NYCC2011: A Roundtable Interview with DC Animation Producer Bruce Timm
At the 2011 New York Comic Con, Toonzone News was able to participate in a roundtable interview session with the legendary Bruce Timm, who has been attached to the iconic animated versions of DC Comics’ superheroes since Batman the Animated Series through to Justice League and then with the direct-to-video animated feature program. His latest projects are the Batman: Year One DTV movie, the CGI Green Lantern: The Animated Series, and the Justice League: Doom animated feature.
The session was unfortunately cut a bit short due to time. Toonzone’s questions are marked.
TOONZONE NEWS: Last year, when you were here, you were mentioning something that you were working on that was big and secret that you weren’t really able to talk about.
BRUCE TIMM: Oh, that was probably The Dark Knight Returns. That’s probably what I was alluding to, it was nothing beyond that.
Q: Are you able to reveal any secret projects now?
BRUCE TIMM: No, afraid not. I think everything’s been announced that I’m allowed to talk about, up to Dark Knight 1 and 2.
TOONZONE NEWS: How involved were you in getting Lauren Faust for Super Best Friends Forever and the Aardman Batman shorts?
BRUCE TIMM: Oh, not at all.
TOONZONE NEWS: Are you going to be working with them at all?
BRUCE TIMM: We’ve been talking with the producers on the DC Nation doing maybe possibly some stuff for them, but I’ve got to figure out a way to squeeze it into my schedule.
Q: When you’re looking for new projects that are within the DC Universe, is it difficult to deal with that wealth of riches that you have to choose from in the source material, or do you have a mental list of things that you say, “I’d really like to go back and do this if they gave me the opportunity.”
BRUCE TIMM: It is kind of a broad question, and hopefully I can answer it in a way without insulting tons and tons of people, but…I wish there was more really strong source material like All-Star Superman or Batman: Year One for us to adapt into movies. There really aren’t. There’s a lot of good comics over the entire course of history, but in terms of finding a really well-known comic like Batman: Year One or Dark Knight Returns that’s not only a great comic but also famous and has its own name-recognition value, there aren’t that many of them out there. Is there a Dark Knight equivalent for Aquaman or for Green Arrow? No, there really isn’t. So there may be good stories out there, but they’re not on that same level. It definitely makes it easier when there’s a story like Batman: Year One or Dark Knight or All-Star Superman or The New Frontier. Something that’s really that strong and you can read the comic and go, “OK, I can totally see how that would work as an animated film.” There aren’t really that many properties out there that are like that.
Q: So it could work as a very successful story, but it might not translate into your area.
BRUCE TIMM: Well, as a good example is Justice League: Doom. I read the Tower of Babel storyline when it first came out, and there were things about it that I really really liked, but for years everyone kept asking, “Oh, when are you going to do Tower of Babel? when are you going to do Tower of Babel?” and it doesn’t really work as an animated movie because there’s things that get up that don’t really pay off, it doesn’t have a movie structure to it, and it doesn’t really have a super larger-than-life quality to it. But then we were talking about it again just a couple of years ago, and going back and rethinking about the book because it’s a really, really strong idea for a movie: the idea that Batman has these contingency plans on how to take down the Justice League if they’d ever gone bad, and then those plans fall into the wrong hands and the villain actually puts those plans into action. It’s a really good, strong story motivator, so we felt like we could do something of our own with it. We’re always adapting ideas and things from the comics, but it may not always be a literal adaptation.
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Q: Does DC’s relaunch do anything to you guys, or is it completely separate?
BRUCE TIMM: It doesn’t really have anything to do with us. They’ve told us, “Don’t even worry about trying to make all the changes that they’ve made in the comics true in the animation.” At least not yet.
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Q: This might be a silly question, but since Superman’s been in the animated universe, he never has the shield on the back of the cape. Is that just for aesthetics, or is that an animation issue?
BRUCE TIMM: It’s just an animation issue. The shield is hard enough to draw on a flat surface. You try to draw it on a wrinkly surface….you know, a lot of people…(laughs) to me, I think it is kind of a silly question, because a lot of people are like, “I can’t believe they never put the shield on his cape!” and it’s just like, “Who’s looking at the back of his cape?” He’s got it on the front. It’s fine.
Q: It’s just something that I’ve noticed, but it doesn’t take away…
Q: I never noticed it before.
BRUCE TIMM: Yeah, it’s just…I always forget that he even has it on his cape. I don’t think of him that way. To me, it’s just a red cape. He doesn’t…I don’t know. It’s funny.
Q: The DC Animated Universe has been going for 20 years. How does it feel to be the person behind the iconic versions of characters to an entire generation?
BRUCE TIMM: Good. (laughs) I guess. That was a short answer.
Toonzone News would like to thank Bruce Timm for taking the time to speak with us, as well as Gary Miereanu for arranging it and our fellow members of the press at the roundtable. Batman: Year One is coming out on DVD and Blu-ray on Tuesday, October 18, 2011, Green Lantern: The Animated Series will have a sneak preview on November 11, 2011, and begin airing on Cartoon Network in early 2012, and Justice League: Doom is due out on home video in early 2012. Don’t forget to check out our coverage of the DC Animated Panel discussion, our Green Lantern: The Animated Series premiere review and panel report, and the trailer for Justice League Doom. Special thanks to the World’s Finest Online for the Superman the Animated Series still.