, 2015.

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Animated Music Video Inspired By Game Of Throneshttp://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/animated-music-video-inspired-by-game-of-thrones/ http://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/animated-music-video-inspired-by-game-of-thrones/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 22:39:21 +0000 http://www.toonzone.net/?p=492352 music video

Indie band Scarlett Parade has premiered a lovingly-animated music video to accompany their new song, “White River.” The animation was created by former Gobelins and Disney students Anthony Lejeune, Lea Justum & Manddy Wyckens. According to band member Adam Jones, “The video tells the story behind the lyrics of the song, a tale of a […]

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Indie band Scarlett Parade has premiered a lovingly-animated music video to accompany their new song, “White River.” The animation was created by former Gobelins and Disney students Anthony Lejeune, Lea Justum & Manddy Wyckens.

According to band member Adam Jones, “The video tells the story behind the lyrics of the song, a tale of a central hero figure, now aged, recalling a time when he was called upon to defend his city and it’s people but at a cost…As you can probably see, we’re huge fantasy fans and were heavily influenced by the likes of Game of Thrones, Lord of the Rings and The Names of the Wind.”

The “White River” music video was released this week on Vevo. The song in particular comes from Scarlett Parade’s EP “Wildwoods” which is available on iTunes and Amazon.

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It’s An Arrow/Flash-fest At Inaugural Heroes & Villains Fan Festhttp://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/its-an-arrowflash-fest-at-inaugural-heroes-villains-fan-fest/ http://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/its-an-arrowflash-fest-at-inaugural-heroes-villains-fan-fest/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 15:44:40 +0000 http://www.toonzone.net/?p=492312 hvf

The inaugural Heroes & Villains Fan Fest taking place this autumn in San Jose, California, is beginning to build their roster of heroes and villains, but so far the only confirmed heroes and villains are from the cast of CW television shows “Arrow” and “The Flash”. Confirmed guests include Stephen Amell, John Barrowman, Katie Cassidy […]

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The inaugural Heroes & Villains Fan Fest taking place this autumn in San Jose, California, is beginning to build their roster of heroes and villains, but so far the only confirmed heroes and villains are from the cast of CW television shows “Arrow” and “The Flash”. Confirmed guests include Stephen Amell, John Barrowman, Katie Cassidy and David Ramsey from “Arrow” and Robbie Amell and Danielle Panabaker from “The Flash”.

The Heroes & Villains Fan Fest takes place at the San Jose Convention Center in San Jose, California on November 21-22, 2015.

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Titmouse's Chris Prynoski on the Fast Action Stunt Animation of "Turbo FAST"http://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/titmouses-chris-prynoski-on-the-fast-action-stunt-animation-of-turbo-fast/ http://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/titmouses-chris-prynoski-on-the-fast-action-stunt-animation-of-turbo-fast/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:15:33 +0000 http://www.toonzone.net/?p=492242 splash-chrisprynoskiturbofast

In the early 2000’s, Chris Prynoski and his wife Shannon founded Titmouse, Inc. as a T-shirt company. Mr. Prynoski had already done some animation for MTV in the 1990’s after graduating from the School of Visual Arts, but Titmouse didn’t convert to an animation studio until he landed a freelance animation gig for the Tom […]

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Chris Prynoski

Chris Prynoski

In the early 2000’s, Chris Prynoski and his wife Shannon founded Titmouse, Inc. as a T-shirt company. Mr. Prynoski had already done some animation for MTV in the 1990’s after graduating from the School of Visual Arts, but Titmouse didn’t convert to an animation studio until he landed a freelance animation gig for the Tom Green feature Freddy Got Fingered, and the producers said they couldn’t hire “just a dude” to do the work. More than a decade later, the Titmouse logo has appeared on some of the best cartoons in the past decade, including The Venture Bros, Metalocalypse, Black Dynamite, Randy Cunningham: Ninth Grade Ninja, Superjail!, and Motorcity.

One of their recent productions is on the new DreamWorks Animation Television show Turbo FAST, a spin-off series based on the feature film released in 2013. The show centers on Turbo and his Fast Action Stunt Team, and their crazy shenanigans that seem to follow them wherever they go. We were able to talk with Chris Prynoski via telephone on the eve of new episodes of the show premiering on Netflix.

TOONZONE NEWS: I wanted to make sure I told you that I really dug Motorcity, which was a show about speed and things moving really fast. Is it a coincidence that Turbo FAST is about that too?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I think originally, we were coming off the movie for thoughts of what this show would be, but it really has changed, especially in this second season. We’ve pushed so far away from racing and speed stuff. It’s really evolved to be more character comedy. But I think you’re right, in the very initial stages, I think that’s why Peter Gal of DreamWorks was talking to me about it as we evolved this Turbo FAST show. The FAST is actually very little of what the show is now.

TOONZONE NEWS: How did this show come to you from DreamWorks?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I’ve known (DreamWorks Animation Television Head of Development) Peter Gal for years from different places, and gave me a call and said he had this project and thought I’d be a good fit for it. I talked to him and it seemed really cool. At that point, I don’t think they had figured out the entire plan for the series, and even where it was going to end up, but it was long before the movie came out when we started working on this project. But they called me and said, “I think you’ll do a good job.” So I said, “Thanks!” and then we started making it.

Turbo FAST Chris PrynoskiTOONZONE NEWS: What were the parameters that you had to work with? Were 11-minute episodes something they wanted or was that something that was asked for? How many of those changes from the movie to the show were coming from you vs. coming from DreamWorks?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: I think that they knew they wanted to make 11-minute shows. There was a little bit of back and forth. In the first season, we were ahead of the other Netflix shows. Now there’s Adventuers of Puss in Boots, King Julien, Dragons: Race to the Edge, but at that time there wasn’t anything on Netflix. It was kind of wide open. I think we might have talked to Netflix about, “You can deliver any length you want,” but 11 minutes is a pretty standard TV format. I don’t think there was much discussion of making them longer. Every once in a while, we’ll do a double-episode which is a 22-minute story, but it’s still packaged as 2 11’s. We’ve got one where they go into space, and that was a two-parter.

TOONZONE NEWS: In some earlier interviews, I saw a pretty interesting list of touchstones for Motorcity, ranging from RoboCop to The Dukes of Hazzard. What were the touchstones you were looking at for Turbo FAST?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: It’s interesting, it really evolved because it was about this crew that was supposed to be characters getting fleshed out from the movie. There’s obviously Turbo and his brother Chet who were fleshed out, but the rest of the crew were really comic relief. So the task was really to develop those characters. There was some talk that they’re a crew and they solve people’s problems like the A-Team, but we really wanted to push into comedy. So just dumb, stupid cartoon comedy is the influence. I don’t know if we’re referencing things. If anything, we were referencing character stuff like Seinfeld as much as not in these shows.

Chris Prynoski Turbo FASTTOONZONE NEWS: This is now the second set of episodes that’s premiering, since the first 26 wrapped up late last year, is that right?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah, so it’s 26 half hours out there now, which is 52 11’s. This one is 13 half-hours, and first ones are out on July 31, so it’s 26 11’s. A lot of cartoons to look at.

TOONZONE NEWS: How soon after that initial 26 half-hours did you get the call todo the next ones? Did you jump straight into it, or was there a gap?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: We were pretty much continuous on this, but they knew that they wanted to make more before we finished the first season. So there really wasn’t any kind of hiatus. We just kept on in production. It takes a little while to amass some episodes, which is why there’s a bit of a gap. The process is a little different from a cable television network where they air a show every week. Whenever we get a bunch of them, you have to get them up.

TOONZONE NEWS: How long does it take you to wrap up one of these 11-minute episodes?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: You know, it depends. We use a couple of different pipelines. We’re making a bunch of episodes and there are schedule and budget considerations. We do all the pre-production and post-production in-house, but for the animation production, we do some of them within LA here, and we utilize our Vancouver studio to get some done. We ship also to Korean studios to get some of the work done because there’s such a high volume of work. Even some of the ones we’re working on now, early ones, we animated in our LA and New York studios. It’s depending on where we can get it done faster. When we ship overseas it usually takes longer because you have to build more pre-production materials. Trying to map it out, I think it’s probably anywhere from 5 to 8 months, in that neighborhood. That’s from script to delivery for an 11 minute episode. But they overlap, we’re starting a new one very week. It’s not like you wait 8 months and start another one. We have a lot of them going on at the same time.

Chris Prynoski Turbo FASTTOONZONE NEWS: I can imagine that alone is a pretty significant logistical challenge for you to keep all those balls in flight.

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah (laugh). Jen Ray, our producer, she’s always got a lot of balls to juggle. Even working with just one pipeline is tough, but working with multiple pipelines and multiple studios, internal and external studios…it’s definitely something.

TOONZONE NEWS: Have you changed the way you do Turbo FAST from when you got the initial order to the way you’re doing the episodes now?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Yeah. Pipeline-wise, the very first batch of season 1, I think the first 20 episodes we did in LA and New York, but all locally in the United States of America. As we’ve had to produce more and more, we’ve had to expand the way we produce these shows. That’s changed for sure. The way we approach storytelling and stuff is definitely changed. Season 2 is so different from season 1. Maybe the back-half of season 1, we started to get a little more comedic and ditch the premise…they don’t really have to race. They will, sometimes. It’s not like it’ll never happen. We just use it as a comedic device, now, but that’s not always the plot or the story in the second season. There’s very rarely a story where the race is the story. It’s more like that’s something they do, and there’s some dumb story around it. We’re digging into dumb a lot more in the second season.

Turbo FAST The Stinger Kevin Conroy Chris PrynoskiTOONZONE NEWS: I definitely wanted to ask about “The Sting of Injustice” and Kevin Conroy’s guest-starring spot on the show. How did that episode come to be?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Oh, man. Kevin Conroy is great, obviously. He’s been more Batman than any other Batman out there, and Andrea Romano is our voice director, and she’s voice-directed on countless Batman things. We wrote this episode and were thinking, “Well, we really want to get a good superhero voice, and the Stinger is a Batman-esque parody,” so we wanted to get someone who could pull that off. And Andrea was like, “Hey, Kevin might be willing to do it. I can ask him if you want.” We were like, “Man, we never even considered that it could be an option.” So we were like “Absolutely!” And he was super-down. Super fun and did an amazing job on the comedic beats and playing it straight when he needed to. I thought he was amazing there.

TOONZONE NEWS: What else are you working on that you can talk about?

CHRIS PRYNOSKI: Cool! I don’t think I’m allowed to talk about DreamWorks stuff, other than Turbo, so maybe that’ll be an interview next year (laughs). But as far as other Titmouse stuff, Moonbeam City is going to premiere on Comedy Central in September. That’s a fun show, and I think you’re going to like that one a lot if you like Motorcity. Another kind of weird, futuristic city stupid comedy.

Toonzone News would like to thank Chris Prynoski for taking the time to talk with us, and the crew at DreamWorks Animation Television and Click Communications for making this interview possible. New episodes of Turbo FAST will premiere on July 31, 2015, on Netflix. You can follow the exploits of Titmouse Animation Studios on their official website and their Facebook page.

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Kevin Conroy Brings the Sting of Justice to "Turbo FAST"http://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/kevin-conroy-brings-the-sting-of-justice-to-turbo-fast/ http://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/kevin-conroy-brings-the-sting-of-justice-to-turbo-fast/#comments Thu, 30 Jul 2015 12:00:51 +0000 http://www.toonzone.net/?p=491982 splash-kevinconroystinger

Actor Kevin Conroy is a veteran of stage, screen, and voiceover, but to many fans, he is the definitive voice of Batman. Mr. Conroy played the character starting in 1992 with Batman the Animated Series and continued on through Superman the Animated Series, Justice League, and several of the DC animated direct-to-video features and in […]

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Kevin Conroy Turbo FASTActor Kevin Conroy is a veteran of stage, screen, and voiceover, but to many fans, he is the definitive voice of Batman. Mr. Conroy played the character starting in 1992 with Batman the Animated Series and continued on through Superman the Animated Series, Justice League, and several of the DC animated direct-to-video features and in the Arkham video game franchise.

We were able to chat by telephone with Kevin Conroy about his upcoming guest starring appearance on DreamWorks Animation’s Turbo FAST, the spinoff animated series from the 2013 feature film that is set to premiere new episodes on Netflix on July 31, 2015. Mr. Conroy will be playing the Stinger, a somewhat familiar looking superhero who takes on the title character as his sidekick. Mayhem ensues.

TOONZONE NEWS: I don’t know if you remember, but we met at a New York Comic Con a couple of years ago. I asked about the fake Kevin Conroy on Twitter at the time, and now there’s @RealKevinConroy on Twitter.

KEVIN CONROY: You wouldn’t believe the effort I had to go to to prove that was a fake. I said, “Now why am I having such a hard time proving he’s a fake? How did he prove that he was me?” (laughs) I finally got it done.

TOONZONE NEWS: In Turbo FAST, you’re playing the Stinger. Please don’t tell me that Andrea Romano made you audition for this part.

KEVIN CONROY: Nooo (laughs), they didn’t ask me to audition for this, which was nice. What a great character, isn’t it? It’s sort of my fantasy of being able to do everything that Batman wouldn’t do. This is just throwing the image up in the air. It’s a lot of fun to play this character.

Turbo FAST The Stinger Kevin ConroyTOONZONE NEWS: Characters like the Stinger or Captain Sunshine on The Venture Bros are funny because they’re Batman without actually being Batman. As an actor, how does your process differ in doing these characters vs. doing Batman in a movie or a video game?

KEVIN CONROY: See, I love to play comedy, and I also love to do drama. Not all actors feel comfortable in both realms. I found, and I think most actors would agree, comedy is most effective when you play it absolutely straight. You’re playing it as absolutely straight drama, but the world is slightly askew. If it’s being absolutely real in a kind of a cockeyed world. That’s what makes it funny. If you play the comedy, it’s never funny. So I found that just playing Batman, pure Batman, but with the attitude of a slightly cockeyed world, made Stinger. And I love doing that. I love being able to take Batman’s character to that slightly skewed angle to make it funny.

And I love the character of Stinger. I think he’s really out there. Batman is humble, he’s so self-effacing, he doesn’t want to draw attention to himself, he doesn’t want any credit for what he does. He wants to live in the shadows. Stinger is arrogant, he’s a braggart, he loves getting attention, he thinks he’s the greatest thing on Earth. Stinger is so full of himself and knows how cool he is. It’s so much fun to just blow it out the other way, you know what I mean?

Kevin Conroy This Little Piggy Am I BlueTOONZONE NEWS: It sounds like it was liberating in a lot of ways, since you don’t get to play comedy as Batman very often.

KEVIN CONROY: No you don’t. Those few times when he did step out of the mold, the audience went wild. There was one episode (“This Little Piggy” on Justice League Unlimited –ed) where Batman has to sing in a nightclub, in order to pay off a bet that he lost, and he sings “Am I Blue?” Which is a great song for Batman to sing. But I get asked all the time at comic cons, “Sing ‘Am I Blue’!” (laughter) You realize how many people saw that and loved it because it seemed so out of character. So the audience loves that when you can tweak the character a little bit.

TOONZONE NEWS: Its also great how you can play this role for comedy, although it’s funny because you’re playing it straight. Because you’re not trying to be funny.

KEVIN CONROY: Oh, absolutely. As soon as you try to be funny, you kill it. So absolutely. And I love doing that kind of stuff. I love having that challenge. It’s a lot of fun.

TOONZONE NEWS: Were you tempted to play the comedy more?

KEVIN CONROY: Oh, it’s always tempting to play the comedy. That’s what you have to resist, because it feels so good as an actor to be outrageous. It feels good to play to the comedy, but you can’t let yourself go there. There’s an old saying that if the actors are laughing, the audience isn’t laughing. If you’re feeling so much fun doing it, then you’re not letting the audience laugh. You have to be playing it absolutely straight, but in a world that’s just a little kind of cockeyed. The world’s a little off, but you’re playing it straight in that world. Then the audience gets to laugh.

There’s a line for actors. I know on stage, if you really want the audience to really become tearfully emotional, it’s usually the actor who doesn’t allow himself to get to tears. It’s that moment before you get to tears. If you can hold back and resist really letting the waterworks go, then the audience goes crazy. Their hearts are ripped out, because you’re letting THEM cry. But if you’re busy crying, then all they’re doing is watching you cry. You know what I mean? But if you get to that point and just hold it, hold it, hold it back, then the audience gets to go to that emotional place. So very often, what makes the actor feel best is not necessarily what’s best for the show, or for the audience. And I find that’s true with comedy. If you’re busy making yourself have a great time, feeling like you’re playing comedy, you’re probably not playing comedy. You’re probably not making the audience laugh. It’s playing it straight that makes the audience laugh.

Kevin Conroy the StingerTOONZONE NEWS: That’s an interesting way to look at the acting. Was that a realization you came to over time, or did you pick it up from some specific class or event or part?

KEVIN CONROY: I think I picked it up over the years. It’s just something you learn in the course of work. I’ve been an actor for 40 years. It’s just some things you pick up as you go along. You realize that what makes you feel better isn’t necessarily what’s right for the role. I worked with an actress a long time ago, who cried at the drop of a hat. And boy, could this girl cry. Water would just pour. At first, it was very impressive, you’d go, “Wow, she can cry on cue.” And then you realized, “Wait a minute, all she does is cry on cue.” (laughs) It got to the point where it was very uninvolving. Then you realized another actress who got to that point but didn’t let herself go with the waterworks was so much more emotional, because she was letting us feel it. These are things you just learn along the way by watching other actors sometimes.

TOONZONE NEWS: I love hearing about actors’ process. And I’m thinking of lots of examples of what you’re talking about, in live-action and in voiceover.

KEVIN CONROY: The voiceover world is interesting, because it used to be mostly voiceover actors, but it’s not any more. Now it’s all actors. Everyone wants to do it, so you get a lot of film people, a lot of stage people all doing voiceovers. And you get to work with some amazing actors, and you find that there’s a lot of subtlety in voiceover work, because you don’t have your face to sell your emotion. You only have your voice. But if you overdo it, you kill it. You gild the lily and then it kills it. You can only use your voice to describe the emotional journey the character is going through, but you have to be very careful of the line you walk. Some actors get it, and some don’t.

I’ve watched Andrea Romano really work with some actors who really struggle. After the booking, they’ll pull me aside and say, “Are you free this afternoon? Because we have someone else coming in for some other role, can you record with them?” Because the person she was working with just couldn’t get it. It’s a very intersting kind of middle road you have to walk when you only have your voice to sell something.

Kevin Conroy Batman Arkham KnightTOONZONE NEWS: What else is going on in Kevin Conroy world? Where else can we see or hear you coming up?

KEVIN CONROY: Well, the biggest thing right now is, of course, Arkham Knight, which has just been released, and which I worked on for over two years. I am working on a new project for Warner Bros that I’m not allowed to say what it is because they haven’t announced it yet…actually two new projects for Warner Bros. that I’m not allowed to say what they are, but which you will be hearing about in the next couple of months. So I’ve been busy, but I can never say anything unless they let me say something. But Arkham Knight is the big, hot thing right now.

Toonzone News would like to thank Kevin Conroy for taking the time to talk with us, and to the teams at DreamWorks Animation Television and Click Communications for setting it up. New episodes of Turbo FAST will be available on Netflix starting July 31, 2015.

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SDCC2015: "Justice League: Gods and Monsters" Roundtable Interviewshttp://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/sdcc2015-justice-league-gods-monsters-roundtable-interview/ http://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/sdcc2015-justice-league-gods-monsters-roundtable-interview/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 20:36:42 +0000 http://www.toonzone.net/?p=491351 JLGAM-League

Released on July 28, 2015, Justice League: Gods and Monsters is the most recent addition to the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line-up . During San Diego Comic Con 2015, Toonzone News and other members of the press sat down with executive producer Bruce Timm, co-producer/screenwriter Alan Burnett, director Sam Liu, dialogue director Andrea Romano, […]

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JLGAM-League

JLGAM-Blu-rayArtReleased on July 28, 2015, Justice League: Gods and Monsters is the most recent addition to the DC Universe Animated Original Movies line-up . During San Diego Comic Con 2015, Toonzone News and other members of the press sat down with executive producer Bruce Timm, co-producer/screenwriter Alan Burnett, director Sam Liu, dialogue director Andrea Romano, and actors Tamara Taylor (Wonder Woman), C. Thomas Howell (Will Magnus), and Paget Brewster (Lois Lane) for a roundtable interview.

Q: Are you trying to speak as the character as you or use a different voice?

TAMARA TAYLOR: I went in with preconceived notions, and I knew what Wonder Woman sounded like. I thought I was supposed to sound like Wonder Woman, and Andrea and Bruce kept saying no, let that go. We need a little more moxie. Sex her up a little. There was some interesting direction going on. Okay, I guess we’re going this way.

Q: Was there a particular Wonder Woman you took cues from going into this?

TAMARA TAYLOR: The original woman who plays Wonder Woman on the Justice League series. I watched a whole bunch of the movies, so I was very familiar with her voice. Very clean, very straight forward, very powerful. But they were asking me to sort of have fun. In this movie, Wonder Woman’s got a lot of one-liners, and she’s got some sass, and they were asking me to play that up and have fun with that as opposed to being so direct and powerful.

Q: This character has ties to DC history, how much research did you do?

TAMARA TAYLOR: I didn’t have a whole lot of time before we recorded to look into it. Of course, I grew up watching the TV series, and I like comic books, so I’ve read the basics, but oddly, there wasn’t a whole lot of help because this was completely different. There’s very little they kept the same, so I had to throw everything that I knew out the window and dive in.

Q: Did they tell you about the Bekka character?

TAMARA TAYLOR: They did not. They actually just said to let go of every preconceived notion you have about Bekka and just let her be what’s on the page here. Okay, that’s interesting.

Q: Did that make it easier or harder?

TAMARA TAYLOR: I think probably in ways it made it easier because like I said, I went in with a preconceived notion, and they pretty quickly said let that go and we’re going to create something entirely new, so at least I wasn’t trying to recreate somebody else’s performance, I was doing my own.

Q: Is this Wonder Woman totally different than any Wonder Woman we’ve ever seen?

TAMARA TAYLOR: I’ll leave that to you guys, but she’s certainly different than I’ve ever seen. Again, I really wanted to go for what I knew, my preconceived notions, and even having just seen the film, it took me a minute to get used to seeing that voice coming out of her. It’s interesting, it’s cool.

Q: Does your character on Bones share similarities with Wonder Woman?

TAMARA TAYLOR: It’s amazing because a lot of most of the performance in animation is the voice, and I got a pretty deep, powerful voice, but I found myself having to adjust many things because she actually required more power than Cam on Bones has ever wielded, so it was pretty intense.

Q: Do you prefer voice acting over regular acting?

TAMARA TAYLOR: Two completely different mediums, and I really like both.

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Wonder Woman Tamara TaylorQ: Can you tell us about your relationship with Steve Trevor?

TAMARA TAYLOR: We know that they have a history, and she kind of gives it to him in that one scene, but they don’t go into it too deeply. We just know there was.

TOONZONE NEWS: How do you prepare yourself for Wonder Woman’s physicality?

TAMARA TAYLOR: That was the hardest part. That was Andrea Romano literally walking me through the difference between taking a punch and throwing a punch. It’s like taking a punch and you go “Uggh” and when you through a punch is “Huggh”. Who knew? I didn’t know. There was a lot of physicality. It was, in moments, totally uncomfortable and way out of my depth, and I had a blast.

Q: When you were in the booth, how much were you getting into the fight scenes? Were you acting it out?

TAMARA TAYLOR: For sure. Absolutely. You have to because there are certain things your diaphragm does when you’re taking a punch or when you’re throwing one. Andrea Romano would literally say I need you go to “ARGH!” and you can’t fake it. You have to just go for it. So I was in my sweats and I just acted it all out.

Q: What’s it like working with Benjamin Bratt, who plays Superman and Michael C. Hall, who plays Batman?

TAMARA TAYLOR: It’s interesting because we did our stuff all separately, initially. Then when it was animated, they called us all back in. But again, we did most of it separately. Somehow Benjamin Bratt and I overlapped, so he and I actually got to be in the room together. It was really nice to interact and play and do a couple of those scenes together.

Q: How long did the voice over process take?

TAMARA TAYLOR: Longer than I ever could’ve imagined. I think I did the initial scratch vocals in January of 2014, and then I thought in June they told me they were going to call me back, and I was all excited, and June came and went and I was like what’s happening? Have they replaced me? Are we doing the movie? I guess it’s the process which I’m not familiar with, so finally I got a call at the beginning of this year saying it’s time to go back in, we’ve animated it, now you can go back and really do it.

Q: Have you seen the film and what do you think when you hear your voice coming out of Wonder Woman?

TAMARA TAYLOR: It’s a trip. She doesn’t look like the Wonder Woman I was expecting, so it made it a little easier but it’s surreal. It’s definitely surreal and a childhood dream come true.

Q: Do you have a favorite scene in the film?

TAMARA TAYLOR: I don’t know. There were so many. I literally just got the movie and sat down. I think tonight when I’m watching it and a little less in shock, I’ll figure it out.

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Wonder Woman Tamara TaylorQ: Would you like to establish a more classic Wonder Woman or do you really like this version of the character?

TAMARA TAYLOR: I had fun doing this one. I really had fun doing this one. It was a lot darker.

Q: You’re the first person to do this Gods and Monsters Wonder Woman, she’s kind of your character now.

TAMARA TAYLOR: Yes. I like the way that sounds. Yay!

Q: Will this lead to a sequel?

TAMARA TAYLOR: I hope it does because this take on these particular characters is really cool. I think there are so many places that you can go.

Q: Would you do it again?

TAMARA TAYLOR: I would love to do it again, I had so much fun.

Q: Do you think there will be a crossover with this universe and the regular animated universe?

TAMARA TAYLOR: I hope so. We’ve got to talk to Bruce about that. That would be rad.


Q: What were your thoughts going into it and after you saw the script?

PAGET BREWSTER: I never saw the script. I just went in and Andrea Romano, our voice director, told me line by line, “OK, this is what’s going on.” I was like, “What is happening? I’m so confused.” Because this movie is an alternate reality. Everyone’s origin story is different. So who they are as Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, they are very different from the characters that I know and have seen, so I was pretty confused, except that Lois Lane is still doing her thing. Our superheroes are altered and Lois Lane believes that they are villains, and she does not like Superman at all. She doesn’t believe him, she thinks he’s full of crap and busting him on it. So being in a dark sound recording booth on a Tuesday afternoon alone and reading those lines I was like, “What? Am I supposed to talk to him like that? Am I supposed to be cute about it? Are we flirting?” So I saw the movie right before I came here and was like, “What?” I still don’t know what’s going on.

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Lois Lane SupermanQ: You were surprised by how different her rapport with Superman was in this. Was that difficult since you know their relationship before this?

PAGET BREWSTER: Correct, that’s why I was confused.

Q: Was it hard for you to talk back to that character?

PAGET BREWSTER: Yes because I didn’t understand what was happening. And I thought maybe they had a fight, I didn’t know if they broke up. They had a bad dinner and they got into a fight. I just did what Andrea told me to do, and it makes sense, you’ll see

Q: You’re playing Lois Lane, and she pushes so much of DC’s story. How was that and do you feel a certain amount of weight?

PAGET BREWSTER: Yes, a lot, and it’s also specific to this. I know Dana Delaney, and she had been Lois, and that freaked me out. Where’s Dana? I really like her. We hang out. I was confused. Does she not want to do it? Following in her footsteps…and also, for me, growing up, my Superman is Christopher Reeve and Margot Kidder and she’s in my head of who my Lois Lane is. It’s a little scary and exciting.

To every single actor, we’re all damaged. Clearly, this is what we do for a living, but we’re all afraid someone’s going to be like, “You do not belong here.” We’re all afraid someone’s going to say, “You’re an imposter, you’re not good enough to be doing this.” Now I’m afraid that you’re all going to say in unison, “You should not be Lois Lane.”

Q: Did they tell you to ditch your preconceived notions of the character?

PAGET BREWSTER: I had done a couple of Lois Lanes for the web series Gods and Monsters, so I had already sort of established the character, which is really just me talking and being a newscaster because that’s what she’s doing in that universe. She had to remain the same Lois Lane for the audience to see how all of our superheroes are different and what those new altered origin stories are and how they became that way. Lois had to stay the same.

Q: You were the source of perspective.

PAGET BREWSTER: To a certain extent, because so many other people are altered. I think Lois is the human that allows humanity to see how this world is altered.

Q: With all the other Lois Lanes, how did you form your character?

PAGET BREWSTER: I had to hope that they didn’t make a mistake and that they wanted me to do what I do again, so I didn’t try to mimic anyone or incorporate anything that anyone had done before. I can’t imitate Dana Delaney. She did what she did, and she’s great, so I just did what I do. Maybe I’m lazy. Should I have done something?

Q: Do you have a favorite Lois Lane?

PAGET BREWSTER: Mine was Margot Kidder because that was what imprinted on me when I was a kid. That was the movie that I grew up with, so I think, “Well, I guess, I can snap around in my heels through the office and get the scoop.” I love it.

Q: Lois is known for her romantic entanglements. Are there any in this film? Is there romance with Lois and Superman?

PAGET BREWSTER: Is there any romance in any way? It’s a little sassy. There’s a little sass.

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Lois Lane Paget BrewsterQ: How much of your own personality is in the character?

PAGET BREWSTER: Probably 80%. I’m just making that up, I really don’t know. I don’t know because really, honestly, voice acting is just that I know she’s going to be drawn. I played Lana Lang in another one of these, and I was a very large blonde lady, and I didn’t know. That was shocking to see. Maybe I would’ve done my voice differently, but I don’t know. It all gets put together after we do our job, so I guess probably 95% of me. I don’t know.

Q: What was Andrea Romano telling you to do?

PAGET BREWSTER: I think they hire me for the tone of my voice and speaking quickly, and I get excited to talk fast and be loud. It’s very physical. If you have to be running and saying something, I like doing it, but it’s really that Andrea knows in her head the tone that she needs. Is Lois angry, is she being flirty, is she ducking debris? That’s what you have to bring because it’s only half. I’m just doing the voice, then they’ll add what she is physically, so I just do what Andrea tells me. It’s very different from acting on film.

Q: So they don’t give you any type of production art?

PAGET BREWSTER: None. No.

Q: It’s all just verbal?

PAGET BREWSTER: Correct. And she’ll just say, “OK, the skyscraper is coming down.” Once we do our main character voice, then we go through and do all the people screaming or fighting or running, so she will just say, “The building is falling and you’re going to be crushed in a second, give me four screams.” You do all the screaming at the end of the day because you’ll blow out your voice. So then you’ll scream for five or ten minutes, and then she’ll say, “I need people crying,” and you cry for a little while.


Andrea Romano

Andrea Romano at New York Comic Con 2014

Q: You’ve done alternate reality stories for the Justice League before, how do you approach this in terms of voice acting?

ANDREA ROMANO: I’m lucky enough that in my career, I’ve worked for a lot of different studios on a lot of different projects. I may do SpongeBob in the morning and Boondocks in the afternoon, which are completely different, right? So that’s how I do these projects. Each one is going to be different. We did Batman the Animated Series, and that was kind of a dark turn on Batman, and then we did Batman the Brave and the Bold, which was much lighter. This one was special because it’s an original story, which appealed to me a lot because we all got to throw out all our preconceived notions of what Batman sounds like or what Superman sounds like, and there’s no graphic novel that this is based on. You read a graphic novel or even a book and you hear the voices in your head of what you think the dialogue sounds like. This one, it’s all a surprise to everybody. Nobody has a preconceived notion because it’s a brand new story. Casting-wise, you look for actors that can just act the part. What is this Batman? Okay, this is a vampire bat. This is a different Batman. This Superman is not the son of Jor-El. He is Zod’s son raised by a Hispanic couple. So everything is different. It’s all different. You just go from scratch and wipe out all the stuff I’ve done before and just find the right actors for this. Michael C. Hall was somebody we wanted to work with for a long time. Ten years, at least, I’ve been after him. Dexter was all consuming for him. Benjamin Bratt, too. The timing just worked out and they were available.

Q: With this being an original creation, how did you get to the mindset to do it?

ANDREA ROMANO: Every session I do is similar in that my job is to get the best possible performance from the actor that the producer wants and — because we do the voices first — that the animation director can then make into a very good-looking, logical, dramatic piece. I had to get rid of my preconceived notions because whatever the last Batman is that I did, that’s clearest in my mind, and so I had to get that out of my mind. Okay, this is a different Batman. He’s got some real issues. Not the typical Batman vengeance issues, but different health issues, and very common problems that everybody comes along with. He just happens to be a vampire. So it’s all just dealing with each piece individually and just trying to get the best performance I can. I didn’t have any trouble with this in particular.

TOONZONE NEWS: You’ve cast so many characters from comic books, who was the easiest character to cast and who was the hardest?

ANDREA ROMANO: Well the hardest, of course was Batman. It was the first.

TOONZONE NEWS: From Batman the Animated Series?

ANDREA ROMANO: Correct. The very first time I had to cast Batman. I think I’ve cast Batman like 20+ times. The voice of Batman for various different projects. 20+ times, but the first time was the hardest. I’ve told it before, but I heard over 500 auditions. I personally directed over 150 callbacks, and then we narrowed it down to about 5 actors, and Bruce and I were like well, pretty much any of these actors could do this, and then Kevin Conroy walked into the door and we went “Ahh” and then we had our Batman for years. The easiest character to cast? The truth is none of them are easy. I always get worried because I may be convinced this is the guy, this is absolutely the guy, and I’ll convince Bruce, I’ll convince whoever I’m working with, and then the night before the session, I’ll start sweating. I’ll start worrying what if I’ve made the wrong decision? What if I’m wrong? Because I was convinced when I said it and I’m still sure, but because I’m so sympathetic to actors, I worry. If I ever have to replace an actor, it breaks my heart. I don’t ever want to replace an actor, so I do get sweaty, but I can’t tell you that there was anyone that was easy.

David Selby Andrea Romano Jay Oliva Batman the Dark Knight Returns

(left to right) David Selby, Andrea Romano, and Jay Oliva at the Paley Center for Media in 2012

TOONZONE NEWS: Maybe the one that was quickest to cast?

ANDREA ROMANO: Well there’s always requests. When we were working on Batman the Animated Series, we came up with Harley Quinn. Paul Dini and Bruce created that character, and Paul said, “My friend Arlene Sorkin would be pretty good,” so that was easy. That one I would say was easy. I wanted her, I knew she could do it, that was done. But unless there’s a request or somebody that clearly is the right guy for the role, they are tough.

Q: Did you sit down with Bruce Timm and say “I see this guy having this tone?” Was there agreement or was there debate?

ANDREA ROMANO: There’s always a debate, and we sit together in a group like this, like in a round table, and there’s DC’s input, and there’s Warner Home videos input, and there’s Bruce’s input, and there’s the animation director’s input and mine, and everybody starts throwing out ideas. How about, how about, how about….and the truth was for this, we’ve been trying to get Michael C. Hall for years, and it just lined up. He was done with Dexter, he was more accessible. What was really cool was, when we had to do the ADR, the fight stuff mostly, we tracked him down again. Sometimes it’s 8, 9, 10 months between original record and post production when we’re doing the ADR, and he was on Broadway doing Hedwig and the Angry Inch, which is historically one of the most difficult voice performances ever written. The guy that created that actually had to stop, uncast himself, because it hurt his voice so much. So I’m calling Michael C. Hall, going I need you for two hours going “Hyuh, hwah, ahh!”

Q: Do you have a reaction to live-action casting of these characters?

ANDREA ROMANO: I like the voice industry so much, and I like the Batmen that we’ve used so much that I sometimes do question the voice work of some actors who play Batman. There are so many wonderful actors out there, but I sometimes wish that they’d watch our shows a little more because Batman can be convincingly produced vocally without getting so over the top. Is that diplomatic enough?


Justice League Gods and MonstersQUESTION: So this a whole new story and a departure.

ALAN BURNETT: It’s whole new characters, which is great. I’ve been writing with Bruce for 25 years, and I go back to Superfriends. I actually wrote the last few seasons of Superfriends. I apologize for those. I was told, “You have to write your script so that a two year old could watch it.” Now today we’re going more adult. Somebody was asking me about the violence of this thing. It’s interesting because we want to get a PG-13 rating, and we do stuff where we wonder. It’s animation, and it’s abstract, and we get away with a lot more stuff that you would in live-action. In this one, there’s lot of adult themes and a lot of adult situations going on.

Q: Going back to Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker and the rating, what was the issue with that that’s not an issue now?

ALAN BURNETT: It was just a different time and they wanted to advertise on Saturday morning and they couldn’t, and that’s just what changed it. Now a lot of the audience are adults and fanboys and it’s just a different audience, a different way of understanding it. That’s what worked out. Then we ended up with two different versions of Return of the Joker, so maybe they were happy to have two different versions of it.

Q: With alternate reality scripts, do you take a look at the characters and figure out how to make them darker? Or did you change who they were so this is not Kal-El, for example?

ALAN BURNETT: I’ve got to tell you that personally, I am not one who thinks genetics will make you good or bad. It’s you, and to me the thing we’re exploring is that the DC heroes pretty much hold back. They don’t kill in a life or death situation. They try their best not to do that. We created these characters who would. If it came to that, they would kill. And they were saying if these characters had this much power, and would they end up protecting us or in the end will they end up ruling us? That’s the central question. That’s why it’s called Gods and Monsters. Are these guys going to be heroes or are they going to be our despots?

Justice League: Gods and Monsters SupermanQ: Are you writing Superman as the son of Zod or are you writing Dark Superman?

ALAN BURNETT: I thought them as completely different characters. So Zod Superman has a whole different background from Clark Kent, and Batman is a vampire bat. He’s got a different background. He’s Kirk Langstrom, and we chose to use a character from the New Gods, Bekka, as the new Wonder Woman. She’s a completely different character, Paradise Island does not exist in this, so she’s a warrior with a pretty tragic background. They all are tragic, and they all come together. It’s my feeling that the government named them Justice League so that we’d accept them more as helpers and it’d be more of a partnership going, but there’s nothing much Justice League-y about them.

Q: Are there any difficulties in trying to write for an older audience and making an edgier product?

ALAN BURNETT: No. I enjoy writing for an older audience, but I’m also writing for an audience of adolescents that can look at it. We have our share of soccer moms who buy these, I hope for older kids. I like writing for adults, I’ve always wanted to do that, and this has given me the chance to do that. Producing stuff for adults.

Q: Would you say writing for children has a lot of restrictions and you have to worry about too much?

ALAN BURNETT: I find writing for real young kids very difficult because they don’t accept irony. I like writing for kids that are grade school and above. Batman Beyond, to me, was for 12-14 year olds. This actually became too old for the Saturday morning crowd, and that’s what caused its demise. I’ve written for all ages, and I enjoy writing for all ages. I’m writing right now a show for 6-12 year olds, which I can’t talk about except to say I’m writing for 6-12 year olds, so I like shifting from different things.

Q: You’ve worked with Bruce Timm quite a bit, what made approaching this project with him different? Or was it similar?

ALAN BURNETT: We have a lot of respect for each other, and we’ll argue with each other. God knows. And we talk to Geoff Johns about this and got his feeling about how it should go. We talked to Mike Carlin over at DC Comics. We’re not having trouble and it’s not rough going. I share the misery, and so does Bruce. And then after all the talk and all the ideas and all the desires for how the show should go, there came a point when it all clicked together. Strangely enough, there was a point where I realized that we were writing a mystery. It wasn’t a thriller or a comedy thriller or action piece, it was actually a mystery going on, and then it became like a hot knife through butter. The good stuff comes quickly. I felt good about it, and that’s how it came about. Bruce is reading everything I’m writing and making comments and doing revisions, and it’s just constant until final recording.

Q: Where you writing the web series alongside the film?

ALAN BURNETT: Afterwards we wrote the web series.

Q: It felt like there was a core philosophical question about ultimate power, is that how you approach these? With a core philosophical idea?

ALAN BURNETT: Usually it’s the villain’s desire. We’ve done Ra’s Al Ghul. How many times has he wanted to destroy the world to rebuild it again? He’s a man who believes in ultimate power. His power. So this is a question about what if you had heroes who were right on the edge, if they fell off that edge, how bad would it be? I guess that’s what it’s about.


JLGAM-LeagueQUESTION: How do you step up and do a Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman film that is not Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman?

SAM LIU: I was kind of thinking about that when I started it as well. I think the answer to it is characterization. Do you like the characters? The initial result is, this is not Superman. This is not Wonder Woman. This is not Batman. But once you get beyond that, you’re asking, “Do I like these characters, are they interesting, do I care about them about what they are?” It’s very important for us to make a compelling story.

Q: Why is now the time to tell this tale?

SAM LIU: Maybe the fans aren’t on to it, but I feel like every iteration of Batman is different. They’re not looking to remake Batman the Animated Series. So this one’s a huge departure because it’s not even anything close to that, but I think it’s something that Bruce has always wanted to do, something different. He explained it before. Even historically, the Flash that was the original one is not the one we know. He was reinvented. Sandman was reinvented. There’s quite a few characters that were reinvented. Green Lantern as well. We know them now as their reinventions, not their original versions. I think it’s shaking it up sometimes. Also, Bruce has been doing this for 20 years, I think he’s told pretty much every known hero story you can possibly thing of, so at some point, you have to change the character.

Q: Is this different than working on a regular film or other animated film?

SAM LIU: The hard thing about this — I don’t know if other directors have talked about this — we actually have a very short amount of time to work on these things, so a lot of the times we have to make quick decisions. As a director, you have to distill down very quickly. You have look at what your gut reaction is about things: what is this about, what it’s trying to be, what it is, and you have to just go with it. It’s not like a film where you have two years to go, “Let’s build it this way,” and if you test it and you don’t really like it, you build it again. Pretty much we only have two shots. We build it, we look at it in editing, and we try to fix what’s there. If it’s way off, then we redo elements of it. So I think in TV and things like this, as a director, they hire you because of your instincts. If your instincts are way off, you’re probably going to get fired. That means you have to redo almost the whole thing. So it is fun, but it is kind of stressful. And you have to live with your decisions.

Q: First reaction to looking at the script?

SAM LIU: It’s probably close to what fans are thinking. You know, “What is this?” Again, it goes back to the first question. This is very different, all right, what’s it about? I think even throughout the process, it started for me with the storyboard artist and the editor, even. Once we started it and the further we went along, I think we were pretty engaged with the story. What’s going to happen next? What’s going on with that character? This is what happened to that character and this is how he became this and how does that connect to the next thing? So I think structure-wise, it’s a pretty compelling story. But to answer your question, I think in the beginning for a lot of us, we were very skeptical.

JLGAM_SupermanEarthQ: As the director of this movie, what did you want to do in terms of making your stamp?

SAM LIU: I don’t really see myself as too much a style director. I have influences, and I think it comes out. I feel like a lot of times I’m trying to identify moments, and I feel more like a character director, I suppose. If this person is a hero, if he does this, is that going to compromise his heroism? What makes him a hero? A lot of times I feel like I’m trying to push moments, push the story. This is why we feel for this person. Because his past is really tragic. Even though he does his stuff, this is why. For me, those are the things I’m interested in. What makes a person do the things that they do. Especially with this one because we’re already coming in with, I don’t want to call it a negative, but people are going to be skeptical, if they’re different. How do you make them likeable? Why do you care for them? For me, I spent most of my time trying to figure out is this going to impact the moment? Is this a moment that says something about their character?

Q: Was it difficult to get rid of your preconceived ideas of what Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman were?

SAM LIU: In the beginning it was. In the beginning I had to do a lot of discussions with Bruce to go okay, she does this, but will she do that? Where’s his line, basically? So in the beginning, it was, okay, he kills people, but is he more of a hero or is he more Zod? How violent will he go? Is it he kills these people because they’re bad people or is it just because they’re in the way and I’ll kill them? So there was a lot of little fine line things that we had to talk about. So it took a little while to sort of get used to where the limits and ultimately what are they supposed to mean.

Q: Was there a particular look you were going for?

SAM LIU: Again, things like that, that’s Bruce. I was trying to make it as much as like Bruce as possible. In a noirish kind of way.

Q: What do you think of the Justice League after working on this?

SAM LIU: I think right now it’s it’s the first film, so they only focused on the first three characters. The world is very small, and like those introduction films, I think it’s compelling because you’re seeing these characters what makes these characters. Once you get beyond that, it’s like the Star Trek reboot. You’re interested because this is the new Kirk, this is the new McCoy, all that kind of stuff, but with the second movie, that novelty has gone away. Do you have a good story? Right now I like this because I think the characters are compelling. Right now I think it’s just because I’ve done quite a few things with Justice League, so that isn’t as new or as interesting to me anymore. I think this stuff is good.


Q: How difficult was it to transition from what you do with superheroes into this new story?

BRUCE TIMM: Not difficult at all. It was like a breath of fresh air. I think the traditional version of Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are really rich characters. There’s tons and tons and tons of stories that we can still do with those characters even after all these years. This being a tangent universe where these characters are Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman in name only, we can do anything with these characters and even DC Comics can’t say, “Oh you can’t do that because these aren’t the traditional Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman.” They can’t come to me and say, “Batman will never do that.” Well this Batman might, so it’s incredibly freeing. It’s kind of nice to have like the chains are off completely, and we can go down any path. It’s actually a little bit scary. It’s like, wow, we can do anything, we better do something cool.

Justice League Gods and MonstersQ: Your version of Batman is Kirk Langstrom, Man-Bat. When making this Batman, did you initially think of Kirk Langstrom as the identity for the character or did you first think of the concept of Batman and then put him in it?

BRUCE TIMM: It was the vampire Batman first and Kirk Langstrom was an afterthought. It was really close together, though. My first thought was thatwhen I was a kid, I was always a fan of superheroes and monster movies. That was it, and from a very early age, Batman was always my favorite superhero. Part of it was just he looked really cool. He’s got the coolest costume in all of comics. He’s wearing a Dracula outfit, so it makes sense to make it literally vampire Batman. The minute I think of that, I immediately went right to the Kirk Langstrom file, and it totally made sense.

Q: What is the balance between coming up with ways to identify this as an alternative universe and telling a compelling story so that they’re not getting in the way of each other?

BRUCE TIMM: I don’t really see them as competing. For one thing, I think part of the fun aspect of these Elseworlds or “What If?” stories is that everybody knows the origin stories. You don’t ever have to do the Superman origin story ever again because it’s been done so many times. I understand why people want to do it, I’ve even done it myself, because it’s such a great story, you can’t help but want to do it. But that’s the fun aspect of it. You can go down that path and start off with that traditional origin story, and then as you’re going this way, it’s oooh, now you’re going that way and it’s kind of fun. It’s the same thing that applies to the entire world. There’s a lot of traditional DC supporting characters in this movie, but they react completely different in this world than you’re used to. A character like Lois Lane she’s still a reporter, but she hates this Superman. She thinks that Superman is a Superdick, so it’s different. A character like Lex Luthor, he’s in the movie as well, and he’s not a zillion miles away from the traditional Luthor, but there’s still things about him where his relationship with Superman is a little bit different than in the regular universe. So it’s kind of fun to kick the table over and see what happens.

Q: What is it about Batman that you love the most that maybe you relate to?

BRUCE TIMM: I get that question so often, and I never have a good answer for it. I don’t know that I necessarily relate to Batman. A lot of people say, “Oh because he’s just a regular guy and nobody can be Superman but anybody can be Batman.” It’s like yeah, anybody with a zillion dollars can be Batman. Good genes and good breeding and works out a lot, but I could never be Batman. I don’t know, a lot of it really just comes down to the costume. I think Bob Kane once described Batman as a combination of Dracula and Zorro. What’s cooler than that? He’s the good guy who dresses like the bad guy who scares the crap out of criminals. That’s as cool as it gets. All the “darker characters” in comics whether it’s Punisher, Wolverine or whoever, they’re all kind of in Batman’s shadow.


JLGAM_BatmanFightQ: Dr. Will Magnus has been around for ages, how do you approach a character that has a lot of history that not a lot of people know?

C. THOMAS HOWELL: That’s a loaded question because Will Magnus is known for creating the Metal Men, and he’s been around for a long time, but this is a new world for us. Without getting too into it, he’s sort of part of the origin of Batman in our story. They’re old friends, they’re school buddies. He’s a scientist trying to help his friend out who’s got a rare blood disease, and he inadvertently creates this sort of vampiric larger than life superhero. So they have a history together, and they’re friends, and their paths go off in different directions, but the humanity in the relationship remains, which is something that I think is really cool. When you see it, I think you’ll agree that showing their college days and relationships with girls and partying, at least that’s what Magnus was, has been very insightful because you see a little bit of what he’s capable of and why he becomes who he becomes.

Q: This isn’t your first time voicing for a DC Animated film. What did you enjoy about it that made you want to return?

C. THOMAS HOWELL: It’s the relationships, first and foremost. You need people like Andrea and Bruce and Sam, and you look forward to coming to work every day. Not just because it’s going to be creative, but they’re really super cool people. And that goes a long way for me. Whenever Andrea is involved for me, I’m in, but the cool thing is, I’m in a DC Universe with them right now, and when I was a kid, Saturday morning cartoons was all we had. So Superfriends was huge for me, and I was a big, big comic book kid. Loved animated stuff, and now to be a part of it is awesome. It’s funny because I’ve done a ton of stuff, and my kids could care less that I’m Ponyboy, but the fact that I’m Reverse Flash is badass.

Q: If you could pick one character to do, who would it be?

C. THOMAS HOWELL: I’d love to get on the other side. I do enjoy playing the villains a lot because I like to find the humanity in their faults and their flaws. I enjoy that. I think superheroes are better when their flaws are exposed, and a lot of them have many flaws, as we know. It would be a bitch, but I haven’t seen Aquaman done well, and that’s a lot of gym time, so I might not be the man for that. The villains can be a little out of shape and still get the job done but those guys got to do too many situps for me.

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First Nintendo NX Game Announced: Dragon Quest XIhttp://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/first-nintendo-nx-game-announced-dragon-quest-xi/ http://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/first-nintendo-nx-game-announced-dragon-quest-xi/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 19:21:46 +0000 http://www.toonzone.net/?p=491892 dragon quest xi

Everyone was expecting Dragon Quest XI to be revealed today during Square Enix’s livestream. What nobody expected was for them to announce an NX game — and not only that, but to show footage. The presentation, embedded below in Japanese, runs at an hour and forty minutes. Dragon Quest XI is revealed an hour into […]

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dragon quest xi

Everyone was expecting Dragon Quest XI to be revealed today during Square Enix’s livestream. What nobody expected was for them to announce an NX game — and not only that, but to show footage.

The presentation, embedded below in Japanese, runs at an hour and forty minutes. Dragon Quest XI is revealed an hour into the video; gameplay footage is shown an hour and ten minutes in.

Nintendo’s next console, codenamed the NX, is currently the most top-secret project underway at the company. It’s highly rumored to have a holiday 2016 release date, and mounting evidence seems to point to it, but nothing can truly be confirmed for certain. We also don’t know what kind of new gimmicks Nintendo is going to attach to the thing (you know there’ll be some). All we know is that we’re getting the next Dragon Quest game on it.

We’re getting two Dragon Quest games, in fact. Dragon Quest X will also be ported to the unrevealed system. Famitsu released a few screens, which you can see above and below. Dragon Quest XI will also be coming out for the Playstation 4 and the 3DS.

dragon quest xi

dragon quest xi

Square did not reveal a release date during the event, unfortunately. That would have sealed the NX’s release date for sure. ….Actually, that’s probably why.

UPDATE: A Square-Enix rep has since altered the company’s statement, sending notes to the media that the NX version of Dragon Quest XI is “under consideration.”

[Sources: Polygon, Kotaku]

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"Wishenpoof" Launches for Amazon Prime Members on August 14, 2015http://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/wishenpoof-launches-for-amazon-prime-members-on-august-14-2015/ http://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/wishenpoof-launches-for-amazon-prime-members-on-august-14-2015/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 13:12:23 +0000 http://www.toonzone.net/?p=491752 Wishenpoof01

Amazon Original Kids Series Wishenpoof Will Launch for Amazon Prime Members in the US, UK and Germany on August 14 All 13 episodes of the animated preschool series, created by Angela C. Santomero (Blue’s Clues, Creative Galaxy, Super Why!) and produced by Out of the Blue Enterprises, will feature guest star voice talent Jason Priestley […]

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Wishenpoof01

Amazon Original Kids Series Wishenpoof Will Launch for Amazon Prime Members in the US, UK and Germany on August 14

All 13 episodes of the animated preschool series, created by Angela C. Santomero (Blue’s Clues, Creative Galaxy, Super Why!) and produced by Out of the Blue Enterprises, will feature guest star voice talent Jason Priestley (Beverly Hills, 90210) and daughter Ava Priestley

A fun, magical adventure series that teaches lessons through imaginative play, Wishenpoof inspires children to solve life’s big preschool problems in creative ways

SEATTLE—July 27, 2015—(NASDAQ: AMZN)—Amazon today announced it will premiere all 13 episodes the Amazon Original Series Wishenpoof on Friday, August 14 for Amazon Prime members in the US, UK and Germany. Created by Angela C. Santomero (Blue’s Clues, Creative GalaxyDaniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Super Why!), and produced by Out of the Blue Enterprises, Wishenpoof is an animated preschool series that revolves around Bianca (Addison Holley, Annedroids, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood) as she solves life’s problems in her own creative ways because with magic, or without, we all have the power to make good choices. Wishenpoof is Executive Produced by Santomero, Samantha Freeman (Super Why!, Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood, Creative Galaxy), Wendy Harris (Blue’s Clues, Super Why!, Creative Galaxy), Steven DeNure (Hank Zipzer), and Anne Loi (Chop Socky Chooks).

Wishenpoof is the newest Amazon Original Kids Series supporting kids as lifelong creative learners by giving them the life skills and mindset they need to lead purpose-filled, creative lives. Bianca’s ability to magically fulfill her friends’ wishes and creative instinct spark children’s imaginations at an early age. The series also features guest vocal talent Jason Priestley (Beverly Hills, 90210) as Bianca’s father, and Priestley’s daughter Ava as Laurel. Hope Cassandra performs 13 ballads as the singing voice of Bianca.

“We’re excited to be debuting our next preschool series to our customers who we hope will find Wishenpoof entertaining, playful and inspiring,” said Tara Sorensen, Head of Kids Programming at Amazon Studios. “Bianca is a great role model for younger children, enabling them to take into account others’ perspectives and make good choices.”

Wishenpoof is one of these magical projects that has been in my head since I was a little girl, so when I started writing, I didn’t want to stop,” said Santomero. “The series is different than anything currently on the air—with its expressive 3D character animation and the rich multi-layered, textured designs and environments—creating a vibrant, magical environment and featuring an amazing anthem in every episode that complements the vision for the show.”

Wishenpoof incorporates Families and Work Institute President Ellen Galinsky’s (Mind in the Making) “Seven Essential Life Skills” framework—life skills that help children reach their full potential and unleash their passion to learn. Based on the most rigorous brain and child development research, this framework  promotes executive function life skills like focus and self-control, perspective taking, communicating, creativity, critical thinking, taking on challenge, and self-directed engaged learning.

Beginning August 14, Prime members can watch episodes of Wishenpoof ad-free with the Amazon Video app for TVs, connected devices and mobile devices, or online at amazon.com/wishenpoof at no additional cost to their membership. Customers who are not already Prime members can sign up for a free trial at amazon.com/prime. Wishenpoof will also be available as part of Amazon FreeTime Unlimited, the all-you-can-eat subscription service designed from the ground up for kids. FreeTime Unlimited is available exclusively on Amazon devices including Amazon Fire TV and Fire tablets, and a year-long subscription is included with every Fire HD Kids Edition.

Wishenpoof also features vocal talent from Kaelyn Breitkopf (Puppets) as Ben and Millie Davis (Orphan Black, Annedroids) as Penelope. The series is Directed by Gilly Fogg (Bob the Builder) and Phillip Stamp (Little Bear) serves as Supervising Producer.

About Amazon Instant Video

Amazon Instant Video offers Amazon Prime members instant access to stream tens of thousands of movies and TV episodes, including award-winning Amazon Original Series, available at no additional cost. New release movies and current TV shows are available for rent or purchase.

Prime members can enjoy binge-worthy TV shows including Amazon Original Series airing now such as the multi-Golden Globe-winning series Transparent, the hour-long drama Bosch, based on Michael Connelly’s best-selling books, the Roman Coppola and Jason Schwartzman comedy, Mozart in the Jungle, and the comedy created by and starring Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, Catastrophe, in addition to HBO favorites like The Sopranos, True Blood and Girls, and popular primetime series including 24, Downton Abbey, Extant, Falling Skies, Grimm, Hannibal, Justified, Orphan Black, Teen Wolf, The Americans, and Under the Dome. Prime members also have access to a collection of kids shows now airing including Amazon Original Series Annedroids, Gortimer Gibbon’s Life on Normal Street and the Annecy, Annie and multi-Emmy Award-winning Tumble Leaf, as well as popular shows from Nickelodeon and Nick Jr. including SpongeBob SquarePantsDora the ExplorerTeam Umizoomi, and Blue’s Clues. In addition to tens of thousands of titles to instantly stream, the Amazon Prime membership (www.amazon.com/prime) includes more than one million songs, more than a thousand playlists and hundreds of stations through Prime Music, unlimited Free Two-Day Shipping on millions of items, early access to select Lightning Deals, unlimited photo storage with Amazon Photos, and access to borrow from more than 800,000 books for Kindle owners–all for $99 a year.

Customers can watch movies and TV shows with the Amazon Video app. The Amazon Video app is available on hundreds of devices including Amazon Fire TV, Fire TV Stick, Roku, smart TVs and Blu-ray players from Samsung, Sony, LG, and Panasonic, the Xbox, PlayStation, and Wii game consoles, as well as on mobile devices like Fire tablets, Fire phone, iPhone, iPad, and Android tablets and phones. Customers can also watch online at Amazon.com/AIV.

Comprehensive cast and crew information, including bios and filmographies, is available on Amazon’s IMDb (www.imdb.com), the world’s most popular and authoritative source for movie, TV and celebrity content.

About Amazon

Amazon.com opened on the World Wide Web in July 1995. The company is guided by four principles: customer obsession rather than competitor focus, passion for invention, commitment to operational excellence, and long-term thinking. Customer reviews, 1-Click shopping, personalized recommendations, Prime, Fulfillment by Amazon, AWS, Kindle Direct Publishing, Kindle, Fire phone, Fire tablets, Fire TV, and Amazon Echo are some of the products and services pioneered by Amazon.

Source: Amazon.com, Inc.

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SDCC2015: Lean, Green, Mean, Fighting "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" Roundtable Interviewhttp://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/sdcc2015-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-interview/ http://www.toonzone.net/2015/07/sdcc2015-teenage-mutant-ninja-turtles-interview/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 21:10:29 +0000 http://www.toonzone.net/?p=490531 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season 4

The latest incarnation of mega franchise Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles currently airs on Nickelodeon. During San Diego Comic Con 2015, Toonzone News met up with producers Ciro Nielli and Brandon Auman for a quick Q&A. TOONZONE NEWS: What was your very first exposure to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles? BRANDON AUMAN: My first experience was with […]

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Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season 4

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesThe latest incarnation of mega franchise Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles currently airs on Nickelodeon. During San Diego Comic Con 2015, Toonzone News met up with producers Ciro Nielli and Brandon Auman for a quick Q&A.

TOONZONE NEWS: What was your very first exposure to Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?

BRANDON AUMAN: My first experience was with the original Mirage comics. The early run, that’s how I got into them, and just totally influenced me and getting into anthropomorphic animals.

TOONZONE NEWS: Do you remember the first arc you read?

BRANDON AUMAN: It was that first run, that early run. I’m old.

CIRO NIELI: Same for me. My mom took me to comic shops once a month, and I happen to be growing up in the Northeastern United States. I grew up outside Philly, and we were kind of in the area where those books shipped. They weren’t fully shipped out to all the US, and that was the corner they were easy to get them. I went one day and the comic was there, the first issue. It was $1.50, I bought it. That first arc came and went in one issue. They met and killed Shredder. That was 1984. I was 28 years old, I was a little too old for comics, but it’s okay.

BRANDON AUMAN: 28 years old? He was like ten.

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesQ: So if you were a fan of the original comics, did you think the 80’s cartoon got it all wrong?

CIRO NIELI: Yes. You’ve got to understand, I spent four years telling all my friends how they didn’t know anything because they weren’t down with Ninja Turtles. Then the cartoon came out, mainstream, and it completely contradicted all the cool factors that I described about the comic I was reading, so I almost had a violent allergic reaction to the cartoon when it first came out because it was so different than what I had grown to love. Turtles to me was the most amazing thing that was ever shown to be conceived, so yeah, I didn’t like the show at first.

BRANDON AUMAN: Yeah, same with me. I remember being in school and my friends were like oh, Ninja Turtles is coming on, it’s a cartoon, and I was getting more and more stoked, and I was like, I hope it’s going to be good.

CIRO NIELI: You don’t even think it’s could be bad back then because we’re just so young.

BRANDON AUMAN: But there was this anticipation. It was like a countdown to the show is going to start. I remember I watched the first episode and I was like “Are you freakin’ kidding me?” and I immediately tuned out.

CIRO NIELI: I later learned in life that that cartoon was just training for me to watch Episode I. The thing is, it’s about anticipation versus reality. I understand why people love it, it’s fun, but loving the comics, it’s not what you wanted as a kid.

BRANDON AUMAN: We were just slightly too old at the time. Before that, the comic could get dark, it was dark, and it was very adult, but the concept of it lends to a children’s series. I don’t want to say you have to water it down, but you water it down and turn it into this goofy thing and then it becomes a phenomenon. As soon as you take the dark elements out, it goes worldwide and it’s a huge, giant deal, but it just wasn’t for us at the time because we were just a little bit too old. Because we’re old men.

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesCIRO NIELI: I was glad that I got to make this series because in retrospect, I have a strange affection for that 80’s show finally. In retrospect, I like it. After 30, 35 years of fandom, it makes sense. But at the time, it wasn’t the first thing I wanted as the coming out to the world Turtles party. That comic was really this punk rock rag. It was made in a garage, it felt like, almost.

BRANDON AUMAN: It kind of was, and that’s the thing, it’s like, with our series, we try to make it sort of an amalgamation of the classic Mirage comics and some of the 80’s cartoon elements, the funnier goofier aspects, but we still try and keep it grounded, and the humor isn’t completely ridiculous. It’s grounded humor. It’s almost like a movie, in a way. We see every episode every week as being a mini movie.

TOONZONE NEWS: What was the last Turtles project before this?

CIRO NIELI: 2007. The series was 2K3, then the movie, then it kind of really just there was a period of three or four years where you couldn’t find toys on the shelves anywhere. There was no Turtle presence in the universe for, I’d say, four years.

BRANDON AUMAN: They didn’t have anything to back it, that’s the thing.

CIRO NIELI: The movie had their toyline, that didn’t do well.

BRANDON AUMAN: It tanked.

CIRO NIELI: By 2008? By the time I was developing in 2009, I remember being Turtle hungry and looking for stuff anywhere outside my collection. So you do things like go to Toys R Us and it was just a ghost town.

BRANDON AUMAN: Was it just the NECA Turtles?

CIRO NIELI: The NECA Turtles was the only thing. That was the only thing that happened between 2007 and 2K12. NickTurtles, I think is easier.

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesTOONZONE NEWS: What was your approach to bringing the Turtles to a new generation?

CIRO NIELI: There was a lot of weird pitches. Everybody came out of the woodwork. Apparently, there were 200 people that pitched. I asked, “Who are they?” and they were like, “You wouldn’t believe it. “Anyone and everyone. People came from across different media. There was such a huge love of Turtles and everyone wanted to be a part of it. I got a sense of some of the pitches while I was pitching because it wasn’t as simple as me just pitching once and getting in.

BRANDON AUMAN: You told me some really weird ones.

CIRO NIELI: There were some really weird ones. There was one where they dropped “Teenage” or it was just called “Teenage Mutant Turtles” or something like that and they were on bikes and delivered pizza.

BRANDON AUMAN: Or Just “Mutant Ninja Turtles”.

CIRO NIELI: And Mikey was dressed like Flava Flav.

TOONZONE NEWS: Was this in anticipation of the Michael Bay movie?

CIRO NIELI: No, no, no.

BRANDON AUMAN: That wasn’t even around then.

CIRO NIELI: That came way after us. There were some other ones like in the not too distant future Shredder–in this Orwellian not too distant future, Shredder has taken over the universe and everyone almost like this junior foot brigade is being trained. All children are taken into that. The turtles were teenage boys, and Michelangelo was a girl, but they were humans.

BRANDON AUMAN: They weren’t even turtles.

CIRO NIELI: And at midnight, they would turn into turtles. They were taking pitches from everyone.

BRANDON AUMAN: And kids love dystopian societies, let’s face it. But even Ciro’s early pitch was a little bit different. Master Splinter was already dead, and things were changing around, but I think the reason why Nickelodeon was most into Ciro’s version is that it was probably the purest version. Everybody else was trying to change it, and why do you need to? The wheel’s not broken. Why do you need to change it? Keep it pure. I think this version that we’ve got now is the purest version you can get. It celebrates all the previous versions of the Turtles as well.

Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles Season 2 FinaleNIELI: When I pitched it, I talked about the dynamic of how the show would play, and they turned and asked me what are the Turtles like, and I said, “What do you mean?” Mikey is the party dude, Donny does machines, I didn’t understand the question. So the focused switched to, “You’ve got to do something different with April,” which I would’ve anyway, but it wasn’t too different. To me, she’s the same April we all known, but we’re catching up with her at a younger time where you’re able to let the Turtles influence her and empower her as opposed to coming upon her middle aged and the damsel in distress. That was the sole purpose of how we changed her. For the most part, I looked within Turtles. You sit down and you write down on paper, these are the things I like about these. I made a whole list, I quantified what made the Turtles work, and I amplified that. Simple enough.

TOONZONE NEWS: Favorite moments while working on the series?

CIRO NIELI: We always kind of do a nod. In a weird way, we’ve always done so many episodes, but you can kind of string along the first 12 Mirage comics and the one shots. Whether it’s the Raphael one shot or issue 10 of Mirage, the Leo one shot, there’s these great stories that were told in the first 12 Mirage books, and we’ve done those. I think we’ve done all those stories, in a way. Gone to the farmhouse. All the classic stuff.

BRANDON AUMAN: But beside the Mirage books, we also look into the movie stuff, which also kind of addressed the Mirage storylines as well, but we also had references to the original live action movies, there’s even references to some of the 80’s cartoons. There are a couple of jokes, like Mikey wiping his face and it’s an 80’s Mikey face, and some of the others. We try to pull from every version of the previous Turtles, because we love those versions, and it’s also fun and just cool. It’s kind of a fun little aside that fans like, but for the most part, we tell our own stories. We don’t necessarily rely on it.

CIRO NIELI: Going to work everyday, we’re not writing Turtle comics. We’re not geeking out on Ninja Turtles, we’re trying to tell good stories. Turtles happen to be our actors.

Teenage Mutant Ninja TurtlesAUMAN: And sometimes we’ll pull from things we love. Like the Toxic Avenger or Evil Dead or The Thing. Ciro and I are huge horror fans, so Cannibal Holocaust, Cannibal Ferox. The Turtles sometimes eat human flesh. No, I’m just kidding. That doesn’t happen.

CIRO NIELI: It will happen, maybe. Who knows? Just keep watching. It wouldn’t be cannibalism, right? It’s a switch on Cannibal Ferox where they eat turtles. In our show, The Turtles are going to eat people.

BRANDON AUMAN: Yeah, that’s season seven. Cannibalism.

CIRO NIELI: The stories come from what would the Fantastic Four do? All right, Mikey can be in there. I don’t see them as Ninja Turtles. I don’t. It’s weird, I see them as fully formed personalities. They’re kind of real to me. And then you go, wait, they’re green? I didn’t notice they’re green. What’s that on their back? I just thought that was their clothes. Oh, that’s like flesh and stuff. It’s weird.

BRANDON AUMAN: The worst writing comes out when some of the writers try too hard to make it like what they think Ninja Turtles is instead of just trying to make it organically live. It could be anybody, it could be anything, as long as you’ve got those sort of personalities. You don’t have to wrangle in something you think Ninja Turtles is. As soon as you think, oh, it’s like the 80’s cartoon, or it’s the Mirage books, and that’s all it is, you’re kind of dead in the water. You just have to bring it to life and you let it live on its own. It exists and flourishes on its own.

CIRO NIELI: It’s funny because the Turtle fandom is so split because it’s had a long life, and there’s times when the 2K3 people are like, we love those guys, that show is for us, and then they watch us and go, “Oh, they just care about the 80’s show.” The Mirage people are like, “This is so Mirage” and that went back and forth for years, and now it’s all just kind of congealed into this goulash finally. I’d like to think we’ve brought unity to the Turtle fandom, finally. It’s like, enough with all the old stuff, let’s just all watch this new one together.

BRANDON AUMAN: Sometimes we actively avoid trying to make references because the references are never forced, they’re just a part of it as we go.

CIRO NIELI: How do you make Star Wars without saying “I’ve got a bad feeling about this”?

BRANDON AUMAN: But it has to live on its own. It’s like, this would work as a reference to the Mirage book. But then other times, Ciro will be like, I really want to do this story where Leo is fighting the Foot and he gets hurt and he gets thrown through the window just like in the comics, and then we work out, and it works. It’s an organic part, and it usually turns out pretty cool.

tmnt_04HRTOONZONE NEWS: Favorite Turtle and why?

BRANDON AUMAN: Oh snap, that’s hard. That’s like trying to choose your favorite kid.

CIRO NIELI: Every day it’s different. Today I woke up feeling probably, I don’t know, I wake up feeling someone different. I usually feel like Donatello, I like Donatello a lot. I have a strange connection with Donny because he’s the inventor, and a lot of times I’m forced to design his vehicle, so there’s this kinship, and I liked him as a kid.

BRANDON AUMAN: What about Raphael?

CIRO NIELI: For months I was obsessed with Raph. It goes all over the place.

BRANDON AUMAN: And Mikey’s great too.

CIRO NIELI: You take Mikey for granted, kinda. If you took Mikey out, you’d be crushed.

BRANDON AUMAN: He’s like the soul, like the spirit in a way. And he’s generally considered the favorite Turtle. But Leonardo is great too because he’s introspective, a little bit more spiritual, and he’s neurotic a bit, so I kind of connected to that.

CIRO NIELI: There’s a little self loathing with the Leo in me, so I take Leo for granted, too.

BRANDON AUMAN: And Raphael is great, too, because he’s hot tempered, and I have a tendency to be hot tempered but his hot temperedness kind of masks his real heart. He’s truly sensitive, and that’s probably why Raph is so hot tempered, but honestly, we can’t really say, this is our favorite. They’re different aspects of a personality. Everybody has those aspects to their personality.

CIRO NIELI: Splinter’s my favorite character. He always has been.

BRANDON AUMAN: Splinter’s just great because—

CIRO NIELI: He’s the patriarch.

BRANDON AUMAN: Yeah. And he really is the soul. Maybe Mikey’s the spirit but Master Splinter’s the soul of the team, and he’s the Father Figure and he’s easy to love. He’s like the Zen Master, right?

CIRO NIELI: He’s Obi-Wan.

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