Doesn’t it feel like the beginning of something extraordinary? With the release of Batman vs. Robin this week, filmmakers reveal secrets of the DC Animated Universe fans have eagerly been anticipating.
At least four of the DC animated films — Justice League: War, Justice League: Throne of Atlantis, Son of Batman and Batman vs. Robin – share the same universe with Jason O’Mara voicing the Caped Crusader in all four.
Director Jay Olvia confirmed that although the majority of DC’s animated films fit into a single shared universe, it’s not limited to one universe. DC isn’t afraid to stray from the main timeline as it did with Assault on Arkham, set in a timeline separate from that of the Arkham video games. As to where DC is going next with its animated films:
“We’re going to explore a lot of the elements on Grant Morrison’s run on Batman. Not a direct adaptation, but with strong threads of those elements. The exact picture is going to depend on how well we do. There was a time when the videos weren’t selling terrifically well. But The Dark Knight Returns did really well. Flashpoint Paradox did really well. We went from one a year to three or four a year. The exact picture is going to fit into that schedule and we want something that’s going to make people excited.”
Much has been made of DC’s “no jokes” mantra as opposed to Marvel, which takes a lighter approach with its characters and stories. Producer James Tucker pointed out another distinction between the two comic book titans.
“Those times when Marvel has stumbled is usually when they’ve messed up the personality of the characters. You get Steve Rogers wrong and it all falls apart. One of the reasons they nailedThe Avengers and Winter Soldier was because they nailed Steve Rogers as a character.”
Part of portraying a character is finding the right actor, or in the DC animated universe, the right voice actor, Voice Director Andrea Romano admitted that even today, Batman is still the most difficult character to cast.
“I think the first time we had to replace him was the hardest, when the brass came down and said, ‘we want to go with someone new.’ I think it was for New Frontier, where we went with Jeremy [Sisto]. He was just what we needed but it was a tough process. Then they wanted another one for the next movie and another one, and so on. Every time it’s hard. Luckily, there are 180,000 members of the Screen Actors Guild, so we can find someone,” explained Romano. “Even today, whenever they hand me a new movie project with Batman, my first question is, ‘Can we use Kevin [Conroy]?’”
Big-name actors have been considered for roles in DC animated films, including Batman v Superman actor Henry Cavill.
“I asked [Cavill] about a potential Red Son and he got really excited[…] Ben Affleck would be great to do Batman and he’s in love with the character. But God it’s hard to get Ben.”
At the very top of Romano’s wish list for actors she wants to use for these movies is Mad Men‘s Jon Hamm.
“Mad Men is ending. I want him. I just love his range. He can do comedy, he can do drama. When I heard him on Archer, I was so sad that I was not the first animation voice director to get him, but it made me happy that he was doing voices for animation. I’ll find something that he’s available for and we’ll get him at some point.”
As to who the soon-to-be-former Don Draper could voice, there is no limit.
“He could do a hero and he could do a villain equally as well. He could be the Joker, and he could make that Joker his own. He could do Green Arrow, he could be a Green Lantern. He might be a little too old to play the Flash, but he’s definitely got that sarcasm, that playfulness.”
The recent buzz over DC’s upcoming Gods and Monsters film and DC’s multiverse gives rise to an intriguing possibility: an extended line of Elseworlds films.
“I’d love to do Gotham by Gaslight,” Oliva said. “I always wanted to do Superman: Red Son, that would be a fun one. And it would be fantastic to do Kingdom Come, though we Kingdom Come he’d have to a have a much higher budget, and a much wider scope.”