When the original Teen Titans first premiered in 2003, there was much weeping and gnashing of teeth from the hardcore Bruce Timm advocates, who felt the anime-infused style and J-Pop theme song infantilized the much-praised maturity of the ongoing DC animated universe. When Cartoon Network swapped out the original series with the far more goofy and kid friendly Teen Titans Go! in 2013, there was yet again weeping and gnashing of teeth, this time from OG TT fans, furious their precious show had been “ruined.”
That is is a shame, because if those ardent, long time fans could bring themselves to go see Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, they’d see one of the best films from the DC brand in decades. A loving tribute to the long-stretching lore of DC Comics, TTG!TTM also manages to be subversive in a way Deadpool only wishes it could be; throwing out every dark and raunchy joke it can to an audience full of children eager to ask their parents questions on the ride home. But if you need a little more encouragement to risk being a childless adult getting glares during the trailer for Goosebumps 2, take a peek at some of the Easter Eggs and in-joke you’ll find in Teen Titans Go! To The Movies.
30 THE FLIPPING PAGES
Right from the start (well, after the fun #thelatebatsby short intended to reboot DC Superhero Girls), this movie reminds you you’re getting a slightly off-kilter superhero story. After an animated version of the DCEU opening image, we see some flipping comic book pages reminiscent of another company’s famous movie openers.
That’s right, Teen Titans Go! To The Movies combined Wolfman and Marvel by paying tribute to the influential Wolfman/Perez run of Teen Titans while clearly emulating the early Marvel Studios motif of the flipping comic book pages. However, we soon realize this isn’t some flashy title card, but an actual comic book being thumbed through by a seagull sitting outside the Titans' Tower.
29 SEE WHAT THEY HAVE IN STORE
Given that animation offers the creator far more control over the image as a whole, animators often take the opportunity to fill their frames with little background jokes and small moments of winking humor. Shows ranging from Rocket Power to, most famously, The Simpsons have taught viewers to be mindful of what little signs or scene might be just in the corner of their eye.
The same is true for Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, where an epic battle with the villainous Balloon Man gives the animators a chance to travel through the fictional Jump City and, in doing so, design the stores that fill the streets. Keep your eyes peeled for great store names like Apoko-lips and Lashes, as well as Sinsterolls and Buns.
28 BALLOON MAN
One couldn’t blame you for thinking Balloon Man was some innocuous villain cooked up for the opening scene of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies; some kaiju-like placeholder for a team not well-known for their villains, beyond the iconic Slade set to be introduced later in the film.
Yet, believe it or not, Balloon Man is only a few years younger than the Teen Titans themselves. Whereas the Titans first appeared in The Brave and the Bold #54 in 1964, Balloon Man first squared off against the Metal Men in Metal Men #24. Though he perished in that comic, Balloon Man did have a second slight moment in the sun, being very loosely adapted for an episode of Gotham.
27 WHAT A BUNCH OF…
With the 2003 debut of Teen Titans, DC took a slew of characters unknown beyond the confines of the comic book page and turned them into a generation’s introduction to superheroes in the form of lovable goofs who weren’t quite as brooding as their bigger counterparts.
A decade later, Marvel managed to pull off a similar feat on a much larger scale, making the Guardians of the Galaxy a billion dollar batch of lovable goofs. Considering both teams’ dysfunctional, squabbling ways, as well as their penchant for dancing rather than fighting, it can’t be terribly surprising that Balloon Man mistook the Teen Titans for the planet-hopping outlaw heroes.
26 IT’S TIME TO PLAY THE MUSIC
When the Teen Titans need to introduce themselves to their new nemesis, they do so in the form of a rap, written by Lil Yachty. The song calls to mind the original rap intro to Aqua Teen Hunger Force, where each character had a verse to explain their powers to the audience.
Much like Meatwad, Beast Boy takes his opportunity to explain his ability to transform into “an animal… yes, any animal.” Of course, eagle-eyed viewers might have noticed that he’s not limited by the zoological. In fact, for a moment, Beast Boy actually transforms himself into Animal, the erratic drummer from The Muppet Show.
25 NICOLAS CAGE
If you don’t know Nicolas Cage beyond the memes, here’s a fun fact for ya: Dude loves Superman! He might just love the Man of Steel more than anyone else. You doubt it? He named his son Kal-El. Checkmate. Ever since he was cast in the unjustly canceled Tim Burton project Superman Lives, Cage has fiercely fought to play the caped hero, and now he finally has.
It's worth noting, however, that even Teen Titans Go! To The Movies couldn’t help but acknowledge the high pedigree of actor that got to embody the Man of Steel. After Superman is knocked down, Robin exclaims that you can’t hit Superman, because he’s a “National Treasure,” which is also the title of a Disney franchise Cage headlined.
24 GREEN LANTERN
It was never a good year to be the 2011 Green Lantern movie, but 2018 has been particularly unmerciful in its ridiculing of the failed franchise-starter. First Deadpool 2 uses its post-credits scene to erase the film from existence, then Teen Titans Go! To The Movies takes a swing at it using GL himself.
Ok, sure, it’s John Stewart expressing disappointment in the Hal Jordan joint, but nevertheless, the barb must still sting. When the Teen Titans ask Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern if they have their own movies, the first two happily answer in the affirmative, while Stewart just says “There was a Green Lantern movie… but we don’t… we don’t talk about that.”
Sure, catching a blatant reference to a failed film is easy, and the discerning listener wouldn’t have a hard time catching the voice of Oscar winner Nicolas Cage as the red-caped Son of Krypton. But there was a more subtle reference to Superman lore slipped into that same scene that only ardent fans might have found.
While Superman is explaining to the Titans that they’re not real heroes, he’s struck in the face with a rubber chicken and sighs “Somebody save me.” While this may simply seem like a play on the idea of Superman needing saving, “Somebody Save Me” was also the chorus of the theme song to the young Superman series Smallville.
22 CHALLENGERS OF THE UNKNOWN
Being a parent is tough. Your kid hears some random tossed-out line or obscure character in a movie and just won’t let it go. So you push past all the T-Rex dolls in Toys R Us trying to find a Mr. DNA figure. You beg some Target employee to find a Lego set of a shawarma restaurant. You do what you can to make them happy.
So let’s have a moment of silence for all the parents currently scouring comic book stores and toy shops to try and find anything related to the Challengers of the Unknown, the breakout stars of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies. Seemingly forgotten after their 1957 debut, the obscure team becomes the film's best running gag.
21 BATMAN ’89
The modern superhero film as we know it today owes a massive debt to Tim Burton’s original Batman film. Before that, the goal was to emulate the books as much as possible, playing to the kids in the crowd. The good, the bad and the gritty of today’s superhero-centric cinema was all born when Batman took to the screen in 1989.
So it makes sense that Teen Titans Go! To The Movies would pay tribute to the film that started it all. During the “trailers” scene, the “Coming Next Summer” text uses the same font from the Burton Batman posters. Later, the Batmobile from the iconic film chases down the Titans in their golf cart and a variation of the original Danny Elfman score can be heard.
20 BATMAN: THE ANIMATED SERIES
While Teen Titans Go! To The Movies pays tribute to its cinematic predecessors, it’s also sure to acknowledge its animated forefathers. First, during the battle with Balloon Man, a billboard displays the iconic silhouette of Batman atop a building from the opening of the Bruce Timm Batman: The Animated Series.
Later when the Titans are watching trailers, waiting to hear if Robin gets a movie, the trailer we ultimately discover is for the Utility Belt movie very specifically emulates the animation style of Batman: The Animated Series. While some may scoff at the Cal-Arts influence in today’s animation, give TTG!TTM credit for recognizing what came before.
19 OBSCURE SUPERHEROES
The crux of the film revolves around Robin’s disappointment at not getting his own movie. Feeling ignored at first, Robin confronts producer Jade Wilson about why he hasn’t gotten his own film, wherein she tells him it's because he’s too obscure a hero to merit one, making him the laughing stock of the assembled theatre of heroes.
Three heroes are highlighted in a group shot laughing at Robin’s “obscurity” -- Steel, Jonah Hex and Captain Marv… whoops, we mean Shazam. Obviously, the joke here is that these three far more obscure heroes have all gotten their own solo films, the first two being the disastrous Steel in 1997 and Jonah Hex in 2010.
18 MOVIE POSTERS
Fake movie posters have always been an easy way for filmmakers to slip in obscure references and in-jokes. Given Teen Titans Go! To The Movies’ industry focused plot, the walls of the Warner Bros. lot are covered in posters for fake films ranging from Batman vs. Joker: Yawn of Justice to Aqua-Manatee.
The highlight of the gag posters, however, has to be Detective Chimp and the Case of the Missing Mustache. A Detective Chimp movie on its own is a funny idea, but the inclusion of the Superman logo as the “S” in mustache, alluding to the poorly CGI’d ‘stache in the disastrous Justice League, just puts this primate poster over the top.
17 RAINBOW RAIDER
Teen Titans Go! To The Movies is hardly the first piece of work to poke fun at some of DC’s lamer villains. The Robot Chicken DC Comics Specials have been doing it for years, and The Lego Batman Movie introduced inane adversaries like Polka Dot Man and Orca to a new generation of confounded comic book fans.
When the Titans are discussing the need for a cool villain like Lex Luthor, Starfire declares the nemesis of The Flash to be Rainbow Raider, fearsome for his ability to ride on rainbows. While the groan-inducingly named Roy G. Bivolo has indeed been a member of the Flash’s rogues gallery since 1980, its unlikely any Earthling would declare him a notable villain.
Inarguably an easy joke for Teen Titans Go! To The Movies to make, considering the history of the two characters, it was still surprising to hear a kids’ film reference an R-Rated character in their trailer. When the team first encounters Slade, they mistake him for Marvel’s Deadpool, much to Slade’s chagrin.
Of course, the joke is two-fold. Not only is Slade right in suggesting people should mistake Deadpool for him, as the character’s design was so reminiscent of Deathstroke that his civilian name, Wade Wilson, is a direct tribute to Slade Wilson; but it also nods to the fact that the characters can say a name with “dead” in it, but were forbidden, since the original series, from referring to Slade as Deathstroke.
15 THE LION KING
Perhaps the most gloriously absurd joke in the entire film, Robin’s dream sequence, announced to the entire audience that this wasn’t going to be some standard superhero ordeal. The Boy Wonder, dreaming about his ascendancy to superheroism, envisions a sun rising up above Gotham City while a familiar song kicks in.
In a tribute to The Lion King, DC’s superheroes all begin to congregate around a tall building. Green Lanterns leap out of the tall grass like gazelle. Batman hoists a baby Robin up into the air a la Rafiki. Teen Titans Go! To The Movies heard your Disney’s Frozen joke, Deadpool 2, and they just one-upped you.
14 YOUNG JUSTICE
While some fans now lambast Teen Titans Go! for “replacing” their beloved Teen Titans, they soon got a similarly designed show about angsty young superheroes to fill the void in the form of Young Justice. Though only lasting two seasons, and not having the same resonance as the original Titans series, fans were still heartbroken when the series was cancelled, especially with TTG debuting the next year.
Teen Titans Go! To The Movies takes one nice jab at those who wrongly feel their show “replaced” Young Justice. When presenting Robin with a VHS tape of a homemade “Robin: The Movie” the team assembled, a crossed out label shows the film was “taped over” the Young Justice series.
13 MICHAEL BOLTON
Sure, some of the cameos in Teen Titans Go! To The Movies make sense. The stacked voice cast is full of kid favorites and nerd icons. Yet, nobody could have expected Michael Bolton to pop up as a colorful animated tiger during the film’s insanely catchy “Upbeat Inspirational Song About Life.”
Of course, those who hoped Bolton could return to the Titan-verse might have been disappointed/scarred for life when the Titans mow down our singing friend in their car. Upon exiting and seeing the motionless body on the road, Cyborg yells “I think his dad’s a cop. Run!” and the team flees... in a movie aimed at kids! Bravo.
Sometimes a kids’ film inserts jokes intended just for the parents, a la Shrek’s “compensating for something” tower gag. Other times the dadaist humor of today’s youth flies right over parents’ heads, leaving them scrambling to understand if that joke was secretly dirty. But every once in a while a line will get a parent’s laugh, followed by a “Wait, do kids know this?”
When the Teen Titans enter the Warner Bros. lot, Starfire points to the iconic water tower and states “That is where the Animaniacs live!” Of course, those of a certain age remember the Spielberg produced cartoon, but are those characters still relevant to today’s kids? Or was that just a fun tip of the hat to WB’s previous animated icons?
11 STAN LEE
Teen Titans Go! To The Movies’ most obvious Easter Egg is a tribute to the most obvious Easter Egg in modern cinema: The Stan Lee Cameo. While not the first creative force to appear as a cameo in films (Alfred Hitchcock and M. Night Shyamalan have done so to various degrees of success), Lee’s appearances in Marvel films are sometimes as anticipated as the films themselves.
So for Teen Titans Go! To The Movies to get the man himself to make his first appearance in a DC movie is a bold move, especially in a moment that acknowledges his hunger for the spotlight. They even get Stan the Man to utter an iconic “Excelsior!” What more could you ask for?
Here’s a joke that apparently almost wound up on the cutting room floor. While the “Our moms are named Martha” moment has gone down as one of the silliest in superhero cinema history, there was still apparently hesitance on the part of WB to poke fun at it in one of their own films.
Thankfully, the creative team won out, and ultimately the joke is a more loving tribute than some of the other “homages” have been. In this case, the Titans watch the filming of a fight between Batman and Superman, where the revelation that “My mommy’s name is Martha too” results in a sobbing hug, until the two realize their fathers have different names, and go back to fighting.
9 COMIC BOOK COVERS
In Teen Titans Go! To The Movies, Robin has high hopes for his cinematic debut. He explains these hopes in the kind of gratingly catchy song that’s sure to haunt parents’ stereos for months to come.
But at least, while they resigned themselves to the fact that they’d soon know every lyric to the song, they could enjoy some fun visual gags during the number. When Robin is imagining himself in action poses, we see him recreating the covers to The Dark Knight Returns, Action Comics #1 and even Amazing Fantasy #15. Keep an eye out for the gang of mutants from DKR during that scene as well.
8 DICK’S BACKSIDE
While Teen Titans Go! To The Movies spends most of its time tackling the cinematic side of the superhero world, it pays subtle tribute to one of the more titillating aspects of the comic book world: Dick Grayson’s backside.
If you’ve spent any time googling this phenomenon, you likely know about the firestorm around the playful objectification of Dick Grayson and his shapely behind. There are Tumblrs devoted to it, articles composed about it, and even a statue to it. In “My Superhero Movie,” Robin even makes a stray comment to his “booty up in 3-D,” a tip of the hat to the popular comic book counterpart and his prominent feature.
7 BACK TO THE FUTURE
Few films have survived the 1980s with such earned reverence as Back to the Future. While other iconic films of the era, like The Goonies or Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure are lost on today’s kids, Back to the Future still holds up. Perhaps that is why Teen Titans Go! To The Movies devotes such time to paying tribute during its Time Cycle sequences.
Not only does the film play the classic score during one sequence, and the hit Huey Lewis song later, but it even makes a grim reference to the source of the Delorean power. When the Titans discover their vehicles are out of juice, Raven asks where they’re going to find Libyan fighters at this time of day.
6 SUPERMAN THE MOVIE
It is the grandaddy of all comic book movies; the one that made us believe a man can fly. The Christopher Reeve Superman films may not capture the imagination of today’s kids the way they did previous generations, but Teen Titans Go! To The Movies does its best to pay tribute to the magic, and the absurdity, of that original incarnation.
When the Titans arrive on Krypton, we see that Jor-El is modeled after, and initially made to sound like, Marlon Brando, who played the role in the original film. Later, when Cyborg pretends to be Lois Lane to distract Superman, he says he needs to be saved from “Gene Hackman’s real estate scheme,” a reference to Hackman’s role as Luthor and the absurd plot he hatched in the first film.
5 HEROES IN A HALF SHELL
Teen Titans Go! To The Movies introduces the idea that, in order to deserve their own movie, the Titans would have to prevent any other superheroes from existing. Thankfully, this is only played of as a gag and not some prolonged JLA: World Without Grown-Ups scenario, but the sequence does yield some clever bits.
In addition to the rather grim dispatching of baby Aquaman, we also see the Titans intervene in the origin of some unexpected heroes. After stopping the explosion of Krypton and stealing Wonder Woman’s lasso, we see the Titans stop four turtles from walking into toxic waste, a tip of the hat to the origin of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
4 THE DARK KNIGHT
There’s no avoiding The Dark Knight. Now, in the 10th anniversary of its release, the film has as much prominence in our cultural conversation as ever before, with countless comic book movies trying to crack the secret to its success.
While little in the colorful, silly world of Teen Titans Go! To The Movies resembles the famously gritty film, they do throw a quick reference to one of the film’s most iconic scenes. When Slade tells Robin “You and I are destined to do this forever,” its a tribute to the exchange between Batman and his arch-nemesis The Joker in their final scene from the 2008 film.
3 SHIA LABEOUF
Shia LeBeouf has had it rough, and it feels bad to punch down at somebody you know is struggling. His avant-garde “artistry” is often-times little more than pretentious, and his subsequent dismissal of his past work has made him some degree of pariah within the entertainment industry. So while it feels bad to punch down… gosh darn it, he’s so punchable.
At least, that’s what the Titans seem to think. On the set of the Teen Titans movie, they see who they think is Slade and begin to pummel him mercilessly. When the actor removes his helmet and reveals he’s not the villain, but rather actor Shia LaBeouf playing the role, the Titans take a moment to realize their error, and then go back to beating.
2 EVIL TOYS
Though we don’t spend nearly as much time at the Titans’ Tower in Teen Titans Go! To The Movies as we do in a normal TTG episode, we still get glimpses of the domicile, especially after its destruction. The film takes time to pan over the rubble, and throw some fun little nods into even these somber scenes.
The only DC villains who get any time to shine in this film are Slade and Balloon Man, but other villains get the briefest of cameos in the form of decor. Darkseid, for example, appears as a plush toy beside the Titans’ couch, while a pillow we pan past bears the visage of the villainous Bane, as depicted in Christopher Nolan’s The Dark Knight Rises.
1 THE OG TT
Surely you’ve heard about this by now. After being teased in an episode of Teen Titans Go! that went full meta, we finally have acknowledgement that the original Teen Titans (from the 2003 series) have possibly found a way “back.”
Tara Strong, the voice of Raven, told us as much when she said that if Teen Titans Go! To The Movies did well enough, they’d pursue a sixth season of the original series. Yet here, we see them in the hand-drawn flesh, that original line-up ready to have the bad guys on the run once again. So what are you waiting for? Give TTG!TTM all your money and get us that sixth season, guys! Skyscraper ain’t gonna get us new episodes of anything!