During the recent PaleyFest event, excited superhero fans poured into the Paley Center For Media’s Beverly Hills campus to watch the premiere of DC Entertainment and Warner Bros. Animation’s latest animated film “Justice League: Throne Of Atlantis.” However, the most enthusiastic attendees were not in line for the main theatre, but were instead on the Paley Center’s red carpet.
“I get to talk about my work, I get to talk about comic books, I get to talk about Aquaman!” laughed “Throne Of Atlantis” writer Heath Corson, speaking with Comic Book Resources as he bounced on the balls of his feet and watched fans file by. “It’s my third [film] in a year, I’m living a dream!”
The writer of DC and Warner Bros.’ animated films “Batman: Assault On Arkham” and “Justice League: War,” the film which precedes “Throne Of Atlantis,” Corson stated that it takes about a year to write, animate and produce the films. Often the writer has no idea what changes are made on the animation side until the film is ready for release.
“I think some of the Mera stuff that you’re going to see in this with her powers, with the hard water, the animators and storyboard guys came up with great stuff for that,” Corson said. “I mean, I beat everything out in the script, but naturally if something doesn’t work and all — the directors, both Jay [Oliva] and Ethan [Spaulding] are so good with action. So it’s always in really good hands. I’m always happy to get trumped!”
Corson was not the only one enthusiastic for the film’s January 27 Blu-Ray/DVD release. Voice director Andrea Romano, who has worked on most of the DC/Warner Brothers animated films to date, told CBR that she enjoyed all the films — especially “Throne of Atlantis.”
“We hadn’t done a real Aquaman-centric piece,” said Romano. “It made me very happy and fans had mentioned at various events, Comic Con and things, would say, ‘When are we going to get an Aquaman story?’ I was so very happy but I couldn’t tell them at the time because it wasn’t in the world. ‘It’s coming! It’s coming!'”
Loosely based on writer and DC Comics Chief Creative Officer Geoff Johns’ comic book story of the same name, “Throne Of Atlantis” serves as an origin for the animated universe’s Aquaman/Arthur Curry (voiced by “Star Wars: The Clone Wars” actor Matt Lanter). With actor Jason O’Mara reprising his role as Batman, Shemar Moore as Cyborg, Sean Astin as Shazam, Jerry O’Connell as Superman, Sumalee Montano as Mera and animated universe newcomer Rosario Dawson as Wonder Woman, the film pits DC villains Ocean Master (Sam Witwer) and Black Manta (Harry Lenix) against the newly formed — and largely dysfunctional — Justice League. As the film veers sharply away from the Johns story, Corson explained that the aim with the DC animated movie was to give the viewer a “different experience” rather than a faithful adaptation the source material.
“We start with the comics,” said Corson. “They send me the comics and then they say, ‘What are we going to do, what can we take from this?’ We don’t want it to just be the comic book on film. In this, because we start with Arthur Curry and not with Aquaman, we’re automatically off the rails; we have a very different character because this is a guy who doesn’t know his Atlantean heritage.
“I think it’s really neat to have this guy who knows he’s different but not know why, and then to be sort of walked through this whole world. It’s ‘Aquaman Begins!'” said Corson with a laugh. “He gets to comment on all the stuff we would comment on — he comments on his outfit, he comments on Atlantis, he comments on the relationships. It’s really sort of modern and different than having him be the sea king already. We have him right at the beginning and we’re going to see him get there.”
The upcoming live action DC films occupied both Corson and Romano’s minds — especially Romano, who stated that she was “delighted” at Warner Bros’ decision to have female director Michelle MacLaren helm the 2017 “Wonder Woman” movie.
“I think a female touch to that is really good, because again it can’t be all, fight fight fight fight fight! There has to be some emotional, feminine side to it so it appeals to a female audience,” said Romano. “Not to say there aren’t a lot of female viewers who like the action stuff — I do — but I also like some emotional content too. I think the female/female vibe there is very good.”.
Citing the 2009 “Wonder Woman” DC/Warner Brothers animated film as one of her favorite directing projects, Romano expressed her hope that the live action “Wonder Woman” film would open the door for more female-action vehicles. The animation veteran also addressed the fact that while animation voice directing is a very female-friendly field, there is a substantial and lamentable lack of female animation directors.
“I wish I had any control over that,” said Romano, adding that on “Wonder Woman” and many of the early 2000s Warner Bros. animated films, “We have someone like [animation director] Lauren Montgomery who completely understands it. She’s terrific and quite wonderful.”
On her end, Romano tries to ensure that the projects she works on cast and include women, and she brings up the lack of diversity to her male co-workers and producers during the production process whenever she believes it’s a problem.
“What I try to do as a voice director working with all these men is address the female side of it,” said Romano. “Say, ‘You know there is nothing in this for women! There are no female characters and we need some sort of emotional bottom to this that will appeal to the female audience.’ Not to say there aren’t sensitive men viewers, but I want to make sure there’s that as well.”
Romano, who started her career as an actress, also added that she’ll insert herself into all of her projects by voicing smaller background characters.
“In this movie I’m the ‘Elderly Atlantean Woman.’ There’s usually about one or two lines — in the ‘Animated Series’ I was the voice of the Batmobile!” Romano laughed. “There was one [part] that got cut that I loved so much. The name was ‘Tatted Up Boss Lady’ and she was this really tough woman in a prison. I loved it! It was two lines of dialogue and they cut it and made it a montage. So I’ll save that voice for another role.”
With two animated films yet to be released in 2015 — “Batman vs. Robin” and “Justice League: Gods And Monsters” — Corson and Romano chalked the enduring popularity and profitability of the animated films up to audience desire for more adult-oriented animation.
“I think the fact that we take them really seriously and then we add a little bit of humor in the storytelling, I think that’s really what’s different and what’s fun,” Corson said. “I think you don’t see a lot of sophisticated adult storytelling in animation and I think people miss it from the animated series and from ‘Justice League Unlimited,’ and I like to think we’re songs in the same key.”
“It’s always very exciting,” said Romano. “I’m very proud to be a part of this world and I’m delighted to be asked to work on them — so I hope to bring quality to each and every one of them!”
“Justice League: Throne Of Atlantis” is available for HD download; the Blu-Ray and DVD versions will release on January 27.
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