Bruce Timm is a man who needs little introduction, with his work on Batman: The Animated series just one highlight of an extraordinary career. He’s one of the main people behind a lot of the recent DC Animated features that have been released direct to video.
His next project to be released will be Batman: Under the Red Hood.
TMT had the opportunity to take part in a round table interview with Timm, as well as an exclusive interview with Bruce at this weekend’s Calgary Comic & Entertainment Expo. You can read the exclusive interview below.
Why did you choose Batman: Under the Red Hood as your next project?
When I was first Pitched the idea of Red Hood, I wasn’t at all interested, and I hadn’t actually read the comic at that point either. I picked up the comic, and I thought it was “okay”. It could be done, but I really wasn’t convinced. It wasn’t until after I sat down with Judd (Winik), for every issue I had, he had a solution. After that, we started working on it right away. We actually just watched the finished product in its entirety the other day. I’m not sure if its been officially announced yet, but our plans were to premiere Red Hood at Comic Con San Diego this July.
What would you say the tone of ‘Under the Red Hood’ will be?
It’s definitely a very dark and intense movie, It’s not geared towards the “soccer moms”, or young kids. I’d say it deals with very serious subject matter, and it’s a very violent film.
What is the MPAA Rating for ‘Red Hood’?
That’s a great question we’re always aiming towards a PG-13 rating, obviously because it’s a lot a harder to market a direct to video animated feature that’s anything more than a PG-13, and for the fact that “super hero” films are generally geared towards a younger demographic.
The problem we think we might have with Red Hood, is that it’s extremely violent, and not just for something animated. We’re hoping it comes back PG-13, but there is a strong possibility at this point its going to end up with an R Rating. We’d love to leave the film as it is now, we’re all extremely happy with how it’s turned out. But the marketing department at WB isn’t about to allow that. They’re a very conservative group, intent on having the direct to video features having an above average chance of making their money back.
If it does come back with an R rating we’ll have to change a few things to bring the rating down to a PG-13. In the opening sequence a teenager is beaten to death with a crow bar, so the tone is very dark. We don’t want to lose that, but we may have to tone it down slightly.
We were actually working on something a couple years ago that was planned to have an R Rating. It was a very popular book, I’m not allowed to say what it was, but it was before Watchmen came out. Everyone at WB was happy with it, the plan was to go ahead full force, and then Watchmen came out and tanked. The Marketing people and the exec’s said no, no more R Rated super hero films, especially not anything animated, and just like that the project was gone. That’s not to say it won’t ever happen, I’m sure at some point it is a possibility.
What will be your next project after ‘Red Hood’?
I’m not currently allowed to talk about that, not in great detail anyways. The people in charge of publicity at WB control what we say with an iron fist! We are however hoping to make two very exciting announcements soon. We have one feature in development and one that’s being animated right now.
Did you feel a lot of pressure dealing with such iconic characters, when you started working on Batman: The Animated Series?
There was definitely a lot of pressure. But we were actually quite lucky, when that show was being developed we were coming off the heels of the Tim Burton Batman films, which were very dark in tone. That actually created a great transition for the animated series. It made it easier to go to the Fox network and tell them we wanted to approach the show with a darker more serious tone, and more dramatic take on the character, which is what we had originally planned to do.
When you were developing B:TAS, you wanted to distance it from the 60’s animated series. What are your thoughts on the new animated Batman series ‘Batman: The Brave & The Bold’?
I think it’s really fun, it’s great because it came out around the same time as The Dark Knight. I loved the The Dark Knight, but it wasn’t really intended for kids, at least not young kids anyway. I think a lot of the time now we tend to forget that super hero movies and these characters biggest audience is the younger kids. With brave and the bold, I think we’re creating a whole new generation of Batman fans. It allows the younger kids to enjoy batman as much as we do while watching movie like The Dark Knight.
I always try to keep in the back of my own mind that these movies or shows are going to be generally watched by a younger age group. When I’m creating something, I do like to do things that I know I’d enjoy, or people my age would enjoy, but I have to remember to not make things too complicated or serious to the point that our biggest audience isn’t able to garner interest. Brave and the bold does a great job of giving the kids something that’s just for them
Are you still planning on doing an animated Vampire Batman movie? I know you had previously expressed interest in that.
Not currently, no. We were pursuing something related to the Vampire Batman not all that long ago, but then they did the Batman Vs Dracula recently, so it would really just seem redundant at this point to re-hash a story that was literally just done.
Are there any current plans to for ‘Judas Contract’ to be developed as an animated feature?
We had quite a few drafts done up, but nothing that we really loved. We did love what they did with it in the Teen Titans series, and for now we’ll continue to go that route. Again it’s like the Batman Vs Dracula, it was done recently, and it worked. It would be redundant to do something different right now.
Is there any chance of ‘Hush’ or ‘The long Halloween’ being developed?
Hush isn’t something that we’re all that interested in our end, but it has come up. The real problem with Hush is that it works better as comic then it would as a movie, it could work as a show, maybe. The same can really be said for The Long Halloween as well. It works a lot better as a comic, and not so much as a movie.
I wouldn’t rule out either of them altogether, but it won’t be happening anytime soon.
Is it true, that the Justice League Unlimited episode “Epilogue” was not originally intended to be the ending for Batman Beyond?
Yes. We did the return of the joker, and that at one point was almost how we were ending it. Then we did epilogue with Justice League and that worked. What we had originally planned on doing was another direct to video movie just for Batman Beyond, where Terry finds out that Bruce is actually his biological father. That’s something we were really looking forward to, but it didn’t work out at that point in time.
Are there any plans to re-visit Terry McGinnis (Batman Beyond) in the future?
Not currently. But I wouldn’t rule it out in the future. We’ve definitely discussed having a Batman Beyond re-union of sorts, but it won’t be happening anytime soon if it does get made.
Do you plan to have any of your DC animated films released to theatres, like ‘Batman: Mask of the phantasm’?
No. DC is really focused on their Live Action films right now. We were extremely nervous about Mask of the Phantasm. That kind of movie really work better for the TV movie or direct to video release.
When we did that, we had everyone from every different department at Warner Bros telling us how we had to do things, or what we had to be doing with Marketing and things of that nature. There was a lot more people to answer to doing a theatrical release than what there is with TV or direct to video.
If you could develop any comic book hero or story line into a theatrical release, what would you do?
There’s too many to name, and really the problem is more the ones being made are terrible. For example I read about the Avengers and Captain America happening, and then I’ll read something about them, and they sound like they really suck. It always seems to sound good on paper, and then you see what’s going on with a project and it just isn’t nearly as interesting.
Are there plans to do any more sequels for the recently released DC animated films?
We had originally planned to do sequels for Wonder Woman and Green Lantern, but Wonder Woman’s sales started out extremely slow and then over time were eventually able to catch up to probably Justice League Frontier. The Exec’s decided because it wasn’t able to sell quickly right away, where as Justice League was, that there wouldn’t be any more female super hero films right now. We were developing and hoping to get started on a batgirl film based on Year One, but because of Wonder Woman’s slow sales start, that won’t be happening now.
With Green Lantern, it didn’t perform nearly as well as what they had hoped it would. In the long run it eventually made its money back, but the sales weren’t there right away during its release. Hopefully with the release of the Live Action film next year, that will open up the doors for more Green Lantern relate material.
Are there any current plans for an ‘Aqua man’ animated film?
No. We did developed an Aqua man script for a direct to video movie. Marketing decided it wasn’t going to be profitable enough to release.
The comic book needs to be wiped clean and have a re-boot once a year, they’re not able to keep the fan base interested any longer then that.
Was there a reason you decided to use John Stewart in Justice League?
Well for one to be honest, it was affirmative action. Every hero included at that point was white, it was my idea to include him. I felt we needed not only a diversity in ethnicity but also in personality, and Stewart was great for both.
When you’re developing Justice League related properties, are you able to use any character you want, and are there certain characters you prefer to use over others?
We used almost everyone we wanted to, but there were other characters we weren’t able to use due to licensing or legal issues.
If you could cast any actor for any role, what would you do?
Whenever we do something with Batman, we’re like cant we just have Kevin Conroy do it(laughs). We actually tried to have Ed Harris voice Batman, but he was not at all interested in the slightest.
Does Warner Bros give you full creative control over what you do?
For the most part yes. We used to hand something in and have it turned down, and we’d be furious, but now whenever something like that happens it forces us to be more creative. We try to create things that we know will work to begin with, but even then there’s still some people at WB that are going to say “Batman can’t do that, or he doesn’t do this”.
I do wish they would be willing to roll the dice a little more often, and take chances on some projects.
What is your favourite Live Action DC Comics related film?
I would have to say the original Superman from 78’. It’s the one that I’m still able to sit through from start to finish and enjoy it. I would say after that I really like The Dark Knight, and even Tim Burton’s Batman films as well, maybe the first more so than the second.
I love what Nolan did but I also still enjoy what Burton did. It’s fair to say though that, Nolan’s batman is the polar opposite from Burtons, and I didn’t enjoy Schumacher’s Batman at all.
Batman: Under The Red Hood will be released this Summer. Check Back to TMT for our official review.