Warner Home Video‘s latest DC Comics-based straight-to-home release animated feature is “Justice League vs. Teen Titans,” which was in the spotlight Saturday afternoon — the same weekend another face-off between DC icons, “Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice,” is reigning at the box office — at WonderCon in Los Angeles. And it was a considerable spotlight — the screening and presentation was held at the Microsoft Theater, a 7,100-seat venue hosting the show’s biggest events.
On the panel: producer James Tucker, director Sam Liu, screenwriter Bryan Q. Miller, character designer Phil Bourassa and voice actors Stuart Allan (Damian Wayne), Brandon Soo Hoo (Beast Boy), Jake T. Austin (Blue Beetle), Kari Wahlgren (Starfire), Christopher Gorham (The Flash), Jerry O’Connell (Superman) and Jason O’Mara (Batman).
Though the film is titled “Justice League vs. Teen Titans,” it’s ultimately more of a team-up film — and much more heavily focused on the Teen Titans (in this feature, Raven, Starfire, Beast Boy and Blue Beetle), who are making their debut in the shared continuity of DC’s current animated features. The Teen Titans are introduced when Batman and Nightwing send the still-unruly Robin, Damian Wayne, to join the team for further training, kicking off a story that delves deep into Raven’s origin story and her struggle with her demon father, Trigon (voiced by Marvel Television’s Punisher, Jon Bernthal).
“We went to the old ‘Teen Titans’ TV show,” Tucker said of the source material that inspired the feature. “It kind of set up the character relationships. Then it was just messing around with them to fit our continuity. But it’s hard to top that show.”
“The Titans will hopefully have their own movie after this,” Tucker added. “It was about time to bring [the Titans] out and see them in a different light.”
Miller mentioned that even though some parts of the film are a bit dark, there’s still deliberately fun elements to it. “It’s nice to see that in a superhero movie every now and then,” the writer said.
“It’s getting harder for me to find characters that I haven’t had a crack at,” Bourassa said of the characters he got to design for the first time in “Justice League vs. Teen Titans.” “Usually when we find those characters, they’re really obscure. In this case, I had never gotten a shot at Raven or Starfire, so it was a great opportunity to do my rendition of two iconic and beloved characters from the [DC Universe].”
Panel moderator Tiffany Smith asked how a scene centered around a “Dance Dance Revolution”-esque game ended up in the feature. Miller replied that years ago he wrote a “Teen Titans” comic book where Kid Devil and Blue Beetle are seen playing the game in one panel. “This is a little throwback to that one panel that warranted some more attention,” Miller answered. “Plus, it’s Damian dancing. Who knew?”
O’Connell addressed his prep work for voicing Superman in “Justice League vs. Teen Titans.” “You do hit the gym a little bit, because I can’t have Jason be bigger than me in the room,” O’Connell answered.
Austin, already a known voice actor for his work on “Go, Diego, Go,” talked making his DC debut. “It’s different than the Justice League I remember, because it’s funny,” Austin said. “There are moments you can laugh at, moments that are serious and suspenseful — I think this one has a great balance of everything.”
Soo Hoo (born in 1995) said the 2003-2006 “Teen Titans” cartoon was his favorite from childhood. Wahlgren talked seeing Starfire in motion. “It’s funny when you see it back animated — ‘Wow, I’m really hot!’ You want to do it justice, and create someone powerful yet feminine. I think it turned out really well.”
O’Mara and Allan both shared their thoughts on how “Justice League vs. Teen Titans” evolves Batman and Damian’s relationship. O’Mara said he thought it was a smart character decision for Batman to turn Damian over to the Titans, “So he could learn from doing, as opposed to being told what to do. I think that went a long way in their relationship. I think Damian turned a corner.” “As we see in the beginning of Damian’s journey, he was primarily trying to learn good morals,” Allan added. “For the third and fourth [features], it’s about building trust.”
Will there be more Teen Titans in DC’s animated features? “Buy the DVD and the Blu-ray next week, and we’ll see,” Tucker said. “I have no information on that — that’s all I can say.”
Early in the fan Q&A, O’Mara addressed his multiple times voicing Batman. “It’s always an honor and a privilege. I never ever take it for granted.” O’Connell said his voice mail message is O’Mara as Batman: “It’s really cool. It really freaks people out.”
The choice of using Blue Beetle to the Titans lineup — a change from the “Teen Titans” animated series — was discussed. “A) I love Blue Beetle, and B) Cyborg was taken, so we had a slot,” Tucker said. “Everything else was, ‘Who do we want to see?” Shake it up, but be familiar, which is what we strive for.”
The last fan question asked the panelists for insight on the decision to have Starfire as the leader of the Teen Titans in the feature. “Can we agree that it’s really cool that Starfire is the leader? I thought that was awesome,” Tucker said. “We’ve thought about what happened for her to get that role, so stay tuned.”
“Justice League vs. Teen Titans” will be available via digital download on March 29, and on DVD and Blu-ray on April 12.