Bruce Timm Interview at NYCC 2012

At New York Comic Con, I was able to sit down with Producer Bruce Timm and Casting Director Andrea Romano to discuss Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 and 2, and the enduring legacy of Batman: The Animated Series.

Bruce Timm and his team meet every week with people from Warner Home Video, DC Comics and Warner Brothers Animation in order to discuss everything that’s in production and what they might want to put into production. The idea of doing an adaptation of Batman: The Dark Knight returns was first brought up when DC began producing animated movies. There was some objection to it at the time, and they did other projects. The idea didn’t come up again until a couple of years ago, in between Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight’s release and the start of production on The Dark Knight Rises. There was concern that Christopher wanted to use The Dark Knight Returns for The Dark Knight Rises, so they had to again, not move forward with an animated Dark Knight Returns movie. Later on, once The Dark Knight Rises was in production, DC said it was different enough from The Dark Knight Returns to do an adaptation. “I jumped on it,” said Bruce Timm.

According to Bruce, it’s tricky finding the right project to pitch. “Sometimes we’ll have a favorite Batman comic that we loved as a kid or a teenager, and we’ll throw the idea out, but not all of those make good movies.” He went on to explain that with the realities of the marketplace is that even with the tight budget they work with, the movies still cost X millions of dollars. “The Home Video people want a sure thing. That means you’re going to get a lot of Batman movies, a lot of Superman movies, a lot of Justice League movies. I’m hoping that something happens along the way that allows us to broaden our horizons and lets us do a Nightwing movie or a Batgirl movie, but what something might be, I don’t know,” explained Bruce. I asked him, if Arrow continues to be popular, will we see a Green Arrow animated movie? “Who knows? Maybe. Possibly. We’ll see.” was his response. That sounds hopeful to me, Arrow fans.

When asked if he was concerned bringing the politics of the comic to the film version of The Dark Knight Returns, Bruce said, “Fortunately for me, my takeaway from reading the original in terms of political mind view is that Frank Miller seems to hate everybody. You know? It’s not that he hates liberals or he hates conservatives.”

Bruce caught himself and said, “I shouldn’t have said that. Frank doesn’t hate everybody. I don’t think Frank hates anybody.”

(Just kidding, Frank)
In talking about the actual script for The Dark Knight Returns, Bruce Timm said that screenwriter Bob Goodman hit all the high points in his outline. After Bob turned in his first draft, Bruce made notes about important dialogue from the book that needed to be in the script, or an important moment that needed to be put in. “It’s a little back and forth, but it’s a complicated process,” said Bruce.
The art direction is also something that was labored over. “We wanted to make it as much like the source material as possible,but knowing we weren’t going to make it look exactly like the comic…It’s always a trick to find what are the most iconic looking things about the original art that makes it look like Frank Miller art and yet at the same time can also be translated into animation.” Bruce commented. They referred to the comic on every background, vehicle, location and color schemes. Their goal was to make it look like the original comic as much as possible. Finding an art style that worked was difficult. It was something they struggled with for weeks. It had to be true to the original, but still able to be animated. They even went back to the original model sheets from the Batman: The Animated Series episode that dealt with The Dark Knight Returns, but didn’t get any help from there. “They were too simplified.” said Bruce. “We put our nose to the grindstone, sweat more bullets and eventually came up with what we came up with.”
Our discussion turned to Batman: The Animated Series. When I asked if he had a favorite episode, he said, “No. Too many. I couldn’t narrow it down.” When I followed that up with if there was an episode he didn’t like or that he was really unhappy with, he responded similarly: “Oh, I have tons that I don’t like. Are you kidding me? Again, I couldn’t narrow it down either. Which one’s the worst? There’s too many.” When asked who his favorite Batman composer was, Bruce said “That’s like asking me which one of my kids I love best.” Naturally, I immediately followed up with, “Which one of your kids do you love best?” Without missing a beat, Bruce said, “My daughter.” and then went on to say, “That’s an easy one, because I only have one.”
Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 1 is available now. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 will be released on January 29, 2013.
Interview by Billy Henehan.