Bruce Timm Sets the Record Straight on DC Universe Animated Original Movies
QUESTION: John DiMaggio has played many comical villains. How did you know he’d be best as a villain who is also comical?
BRUCE TIMM: The Joker is a very iconic part memorably voiced by Mark Hamill, and played in films by Jack Nicholson and Heath Ledger. Those are really big shoes to fill. John is a guy we’ve worked with for years playing tons of different kinds of parts, and every time we use him I think, “God, we’ve got to give this guy a bigger part.” He shouldn’t just be Thug #2 or the monster that Wonder Woman fights. We needed to give him a part that he could sink his teeth into. This Joker came up and it really required somebody who has comedic chops but also is a really good actor, and DiMaggio has got that in spades. He was definitely the right guy for the part. He came in and did something that didn’t sound anything like Mark Hamill or Jack Nicholson or Heath Ledger or Cesar Romero, and yet he sounds exactly like the Joker. He’s funny, and he’s scary as hell, and that’s just what you want.
QUESTION: What did Jensen Ackles bring to the table as Red Hood?
BRUCE TIMM: Red Hood is such a pivotal role in that he needed to be somebody who was forceful, threatening, weirdly sympathetic, and also had to be of a certain age. Not too young, not too old, just right. Andrea and I both knew of Jensen’s work, and he was one of those guys we had in our “Gotta work with that guy some day” file. And he fit the bill perfectly. He’s got an intensity in the booth that really matched the material.
QUESTION: Were there any surprises along the way?
BRUCE TIMM: One of the things I like the most about this movie is that, in the best possible ways, it kind of reminds me of a weird mesh of the Batman Beyond movie, Return of the Joker, and our first Batman: The Animated Series feature film, Batman: Mask of the Phantasm. It has a lot of the same kinds of themes, it has the same level of serious drama in it, and the same level of really good character development. I think it’s actually fully the equal of those two movies. It’s dynamite.
Another interesting takeaway I got from this movie is that Brandon and I agreed that we really wanted to work to give this movie a unique visual feel. We deliberately tried to not make it look like Batman: The Animated Series. We tried a number of things in the art direction to stay away from that. But no matter what we did, it still kind of looks like Batman: The Animated Series. It’s weird. So when you watch the movie, there will be about four or five minutes in a row where you’ll forget about the different cast and slightly different character designs and it actually kind of feels like the series. On another level, there is a certain influence from the Christopher Nolan movies. It’s kind of in the tone of the film and the way Batman himself is treated and the feel of Gotham City. It’s not quite as realistic – our Gotham City is a little more stylized than the Gotham of the Nolan movies – but there is similarity in tone, which makes for a very interesting Batman salad.
QUESTION: Judd Winick said his first introduction to Batman was the Adam West TV series, but that he knew even as a kid that it wasn’t the Batman he wanted to see. You’ve said that was your same entry point to the character – did you ever have the same sense of Batman’s positioning?
BRUCE TIMM: Yes, my first exposure to Batman as a character was Batman the TV series. But honestly, I didn’t know it was supposed to be a parody or campy. I thought it was the coolest thing I’d ever seen. Of course, I was 5 at the time. But all in one fell swoop, I became an instant super hero fan. Later on, as I got older and started reading more comics and getting into the super hero scene, I realized that the Batman show was kind of a comedy. I was reading Neal Adams comics and thinking, “Batman is kind of cooler than that show – he’s kind of scary and mysterious.” So my perception of Batman changed over time, and then I went through the periods with Frank Miller and the Tim Burton movies. So now I’ve got these warring Batmans in my head. I still love the Adam West/Batman show. I still love the Neal Adams take on Batman comics. I still love The Dark Knight. All of these things totally contradict each other, and yet it’s fine to me. I’ve said it over and over again – Batman as a character is such a strong concept, he’s the kind of character that you can take him in any number of ways and it still feels right. Batman: The Animated Series is a really good version of Batman. Batman: The Brave and the Bold – that’s a really good version of Batman. They have equal value.
QUESTION: There’s been a lot of internet banter regarding the discontinuation of the DCU series based on quotes attributed to an interview in Calgary with you. True or false?
BRUCE TIMM: Kinda false. First of all, it wasn't an actual one-on-one interview -- quotes were taken out of context from longer answers I gave on a panel at the Expo. Bottom line: the DCU films are definitely continuing. We've got projects lined up for the next two years at the very least – lots of films in different stages of development and production. I know there are a lot of rumors circulating about future films. Some are true, some are not. I'll tell you this much – anyone at our DCU/Batman: Under the Red Hood panel at Comic-Con will walk away with a very clear picture of the direction we're taking the DCU animated movies in the coming year.