The World’s Finest caught up with Producer/Director Giancarlo Volpe to discuss the new Target-exclusive JLA Adventures: Trapped In Time all-ages animated feature, hitting DVD on Tuesday, January 21st, 2014. JLA Adventures: Trapped In Time – a co-production between Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, DC Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Animation – features the greatest heroes of DC Comics squaring off against their most challenging foes. Continue below for an exclusive Q & A with Volpe where he discusses exactly how this exciting animated project came about.
The World’s Finest: First off, how did you get involved in JLA Adventures: Trapped In Time and how did this animated adventure come to be?
Giancarlo Volpe: My boss Sam Register called me into his office and said Warner Bros. was interested in developing a more kid friendly version of the Justice League, which was conceived as a reboot of the 70’s Superfriends series. I was initially reluctant because I thought he wanted a pre-school version of the franchise. He quickly made it clear that JLA didn’t have to skew that young. Sam explained the tone we set on Green Lantern: The Animated Series was in the right ballpark of what they were aiming for. Once that sunk in, I was on board.
WF: To you, what is the appeal to a more light-hearted Justice League film?
GV: I love that WB allows our guys to push for more adult content in our direct to video movies. If you ever talk animation with me, you know that I’m always saying this medium doesn’t have to be just for kids. But at the same time, it felt like we were neglecting a very core, important demographic – kids who are a little too old for Teen Titans Go!, but not quite ready for Justice League: The Flashpoint Paradox. This movie should fall in between those two, tonally.
Also, if you know me, or even follow me on Twitter, you can tell I like to laugh, and I like to joke around. I always felt movies could be equal parts epic as well as humorous. This movie is very much in my comfort zone.
WF: Can you give us a rundown of the story, spoiler-free, and the inspirations behind it? Were there any particular comics or showed you pulled from for JLA Adventures: Trapped In Time?
GV: Lex Luthor allies himself with (DC comic villain) Time Trapper, who has the ability to travel through time. Lex wants to go to the past and meddle with Superman’s origin. His theory is that if Superman had never existed, then neither would the rest of the Justice League. Because Lex actually goes to the future to recruit Time Trapper, he unintentionally attracts the attention of (not yet) Legion of Superhero members Karate Kid and Dawnstar. They follow Lex to modern day and have to warn the Justice League of his evil intentions.
The storyline is very much inspired by an older episode of the Superfriends that writer Mike Ryan really loved. In the old version, Lex sent members of the Legion of Doom to alter the origins of Superman, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman. In ours, we simplified it to just Superman.
Bonus points to viewers who watch both versions to compare the two. I assure you, ours has a much different ending than the original.
WF: The movie feature a mix of traditional JLA members, plus some new ones. Why did you include the likes of Dawnstar and Karate Kid, both well-known for being Legion of Super-Heroes characters, and Robin in this generally adult-heavy team?
GV: Lynell Forestall (who helmed DC Nation’s Black Lightning shorts) was brought on to to design a promotional poster for this project before I was attached to it. I think it may have been Sam Register’s idea to bring in some of the Legion of Superhero members to help diversify the JLA line up so it wasn’t mostly older, white males. I thought that was a great call.
In our continuity, we made Karate Kid asian. Dawnstar was always of Native American origin (her people were actually abducted by aliens, but that’s another story). Because they’re younger, they’re aspiring to be super heroes like the rest of the Justice League. Robin fit into that thematically because he’s also trying to prove his worth to his mentor, Batman – but isn’t getting the trust and responsibility he thinks he deserves.
There’s a great scene where Karate Kid and Dawnstar get into a fight with Robin over a little misunderstanding. It’s one of my favorite bits from the movie.
WF: Any chance you can run us down the creative team for JLA Adventures: Trapped In Time, and perhaps some of the cast, too? Some cool cats worth noting?
GV: Sure! As I mentioned above, JLA Adventures: Trapped In Time was written by Michael Ryan, who wrote some fan favorite episodes for us on Green Lantern. Lynell Forestall, who worked on Batman: The Brave and the Bold and helmed the Black Lightning shorts was lead designer. Freddie Wiedmann, who scored Green Lantern: The Animated Series and Beware the Batman did an outstanding job on the soundtrack. We also brought a lot of great board artists and designers who I worked with on Green Lantern: The Animated Series, as well as some new comers who recently graduated from art school. I’m pretty happy with the results.
As far as the voice actors are concerned, I had fun casting some of my favorite actors from previous projects I’ve worked on. Dante Basco, who played Zuko on Avatar: The Last Airbender plays Karate Kid. Jack DeSena, who was Sokka on Avatar: The Last Airbender makes for a very funny Robin. We even brought on Jason Spisak to play the Flash, as a subtle nod to the Young Justice fans who were so heartbroken about Wally West.
There’s also a slew of voice actors I hadn’t worked with before who did incredible work. I really loved Laura Bailey as Dawnstar, Michael David Donovan as Bizarro, Peter Jessop as Superman, and Tom Gibis as Toyman. There’s honestly so many it’s too much to list here. Just watch the credits. I love them all!
WF: To wrap things up, tell us why we should storm our local Target stores on Tuesday and pick up this all-new original animated JLA Adventures: Trapped In Time DVD?
GV: If you were excited about the upcoming Justice League: War, you’ve now got a chance to get twice the dose of Justice League by simply picking up this movie.
But more importantly, I hope the fans really realize there’s an industry-wide reluctance towards action adventure shows because animation studios don’t think they can turn a profit. Now’s a great chance to prove them wrong!
Who knows, if this sells really well, maybe there will be a lot more of this kind of genre: action adventure comedy with a twist of epic.
Stay tuned for additional updates and details on JLA Adventures: Trapped In Time coming soon, right here at The World’s Finest. Previous coverage for JLA Adventures: Trapped In Time includes official logline and character details here and its initial announcement details here.
The JLA Adventures: Trapped In Time all-ages animated feature – a co-production between Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, DC Entertainment, and Warner Bros. Animation – hits DVD on Tuesday, January 21st, 2014, available only at American Target locations.
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