Backstage - Interviews - Words from Michael Reaves, Bruce Timm

Presented below are comments from Michael Reaves (screenplay) and Bruce Timm (co-producer, director). Please note that the Bruce Timm comments come from Modern Masters: Bruce Timm.

Michael Reaves
As I recall, B:MOTP was originally to have been written by Alan solo, but he realized there was no way he could do it and continue to produce the show as well. So, once the story was hashed out, we simply carved it up into chunks. Alan wrote the first act, roughly --from the beginning to Buzz Bronski’s graveyard demise. Marty took the next part, from Valestra’s first appearance to Andrea ditching Bruce. Paul carried on from there with the intro of the Joker (naturally), on up to Reeves (no relation) being questioned by Bats in the hospital, then passed to me and I ran for the finish. (I don’t mean to give the impression that we wrote it sequentially; we were all working on our parts simultaneously, to save time.)

That’s just the broad strokes, however. Once we had a rough draft we each read over it, going over it page by page at first singly, then all together in a room. So we all have dialogue and scenes salted liberally throughout the script.

WBA was initially dubious when Alan pitched them a story of unrequited love, with a downer ending; they’d envisioned something much more action oriented and upbeat. So they sort of gulped and waited to see the first draft. They greenlit it to feature when they read it, which was a nice moment for all of us. I think it holds up quite well; in fact, the only part I still cringe at is the title. I came up with the original title, which was simply “Masks”. But they made it much more cartoony. Still, give ‘em credit -- they didn’t mess with the story. I can live with a cartoony title.

Bruce Timm
Modern Masters: Well, let’s go into Mask of the Phantasm. Originally it was to be a direct-to-video production—

Bruce Timm: For all intents and purpose, it was. It got theatrical release as afterthought.

MM: Before you knew it was going to show in theaters, it was being produced to fit the TV format. At what point did you actually find out it would have a theatrical release?

BRUCE: Well, they had been talking about it as a possibility, and they kept going back and forth onit. We ultimately said it probably wasn’t going to happen. There weren’t a lot of direct-to-videos that got theatrical release. The Aladdin movie was one of few that did, but that was Disney. We just thought, “Ah, there’s no way Warner Bros. is actually going to release this theatrically. They’re just not into it to that degree.” Eric Radomski and I were in Japan going over the storyboard with the animators in detail, explaining what we wanted with it, when we got the call from the States that they were definitely going to release it theatrically. It was just…oh, man. Because the storyboard was done and were in that 4:3 TV format. It was really late in the production stage—we were handing it out to the animators—“Now what the hell are we going to do?” So I sat there with a piece of paper and an exacto knife and made a little 1.85:1 template and laid it over the storyboard and said, “Well, okay, it’s not going to be that difficult.” We had to go shot by shot, laying that template over it. “Is the shot going to work? Do we have to make it wider? Do we have to adjust the frame up or down?” Most of the shots work without too much tweaking, but it was a nerve-wracking thing to have to do at the last minute.

MM: Were you satisfied with the results as it came across on the big screen?

Bruce: I think we could have done better. Which is really weird, because we spent a lot of money on it for the time. We had a much bigger budget for that show than we did for the regular TV show, and I don’t think it really shows on the screen. I think it looks like an episode of Batman. I don’t think it looks like a theatrical production. I mean, it’s okay, the animation’s good—it’s definitely comparable to the other stuff we were doing at that time. If TMS had animated it, it would have had a little bit more finesse, a little bit more polish. It’s not even so much the money, but the thing was cranked out really quickly. There was never enough time to finesse it to the point I would have been happy with it. And, again, it was never intended to be theatrical. If we had known going in that it was going to be a theatrical movie, we probably would have worked a little bit harder on it to broaden the scope of it, to make it a little more elaborate. I don’t know, it’s all hindsight, but I was never very satisfied with Mask of the Phantasm. It was a pretty good attempt, but I’ve always felt it was lacking in some respects.
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