Supervising Producer James Tucker, character designer Phil Bourassa and screenwriter Heath Corson visited with CBR TV’s Jonah Weiland in the world famous Tiki Room during New York Comic Con to discuss the original animated feature “Justice League: Throne of Atlantis.” The trio talk about their approach to underwater scenes, giving Aquaman a proper animated origin and whether they can make Aquaman cool in the eyes of viewers.
On what inspired the animated feature and the DC Comics it references:
James Tucker: The biggest complaint about [“Justice League:] War” was that it didn’t include Aquaman. And so we knew going into that, that we were going to save Aquaman for this movie. [We] couldn’t say that because we couldn’t announce this movie. So this movie is basically taking the Aquaman character and adapting “Throne of Atlantis” and making it more of a feature spot for Aquaman. That’s kind of how that came about. It has much more of a focus on Aquaman than if he would have been in “Justice League: War.” It’s kind of an origin story, which is where it veers away from [the comic book] “Throne” a little bit. And it’s a great Aquaman spotlight. One of our goals with these movies is to spotlight a feature character who might not get his own movie yet, but through using these movies as a springboard, maybe later on we can do an Aquaman [animated] movie. So that was the idea behind making the movie.
On writing Aquaman, and attempting to changing the popular opinion that Aquaman doesn’t measure up in terms of cool factor to his Justice League teammates:
Heath Corson: I started from the idea that Aquaman is cool. This is, like James said, “Aquaman Begins.” Aquaman before he knows anything about his life, about his other world. He is lost, and he just lost his father, he lives in the lighthouse, and has no idea who he is or his heritage. So we really started with a very human, very grounded character, who then gets thrust into this incredible world of Atlantis, but the emotional core of Aquaman was anger in this, which is really interesting for me, to start with this guy who had no idea who he was, and it allowed us to bring a character — I think a complete full character. Really do a robust, grounded version of this guy. A real young guy, real angry guy, real lost guy. And that was a really interesting way to start someone like Aquaman, so he’s not the king of the seas, he knows who he is, he’s already the greatest hero ever. So it was a really interesting place to start.
On designing the look of Aquaman to make him both interesting and relatable:
Phil Bourassa: Internally, we who are geeks, already know this guy is cool. Probably has not gotten the spotlight some of the more popular characters have gotten, but to me he’s a top tier character. He’s as badass as Superman, or Batman, or whatever character. I don’t know if there was pressure or this challenge, I definitely wanted to put my best foot forward and have it be as epic, and beautiful, from a design standpoint, as it could be. I mean he’s such an inherently badass character if you know — you know the core of the character that is just, essentially just putting it in the context that we knew he could shine in. And from a design standpoint I just think the Atlantean, the lore surrounding him, it’s exotic and other-worldly and you have that aspect, but there’s also that human side to him which grounds him, and makes him relatable. So it’s really great sort of range within you can play. He’s just an inherently cool and sexy character. He and Mera have to be one of the sexiest couples in all of comics. So we approach it from that standpoint, like he’s this badass as Superman, Batman, obviously in this iteration he’s just starting out. But you know, I think he could easily be the leader of the Justice League as he progresses, and we know as he matures he is like a king of Atlantis. He could just as easily step into the leadership role of the Justice League as much as Batman and Superman could. Not in this film obviously, because it’s an origin story, but he is such a powerful presence in the DC Universe.
On the design of the underwater world of Atlantis and deciding how things function underwater:
Tucker: Having worked on a few Justice League0related projects with Atlanteans we did — “Justice League Unlimited” had an Aquaman episode, “Brave and the Bold” had an Aquaman — the biggest question we had was, “Do they swim all the time, or do they walk underwater?” I think with this movie we kind of split the difference. Also, do they breath in the water, or are they under a dome?
Bourassa: There are different interpretations that are valid, so we have to decide upfront what we’re going with.
Tucker: So with this movie, since we decided they would indeed decide be breathing underwater, that meant, in animation that means the hair has to float, that means the hair has to be designed to look good floating. The fabric or clothes they are wearing have to float as well. There’s a lot of logistics to it that add a lot to the animation. And it can be a headache, but I think it was worth doing. I thought it looks really nice. The underwater stuff looks fantastic.
Corson: And then for me, I really got into the combat and how these characters would fight, and how the Atlanteans would have a different way of attacking. So I looked up a lot of predators in the water. I had to look up sharks, I looked up how sharks attacked, and how squids attacked. I was like, “What if they took those tactics and used them as combat.” So I could do that, and in the beginning there’s this big submarine attack, they sort of use a little bit of fish and underwater tactics in order to fight that way. And also how do we adapt that to the surface world, once they come on the surface world, how do they leverage their advantages against the surface dwellers.
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