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Interview with Beware the Batman Producers Glen Murakami and Mitch Watson

Michael Moccio ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Editor

Emertainment Monthly got the privilege to sit down with the producers of the upcoming show Beware the Batman. With the cancellations of Young Justice and Green Lantern, and the recent addition of Teen Titans Go!, fans of DC Nation have already begun to judge the show without having seen it first hand. Many cry out to give them back Young Justice, and how Teen Titans Go! isn’t a good show and should be removed. This interview was to shed a little light on the show and give the producers a chance to tell us what they’re doing with the show and how it’ll fit into the overall scheme of DC Nation. Unfortunately, time was cut short and not all the questions could be asked, but Emertainment is the process of setting up another interview, so more questions from the fans will be asked.

Emertainment: Could you give a brief introduction of yourself and what you’ve done in the past?

Glen: I started at Warner Brothers as a character designer on Batman: The Animated Series, an art direct of Superman, and a producer of Batman Beyond, Justice League, and Teen Titans. I’m now a producer on Beware the Batman. I was also a producer on Ben 10.

Mitch: I’m one of the producers. I started on this show before Glen, about three years ago. The reason I got hired was because I worked on a weird, updated version of Scooby Doo for Sam Register. It was stranger and darker in tone, and when they said they wanted to start a new Batman project, they said I put an interesting spin on Scooby. Glen had the idea to feature villains we hadn’t seen before, and that’s sort of where we started. There was about a year of development—some really great stuff came out, and then Glen came on and we redeveloped the show. That’s the show we have today. I think one of the nice things is that Glen and I have similar tastes in movies we like and music we like. Glen has this awesome visual style, and we were virtually on the same page for the most part.

What are your responsibilities for the show? What do you do on a day-to-day basis?

Mitch: Day-to-day is pretty much… the way the process works is that in the beginning, Glen and I came up with stories, and then we brought on another writer by the name of Mark Banker. Mark and I would sit and talk with Glen about what we want to use, what villains we would utilize. Mark and I would break the story down, and then Glen would help us break the story down, and when the three of us felt the story was ready, we would pitch the story to the other executives. More often than not, they blew holes through it and we’d have to go back to the drawing board and redo it.

Once that was done, we would take that story and either write it ourselves—make and outline and then write the script—or bring in freelance writers. They would have a common background in some way. We brought in Greg Weisman from Justice League did an episode, and Jim Krieg who ran Green Lantern did an episode. We all knew each other, and they were used to working in the same world. In terms of my job, I’m responsible for taking care of the notes that come in from DC Comics or the executives and getting scripts ready, making any changes we need to do.

Glen: While that’s going on, while we’re breaking the story, sometimes designs are being developed at the same time. Gotham City is being built and the characters are being designed. While that’s being developed, we’re also moving forward with the design aspect of it, and then as the scripts are being written, then that’s going to a director and a story board team. When the script is recorded, then that recorded version is also provided to the story board artists. The story board is turned into an animatic, almost like a very limited version of the cartoon. We’re cutting it for time and length. And then, as we’re building it, we’re reviewing it again and again.

One of the challenges is the constraints of CG—sometimes, something in the action is too difficult to animate or the budget is too small to make this. There are certain things we can’t do or are too difficult to do. There are many reasons why we’ll go back to restage something or rewrite something. The production design and the storyboards are being done at the same time. The schedules are staggered. We have three directors and three story board teams. We have maybe six episodes in production at the same time.

Once we get all of that stuff done, it’s sent overseas to be animated. The difference between 2D animation vs. CG animation is that for 2D, you’d do all the pre-production design and then send it over to be animated. For CG, the animation is blocked out and at each pass, it gets refined. Once it’s approved, the scenes are lit, so we’re more involved with it than 2D animation. We’re much more involved in the process in the scene that takes place. We’re adjusting timing, animation, and little things to make everything work. It’s a much more hands on, organic process than 2D animation.

A lot of fans have already been really critical of the show, even though it hasn’t come out yet—they’ve said they want Young Justice and Green Lantern back. How have you taken that into consideration in the development of the show?

Mitch: We haven’t! At all, quite honestly. Those shows were—first off, we were done with writing by the time those shows were cancelled. That stuff completely independent of us, and we were working on the show for about two years before that even happened. There’s been stuff on the internet that those shows were cancelled to make way for us, but that’s just an internet rumor and there’s no basis of reality for that. The answer is, not at all. We loved both of those shows—I’m friends with both Greg Weisman and Jim Creek. They helped with our show and we really rooted for theirs as well. There’s an idea about how the process works, but in reality, it doesn’t work like that.

Glen: The decisions that are being made go way beyond what Mitch and I have feel with. It makes it sound like we sat around in a room making their cancellations happen, but we’re not even involved in that process.

——

There are several key things to note from their responses that address many of the questions that fans have had. As noted in the first question, these two are no strangers to DC. Glen has worked on successful iterations of DC Comics shows in the past and Mitch successfully revitalized Scooby Doo. They also noted the guest writers that we’re familiar with: Greg Weisman and Jim Krieg. In that revitalization, we also see characters that haven’t been shown the spotlight, as Glen pointed out above. Even just taking a look at the intro reminds us of the Justice League intro–the CG, background music, and coloring are all similar.

“Why go with the CGI instead of 2D animation?” reddit user UpGrayedd69. As the producers pointed out above, CGI gives them more of a say in how things go and gives them more opportunity to refine their work and make it the best possible. Another user denizenKRIM asked, “What important and significant departures did the team intentionally make, to make them distinct from other iterations?” This is the first iteration of Batman to be done in CG animation–Batman: The Animated Series, Justice League, Batman the Brave and the Bold were all done in 2D animation.

The most important thing to note, however, is that this show has been in production for almost three years and was not involved in the cancellation of Young Justice and Green Lantern. This seems to be a project that’s been well thought out and executed for the sake of producing a good Batman show, not an effort to replace preexisting material.

July 13th is the premiere of the series–be sure to tune in with an open mind and then decide what you think of the show! Check back in the next few weeks for a follow-up interview with the producers to ask more of your questions!

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