On July 9, 2016, I attended the world premiere of the new Lego/DC direct to home video movie – Lego DC Comics Super Heroes Justice League Gotham City Breakout, out now in digital download format and out on DVD or Blu-Ray format, with the Blu-Ray coming with an exclusive Lego Minifigure of Nightwing in his blue uniform, not the red uniform he wears in the movie. This is an excellent thing for Lego collectors as right now the Lego Nightwing Minifigure can only be purchased in Lego sets in the red uniform.
At this world premiere I had the pleasure of being able to interview cast and crew involved with the movie, me and my boys got signed movie posters from the cast and crew in attendance, and each of my sons were able to get a pretty cool Lego set for attending.
Lego DC Comics Super Heroes Justice League Gotham City Breakout features an all-star cast of voice over talent. Cast not attending the event, but still truly awesome voice-over artists included Sarah Hyland (Modern Family) as Batgirl, Tom Kenny (SpongeBob SquarePants) as the Penguin, Nolan North as Superman, Tara Strong as Harley Quinn, Troy Baker as Batman, and more. Cast and crew in attendance were John DiMaggio (Adventure Time, Futurama) as Deathstroke, Will Friedle (Batman Beyond, Boy Meets World) as Nightwing, Jason Spisak as The Joker, Eric Bauza as Bane, Director Matt Peters, Supervising Producer Brandon Vietti, and Writer James Krieg.
Gotham City Breakout is the fifth of the straight to home video films in the Lego and DC Comics partnership. Gotham City Breakout is the first of the Lego DC films to feature Batgirl and Bane. Joining members of the Justice League – Batman, Superman, Cyborg, and Wonder Woman; Teen Titan members Robin, Beast Boy, and Starfire The villains this go-around include The Joker, Poison Ivy, Deathstroke, Harley Quinn, and Penguin.
First up are my interviews with the crew. Here is my interview with James Krieg, the writer.
First off, Krieg told me about the movie, "Gotham City Breakout is a fun one, basically what it is, is the Bat Family vacation. What's it like when your family goes on vacation? It's chaos. Batman and his family are no different. All the foibles come out, except they're not in a 1970's station wagon with wood paneling on the side, with the smallest Robin in the way back. Of course to go on vacation they have to leave Gotham City alone and what happens when the other superheroes try to take care of Gotham City. It's like taking care of someone else's pet, except instead of a pet the city is full of psychotic villains." Krieg and I also talked about some of his previous work, including Scooby-Doo! and KISS: Rock and Roll Mystery movie. He set the band KISS up to be similar to the Scooby Gang, and also took some inspiration from the 1978 made for tv movie KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. Krieg said, "We even set it at an amusement park as an homage to KISS Meets the Phantom of the Park. I'm kind of disappointed that we didn't get Anthony Zerbe to be the voice in there. We tried to get every reference to every KISS thing in there."
I also talked to Krieg about his Hefner like appearance on one of the DVD extras of Lego Scooby Doo: Haunted Hollywood, which he also wrote. Krieg had appeared in the extra wearing a red velvet robe and an ascot. Krieg said, "It was so much fun. I am a terrible, horrible ham. I Hefed it up. It's a terrible mistake when the DVD company says is there anything you guys you want to do? Yes, yes there is. Come to my Scooby Doo library and I will wax philosophic about the Scooby gang. It was really super fun. My butler in there, my gentleman's gentleman, is played by animation legend Alan Burnett. And the scientist that comes out is the director Rick Morales."
I also had a good talk with Supervising Producer Brandon Vietti. After spending a good amount of time apologizing for calling him Jim Krieg, I asked about the amazing cast of voice actors that Gotham City Breakout featured. Vietti talked about the characters being what determines what names are brought up as voice actors. He was also very glad to be presenting Batgirl and Bane for the first time in a Lego/DC movie.
"And of course Batgirl comes to life in Lego form for the first time in our movies. We got the very talented Sarah Hyland. She was so great to work with because she came to the recordings with a lot of ideas already about the personality of Batgirl. I think she might be a fan herself. She had so many great takes, and she didn't even have the benefit of working with other characters in the room to kind of bounce off of because her very busy schedule. That can be very difficult. It was not difficult for her. She gave us so many great takes it was actually difficult to choose the best one for this movie. I think people are really going to fall in love with her Batgirl."
Vietti and I also talked about Tom Kenny, and his role as Penguin. Vietti said, "I can't help it, I love working with Tom Kenny. I've worked with him for years. He's brought Penguin to life before; he's brought Plastic Man to life before. That goes into some of the casting that we have here with the Lego movies. Sometimes we actually do pull from some of the talent that has brought these characters to life before. So yes, Tom was easy for Penguin and Plastic Man, how could he not. Especially Plastic Man, he is such a silly character and Tom is so talented at just being silly."
Lastly Vietti and I talked about Young Justice, because I love the show and well he is one of the co-creators. I mentioned the amazing reception it received at the Wondercon panel for Young Justice vs. Justice League and how Young Justice always seems to be trending towards the top on Netflix, and so of course I asked about a Season 3. Vietti responded saying "I feel bad, cause I never get to give an awesome answer. It's always a boring answer. It's just that I am more or less out of the loop on it. I am one of the creators, but I am not actually one of the guys that get to go out and really help sale it to bring it to life for another season. That is up to my boss and his bosses to kind of figure out those deals and then they come to us and say alright, now you can do a third season. We have just not heard that yet. I hope so. Greg Weisman and I, Phil Bourassa, our Character Designer, we'd all love to do it. I don't know how else to put it, other than to say it is so gratifying and honestly heartwarming to see that Young Justice is doing so well on Netflix and to see that new people are finding it almost everyday. Watching social media, Twitter in particular, I see so many new people finding it, and commenting on it, and loving it. As creators, what more could you ask for. It was a labor of love for us to bring these characters to life and it makes us so happy to be able to share the vision of the DC Universe that makes other people happy and is drawing people into the DC Universe in a way that is very similar to how we love the DC Universe. Thank you to all the Young Justice fans out there, its been great to see the awesome response you have been giving the show."
Vietti also talked about other ways new Young Justice fans can get more Young Justice in their lives, "Fortunately, for people just finding the series from scratch on Netflix there is a comic series, a fantastic comic series that is actually part of the continuity of the show and fills in many gaps between episodes. That was watched over by Greg Weisman and Kevin Hopps and people can still find those issues online, download them, or go to their comic book shops and buy them. There was also the video game that is part of the continuity that happens between Season 1 and Season 2. Five years is a long time to fill, so it doesn't answer every question, but I think it's pretty cool that we were able to do that all while we were doing the show because now it just makes additional cool stuff for fans to find after watching the Netflix shows."
I also got a chance to speak to Matt Peters, the director of the film.
Peters talked about this being his first time seating the director's chair, "As a storyboard artist before, you get focused on one aspect, but to suddenly see all the different things that come together to make a movie has been eye-opening, it's been humbling, it's just been a lot of fun." Peters grew up being a fan of Lego and grew up reading comics, "I was a big fan of John Byrne doing Superman. I read Cosmic Odyssey, which was a great series, and The Killing Joke."
I also had the pleasure to interview John DiMaggio. Well known for his roles as Bender on Futurama and Jake on Adventure Time, the first time I was aware of DiMaggio was listening to his voice work on The Thrilling Adventure Hour as Captain Laserbeam, which I loved listening to, and we discussed how he first got involved with, "I was playing a poker game, or it was charades, no it was Celebrity. And it was at Rider Strong's house and Ben Acker was there, and we met and then he asked me if I wanted to be involved with his show. I was like that sounds like fun. I started doing it with them at the M Bar and this was within the first year of them starting up. I did it for a while. Great show, great fun, great group of people. It was fun."
DiMaggio and I also discussed his amazing documentary I Know That Voice, which looks at the people behind the voices of your favorite cartoons and video games. DiMaggio said, "We've gotten some nice compliments on it. We also won the Certificate of Merit at the Annie Awards. That was really nice. It's one of those things I can say I got to do. I executive produced my own documentary about what I do. It's a real love letter to all my peeps in the business, you know 'here they are'. There are a lot of people that I wished could have been in the film that weren't in the film. It was a labor of love and a lot of fun. To have it out still on iTunes and still on Netflix – I WISH MORE PEOPLE WOULD GO GET IT ON ITUNES THAT WOULD HELP. But times are tight, it's all good. I rather people see it then me be like, (Authors Note – DiMaggio did this next part while impersonating Edward G. Robinson, and if you don't know who that is go ask your parents or grandparents) Yeah see, I made my money back, yeah see. It's like whatever."
DiMaggio, who voices Deathstroke for the second time in Gotham City Breakout, and I discussed his exposure to comics, " The only comics I had growing up was I had a subscription to Spider-Man Marvel Team Up and I had a whole year of that. My favorite comic of the series was Spider-Man teams up with the Not Ready for Prime Time Players. When it was the Silver Samurai, and the mail got smudged and a ring was sent to John Belushi instead of Silver Samurai. It was genius. I love that. I think Laraine (Newman) might have signed mine."
Lastly, I asked DiMaggio how he handles taking on a voice roll that another actor was famous for doing, like he did in Under The Red Hood where he voiced The Joker which has been primarily voiced by Mark Hamill ever since Batman: The Animated Series. DiMaggio said, "You do your own thing. You take influence from other stuff, and you give them what you think they need and hopefully it works out. I lucked out playing the part of The Joker in Under the Red Hood, and it worked out and it was a lot of fun and it was a completely different Joker than a lot of Jokers. Just a psychopath, and that was a lot of fun. Playing The Joker is like playing Hamlet, it's an iconic role and there's a different take for everything."
Next up was Will Friedle who voiced Nightwing in his first performance as a Lego. Friedle, who voiced Terry McGinnis on Batman Beyond, also voiced Lion-O in the 2011 reboot of Thundercats, which like Young Justice was a really good show that was cancelled way too soon, and according to Friedle, for similar reasons. Friedle said, "I wrote a number of those episodes and we were picked up for the second season and I had already written the first episode of the second season and then the toys weren't selling so they pulled the green light." I also asked Friedle about DC's recent handling of Terry McGinnis and the face he made reflected my own feeling of disgust of how DC killed off the character, but he was glad to hear that DC was supposedly bringing the character back again as part of Rebirth. Sadly, Friedle said he was unaware of any plans to bring Batman Beyond back in its animated form.
Jason Spisak, voice of The Joker, and I talked about owning Lego figures of characters he has played. Spisak, who collected Lego sets when he was a kid and still has them now, said, "If I get to play the Lego Joker and didn't go right out and buy it I need to be sacked. On top of my computer monitor I have a Lego Joker."
Lastly I was able to talk to Eric Bauza for a few minutes. Bauza was asked to voice Bane similarly to the way he voices Puss in Boots, on the Netflix show The Adventures of Puss in Boots, with an Antonio Banderas like sound. He also voiced Commissioner Gordon in the movie. Bauza is a huge fan of Lego, "I love toys. As a collector of toys, any time I have voiced a Lego version of a character, I am always at Toys R' Us or Target on the hunt. I'm a big kid, what can I say."
After the interviews were over it was time to watch the movie with my family. One of the wonderful things about the movie was that while it was certainly aimed at kids, there were a number of jokes aimed at the parents that allowed them enjoy the movie on a different level from children. Again the movie is available now, I know I have my copy already, and I think my son is playing with the Lego Nightwing Minifigure that came with it right now and he forgot to give it to me for my turn. Got to go.
For further musings from Joshua Stone you can follow him on the Twitter @1Nerdyone