Warner Home Entertainment’s latest DC Comics-based animated feature “Batman vs. Robin” debuted Friday evening at WonderCon 2015, and the cast and creative team addressed fans immediately afterwards at the Anaheim Convention Center arena.
On the panel: producer James Tucker, director Jay Oliva, screenwriter J.M. DeMatteis, voice director Andrea Romano, character designer Phil Bourassa and voice actors Jason O’Mara (Batman), Sean Maher (Nightwing) and Stuart Allan (Damian Wayne).
Starting the panel, Tucker expressed his fondness for the Court of Owls — who feature in the production and were introduced during Scott Snyder and Greg Capullo‘s run on “Batman” — saying he thinks they’re the best Batman villain group introduced since the League of Assassins. DeMatties discussed how “Batman vs. Robin” is not a straight adaptation of Snyder and Capullo’s work, and how it centers on the father-son relationship between Bruce and Damian Wayne.
Bourassa said he enjoyed designing Talon, as the character hadn’t been seen before in animation. “It’s really fun when you get into dig into characters that haven’t been seen before,” he said, as opposed to more familiar faces that have been depicted in animation for decades.
This marks the latest turn as O’Mara as the voice of Batman, who talked the difference between “Batman vs. Robin” and previous features like “Son of Batman.” “I got to spend more time with Bruce,” O’Mara said. “I was definitely exploring new frontiers with Bruce Wayne.”
Romano spoke of looking to find the right variety of different takes on fight scene-induced grunts. “Because there’s so many punches thrown and so many impacts taken, you want to get as much variety as you can.”
“Batman vs. Robin” features Griffin Gluck as the voice of young Bruce Wayne in flashback scenes, who Romano noticed sounded a lot like Allan — something that initially caused her concern, before coming around on the issue. “That actually makes sense,” Romano said. “You know how family voices sound the same — it ultimately worked.”
In the feature, legendary “Batman: The Animated Series” voice actor plays Thomas Wayne, Bruce’s father. “I wouldn’t dare do Batman in his presence,” O’Mara said.
Maher talked the “dysfunctional dynamic” between Nightwing, Robin and Batman. “I love the trio,” he said.
Panel moderator Tiffany Smith asked what it was like to be a 16-year-old who’s also the voice of Robin. “It is definitely an awesome feeling,” Allan said. “I guess being Damian has made me feel like a little bit more of a cool guy. In real life I’m a little more of a lover than I am a fighter. It’s cool being on the other side.”
Smith asked how “Weird” Al Yankovic got involved in the production, as the voice of the Dollmaker. “I’ve known Al for a long time,” Romano answered. “My husband, before I met him, designed Al’s first album cover. I always like to cast against type — you wouldn’t think of Al for this role. I thought, let’s do something creepy for Al. His performance was terrific.”
Damian was first introduced to DC’s animated features in last year’s “Son of Batman,” and Tucker discussed what that added to this take on the Bat-myhtos. “The father/son dynamic brings so much more to the table than what usually goes with Batman,” Tucker said. “Never has he had to deal with an actual, biological son, who’s as messed up as Damian.”
“We’ve seen Batman before — he kicks ass and takes names and we love him for that,” Oliva said. “I think it was a great idea to introduce Damian into this storyline. We’ve never seen father Bruce Wayne.”
“With a character like Batman, by bringing Damian in, we’re getting to see this character in a way we’ve never seen before,” DeMatteis added. “We’re shining a light on his psyche and soul.”
Turning to audience Q&A, a fan asked if a new Superman-centric animated feature was in the works. “I’m sure there will be a Superman down the line,” Tucker answered.
Another fan asked possible follow-ups with the Court of Owls. Oliva said it’s at least possible. “We can do anything we want, it’s kind of fun,” Oliva said of the current continuity of the DC animated features.
“Batman vs. Robin” is available via digital download on Tuesday, April 7, and on DVD and Blu-ray a week later, April 14.
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