Animation legend Bruce Timm puts the spotlight on character designer Jose Lopez and screenwriter Alan Burnett for their other-worldly creations on Green Lantern: First Flight, the next entry in the popular series of DC Universe animated original PG-13 movies from Warner Premiere, DC Comics and Warner Bros. Animation.
Timm, the executive producer on Green Lantern: First Flight, has been the driving creative force behind many of Warner Bros. Animationâ€™s modern-day successes, elevating DC Comicsâ€™ canon of super heroes to new heights of animated popularity and introducing generations of new fans to the characters via landmark television series and made-for-DVD films. The latter task includes the creation of the current series of DC Universe animated original movies, which have drawn critical acclaim and further whetted the publicâ€™s appetite for comic book entertainment with the release of Superman Doomsday, Justice League: The New Frontier, Batman Gotham Knight and Wonder Woman.
In the midst of producing several more films for the DC Universe series, Timm paused briefly to offer praise for two of the key players in the production of Green Lantern: First Flight â€“ character designer Jose Lopez and screenwriter Alan Burnett.
There was no downtime for you and director Lauren Montgomery between Wonder Woman and Green Lantern: First Flight. How did you two make that quick transition, and what kept it fresh for you?
Lauren did such a great job on Wonder Woman, she was immediately my first choice for Green Lantern.Â I thought she might be a little burned out after the massive Wonder Woman project, but to my immense relief and gratefulness, she was eager to do it.
All that said, Lauren definitely needed to take a little bit of a break in terms of character design and I wasnâ€™t about to step up to that role, either.Â The tricky thing about Green Lantern is that we wanted to have a unique style sensibility.Â We’ve done quite a bit with the Green Lantern and characters on the Justice League, including the entire Green Lantern Corps, and we certainly didnâ€™t want to go back and reuse any of those designs. Another really talented young artist named Jose Lopez, who had worked with Mike Goguen and Jeff Matsuda on the recent The Batman series, was brought to our attention. I looked at his portfolio and I thought, â€œWow, this guy is really cool.â€
Jose has a completely different design sensibility than I’m accustomed to working with.Â He’s a little bit anime-flavored, but not specifically anime.Â We brought him in to do some designs on Green Lantern, and he ended up being pretty much our entire character design department.Â He designed not just Green Lantern and most of the major characters but zillions of background aliens. Jose brought a really unique visual sensibility to the movie.
Did you need to restrain Jose Lopez in any way, or did you just let him run wild with the character design?
This is a total science fiction film â€“ we spend maybe 10 minutes on Earth at the beginning of the movie and then the rest of it all takes place in outer space and in several different alien environments.Â So while we did base the initial, broad strokes design on pre-existing comics characters, we still needed armies of Green Lanterns and tons of aliens. Jose designed virtually all of them â€“ literally hundreds of unique alien species for all of these different polyglot worlds.Â And they are all really cool. I mean, some of the designs are really out there.Â Sometimes theyâ€™d hand me his designs and Iâ€™d say, â€œWow, what am I even looking at? Thatâ€™s a sentient being? Youâ€™ve got to be kidding me.â€ Itâ€™s funny because both Lauren and I encouraged him to think way outside the box.Â And he did â€“ maybe further than we even imagined. Jose came up with some really weird, bizarre life forms and theyâ€™re all good.
Youâ€™ve always been the driving, controlling influence on your projects in terms of all aspects of the production, and especially design. Are you enjoying letting go of the reins slightly and allowing other artists to explore new directions with these films?
The nature of these projects, and the sheer volume of films weâ€™re working on now, means that my involvement must be in an overseeing capacity â€“ guiding and supervising, but not leading the way design-wise. Thatâ€™s both a blessing and a curse.Â On one hand, it’s really great to let somebody else come in and drive the boat.Â On the other hand, my instincts are to step in and say, â€œNo, do it this way.â€Â So itâ€™s tough to just limit myself to giving notes purely on a technical level, to only say â€œOkay, I know thatâ€™s not going to animate that well.â€ Otherwise, whether it’s Lauren or Jose, other artists will do things in a way thatâ€™s completely different from what my natural instinct would be. It may be valid in its own right to say â€œNo, let’s do it the Bruce Timm way,â€ but I literally have to stop and think â€œOkay, forget about the way I would do it. Does this work on its own?â€ I just have to be practical about it and not aesthetic. It’s ultimately really rewarding and fun for me to look at these movies because it’s interesting to see other people’s design approach. I’ve been working with these familiar characters for so many years â€“ itâ€™s nice to see them interpreted differently.
You and Alan Burnett have been working together for a long, long time.Â What’s that relationship like, and what does he bring that makes these projects so special?
Alan is the quiet man of Warner Brothers Animation and, to a degree, I feel bad because he doesnâ€™t really get enough credit for all that he has done over the years â€“ going all the way to Batman: The Animated Series and all these shows he’s worked on since. He actually kind of prefers to stay in the background and just do his job and not get in front of the cameras and go to conventions and speak in front of crowds.Â He doesn’t enjoy that aspect of it.Â Heâ€™s never been about tooting his own horn, but heâ€™s always been the rock on our projects.Â Alan is the stabilizer. I think it was Glen Murakami who referred to Alan as the glue that binds everything together. And it’s true. Heâ€™s a really solid professional.Â He knows all the ins and outs of story construction and character dynamics and then all of the extras that a good writer knows to plus out a story. At the same time, he likes to push himself to do things that he hasnâ€™t done before and explore different avenues of story lines.Â He’s got a sense of humor that sometimes comes out in really odd, unique ways.Â On BTAS, he would go down story lines and even I would be saying, â€œWow, you really want to do THAT in a children’s cartoon?â€ Heâ€™s funny that way â€“ he likes to upset the apple cart and take chances. So Alan is really solid and dependable and at the same time heâ€™s also very experimental.Â Itâ€™s like the best of both worlds. That makes him the perfect collaborator on these films.
via Warner Home Entertainment