WB Animation Supervising Producer James Tucker On FLASHPOINT And Beyond
In an interview with Word Balloon, James Tucker discusses Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox and looks ahead to the future of direct-to-video animated features. Plus, is Flashpoint leading to adaptations of The New 52?
The always great Word Balloon podcast recently had DC Animation Supervising Producer James Tucker as a guest and a number of topics were discussed including the next D-T-V (direct-to-video) from Warner Bros. Animation, what he hopes to accomplish during his time as Supervising Producer and whether or not Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox signals that stories from DC's New 52 will be used for immediate, future projects.
On taking over from Bruce Timm, which Tucker says people gave more fanfare than what the situation probably deserved.
James Tucker: Basically, here's the story. I finished up Brave and The Bold and I had an opening in my schedule which meant basically, I didn't have anything to do. And it coincided at the time with Bruce Timm being pulled more-and-more into working on Green Lantern: The Animated Series. He had been doing the D-T-V for a while so you know, he was ready to devote time to a series. We both fondly remember our time on Justice League, the whole working relationship on Justice League was so great and I think he missed that. So I just think he was ready for a change and I needed a gig [laughs]. So he asked me, nothing formal or official, he said 'Do you want to take over the D-T-Vs while I work on Green Lantern and do some other things.' I said 'Sure' you know, as long as it's DC-related, I'm in. I've been lucky enough to pretty much do that exclusively in my career - Warner Bros. specific I should say, but DC primarily. So, he asked me and I said yes. Mind you, I've had this gig for two years now, basically since Brave and the Bold went off the air, so when the news came out the way it did it made it seem like it had all of a sudden happened and really I had already been doing the job for two years. And I don't consider it a promotion, I just consider it another job, it's like we just swapped places. Basically, I'm a Supervising Producer along with Alan Burnett on the DC animated D-T-Vs.
On how he's going to approach the D-T-Vs and also touching on a clever Easter egg in Unbound.
Tucker: As we get further into these, we're going to look at the source material but we're going to mold it in a way that's not so - it doesn't have to be literal to the book. But having said that, Ultra the Multi-Alien (Tucker is speaking on a Easter Egg in Superman Unbound), when I saw that in the book I went 'Oh' because there's things that were in the book that I didn't quite catch, like how there were these four alien-races that Braniac took over and it was implied that he created the Multi-Alien by fusing them together. Because if you notice, each alien that's on the planet that Braniac takes over, it's in the comic book and the movie but much more obvious in the book, they're all halves of the Multi-Alien. There were all these things hidden in the story, in the graphic novel that I actually didn't catch until I started working on the movie.
On the notions of where the story in D-T-Vs should be balanced in terms of kid-friendly safeness and edgy, adult-oriented plot.
Tucker: [Coming in] my mandate was earn your PG-13 rating. I don't want to be tagged as the guy that can only do kid-friendly stuff or who can only do Brave and the Bold, which I'm proud to have done and I loved doing it but if there were any concerns about me getting this gig it was that I was going to pull-back or not be as edgy as some of these movies demand. I definitely think after Flashpoint, that will not be a concern anymore [laughs]. And I don't know if it should be a source of pride but I think my Superman was pretty violent.
In terms of D-T-V sellers Batman, Superman and Justice League are the big sellers so with Flashpoint set as the next release how far ahead is the animation division in terms of the next stories for these characters?
Tucker: My idea coming in was that how can we use those properties as tent-poles to expose our audience to other DC characters. For instance, Unbound is a property that prominently features Supergirl and so you get that twofer. Even though she appeared in Apocalypse, she was only in the costume for a little bit of it. And Flashpoint is kind of a sneaky way to introduce Flash to people because its a very Flash-focused story but you also have Batman in it as another character even though its not the Batman people know. That makes it more interesting to me. If we can choose those types of properties where there's a secondary character that we can shine some light on in addition to Batman, Superman or Justice League, to me, that's a good thing. And that's the way to keep things fresh and expose the audience to other characters. That's an important notion to DC as far as how do they get their other characters out there into other media.
Talking about the animated shorts the D-T-Vs used to include, Tucker seemingly admits that those have fallen by the wayside for financial reasons but expresses a strong desire to do something similar just not in the typical short or showcase format.
Tucker: Somewhere along the line I want to do something similar to what Marvel did with Hulk Vs., where you have two stories on a single disc, I don't see why we can't do that. I have a wishlist for things I want to do while I'm doing this. The thing is, I'm not the 'decider', I'm just the 'guider'.
Are the animated D-T-V an endangered species as the market changes and streaming moves to the forefront?
Tucker: My specific knowledge on that particular subject is limited but from what I gather, the DVD market is struggling but it's holding on. It's like network tv, the demise of network tv has been forecast for a while now and they're still holding on. I think there will always be a need for people to have a tangible object in their hand when they buy stuff. But having said that, I know that [WB] Home Video is really happy with the downloadable market. The numbers on that appear to be pretty good. With DVD's some do better than others, there's really no accounting for that really. With downloadable, I don't know if the overhead on that is a little cheaper, but I'm hoping it will afford us the chance to do lesser known characters down the line. Even the whole direct to Netflix or direct to "whoever" or even direct to the WB website, I think that's in the future, I just don't know how far in the future.
Is Flashpoint a precursor to the animated D-T-Vs adapting more stories from The New 52?
Tucker: We can't ignore The New 52 because it was a very good relaunch for DC. All I can say is that I think we will be using elements of that in what we do but it may just be design elements meaning... - the thing is, we want to freshen up everything, we were basically doing 'The New 52' with each [animated] series we were doing because it was not a literal translation, Batman: The Brave And The Bold was not a reflection of what was going on in the comics at that time. I don't think we're literally doing The New 52, we're definitely thinking outside the box of what we were previously doing as far as strict-adaptations. We might do something based on a storyline but it won't be a literal translation...I think Flashpoint will only signal that there is a change coming because we're going to aesthetically change the looks of things a little bit and push them further, that's all.
I've only transcribed bits and pieces from the podcast chat that's over 60-minutes long so please click the source link below and give Word Balloon a listen if you have the time to spare. Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox will be released on July 30, 2013 on dvd, blu-ray, digital download and combo-pack.
(And I'll just end this echoing the sentiments of the podcaster that the animated Legion of Super-Heroes show is one of the most criminally underrated animated superhero programs of all-time. Tucker said he's hoping one of the future D-T-Vs will give him another shot at that group of characters.)
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