The Bruce Timm Interview
by Jim Harvey
In 1989, Timm joined Warner Bros. Television Animation to be a storyboard artist and character designer for Steven Spielberg Presents Tiny Toon Adventures. Later, he was promoted to serve as a producer for Batman: The Animated Series, which premiered in 1992. He went on to work on Superman, which premiered in September 1996, and the next installment of the Batman series, Batman, which premiered in September 1997. Timm continues his work as a producer for Warner Bros. having helped to create the futuristic animated incarnation of Batman, Batman Beyond, now airing on Cartoon Network. Timm also served as producer on the feature-length direct-to-video Batman Beyond: Return of The Joker, released in December 2000. Bruce Timm is now heading up the Warner Bros. Animation crew putting together the current ratings smash Justice League, which premiered in November on Cartoon Network. It marked the first time in more than 15 years - since ABC's Super Friends - that the modern Justice League has been presented in animation. The show has yet to disappoint as fans were treated to an amazing spectacle of action, drama, and character interaction. The show has since become the network's #1 show. Justice League premiered with the three part "Secret Origins" episode on November 17th.
The show spotlights Batman, Superman, Martian Manhunter, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern and Hawkgirl as a newly formed Justice League.
World's Finest & Toon Zone were able to catch up with Bruce Timm for a question and answer session about Justice League, Batman Beyond, DVDs, and his plans for the future.
December 4th, 2001
Is the "Justice League" just the natural progression for the animated series, after Batman, Superman, & Batman Beyond?
Well, the fans sure seemed to think so! For the last five years or so, that's all I'd hear, "When are you guys gonna do the JLA?" So, we eventually we succumbed to peer pressure, and here we are...
What heroes besides the Justice League will be appearing on "Justice League?"
Aquaman, The Demon, Metamorpho, Sgt. Rock, the Blackhawks, and, of course the JGA (no, that's not a typo)...am I forgetting anyone? If we get picked up for another season, we're thinking about another Aquaman story, and maybe one or two other "guest stars", but for the most part we're trying to keep the number of hero cameos down to a minimum....we've got SEVEN major players to deal with already, after all, lots of unexplored territory to work with...
Will members ever leave the League?
Any storyline you'd like to do for Justice League?
We're DOING 'em...!
How do you compare the score of B:TAS/S:TAS to the score of Justice League? Did you make subtle changes in the score?
We always try to make each series unique unto itself, musically... Bernard Hermann-esque mysterioso for Batman, John Williams-y optimism for Superman, techno-metal for B-Beyond, etc. We knew we wanted to go back to a more traditional orchestral sound for JL, but we wanted to avoid any of the retro or old-fashioned musical elements that we often associate with the Batman and Superman shows. On the other hand, we didn't want the music to sound too "modern", either, so we're keeping the drum-machines and electric guitars to a minimum. Fortunately, our composers, Kris Carter, Lolita Ritmanis and Mike McCuistion--all long-time Bat-team veterans--are all supremely gifted musicians, and amazingly versatile. We're still fine-tuning the exact "JL sound", but we're getting there...
Basically, we treat each story-arc as a mini-movie, and adjust the sound to each story's specific requirements. For example, Kris' score for the GL spotlight episode featured classic R&B sounds reflecting John Stewart's inner-city roots, angry martial music for the Manhunters, and a mix of orchestral and electronic textures befitting the space-opera aspects of the story. "The Enemy Below" sounds COMPLETELY different...while discussing the show with Mike McCuistion, I described Aquaman as a noble barbarian-king, and mentioned Basil Poledouris' "Conan" scores as a good example of what his thematic elements might sound like. What Mike came up with sounds more like Alex North's "Spartacus" score, with soaring strings, titanic war-drums and a HUGE horn section....muscular, grandly heroic, just-plain MANLY! In other words, perfect! "Injustice For All", while ostensibly about Luthor and the Injustice Gang, is also a Batman spotlight show, so Lolita's score is almost a throwback to the old B:TAS sound. You get the idea....
Will the events of "Batman Beyond: Return of the Joker" and "Superman:TAS - "Legacy" ever be dealt with in "JL?"
Only obliquely...we can't pre-suppose that everyone who watches JL has seen every episode of our previous series; more likely, most of them HAVEN'T. Originally, in part one of "Secret Origins", General Wells' line, "We can't entrust the world's security to one man" ended with "...especially HIM!" We felt that anyone who hadn't seen "Legacy" would be confused, wondering, "Well, why NOT him? Why does this guy hate Superman so much?" As it is now, it works both ways: either Wells is just being a practical military tactician, or he doesn't trust the guy who almost conquered the world for Darkseid. Similarly, Superman's line, "I've worked long and hard to earn your trust" has different meanings to long-time fans and "newbie" audiences. We're planning on bringing Darkseid back for season two, so we'll more than likely deal with some of those "Legacy" issues at that time.
"Return of the Joker" is a trickier thing...for one thing, we still maintain that B-Beyond is only a POSSIBLE future, mostly to placate the hardcore B:TAS fans who choose to believe the B-Beyond world will never happen...which is fine by me! Continuity's a fluid thing. I mean, [James Bond's] "You Only Live Twice" COMPLETELY invalidates/contradicts [James Bond's] "On Her Majesty's Secret Service", but I like'em both, so they both happened! There, see how easy
Click on 'em!
I guess sub-consciously I WAS thinking about a link from B:TAS to JL to B-Beyond when I gave Batman his new big-ass ears and heeled boots, but I wouldn't swear to it...
Ultimately, though, since we want to use Joker in JL, obviously Robin can't have killed him yet...or maybe he never WILL...ow, my head hurts...
One more note about continuity, while we're on the subject: we're not specifically saying the Kyle Rayner episode of "Superman" never happened, we just haven't figured out yet how it COULD have. See, Kyle's not the
problem...ABIN SUR'S the problem!
Consider: if Abin was GL of our sector during "In Brightest Day", how could John Stewart have been our GL for the past10-15 years? Maybe the Kyle episode happens AFTER John becomes Parallax and murders half the galaxy...oh wait, I'm getting my continuities screwed-up...where's my tylenol? Any theories from the fan zone will be duly considered...
When plotting out JL did you and your crew look solely to the comics, or to other sources, like movies, TV shows, books, etc.?
We draw inspiration from EVERYTHING....movies, comics, pulps, illustration, you name it.
What prompted you do to a CGI opening for JL, as opposed to a regular animated sequence?
Various things...first, I saw a preview of Ubi Soft's BATMAN VENGEANCE game about a year ago and was pleasantly surprised at how cool it looked--more like stop-motion than straight CGI--kinda like "Mad Monster Party" only with Batman and the gang! Second, when I storyboarded the titles, I realized that the opening slow-mo silouhette shot of the magnificent 7 would be really hard to pull off with traditional animation...also, I wanted to trick-out the lighting/rendering fx so that the titles would look more stylized than the actual show itself (something we've always done with our titles, going back to B:TAS)..one thing led to another, and we just went "O.K., CGI,let's give it a shot." My brother happened to know some the guys at Cantina Pictures; we met with 'em, were impressed by their demo reel, their enthusiasm and especially a test they'd done "on spec" to prove they could deliver what we wanted. It was touch and go there for awhile, mainly because of my own inexperience/ignorance of the whole CGI process, but overall I'm very pleased with the result. If we'd had more time and money, there are a few things I'd do differently, but for our first attempt at CGI, I think it's pretty dang cool. Would I do a whole show in CGI? Uh...no. Not yet. But maybe someday...
Will you be involved in the production of Batman animated DVDs coming in 2002 (ie: commentaries, produciton notes, documentaries, etc)?
I did a series of talking head intros for some of the DVD'S, and there may be a few other nifty extras involved as well. No commentaries, alas. By the way, the B:TAS DVD contains the first five episodes, NOT a "thematic"
or single character grouping.
What are your thoughts on the unedited version of Batman Beyond:Return of the Joker coming to DVD? Was it an uphill battle for it to be released in it's original format? Will there be new material on the DVD and will you be involved?
I'm THRILLED that the un-cut ROTJ is coming out on DVD, are you kidding?! I wouldn't exactly call it an uphill battle...I'd always HOPED that Home Video would release it un-cut, but I'd pretty much given up hope...their announcement of its impending release came out of nowhere, quite took me by surprise. About the only extra feature that I know of will be the original commentary track that Paul, Glen, Curt and I recorded before the caca hit the fan.
Is there anything you think you left unfinished on "Batman Beyond"? Any storyline, characters, etc...?
I could easily go back and do some more B-Beyonds, sure. There was this one DTV story idea that Glen Murakami and I were toying with involving Catwoman, but it was pretty dark....I mean PITCH BLACK. So, after what happened with ROTJ, I don't think THAT one's gonna happen any time soon.
Speaking of DVDs, will Justice League be hitting DVD in 2002, and if so - what format? Any word on extras?
I believe "Secret Origins" will come out at the same time as all those Batman DVD's (April 2002). Don't know what extras will be included yet.
What can we expect in upcoming episodes of Justice League?
Thrills, spills, chills...humor, horror, heroism and heart. For season 2, we're thinking about using Amazo, Despero, possibly the Crime Syndicate, possibly an earlier, more souped-up version of the Royal Flush Gang (more continuity!), DEFINITELY another Injustice Gang/Legion of Doom/what-have-you story. Amazo will almost certainly get a complete makeover, and will probably not even be called Amazo by the time we're done with him. For a split-second we considered pitting the JL against the All-O Squad--Amazo,Despero, Starro, Chemo and Bizarro--but decided that was too hokey even for US...
What do you see in your future? Is there a show you'd like to tackle? Will you stick with animation or perhaps branch out?
I'm not thinking much beyond the (keep your fingers crossed) 2nd season of JL at this point. We've still got a lot to do to finish up season one, so our plate's pretty full. Believe me, I got no complaints about working in animation (at least for the time being). The show's a blast to work on, I get to collaborate with some of the most talented artists, writers, actors, musicians, etc. in the business -- what's not to love? (I have to mention my co-producers/collaborators Rich Fogel, James Tucker and Glen Murakami at this point...I've been doing a lot of the publicity for the show because I'm the most well-known, but if you're enjoying JUSTICE LEAGUE, these guys deserve your applause as much, if not MORE than I do. Read those names again...REMEMBER them...'cause they're working their tails off to give you guys the best possible JL show that they can.) So, until something even better comes along, animation's where it's at. But who knows...?
Bruce Timm also provided a complete listing for the first season of Justice League, a Toon Zone Exclusive, which can be found by clicking HERE.