Fans of Wonder Woman have been waiting for a feature film starring the Amazon princess since Lynda Carter wore the bracelets and tiara on TV back in the late '70s. This February their wishes will come true, in animated form, with the release of the direct-to-DVD film "Wonder Woman," from DC Universe Original Animated Movies.
The film is the fourth in the company's direct-to-DVD line following the extremely successful "Superman/Doomsday," "Justice League: The New Frontier" and "Batman: Gotham Knight" features. "Wonder Woman" also boasts an all-star cast of voices including Keri Russell ("Mission: Impossible III") as Wonder Woman, Nathan Fillion ("Serenity") as Steve Trevor, Alfred Molina ("Spider-Man 2") as Ares, Rosario Dawson ("Sin City") as Artemis, Virginia Madsen ("Sideways") as Hippolyta and Oliver Platt ("Flatliners") as Hades.
Last month at Comic-Con International in San Diego, CBR News had the opportunity to speak with some of the people who are responsible for these fan-favorite films. On hand were Producer Bruce Timm, Executive Producer and Senior Vice President of Creative Affairs for DC Comics Gregory Noveck, Casting Director Andrea Romano and Director Laura Montgomery.
"Wonder Woman is in the very top tier of DC characters that we haven't over-explored yet in animation," explained Timm when asked why DC and Warner Brothers decided to make this their next direct-to-DVD animated film. "There was a lot of interest in the direct-to-DVD department in doing a Wonder Woman long-form, theatrical-type experience as early as we could, so this was our opportunity and we took it."
Unlike the first two films in the series, "Wonder Woman" is not based on any particular comic, but instead is an original story, similar to what was done with "Batman: Gotham Knight." "We cherry-picked from lots of different versions of Wonder Woman. It's not specifically based on any one version. It has a lot of Golden Age elements, it's a got a little of the Perez revamp, and it's even got some stuff from the Lynda Carter version. So it's an amalgamation of all the different things that we love about Wonder Woman," said Timm.
Noveck explained the company's decision to base "Wonder Woman" on an original story. "When we first started talking about doing the DC Universe animated movies, the idea was to adapt directly from source material and give the fans the stories that they've always wanted to see on the screen. We want to keep finding those stories from the comics that we can just adapt directly and we do have some of those in the hopper," said Noveck. "But what we tend to find, like with Wonder Woman for example, [is that] there are great scenes here that are very cinematic, she has great moments and a core story. But is there a core storyline that says, 'This is the movie that not only appeals to the fans but is also not so inside-baseball that it is going to alienate people.' Then you start saying, 'Lets change this and lets move that. Well why base it on that then? Lets just do an original story that has the spirit of it.'"
The film is a retelling of Wonder Woman's origin story, but it takes place in the present day. Timm explained that, due to time, when he was working on "Justice League," they had to do a revised, shorter version of her origin story. He said fans had complained that it didn't contain certain classic elements, such as her winning the contest to bear the Wonder Woman mantle on Paradise Island.
"This was our chance to do all of that. It's her origin story and her first mission into man's world and it has lots and lots of fighting," said Timm of the new movie.
Timm talked about the challenges of making a movie like this. "To a degree, we're always our own worst enemies. We set ourselves up with unrealistic expectations of what these movies should be. We always say, 'This isn't going to be a Wonder Woman movie, it's going to be the Wonder Woman movie,'" said Timm.
"We look at these movies and say, if we were going to do a live action Wonder Woman movie, only in 70 minutes, what would it be? So you want to include as many of the iconic parts of the original source material as possible," continued Timm. "Who's the arch-villain? Who are the supporting characters? You want to get all that stuff in it so when long time Wonder Woman fans go to see it they say, 'Oh, there's Steve Trevor!' Or 'Hey, there's Etta Candy and hey, there's Ares!' So that's the rough blueprint, these elements have to be in there. Then we have to come up with a story for those guys, and that's when it gets tough."
When asked if Wonder Woman's archenemy, The Cheetah, would be in the film, Timm paused and said, "I'm not saying," indicating that perhaps the feline villain may appear.
Romano, who has been working on DC animated projects since "The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians" in the mid '80s, talked about why she wanted to work on "Wonder Woman."
"I wanted so much to do a project that had a lot of women in it. So many of the DC properties are male orientated, and I wanted to do something that was a female driven show. That's what was lovely about this one, that it was different in that way," said Romano.
The film's director Laura Montgomery shared Romano's excitement to work on a film full of strong female characters. "It's great, I can't begin to say how awesome it is! I've always preferred working with female characters because they have a much wider range of emotions you can address," explained Montgomery. "If you have Batman crying in a corner, people are going to look at it a little odd. But with Wonder Woman, she can cry and that's okay, and she can kick ass and that's okay, too. So any female character for me is just better."
She went onto talk about the effect she hopes "Wonder Woman" will have on young girls who watch the DVD. "Basically we're showing Wonder Woman as a strong, independent, female force. If girls can see that and be inspired by that, in the same way that any little boy can watch Superman and be inspired, then that's awesome," said Montgomery.
Romano spoke about the casting of the film and how she found her leads. "The casting was kind of a no-brainer as far as Wonder Woman and Steve Trevor go. I had recently seen "Waitress" with Kerri Russell and Nathan Fillion and thought that they had some nice chemistry there." Romano also talked about the pressure she feels to cast known actors in these roles. "The guys who sign my checks tell me I have to bring in celebrities," laughed the casting director.
Noveck talked about the goal of DC Universe Animated Movies. "We want to make really good movies with really good stories and if anything, inspire the theatrical division who are working really hard on their end. If they're having a problem adapting some of these characters like Wonder Woman or Flash, we can say, here's a way in. Imagine what you could do with your resources."
Timm, who has been working on DC animated projects for almost twenty years, dating back to his work on the critically acclaimed "Batman: The Animated Series," said that after working on so many Batman and Superman projects, he would like to work on something with some of the other characters in the DCU. "Personally, I'm much more interested in getting deeper into the back-log of really odd-ball characters like The Question, The New Gods or Jonah Hex. Hopefully, this series will continue to sell well and we'll get there eventually."
Timm wouldn't say what projects that they are working on beyond '09's "Wonder Woman," but he did say that the next film is already in the storyboard stage and that there are three to four other scripts in active development.
When asked if the long rumored "Teen Titans: The Judas Contract" was still in development Timm had this to say. "It's on hold still, currently. We're still evaluating where the market place is and if there is enough interest and demand for it. We hope there will be, and we hope to get back to it someday."
Noveck had this to add about "Teen Titans: The Judas Contract." "Teen Titans is a tricky one. The script is in pretty good shape. The issue there is that we want to give the fans what they want. But every time we do research after a premiere of one of our films and we ask (the fans) what they want they always say, Superman and Batman. Teen Titans is always last on the list. So until the fans we ask put it at the top of the list, it'll be a harder one to do."
"Wonder Woman" is scheduled for release on DVD in February 2009.