PART 3: SUPERMAN EXCLUSIVE Making of the 75th Anniversary Animated Short

PART 3: SUPERMAN EXCLUSIVE Making of the 75th Anniversary Animated Short

In this excerpt from the final installment of a series of articles, Director/Storyboard Artist/Producer Jay Oliva continues to go behind the scenes on the Superman 75th Anniversary animated short. The discussion covers Doomsday to Henry Cavill's Man of Steel and beyond.

For Part One of this Interview, please click HERE.

For Part Two of this Interview, please click HERE.

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: I thought the animation in the battle between Superman and Doomsday was really effective.
JAY OLIVA: I had worked on the Superman Doomsday animated film. I didn’t do the fight, but I had worked on it. I remember when I saw it, I thought, “Wow, that’s the Doomsday fight I had always envisioned in my head.” So when I was doing this sequence for the short, I thought I’d go watch that again to see if I could get anything from it and wrap my head around that whole era. All I had time for was three hits and that’s it, and I wanted a transition where Superman gets knocked into the camera and you have the Death of Superman cover.

Superman 75 - supermen

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Which leads to the other Supermen coming out of that cover.
JAY OLIVA: We tried for a couple of different looks there with the black suited Superman and the red and blue Supermen. We also wanted to add the Superman magnet from Seinfeld’s refrigerator, but in the last minute we had to cut it just for time.

Superman 75 - Black Suit

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: I’m actually impressed you got everything you managed to in two minutes of animation.
JAY OLIVA: Originally I don’t think they wanted to do the black-suited Superman; they wanted to go to Bruce’s version from the animated series and then Alex Ross’ Kingdom Come. I was, like, “No, we have to do the black suit. And the mullet!” To me, that was the era of the black suit Superman. Then, of course, it goes into Superman Red and Superman Blue. I actually opened the door for them, because when I put the Back Suit through, Bruce said, “If you’re going to do Black Suit, you might as well do Red and Blue,” and he was right. So we came up with this thing where Black Suit Superman explodes and then the split turns into the Red and the Blue, so the narrative rides visually. Even if you know nothing about the characters you can connect the fact that, oh, Superman came back and, oh, he’s two different guys. And then of course that transition leads us back to the classic of the Bruce Timm version.

Superman 75 - TAS

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: And the image of Superman standing there, from The Animated Series, it made people go crazy at Comic-Con.
JAY OLIVA: You know what’s funny? This particular promotional image was something that they had done a long time ago, and James Tucker had actually drawn it and they used it for something — -James would probably know the story more than I do. But they had done it for some promo thing – I just remember seeing it on a Toon Zone magazine cover, and so on that presentation I told you about where they had all those landmarks, they had this image. I was like, “That’s the image!” So I thought in my mind when I was storyboarding, I’ll have Superman fly up, land into that shot, hold it, and then fly into the camera and use that as the next scene. I went to our archives and asked, “Do we have anything of the original artwork of this thing?” They didn’t. We couldn’t find any existing artwork of this piece, so we basically had to recreate this piece from images from the internet. I had to basically grab an image I found on Google search, I had to take Superman out of it, and figure out how he lands in that pose and come out of it. So this is all brand new, although technically it’s classic.

Superman 75 - tas crowd

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: What impressive is that the image is so sharp. And, of course, you were able to work in Lois, Perry and Jimmy.
JAY OLIVA: That was a way we were able to get the cast in there — Ma and Pa Kent and everyone else is there. That leads us to the Smallville water tower. To people who said, “Where is Smallville?", we got the tower in there, we put the logo on, and then you see the Alex Ross version come in…

VOICES FROM KRYPTON: Which is the only piece that’s not animated, besides the cape.
JAY OLIVA: Early on when we were making this, it eventually ended up being a lot bigger than it was originally conceived to be. As soon as Hans Zimmer got involved, it became its own kind of beast. It had a life of its own and went running amok, which is cool. I think what kind of got the ball rolling was this Alex Ross piece, because we were trying to figure out how to include him. I think I mentioned this at New York Comic-Con. People asked why don’t we do an animated version of Kingdom Come and we were saying it would be great, but it would take millions of dollars to do research and development, to try to figure out how to do the water color animation and everything, whether it’s 2D or 3D, or it looks like water color but it’s actually 3D. There’s a lot involved and it’s really hard to produce these films in the time we have. There’s no way to do it in the year or six months or three months we have for the development before we actually have to start. So when we knew we wanted to do this Alex Ross thing, we were thinking, “Why don’t we just take the Alex Ross artwork and then just scale it up?” So it’s a little bit of a cheat, and that was the original idea, so as soon as I start story boarding, I realized oh wait a minute, in the actual panel that they wanted to use, Superman is cut off, and the rest of the characters are cut off. How are we going to slide this, because we need him to fly into frame or something? A few ideas were thrown out, like maybe we get somebody to finish the artwork, that can do Alex Ross style, and then my character designer Dusty Abel said, “Why don’t we just ask Alex?” And we’re, like, “You have Alex’s number?” And Dusty said, “Sure, I’ll give him a call!

Superman 75 - Alex Ross

Remember, at this point we have no budget, so it’s not like we can call Alex and say, “Hey Alex, we’re going to pay you thousands of dollars to finish this image.” That’s why we tried to do everything on the cheap, because these shorts have very small budgets. If you think about it, these shorts aren’t really selling anything. It’s not like you’re going to pay a dollar for this, it’s really just a short to celebrate Superman – there’s no other use for it – and so Dusty calls Alex and Alex said he would love to. He said, “Give me some time, let me know when you need it,” and he painted this image. So we had this high-res image of this artwork – it’s a gigantic piece, and he actually painted the rest of this big metallic dude, I don’t know who the other characters are, but he finished the whole thing out. And he gave it to us in layers so we could scale it up, and do whatever we needed to. He knew we would animate the cape, and his hair’s got a little bit of animation. But for the most part it’s Alex Ross’ art. Here was one guy who was interested in collaborating with us, and that’s why when Hans and Zack got involved, that kind of helped; all these people started coming out to help, and to do whatever they could for this project.

The rest of this article is HERE.
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