They're lean, they're teen, one of them is green and they're making the scenethis July on Cartoon Network. They're "Teen Titans!" Comics2Film/CBR News spoke with Sam Register, Cartoon Network senior vicepresident of original animation who helped shepherd DC's pre-adult heroes toanimated life.
Register landed the development job at the network about a year and a halfago. "The first project that I wanted to do was the 'Teen Titans.' I pickedup the phone the day I got the job and I called Paul Levitz and said, 'I want todo Teen Titans,'" Register told C2F.
Soon work on the show was underway. The series would feature five heroespulled from the comic title's hey day: Cyborg, Starfire, Raven, Beast Boy (morecommonly known in the comics as Changeling) and, of course, Robin.
HEROESFOR THE NEW GENERATION
The net had already seen great success with "Justice League," butRegister found that show wasn't reaching an important segment of the network'saudience.
"'Justice League' is awesome and 'Samurai Jack' is awesome and we buy alot of anime shows that're great," Register said, "but those showsreally are directed more towards the nine to fourteen age groupand the six and seven and eight year olds, were not gelling with the 'JusticeLeague' and some of the more of the fanboy shows.
"The main mission was making a good superhero show for kids,"he continued. "Now if the fanboys happen to like the 'Teen Titans' also,that's great, but that was not our mission."
So what does it mean to design a show for younger viewers?
For example the characters chosen were all heroes who could be easilydescribed and understood. "One guy is a robot. Kids get that. One girl'sfrom space. Kids get that. One girl's basically a witch. Beast Boy is a shapechanger, can turn into all the different animals. That's cool and, again, a veryunderstandable power. Robin, just being the guy who used to work forBatman.
"We made up a fictional west coast city, it's San Francisco meets San Diegomeets Los Angeles," Register said, adding that the show may have influencedthe setting for Geoff Johns' upcoming relaunch of the comic. As with the classiccomics, the team inhabits their T-shaped headquarters. "That's somethingkids can totally understand. It's very iconic again."
BRING ON THE BAD GUYS
Similarly the villains all had to be very clear. No intergalactic Darkseid ornetherworld Trigon. "The villains stay local. The world is never inperil," Register said. Indeed such topics may seem scary in the modernworld anyway. "You can see that for real on CNN. So, on Cartoon Network wewanted to make the conflict more like your friendly neighborhood Teen Titans."
The primary villain, who is present in the first 26 episodes of theshow, is Slade (known in the comics as Deathstroke, The Terminator). "We stayed away from Deathstroke, The Terminator because it's bad forkids," Register said, laughing. "What's cool about him is, he's sort of the bad Batman."
Slade will confront the Titans directly in some episodes, where in otherhe'll dispatch a villain to fight them. Register named some of the othervillains.
"Dr. Light will show up to be defeated often, just like in the comics, Thunder andLightning. We brought Gizmo, Mammoth and Jinx [from the fearsome five] asteenage superheroes. We have them working for H.I.V.E."
The show will also feature new villains as well, like a rock monster named CinderBlock and a goofy magician named Mumbo.
Robin remains the team-leader and guide through the show. While fans know himas Batman's sidekick, plans are to keep the Caped Crusader out of Titan Tower.
"There was a question, when we were developing, 'What about Batman,' and'should the island be off Gotham City,'" Register told C2F. "The feeling was Robin needs to be hisown guy and the minute Batman shows up Robin becomes a sidekick all of a sudden,instead of a leader of the team."
Do does Robin live up to being a team leader?
"I think Robin is so bad-ass. This is definitely the coolest, animated Robinthat anyone's every seen. He's the one guy on theteam without any powers. He's just a guy who's smart and extremelywell-trained," Register said. "I think he's the most interesting character of the five."
And just who is under the mask? Is it Tim Drake? Dick Grayson? Jason Todd?
"He's just Robin. We never say which Robin he is. To be honest we've nevereven discussed it," Register said. "Again, that'sfor clarity for the kids. We're not doing alter egos. They walk around town intheir suits. They go to movies dressed as super heroes. Everyone sees them as super heroes. The go to a party as super heroes. They're super heroesfull time."
"We have an Aqualad episode. Wil Wheaton did the voice of Aqualad. We are looking, towards the second season, of introducing some other teenagesuperheroes from the DC Universe."
"Teen Titans" will not mimic "Justice League," with itscontinuing stories and event movies. All the episodes are stand-alone, half-hourstories. However, there is an over-reaching arc.
"The overall story arc isslowly introducing Slade," Register said. "We're revealing Sladeand Robin's trying to figure out what Slade's problem is and why he's after the Teen Titanswhich we reveal in the last two episodes [of season one]."
The adventure will continue in season two. "We have a really coolstory arc...a really great story that we're pulling from the oldPerez/Wolfman Titans for the second [thirteen episode block]. "
Another way that the show will be different is in the style of animation.Although Bruce Timm is a producer, the characters won't look or move like manyof the recent animated DC characters.
"When we decided to do Teen Titans the first thing Isaid is, 'Listen. I want a different looking show. We have a lot of the WarnerBros. house style. I want something that we haven't seen before,'" Registersaid.
Producer Glen Murakami has worked with Timm on many of those shows, but he'salso strongly influenced by anime.
"You'll see that the characters have been really pushed in differentdirections when they're animated. You'll see a very heavy anime influence, butit's not anime. It's sort of where east meets west. I call the new look 'Murakanime.'
"I think the backgrounds have a totally different look that you've never seenbefore, they're more edgy and scratchy and gritty. The characters definitely havethe influence of being under Bruce Timm, but when you see them animating and seethem reacting it's definitely a whole new show."
DC Comics has also influenced the direction of the show. Register reportsthat special care had to be taken to preserve the integrity of Robin, animportant DC Universe character.
Comic scribe Marv Wolfman, who made "TeenTitans" a must-read in the 1980s, penned an episode of the show.
"There was the 'Too Many Tridents' issue that Wolfman wrote,"Register said, recalling one of his favorite issues of the comics. "He kind of went backand did a new version of that same episode."
Register tells us he has read many supportive comments from Wolfman, and also gota good reaction from Geoff Johns when he recently viewed the completed episodes.
"Teen Titans" debuts July 19th at 9 p.m. on Cartoon Network.
as they discuss their plans for the all-new comic book.
"He's not Daffy Duck in the show. He's Duck Dodgers and in the credits we haveit saying Daffy Duck as Duck Dodgers." Other actors include Porky Pig asCadet and Marvin the Martian as Commander X2.
The show is a passion projectfor animators Spike Brandt and Tony Cervone, both of whom have experienceanimating Looney Tunes characters. The pair developed an animatic, on their own, for theconcept as a feature pitch. "We saw it and it blew us away. We went and green lit 13episodes immediately which has now been extended to 26," Register told us.
"It's awesome. It's classic Looney Tunes, Daffy Duck vs. Marvin the Martian.Your hero is an egotistical, maniac jerk and your villain is a diligent, hard-working good guy."
Theshow has also attracted some interesting voice talent. Tia Carrera ("RelicHunter") is playing the Martian queen. Michael Dorn ("Star Trek: TheNext Generation") plays the Martianrobots.
John O'Hurley (best known as J. Peterman on"Seinfeld") plays Star Johnson the guy thatshould be the hero of the cartoon. "The true hero of Earth is completelyignored because they all think Daffy's great even though Daffy is kind of ajerk."
The show will also feature some high-tech effects, including CGI space shipsand gadgets, all part of the plan to make a comedic show that is also truly anadventure show.
"We said, let's make a Looney Tunes show that is funny, but lets make the ships and theaction as cool as possible. So we kind of put those two things together and wethink it works really well," Register said.
"Duck Dodgers" also features a rockin' opening theme composed bythe Flaming Lips and performed by Tom Jones.
IN DRAKEST NIGHT
One episode of "Duck Dodgers" is certain to be a can't-miss forcomic fans.
"We are doing one DC crossover episode," Register exclusivelyrevealed to C2F. At some point in the first season Daffy Duck will find HalJordan's Green Lantern costume.
Duck Dodgers hits the airwaves August 23rd.
MORE FUN TOONS
Debuting later this year on Cartoon Network is a project that can only bedescribed as an animation event.
Genndy Tartakovsky of "Dexter's Laboratory" and "SamuraiJack" fame, who Register describes as a "star director here at CartoonNetwork," is working on twenty three-minute animated shorts under the titleof "Star Wars: Clone Wars."
These short segments will bridge the "Episode II" and "EpisodeIII" feature films.
"It just looks awesome. We saw thefirst animation tests and it blew us away," Register enthused. "It's all the Jedis you saw for that one minute inside EpisodeII. A lot of those guys get their individual missions."
The shorts will air as between-show interstitials but Register said that fansshould not worry about having difficulty finding them.
"We're going to have a system for that. The first 10 are premiering in thefall. The second 10 are premiering in the spring. We will make it extremely easyfor people to find when they're on. We're not going to willy-nilly them."
Comic fans can also look forward to a certain Kryptonian hero getting his ownshow on the Network. No, not Superman. Not Supergirl. Not even Superboy.
It's noneother than Superboy's dog Krypto who is poised to take the spotlight. AlanBurnett of "Batman: The Animated Series" fame is currently scriptingthe venture.
One final project of note: while it's not based on a comic book, fans may also get to see a new showfrom comic pros Joe Kelly, Duncan Rouleau, Joe Casey and Steven T. Seagle, knowncollectively as Man OfAction.
"They have pitched an original show that we are doing an animatic oncalled 'Ben 10,'" Register tells us. "It's basically 'Shazam' meets 'Dial H for Hero.' It'sabout a kid who can turn into one of 10 superheroes and he never knows who he'sgonna get. It's kick ass."
Also, Register said he is in talks with Paul Dini, Mark Waid and Andrew Cosby for newshows in the coming years.